Ulysses Press has offered me the opportunity to conduct a review of Dorothy Kern’s cookbook, Dessert Mash-Ups. Kern is the blogger behind “Crazy for Crust” food blog and Dessert Mash-Ups is her first cookbook.
I found this a delightful cookbook, all about desserts (what’s not to love about that speciality!). But, it’s more than that. It’s actually a teaching book that is sure to be a good reference tool for bakers, particularly those less experienced in the realm of baking. For example, there is a great section at the front of the book that provides a list of common pans any kitchen should have along with a list of useful gadgets and appliances. Additionally, the author also gives useful ingredient tips and suggestions along with storage and freezing tips. While candy making can be daunting for some, Kern takes away the trepidation by providing handy tips on candy dipping that both the novice and a more experienced candy maker would find useful. Including this type of information in the cookbook would be motivating I believe for those, perhaps less confident in candy making, to try the candy recipes in Kern’s book.
The book features over 50 recipes that are well laid out. Each recipe is introduced by a short paragraph that either comments about the recipe’s ingredients or gives the author’s personal story about, or connection to, the recipe. Step-by-step clear directions call for the ingredients in the order in which they appear on the ingredients list found on the right-hand side of each page and each recipe provides the yield along with the preparation and baking times. Where there is more than one component to a recipe (e.g., a cake, streusel, and icing), each set of ingredients is listed separately along with individual sets of directions which makes preparation easier. The directions are easy to understand, even for those less experienced with baking.
One of the things I most appreciated about the book is that, while it sometimes combines different ingredients in a recipe or “mashes” them up into something entirely different than you might think of (ever hear of lemon meringue pie fudge!), the recipes do not call for unusual ingredients that would be difficult to find.
The other bonus with this book is that each recipe is accompanied by a full-page color photograph of the finished product so you know the goal you are aiming for when making a recipe. The photographs are stunning and of high quality, making each recipe enticing to make. Of note, all food photographs in the book are the work of the author, herself.
I found the structure, content, and layout of this book well thought out with the reader in mind. The book is well organized and categorized into eight chapters: Breakfast but Better; Candy Concoctions; Cookies, Brownies, and Bars Together at Last; Pie Surprise; Cake & Cupcake Creations; New Takes on Cheesecake; Double Dips; and Holiday Mash-ups. At the beginning of each chapter, there is a page that lists all the recipes in that category along with their page numbers. There is also a useful alphabetized index at the back of the book.
So, while a book might be lovely to look at and to leaf through, the real test comes when you make some recipes out of the book. I selected two: Payday Candy Corn Rice Krispies Treats (pp 134-135), and Rocky Road Cookie Fudge Bars (pp. 58-59). Both recipes turned out well for me with no issues and both were tasty and are ones I would repeat.
Payday Candy Corn Rice Krispies Treats
The twist on these perennial favorites is the addition of just a small amount of peanut butter, some peanuts, and the candy corn. I made them for Halloween treats and they were a hit. I also tested freezing them and found they freeze well, too. I would make them again, with or without the candy corn.
Ulysses Press has given me permission to share the recipe and the book’s photograph for Rocky Road Cookie Fudge Bars along with my review of this cookbook. I made these bars and thoroughly enjoyed them.
Rocky Road Cookie Fudge Bars
Yield 36 bars
Prep Time 20 minutes
Bake Time 18 minutes
Chill Time At least 4 hours
I’ll never forget eating rocky road ice cream when I was young. It was one of my mom’s favorite flavors, so it was always in the freezer. I’d pick out the almonds and marshmallows to save for last, because they were the best part. My love of the ice cream inspired these bars: a rich chocolate cookie bar topped with a rocky road candy that tastes like fudge. I hope it brings back memories of all your rocky road days like it does for me!
1⁄2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1⁄2 cup packed brown sugar
1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1⁄3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 (11.5-ounce) bag semisweet or milk chocolate chips
1⁄2 cup chopped walnuts or almonds
1 1⁄2 cups mini marshmallows
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9 x 9-inch pan with cooking spray or line with foil and spray with cooking spray for easy cleanup.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Add the vanilla and egg, and mix until smooth. Mix in the cocoa and baking soda, then add the salt and flour, and beat until well blended. Press into the prepared pan. (The batter will be sticky; it helps to spray your hands with cooking spray to keep it from sticking to you.)
3. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the top just loses its sheen.
4. As soon as the bars come out of the oven (or a few minutes before), melt the chocolate chips in a large microwave- safe bowl on high for 1 1⁄2 to 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds until the chocolate melts and is smooth. Let it sit for about 2 minutes, then stir in the chopped nuts and mini marshmallows. Stir to coat completely.
5. Pour the marshmallow mixture on top of the hot cookie bars and spread carefully. Let set at room temperature before slicing. You can refrigerate the bars to speed hardening, but be sure to allow them to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before slicing to avoid cracking in the chocolate. Store in an airtight container at room temperature; bars are best within 4 days.
The book contains a good variety of dessert recipes that would be suitable for families, potluck get-togethers, special occasions, and gift giving.
This book is a manageable size, has good flow, and is easy to read. In my view, this book would be most suitable for individuals who love to bake, have a sweet tooth, and/or those who don’t count calories!
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Dessert Mash-Ups from Ulysees Press for the purposes of conducting a review of the cookbook. I received no compensation for this review and was under no obligation to provide a positive review. All opinions expressed are purely my own.