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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Recipe & Cookbook Review: Sugar, Sugar

One of the perqs of being a moderately (minimally?) successful food blogger is receiving the occasional cookbook to review. Earlier this week I opened the mailbox to find a copy of Sugar, Sugar: Every Recipe Has a Story by Kimberly Reiner and Jenna Sanz-Agero and published by Andrews McMeel Universal. I have to admit being intrigued not only by the name but the cover photo which features a stack of cookies topped by a statue of a buffalo. I would learn later that the cookies are called Buffalo Chip Cookies and feature lots of whole grains like cornflakes, oats, and nuts.

Reiner and Sanz-Agero are mommy bloggers at Modernmom.com. Reiner also has a fudge company, Momma Reiner's Fudge which has been featured by Oprah and Rachel Ray. Additionally, the two are lawyers and Sanz-Agero a former lead singer for the band Vixen. I'll admit that sometimes I'm a little nonplussed with the "mommy blogger turned author" thing. I don't assume all women should stay at home and raise the kids and I sort of get tired of the whole "mommy" culture as though men don't do domestic duties of any sort or we're all lumbering lummoxes everywhere but at the barbecue grill. However, despite the occasional antiquated (although tragically hip) idea such as cookie swaps should be "all girl" and what not, Reiner and Sanz-Agero do manage to produce a work worthy of any kitchen shelf no matter whether the baker is male or female.

Being an amateur food historian as well as baker, I particularly enjoyed the personal stories that accompanied the recipes. While the authors readily admit taking some artistic license with some of the stories, they are intriguing and enlightening. In the recipe for Rugelach, for example, the story indicates that one traditional ingredient is missing from the heirloom recipe because her grandparents could probably not afford to buy it. Thus the recipe is subtly different and unique.

The book is for the most part a recipe compendium with the authors acting as editors, testers, and commentators. Many of the recipes seem to have been collected through their efforts at their website modernmom.com. The book even includes a form and information on how to submit your recipes for inclusion on the site or in future publications. That said, unlike many collections these recipes seem to have been tried by the authors and their notes are often enlightening in tricky situations. Likewise, the copious notes and tips are welcomed in such a work. Many are redundant to anyone who has minimal experience in the kitchen but some are quite intriguing like using a bamboo sushi mat to make perfectly round logs for rolled cookies.

The sweets in this book cover all the basics from pies and cakes to cookies and confections. Many of the recipes will be fairly familiar but there are some surprises to be found in the pages making this an easy to read and follow book well worth adding to your cookbook collection. Their website is www.sugarsugarrecipes.com.

My test recipe for the book was Oatmeal Carmelitas which feature rolled oats, chocolate, caramel and pecans in a bar cookie. These were very enjoyable and I loved the caramel with the pecans. I actually sprinkled a little fleur de sel over the caramel before baking because I simply adore the flavor of salted caramel. If I were to make any changes to the recipe it would be the addition of a little vanilla to the cookie crust for more flavor. I admit that I found the topping to be a bit too crumbly for my taste. Half of it ended up on the counter because it simply did not bind well to the filling. In the future I think I will use a bit more for the crust than the recipe calls for and make a thinner stopping. Regardless, the taste was phenomenal and I loved the texture after allowing these to come back to room temperature before eating!

: Oatmeal Carmelitas
: Chewy and delicious with caramel, pecans, and chocolate.

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 14 oz. soft caramel candies, unwrapped (or Kraft caramel bits)
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Place the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until creamy. Slowly add the flour mixture and blend until incorporated. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to fold in the oats. Mixture will be crumbly. Transfer half (about 3 cups) to the baking dish. Using your fingers, gently press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the dish. Bake for 10 minutes to set.
  3. While the crust is baking, place the caramels and milk in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until the caramels are melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  4. Remove the crust from the oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips and pecans evenly over the top. Carefully pour the caramel mixture on top and spread evenly. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the top. Bake 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or until the bars are set and firm. Cut into 2-inch squares.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Cooking time: 35 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 12
Culinary tradition: USA (General)

Disclaimer: The publisher, Andrews McMeel Universal provided a review copy of this work to the author of this blog.

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