Cookbook Review: “The New Sugar & Spice: A Recipe For Bolder Baking” By Samantha Seneviratne
“Homemade desserts have a big job: they carry important messages to important people. We bake them with the people we love. We share them with the people we love. We eat them with the people we love.” Freelance recipe developer and food stylist, Samantha Seneviratne couldn’t have said it better in her new cookbook, “The New Sugar & Spice”, a collection of recipes for bolder baking.
It is no wonder that Seneviratne has created such a gorgorgeous cookbook as she has been a food editor at Good Housekeeping, Fine Cooking, and Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food. All of which happen to be some of my favourite magazines ever! When you get a moment, check out Senevirathne’s website and blog at http://www.lovecommacake.com. She has a unique collection of recipes for cakes, cookies, pies, tarts, breads and more including a gluten-free and vegan section as well.
Seneviratne goes back to the past when sugar wasn’t the all- powerful ingredient but rather a compliment to other spices and ingredients, resulting in a more balanced end product. “My aim is to make spice an equal partner with sugar, open up a new world of homemade deliciousness, and create new cravings for something other than mass-produced sweetness”, Seneviratne says of her goal of creating this cookbook. “ In Sri Lanka, I realized food comes from the earth. There I learned how to eat with my hands and my heart”. The desserts in this book are a combination of American classics we all know and love with a hint of spices from Seneviratne roots.
Included is a section on baking tips, equipment, and ingredients. Seneviratne emphasizes the importance of not relying on temperature and time alone but rather sight, smell, and touch in addition to your clock and I couldn’t agree more. I can’t tell you how many times I have put something in the oven, set a timer, walked away and continued on with other household tasks. Seneviratne recommends an oven thermometer for accurate oven temperatures as ovens vary from each household and brand.
Equipment is pretty basic for the average baker and include the following: bench scraper, candy thermometer, cookie scoops, electric hand mixers/stand mixers, measuring cups and scales, offset spatula, parchment paper, pastry blender, pie weights, rulers, and timers. Basic ingredients used in some of the recipes are reviewed along with tips for using the ingredients in recipes. For example, washing delicate berries only when you are ready to use them as leftover water can encourage mold. , Dutch-process vs. natural cocoa powder, consistency of room temperature butter and more useful tips that are great reminders for even the experienced baker.
Recipes are organized into spices with the following chapters:
- Peppercorn & Chile
- Clove & Cardamom
- Savory Herbs & Spices
Each chapter begins with a beautiful story of Seneviratne’s youth and visits to Sri Lanka where spices were frequently used in the baking of goods. I thoroughly enjoyed reading these life stories as it is clear how important her upbringing and her family are to her in her life, as well as how it has influenced her baking. Besides the recipes themselves, these stories were my favourite part of the cookbook and I read every single one. To me it reflects the passion and love that went into creating the recipes in the cookbook. Just beautiful! Also included is a short history and introduction of the particular spice mentioned as well as storing guidelines. Despite being an avid baker myself, I found that I actually learned quite a bit!
The recipes are well organized, neat and easy to follow. Ingredients are listed in order of use. Recipes are cross-referenced making it super easy to locate your favourites. Each recipe includes visual indicators accompanied by the cooking time so you know when your finished good should be ready. The pictures were spot on and although there wasn’t a picture for every single recipe, there were definitely enough and the ones that are included are perfection.
Anything chocolate always gets my attention. I managed to recreate the salt & pepper caramel brownies and hot honeycomb candy and both were sensational! Anytime I see caramel in a recipe, I tend to veer away from it, as you need to keep a watchful eye. It can turn clear to brown in a matter of seconds. Despite my fears, I tackled it and to my surprise it was super easy and ridiculously amazing! The only thing I would have adjusted is the amount of pepper, I definitely put in more than I can handle.
Since my favourite of the two were the hot honeycomb candy (which taste like a better version of the crunchie bar) I decided to post this recipe. Comment below if you get a chance to try it out! (pictures below the recipe)
HOT HONEYCOMB CANDY
Makes about 1 pound candy
- Butter, for the pan
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¼ cup mild honey or Lyle’s Golden Syrup
- 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
- 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, depending on how spicy you’d like it
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 pound bittersweet chocolate (60 to 70% cacao), chopped (about 4 cups)
- Butter an 8-inch square pan and line with aluminum foil with a 1-inch overhang on two sides. Butter the foil and any exposed sides of the pan. Grab a small whisk, a heat-safe spatula, a small plate, and an oven mitt, and set them by the stove.
- In a medium saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, combine the sugar, honey, vingar, cayenne, salt, and water. The mixture will swell up to about 4 times the volume in the next step so make sure the pot is big enough. In a small bowl, set aside the baking soda.
- Heat the sugar mixture over medium-high heat to 300 F without stirring. In order to get an accurate reading, make sure the bulb of the candy thermometer is submerged in the sugar mixture. You may have to hold the pot tipped to the side while the sugar cooks. Use the oven mitt to protect your hand and arm from steam while you hold the pot. Remove the pot from the heat, quickly remove the thermometer and place it on the plate, and immediately whisk in the baking soda.
- Take care to disperse the baking soda evenly, but don’t mix longer than a second or two or you’ll deflate the bubbles. Quickly scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Don’t touch it once it goes into the pan so as not to disturb the bubbles. The mixture will swell up and then deflate. Let it stand until completely cool and hard, about 30 minutes.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Place the chocolate in a bowl over a pot of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted. Make sure that the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water. Alternatively, you could melt the chocolate in the microwave, in 15 second bursts, stirring in between each one.
- Lift the candy from the pan and pull off the foil. Break the candy into 1-to 2-inch pieces. Transfer the chocolate to a deep, narrow dish, like a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Using a fork to lift the candy, dip each piece into the chocolate and toss it to cover it completely. Pick the coated candy up and tap it on the edge of the dish to knock off any excess chocolate. Set the candy on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining pieces. Pop the sheets I the fridge for a few minutes to set the chocolate.
- Store the candy in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week (if its not too hot) or in the fridge up to a month.
Notes from Melissa’s Kitchen:
I found Lyles Golden Syrup with no issues to my surprise. I was sure I was not going to find it in Canadian grocery stores but I found it in the honey/peanut butter isle and it was super cheap. I put about 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne in the candy and I found that I could barely taste the spice. I was afraid to add more as I had put too much spice in the brownies. I would definitely add more next time around.
My candy mixture started to burn before it reached 300 degrees. I’m not sure exactly what happened but I figured it would be one of two issues: 1.) my candy thermometer sucks or doesn’t work well (doubt it) or 2.) I didn’t tip the mixture as mentioned in the directions well enough to get a more accurate reading. I had my thermometer attached to the side of my pot and occasionally tipped it. In this situation, I should have listened to one of Senevirathne’s suggestions…using my eyes and sense of smell to determine whether the candy was ready and of course, plain old intuition. I started to smell a teeny tiny bit of burn and saw that the colour was getting darker but had my eyes glued to the thermometer and it was only at 200 degrees. When I mixed in the baking soda, I tried to do a quick 2 second stir as mentioned in the directions but it did leave a couple lumbs of soda. It did not affect the end product though. Once these chunks of candy were dipped in chocolate to my surprise, I hardly tasted that they were slightly burned. They were SO GOOD!
Some other great recipes that I have all tabbed up from this cookbook:
- S’more Pie
- Cinnamon, Hazelnut and Date Buns
- Cinnamon Toast Bread Pudding
- Maple Glazed Pecan Pudding
- Buttery Shortbread with Coffee and Cardamom
- Sticky Apple Date Cake
- Gingerbread Pancakes and many many more!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading and experimenting with the recipes in this cookbook. The recipes are unique, bold and perfect for anyone who likes to play around with spices. Stay tuned to my social media accounts as I occasionally recreate more of the recipes in this book!
**I received a copy of this cookbook from the most generous Ten Speed Press. All opinions and thoughts in this post are 100% my own. You may purchase “The New Sugar and Spice: A Recipe for Bolder Baking” By Samantha Seneviratne for $25.91 CAN at your local Chapters.indigo.ca or amazon.ca. Prices are subject to change. For more information on this book including an excerpt from the book: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/241403/the-new-sugar-and-spice-by-samantha-seneviratne/
Other books by Samantha Seneviratne: Gluten Free For Good
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