Tenacious Rating: ★★★★
Valentine's day, more so than any other holiday in my opinion, is the perfect day to let your diet take a day off. It's not like Thanksgiving or Christmas where there will be tons of leftovers and thus expanding waistlines for days. Valentine's is just one day out of the year where you can say "I am going to have some chocolate and I'm not going to feel bad about it!" I picked up this decadent book in a little shop in Thomasville, GA in fall 2008 and couldn't help but salivate as I turned the pages. Even though my first sentence, according to my dad, was "Chocolate always makes me so happy!", the little health nut inside of me is always begging me to have a little mercy. So with this book, I always try to find my own healthy little shortcuts so both the devil and angel on my shoulder are satisfied.
One thing is for sure, author Jill O'Connor sure knows how to bring out the kid in all of us. She sets up her book by taking you back to the days of Willy Wonka and Candyland. Specifying that sometimes food should be toe curling, lip licking, over-the-top, want to bathe in it is so good. She dives into all the wonderful stories many of us knew growing up, Little Women, Winnie-the-Pooh, Charlotte's Web, and The Secret Garden, highlighting the wonderful meals dreamt up by these authors that made Jill and probably most of us want to jump right into the stories and eat with the characters. We often don't think about how purely luxurious food can be even if we don't live in a world of luxury. Food for many of us has become purely a part of the day, what we can afford, what we have to eat. But Jill makes is clear that it doesn't have to be that way, especially in the dessert department. We can make our own luxury right in our kitchens and it doesn't have to break the bank and it doesn't have to break our belts either.
Jill is clearly a creative creature when it comes to sweets but she doesn't leave you out to dry when it comes to the technical stuff. She goes into great detail about the different ingredients she uses like the best chocolates to buy and the different percentages of cacao as well as extracts, flour, spirits, dairy, and sugars to use. She also makes sure you are covered in the appliance department both with basics and some interesting special buys like blowtorches and candy thermometers.
Though her book doesn't boast health, most of her recipes can be adapted to any lifestyle by substituting in organic, vegan, or light ingredients. However, you want to be careful and know the personalities of the ingredients you substitute so as not to deter from the original flavor or texture of her recipes. You just got to know what you're working with.
Now for the good stuff! Though I have been on quite a chocolate kick, Jill covers all sweet teeth with other sinful delights. Everything from puddings to cookies, cakes, and brownies; from fruity to chocolate and vanilla. She makes sure every taste is satisfied. There is something quite elegant and sophisticated about her recipes as well, always adding in gourmet touches that bring her food to a whole new level. She also takes commonplace desserts and elevates them with unique twists. For example, her "All-Grown-Up Smores", a flourless chocolate mouse-like cake with a graham cracker curst, topped with a marshmallow fluff meringue, definitely makes me feel like sitting by a campfire but without the camping part! YUM!
Regardless of how strong your sweet tooth is, this desserts-only cookbook truly brings out the kid in all of us. If you aren't necessarily a lover of sugar or you have certain health concerns regarding sugar intake, these recipes are still ones to share with loved ones and little tykes. Be sure to check out Jill's website and other books, including a special version of Sticky, Chewy... just for kids!
Recipes to try:
- Chocolate Mascarpone Cheesecake Pots with Shortbread Spoons
- Everything-but-the-Kitchen-Sink Cookies
- White Trash Panini
- Sticky Pear and Walnut Upside-Down Gingerbread