Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Book Review: Sticky, Chewy, etc for Kids

Your Chocolate Priestess has been a book reviewer for many years now, working on her own then for an online bookstore and now as a member of the Vine Program at Amazon.com.  One of the books I was sent last month is Jill O'Connor's "Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey Treats for Kids" and I'm going to review it using the three recipes I tried from it as well as general information about it.  Your orders help The Chocolate Cult try new products and restaurants.

The version of this book I have is a semi-soft cover with pictures on both front and back.  This is the back cover here, the front cover graced the previous paragraph.  The book has three chapters as well as an introduction to what you'll need to cook these recipes at the front and a list of resources and measurements in the back.  The three sections are breakfast items from one I tried one recipe, every day treats, and party items from which I tried two recipes for the holiday party I reported on yesterday.

One of my biggest complaints about cookbooks in general is how they are constructed in an unwieldy fashion.  The book is too tall or too wide to fit neatly on a shelf.  The book is so thick that you can't lay it flat or it knocks over your book stand you might have to hold your cookbooks.  This book avoids those programs for the most part by being 8.5 inches tall and having a wire spiral-bound spine that lets it lay flat.  It is a bit long at over 9.5 inches but I think the binding makes up for it in convenience.  The pages are scalloped trimmed which makes for a pretty design but a bit odd to feel against your fingers.

First thing to note about this book is that it is not made for kids to cook with.  The title is  bit misleading on this and I was confused, Sisters and Brothers, because the recipes I tried all took a good deal of time to make plus they assumed you knew about how some things should look as an experienced cook.  Instead the "kids" on the cover are those who will like to eat or drink these often messy looking and mess-making products.

I made the "Pepperminty Wintery White Hot Chocolate" (page 17) first.  It has only five ingredients and I fulled it as closely as I could with white chocolate chips instead of chunks I chopped myself.  I'm very concerned about sharing copyrighted recipes when I review cookbooks so, sadly, I've decided to err on the side of caution and respect and not share the recipe itself, only details about problems or pleasures I had while making each one.  Here  you see a cup of the finished hot chocolate.  The recipe is supposed to make four servings but I think it made at least six servings myself though that might be because I found this to be a very rich and creamy drink.  If white chocolate is your favorite and  you are used to whole milk, it will probably taste just right to you.  The only problem I encountered in the recipe was that it said to bring to "just about to boil (but do not boil)" temperature.  Unless  you know what melted chocolate and milk should look like before it boils, I think you could easily overcook this which would not be pleasant.

The second recipe I tried was a huge success all around: "Matterhorn Mountain Shortbread Cookies" (pages 65-66).  I had make a few adjustments for allergies in the ten ingredient list, especially I couldn't use any tree nuts so I used peanuts and peanut candies saved from Halloween -- see, I told you, Sisters and Brothers,  you can save that stuff and just use it later.  I also added the red sugar on the top to make it more festive for our holiday party.  True, these were a bit more like hills than mountains but there was no picture to compare it to so perhaps these are as they should be.  I do wish that the recipe had been consolidated onto one page and the quote about shortbread been moved to the second page. I just find it much easier to follow a recipe when it is all on one page.  Overall everyone who tried these loved them.  They were a very interesting take on what I normally think of as plain rectangular or round cookies plus they had three types of chocolate: white, milk, and semi-sweet.

The last recipe I tried had a picture and that picture told me that I didn't quite get them right; even though I know you choose the best examples for a cookbook.  The "Peanut Butter-Pretzel Bonbons" (page 91) really could have used a sketch or two to show me how to roll and dip the bonbons.  The measurements here are very precise, just a bit too much peanut butter (which I think I did) made it softer and that made rolls and dipping a challenge.  Normally I find you can be off by a bit for most recipes and when that isn't the case, I really appreciate a warning about that.  These had a total of only eight ingredients but in terms of time and number of steps, this was the most complicated recipe I tried taking almost 4.5 hours to make from start to finish.  As you can see from the pictures, mine were a bit too large and the white chocolate just could not fully coat the peanut butter, sprinkles and jimmies weren't working well either.  In the end, what they looked like didn't matter because they tasted great and that wasn't my opinion but the opinions of several guests who came up to me to talk specifically about these treats.  So your Chocolate Priestess isn't perfect but you all ready knew that didn't you, Sisters and Brothers?

Ultimately the treats were indeed messy to make and to eat.  I loved the design of the book itself, but I think the three recipes I tried could have used more directions and less time spent on catchy thoughts at the top and bottom of the pages.  The pictures are beautiful but even sketches of some of the more complicated steps would be very useful to the newer or less experienced chocolatier.  Finally all three of these recipes took so much time that I'm perplexed about when a mom or dad with kids to get ready in the morning would find time to make them.  I think you'd need your partner to keep the kids busy while you make these sticky, gooey items.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.


Rene said...

Of the three mentioned here, I only sampled the "Matterhorn Mountain" cookies. They were indeed delicious, with a nice crisp crumble to the shortbread and just enough sweetness from the icing on top. Fabulous!

TheChocolatePriestess said...

Thank you, Rene, for commenting. The Milk Chocolate Acolyte just ate the last one of these for lunch but we have a few of those cupcakes left...

Gera @ SweetsFoods said...

The pretzel bonbons must taste outstanding as well as the shortbread cookies…I'm drooling here.



TheChocolatePriestess said...

Thank you for reading and commenting, Gera. I think an experienced cook and chocolatier would get a lot from this book so I hope you all check it out -- look at the sidebar for it please.

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