Sunday, August 8, 2010

Cookbook Redux (part two)

Food Made Fast, Desserts from the Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast line of cookbooks.

This book is part of the Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast line, which is a pretty interesting concept. The book is organized according to how long the recipes will take you to make, instead of what they are or what's in them. This book is of dubious usefulness to me, because when I bake I'm usually baking for a dinner party and have the time to make something complicated, and don't normally need a fast dessert recipe. Because the recipes are meant to be made quickly, the emphasis is on desserts like puddings, fruit-based desserts, and granitas and ices, which actually, if unintentionally, makes this a good summer cookbook. My only gripe is that the recipes call for things I don't usually keep on hand (like heavy cream - I never use it except in baking, or fruit like mangoes that I don't normally buy).

Crazy About Cupcakes by Krystina Castella.

Yes, yes, I know. Where do I think I am, Sex and the City? Cupcakes are passe - ice pops are the new cupcake! Pass it on, hipster kids!

But for real, I like making cupcakes because it's easier to plan how many I need to make, they tend to feed more than a cake does, and they're easier to transport and serve than a cake but fancier than brownies.

Castella's book is almost as much about decorating than it is about baking, which if you have oodles of time on your hands I suppose would be enthralling, but I don't really have the time or the patience to construct elaborate aquarium scenes on the top of my cupcakes using Swedish fish and green-dyed coconut or make a TV Party cupcake that involves crafting tiny Oscar statuettes out of gold foil and gluing popcorn to the top of my cupcake (I am not making this up).

The organization of the book is nice, with basic recipes in the front - types of cake and types of frosting, plus fillings and syrups, and then a section that puts together difference combinations of cupcakes, plus aforementioned ridiculously complicated decoration schemes and gives them cutesy names. I mean, Jesus, one recipe asks you to make a teeny tiny gingerbread house that goes on top of your cupcake. The author is an industrial designer who, according to her book's bio, "designs environments, furniture, clothing, stationary, housewares, and toys," which would explain the obsession with leaving no cupcake un-overdecorated (and her slightly manic expression).

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