Friday, November 14, 2014

Book Review: Sweet: Our Best Cupcakes, Cookies, Candy and More by the Editors of Food Network Magazine

For those who know me, I'm a huge fan of Food Network. I watch it all the time and try to learn as much as I can. It's amazing how much you can glean from watching educational TV.

I learned the basics - food prep, handling, and lots of techniques - from my mom. We used to bake in the kitchen all the time and she showed me some of the most useful things I've ever learned about cooking. The basics of a good sauce, how to clean and store cast iron skillets, the fundamentals of baking bread. All these things from my sweet mama. She's a whirlwind in the kitchen.

However, her expertise only took me so far. Once I ventured into gluten-free and allergen-free baking, I had to branch out on my own, taking her advice and many years of practice with me. Thank goodness for that foundation because from there, I've been able to build quite the cute little cooking cottage.

And all around inside this baking essentials cottage, I've decorated and flared it out with the help of many cooks and chefs on Food Network.

Back in the day, Food Network was just that: a network all about cooking, preparing, and eating food. The basics and the highlights of being food-friendly. Everything from kitchen essentials, to lifestyle, to a few simplistic competitions. Nothing like the Food Network now.

I still love Food Network. And on occasion, I enjoy some of the competition shows. But my first love of Food Network will always be how they taught me so much. I know many home cooks that feel the same way. And even though they are rolling with the market and the television atmosphere, they still add in the basics of cooking whenever they can. Or you can just tune into their sister channel, Cooking Channel, who is sort of like the Cinderella of the food television world - the one who puts her nose to the grindstone and cooks and cleans and mends and teaches all about the world of food. Food Network has become sort of the atmosphere of the ball - all about entertainment. But there's room enough for both.

Caramel Apple Cake (Fake-Out Cakes)

Add to that glorious repertoire, the little mice helpers who keep everything running behind the scenes and you'll find Food Network Magazine. I love getting that rag in the mail. It's colorful, insightful, interesting, and chock-full of ideas and cooking intrigue. So, when I saw Sweet: Our Best Cupcakes, Cookies, Candy and More by the Editors of Food Network Magazine as a choice on Blogging for Books, I couldn't hit the purchase button fast enough.

This book did not disappoint. It's full of beautiful pictures, exciting creations, and all sorts of tantalizing sweet treats. I've seen many of these recipes in the magazines I've gotten over the years, but it is so nice to have them in one place. The choices the editors made are exquisite. The twelve sections - which include Cupcakes & Whoopie Pies, Cookies & Bars, Candy & Snacks, Pies & Crumbles, Fake-Out Cakes, Show-Off Cakes, Frozen Treats, and Holiday Desserts - each have a conglomeration of treats that range from simple to advanced, in terms of preparation and expertise. A wide range to choose from! I was impressed that each section had a nice variety of different desserts, but not too many, preventing the overwhelm factor. It was a lot like reading one of the magazines, just a heftier tome.

Each recipe includes a picture (something I treasure in a cookbook) and sometimes a layout of how-to pictures, if the recipe is a little more complex. And just as with the magazine, the first few pages are dedicated to pictured recipe indexes that make finding what you'd like to make fast, simple, and easy.

This book is a delight! I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves making treats, wants to eat treats, or just loves to look at photographic art of treats. It's a stunning book that is just as functional as it is beautiful.

Sea Salt Chocolate Caramels (Candy & Snacks)

For those with allergies to the most common ingredients in desserts (wheat, casein, lactose, gluten, and nuts), there are many, many treats in here that would be very easy to adapt. Most of the recipes are simplistic enough that a simple one-to-one ratio ought to be enough. As I try some of the recipes in the near future, I will post my suggested substitutions for various allergens.

This would make a great holiday gift for pretty much anyone you know who likes sweet things. Wrap it up with something you made from the book and you are set for a gift that will keep on giving!

Happy baking!

*I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream Cone Cake

*Original recipe from Sweet: Our Best Cupcakes, Cookies, Candy and More by the Editors of Food Network Magazine. Allergen-free adaptations included - many of the ingredients can be purchased at Whole Foods or another natural grocer or ordered online. 

Serves 6 to 8

  • Unsalted butter or dairy-free margarine, for the pan
  • 14 pizelle (thin Italian waffle cookies) or thin butter cookies (here's a recipe for making your own gluten-free/dairy-free pizelles) 
  • 3/4 cup chocolate fudge sauce
  • 1 qt vanilla-caramel swirl ice cream (use dairy or vegan), slightly softened
  • 1 qt chocolate ice cream (use dairy or vegan), slightly softened
  • 1/2 cup dulce de leche or caramel sauce (use dairy or vegan version) 
  • 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
  • 5 sugar cones (use gluten-free/dairy-free sugar cones)
  • 1/4 cup toffee bits (use dairy-free or make a vegan brittle)


1. Cut a 24-by-6-inch strip of parchment paper. Butter the sides of an 8-inch springform pan, then line the sides with the parchment; the paper will extend above the rim of the pan so you can build a tall cake. 

2. Cover the bottom of the pan with half of the cookies, breaking them into smaller pieces as needed to cover the surface. Spread 1/4 cup fudge sauce over the cookies. 

3. Pack about half of the vanilla-caramel and chocolate ice cream into the pan, alternating scoops of each flavor, until the bottom is covered. Drizzle with 1/4 cup dulce de leche (or vegan caramel sauce) and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp sea salt. Top with the remaining cookies, pressing gently to pack in the ice cream and create an even surface. 

4. Spread 1/4 cup fudge sauce over the cookies. Top with scoops of the remaining vanilla-caramel and chocolate ice creams. Drizzle with the remaining 1/4 cup dulce de leche (or vegan caramel sauce) and fudge sauce and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 tsp sea salt. Arrange the ice cream cones, point-side up, on top. Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours or overnight. 

5. Remove the sides of the springform pan and the parchment. Press the toffee bits into the sides of the cake. Serve immediately or freeze for up to 2 days. 

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