Monday, July 29, 2013

Cookbook Review: 'Sweet Christmas' by Sharon Bowers

✰✰✰✰½ If visions of peppermints, fudge, gingersnaps, rum balls, sugared pecans, and pralines have been dancing in your head, then check out this holiday cookbook to make your dreams come true. With recipes for Homemade Ribbon Candy, British Christmas Cake, and Salted Caramel Sauce, cookbook author Sharon Bowers has come up with a holiday winner. She also includes recipes for a few savory treats like Hot Spinach Dip and Spicy Cheddar Coins.

Sweet Christmas includes an introduction with notes on ingredients to clarify some items like which size eggs to use or what kind of flour is best. There are also notes on equipment and storage suggestions. The recipes are grouped into eight sections including a chapter for making ornaments and decorations (some edible, some not), and a chapter with ideas for making edible homemade gifts to give at the holidays. Each recipe features an introduction, and the ingredients are listed in a different color from the main text. Finally, this cookbook includes at Conversion Guide and a Recipe Index at the end.

Taste Test Notes: It was a challenge choosing a recipe to attempt for this review as there are so many I'd like to try. However, the recipe that really caught my eye was for Chocolate-Covered Cherries (p. 30), which are one of my favorite candies. I had never even thought of attempting to make these at home, but the recipe made it look so easy. Additionally, I happened to have all the ingredients in my pantry. While the recipes in this cookbook do not include prep times, I wasn't sure how much time I needed for this attempt. However, these looked so yummy I decided to give it a try anyway; I just made sure to give myself enough time to finish.

The directions were very easy to follow. The only thing that I did differently was to store these beauties in the refrigerator as I made them in July. I noticed after dipping the cherries in the melted chocolate that the chocolate would not set due to the warm room temperature. Thus, in the fridge they went. Here are some photos of my cooking adventure:
Here are the cherries wrapped in fondant and waiting
to be popped into the freezer for 30"
The finished Chocolate-Covered Cherries waiting to be sampled.
This is what they look like on the inside. Yum!
All in all I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this recipe was fantastically easy to prepare. Just be careful not to burn your fingers when dipping the fondant covered cherries in the melted chocolate. I was able to complete this project from start to clean-up in just two hours. Finally, the best part was eating these luscious cherries; these are far better than the store bought kind. I think it's the fondant that makes them so special. These are absolutely decadent. P.S. These would make a great homemade gift for the holidays.

The Bottom Line: This holiday cookbook featuring candies and sweets is highly recommended for foodies and chefs of all levels of expertise. This cookbook is also recommended for public libraries and personal cookbook collections. There is a wide variety of treats to choose from including vintage sweets like Christmas Divinity and Peppermint Bark. There are also cookies and cakes and some savory treats as well. This cookbook features beautiful food photography by David Bowers, so even if you don't cook or bake, you'll have a great time looking at the photos. I will definitely be buying a copy to include in my own cookbook collection. My only (tiny) complaint is the rather small print.

Details: Sweet Christmas: Homemade Peppermints, Sugar Cake, Chocolate-Almond Toffee, Eggnog Fudge, and Other Sweet Treats and Decorations by Sharon Bowers. Hardcover published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang in 2012. 176 p. ISBN: 978-1-61769-000-6

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