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Dessert books right for the holidays

By Lyda Truick

December 21, 2010
(Storey Publishing )

Ah, the winter holidays. It is a time of warmth and perhaps family, or for some, a crazed frenzy of shopping and cooking. For myself, I decided to go on a diet. And the last thing one should do on a diet is read cookbooks about dessert.

Lo and behold, here I am reviewing some of the most drool-inspiring, enticing dessert recipes I have ever encountered. I thought maybe it was just because I am depriving myself of most sweets at the moment, but I must tell you that Krystina Castella has managed to compile some very original, simple recipes in all three books that are well worth making. Castella lives in Glendale, and is not only an author of such confectionary greatness, she is also a professor of Industrial Design at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

I started with “Crazy About Cookies,” because part of my holiday tradition is to make cookies to be distributed as gifts to co-workers, friends and my postal carrier. The beautiful pictures aside, I appreciated the helpful chapter on baking equipment and the necessary ingredients one might want to have on hand when cooking and techniques one can use to improve quality in the final product. On page 38, I was thrilled to find “10 Troubleshooting Solutions,” which helped me to solve my lifelong problem with my cookies being too flat. Apparently, I have been using the wrong butter all these years. Some recipes I have bookmarked to try include Snickerdoodles (page 77), Watermelon Cookies (page 132) and Gingerbread Robot Cookies (page 239).

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Next up was the book titled “Booze Cakes” because I needed a good dessert to take to a holiday party. Right off the bat I knew this book would be a lot of fun because right there on the verso page it states, “Please bake responsibly!” If that was not enough to indicate what to expect when exploring the pages, it starts with a chapter outlining the different types of alcohol and liqueurs. It also breaks down the types of cakes and the various occasions one might make them, and “The Booze Meter,” which provides a legend for the level of booze in the cake being prepared — ”Lightweight,” “Feeling it” and “Totally Tipsy.”

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