Sugar and spice and everything nice! (Blogging for Books review)

Samantha Seneviratne’s “The New Sugar and Spice” takes classic comfort bakes like cinnamon rolls, cookies, breads and cheesecake and reinvents them, using seductive hits of spice in creative and crowd-pleasing ways. In the introduction, the author points out that “the flood of sugar has diluted real flavor, muffled complexity, and concealed true richness,” so her goal was to create delicious, healthier desserts that use spices in a starring role in place of the overwhelming sweetness so prevalent in many desserts.

Chapters are divided by spices (sometimes with complementary pairings), including peppercorn and chile, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and cardamom, ginger, and savory herbs and spices. Along the way, Samantha includes stories about her family’s roots and how her Sri Lankan heritage influenced her culinary style, along with fascinating historical insights and storage tips on the various featured spices.

Cinnamon, hazelnut and date buns, ricotta cheesecake with bourbon-raisin jam, orange and honey baklava, orange-clove pull-apart bread, and saffron currant braid were all recipes that instantly called my name. Several years ago, I became hooked on Scandinavian baking and now tend to use cardamom liberally in yeast rolls and sweet breads (even in my morning coffee), so naturally I was thrilled to see a whole chapter starring my favorite spice!

Measurements are given in both volume and weight (which I appreciate as I find weight measurements to be more reliable). Samantha’s guidance is spot-on; there are helpful hints both for new bakers as well as experienced ones to guarantee the best results, particularly for recipes involving yeast. Gorgeous photography by Erin Kunkel highlights various ingredients and finished bakes for maximum (mouth-watering!) impact.

In addition to familiar treats, you’ll find updated versions of international classics such as profiteroles, clafoutis and tarte tatin, Scandinavian bakes like saffron currant braids and cardamom-laced shortbread, Thai banana fritters, Indonesian kue lapis, Puerto Rican-inspired cazuela cookie bars that are perfect for fall, and other fragrant, delightful baked goods that spiced up my rather predictable baking repertoire. As an experienced home baker, I appreciated the challenge and loved the complexity that the various spices gave to my baked goods and will certainly be baking my way through “The New Sugar and Spice in the near future!

(I received my copy through Blogging for Books)

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