“Chocolates, candies, caramels & marshmallows – to make and give”
If ever there was a book published to make you dribble and drool, this is it.
An alternative title could easily have been “How To Make Yourself Extremely Popular with Friends, Family & Relative Strangers.” Although I admit that it is not as snappy. And potentially a little dangerous.
Annie has a self-proclaimed sweet tooth. She feels “an almost gravitational pull towards sweet shops and chocolatiers.” For her, dedicating an hour or so in the kitchen to making marshmallows or nougat – with few disturbances or interruptions – is time well spent. Having concocted, pulled, boiled, poured and molded various ingredients, she is, with this book, trying to lure us into her sugar coated world. And if you can resist the temptation, you must be a very strong-willed person. Because in all honesty, it is not just the recipes that will get you, but also the photography.
The book is split into the following chapters:
- Toffee, Fudge & Caramels
- Nougat, Nuts & Honeycomb
- Hard Candy
- Gift Packing
So it covers everything from fruit roll-ups to Turkish delight to candy canes to chocolate. There is a sweet treat for just about every occasion – Christmas, Valentines, Easter, weddings or just because you feel like it.
The recipes are easy to follow, although Annie does issue a word of warning at the start – do things in the order she tells you to do them. This is not, she explains, because she wants to be bossy, neither is she being pretentious. It is because she is all too aware of the disasters that can happen when trying to make sweets at home (usually due to a lack of preparation and / or trying to do everything at once).
“If the recipe says to chop the nuts and melt the chocolate in the first paragraph it probably means that I have burnt nuts, spilt melted chocolate, covered the kitchen in molten caramel, the dog in marshmallow and had to start over.”
I too have had an incident involving the dog (that wasn’t sprinkle-gate) and Italian meringue. Although to be fair I managed to cover myself, the kitchen counter, the kitchen floor, my dad and the dog in sticky white flecks because I was trying to whip it in a bowl that wasn’t deep enough. The right equipment is just as important as preparation. I have learned that lesson the hard way.
It also states that the recipes use sensible quantities (on the whole) because not only do you not want to wrestle with a vat load of molten sugar or need a slab of marble the size of Stone Henge to temper chocolate, you don’t want to disappear under a mound of marshmallow either. However. Most of the recipes make around 40-60 pieces, which to me, is still quite a lot. Maybe this is because I don’t want to be faced with the possibility that I might eat all 60 pieces in one go. If you are making them for presents, then this is an acceptable number, but if you want them to nibble on whilst watching the television, I would be tempted to halve the quantity (if the recipe allows), just in case.
A few of my favourite recipes are:
- Coconut Milk Caramels – these use coconut milk instead of cream, are lightly spiced and the butter can be omitted in order to make them vegan – everyone’s a winner!
- Fig, Pistachio and Honey Balls (not as rude as they sound) – fruit and nut packed treats designed to make you feel less guilty about indulging. We all need that once in a while.
- Orangettes – chocolate covered candied orange peels with a hint of spice. I am not a fan of candied peel, however I have a soft spot for these because they remind me the ones I used to get when I was younger from a chocolate shop in Sluis in the Netherlands (I spent a large proportion of my childhood there. In the Netherlands, that is, not the chocolate shop. Although . . . ). Boiling the peels three times takes away all the bitterness.
So, instead of mass produced seasonal chocolate why not make your own. Alternatively you could buy this book as an Easter present for someone, because in a way it is like giving them chocolate.
Every turn of the page will have you tapping at it with your finger, followed by a cry of “I want to make those!” and a dribble of drool running down your chin. You have been warned.
If you like this book, then you may also like another favourite of mine – Sugar Baby by Gesine Bullock-Prado.
I was given this book as a present. All opinions are my own.