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Sweet!: From Agave to Turbinado, Home Baking with Every Kind of Natural Sugar and Sweetener Paperback – October 7, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Niall (Sweet & Natural Baking), expands the world of sweet to home bakers with his extensive knowledge of natural sweeteners and over 100 recipes. Raw sugar such as turbinado, moist brown sugars like demerara and muscovado, and nonsugarcane options like agave syrup and fruit juice concentrates are incorporated in an enticing selection of recipes for cakes, pies, cookies, entrées and more. Niall spans the culinary world with international choices like Thai sticky black rice and mangoes, dulce de leche sandwich cookies and Vietnamese caramel chicken. American favorites such as sweet potatoes with a sorghum glaze, Meyer Lemon Shaker Pi and caramel applesauce cake can also be found. An informative primer and side notes provide additional recipe options, technique tips and nutritional information. This is a unique addition to the baker's shelf. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“This is a unique addition to the baker’s shelf.”
Tampa Tribune, 11/30/08
"Offers lots of alternatives for bakers who avoid using processed granulated sugar…Should inspire cooks to experiment with more nutritious ingredients.”
South Bend Tribune, 12/14/08
"When it comes to the bottom line and the final delicious outcome, the trip to the organic food store proves well worth the effort."
Top customer reviews
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When I got this book and explored its contents cover to cover, it seemed to me as if all the recipes are in fact not geared toward health-conscious home bakers, but almost entirely toward professional pastry chefs who are into taste and presentation above all, with the health of their customers running a distant second.
I did find the opening section giving a short history of various types of sweeteners to be usefully informative. It explains what the various sweeteners are, where you get them, and how they are best used in cooking. However, because this isn't a book aimed to the health conscious, these descriptions include little about how the various sugars affect your health. For example, there is only one brief sentence about high-fructose corn syrup, to the effect that "nutritionists claim [it is] one of the main culprits in obesity." And the author mentions nothing under coconut palm sugar about research claims that it has a low glycemic index.
One exotic, healthy sweetener I was particularly interested in from the description provided is yacon syrup. He mentions that this is a sweetener that raw foods advocates approve of and that it's vegan. He says he doesn't use it to cook with, though, because it is so expensive, so he didn't provide any recipes using this sweetener. He only uses very small amounts poured over uncooked desserts, such as sorbets or raw fruit.
He provides an extensive discussion of various types of flours and how they affect the end result of baking, but nothing about which are better for the health.
He loves to use lots of butter, heavy cream and eggs--which add tons of calories to anything he offers in this book as a recipe. He gives very little information on different types of fats other than to state in one brief sentence that shortening is a problem ingredient because it "has come under scrutiny for its high amount of trans fats," with no explanation as to why trans fats are bad. He does indicate that palm oil and coconut oil, which solidify at room temperature without hydrogenation, have been found to be healthy saturated fats--though he doesn't go into details as to why they are healthy, such as coconut oil's help for thyroid conditions and Alzheimer's. Nor does he use either of them in any of his recipes.
He doesn't give breakdown within any of his recipes for calories or grams of protein, carbohydrates or fat.
All in all, if you enjoy creating fancy desserts and you don't care about calories or health, then you might enjoy this cookbook.
I reached my rating this way:
Writing and book design: 5 stars
Recipes as fancy, gourmet desserts: 5 stars
Using alternative sugars as a creative exercise: 5 stars
Creating a false impression this cookbook is for the health conscious: 2
Final score: 4
there are tons of mistakes! somebody forgot to check for those 'details': for example, the "Melt-in-Your-Mouth Chocolate Cake" on page 82 is missing the chocolate in the list of ingredients, so you have no clue what type of chocolate to use, or the amount.
Nonetheless, I have made several recipes (making up missing ingredients or following the recipe) and they were really good. I like the intro where Niall explains everything about sugar (and I mean, EVERYTHING).
However, at least one of the recipes is lacking a key ingredient in the ingredient list. His "Melt-in-Your-Mouth Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche" on page 82 sounds delicious. I wanted to make it, so I read the recipe, only to find that he didn't actually list ANY chocolate in the ingredient list. In the instructions, you are told to melt the chocolate and then combine it with the wet ingredients. This is a chocolate cake! Leaving out the chocolate (amount? type?) from the ingredient list is a glaring omission.
Also, in the same recipe, the reader is directed to a Dulce de Leche recipe found later in the book, on page 221. Page 221 contains, not Dulce de Leche, but Sugar Cone Ice Cream Bowls. Those sound tasty, but they're not helpful in making Dulce de Leche. Ultimately I had to look up the Dulce de Leche recipe in the index. Ah-ha! It's on page 204, nowhere near page 221.
These types of errors make it hard to recommend the book as more than a reference tool. If you can't trust the recipes to be correct, there's no point in buying it as a cookbook.