Sunday, November 06, 2011
Sweet Confections - Book Review and Giveaway!
I was so excited to receive this candy cookbook, Sweet Confections, in the mail from Lark Crafts to review. I have a big sweet tooth, but I have never really made candy before, so I was pretty sure I was going to love it. I was super impressed with the beautiful photographs, excellent how-to section and wide range of recipes.
The beginning getting started section has clear instructions and lots of step by step photos on everything you need to know, from candy temperatures (above), how to cook sugar and how to carmelize sugar, how to temper chocolate, how to hand dip and hand roll chocolates, and also a helpful overview of ingredients and tools.
Each of the recipes in the book has a big mouthwatering photo...
And then a full page of ingredients and instructions and often more photos. Being able to see a photo of every single recipe is so great, and the extra photos showing a cut open view and the like are super useful too.
There's also a section at the back with recipes for some of the ingredients that you could make yourself - like this candied citrus peel that is used in the recipe above.
One of the things that I was most impressed by was the range of recipes included in the book - it really covers the gamut of candy-making, from fancy stuff like chocolate truffles...
To peanut brittle, toffee, candied nuts and the like...
To chewy candies like these jellies...
And even marshmallows, yum! I also loved the fact that it included both basic recipes (like many of the ones shown above) and more interesting, unique combinations - like vanilla cheesecake fudge, pear hazelnut truffles, and pecan pie truffles. While I am totally new to making candy and found this book a great introduction, I am sure that even an experienced sweet-maker would find something delicious and new to try.
When I got the book, I couldn't wait to try my hand at making one of these yummy treats, and while I was tempted by many of the recipes I had no trouble deciding to go ahead with these vanilla caramels. Soft caramels are one of my favorite candies and also were something that I had never thought to try to make before, so I was super excited to learn how!
One thing about making your own candy is that you can no longer play dumb about how bad it is for you... with this set of ingredients, no wonder caramels are so yummy!
For the most part, the recipe was clear and easy to follow. The instructions on how to caramelize sugar (in the starting up section) were super helpful and showed exactly what to do. After you caramelize the sugar, you add the remaining ingredients (which have been warmed and mixed together), and it kind of bubbles all over the place as you cook it until it reaches the specified temperature. I was a bit worried that I might be doing that part wrong, but in the end the caramels had great taste and texture, so it all worked out.
The only real pitfall that I had was that the recipe instructed you to pour the cooked caramel mixture into a pan lined with plastic wrap... and maybe I was supposed to let it cool for a minute first, or maybe I have cheap plastic wrap or something, but it started to melt when I poured the hot caramel in! I freaked out a bit and pulled out the plastic wrap and threw it out (which sadly meant I lost some of the caramel with it). Then when the caramel cooled I just scraped it out of the pan, which wasn't actually as hard as I had feared - and the caramels were totally delicious, so I was still very happy with the result. I will definitely make this recipe again, but next time I will probably just use parchment to line the pan.
I wrapped up the finished caramels in waxed paper as suggested and they looked totally professional! I brought them in to my office for halloween and everyone was very impressed. I am planning to make the pumpkin caramel recipe in the book next, for thanksgiving. Yum!
Not only did the generous folks at Lark send me a copy to review, they also sent me a second copy to giveaway to one of you! To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below - I'd love to hear if you have ever tried making candy before and how it went.
Since I am paying for the shipping, the giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. The winner will be picked by random number, and I'll keep the giveaway open through next Sunday, November 13 at 9 pm PST. I will contact the winner by email so make sure you have an email address in your blogger profile, or leave on in your comment!
Disclosure: This book was provided to me as a free review copy by Lark Crafts, but all opinions expressed are my own.