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Read up on some of 2013's most-loved cookbooks, tested and reviewed by the one and only Food52 community.
In an age where the cupcake, the crumble, and the cookie reign supreme, Bakeless Sweets stands out not for its sophisticated cover design (although that helps) but for its total avoidance of the oven. In her charming, conversational introduction, author Faith Durand explains the simple rationale for this book: to give bakeless desserts the attention they deserve. The product is this exciting, alternative no-bake bible.
One of the first things that struck me about this book is Durand’s careful inclusion of many cultures -- from simple touches like including all measurements in both cups and grams (perfect for a British baker like me) to the inclusion of a recipe for Thai Sticky Rice mingled amongst the traditional tapiocas and rice puddings. This is a recipe book that reaches out to confectionary cooks all over the world.
Another intriguing aspect is the innovative interweaving of traditionally sweet and savory ingredients, from Gingered Brown Rice Pudding to Creamy Lemon-Coconut Quinoa Pudding. Upon first glance, I was intimidated by these combinations, so far removed from my Victoria Sponge comfort zone. However, after I'd studied the ingredients, it soon became apparent that these recipes are a master-class in balancing taste with texture. It wasn't long before I'd been seduced by the Salted Caramel Risotto.
More: For more oven-free inspiration, check out our 5 Questions with Faith Durand on Bakeless Sweets.
Not one for calorie-conscious cooking, I found Durand’s unapologetic approach to using full-fat ingredients liberating and, as she points out herself, wholly more satisfying. The Butterscotch Pudding yielded a fantasticly deep, smoky caramel flavor that meant one bowl locked up my sugar-lust for longer than a low-fat, low-sugar alternative would have been capable of doing. In a world dominated by recipes with ingredient lists longer than your forearm, it is refreshing to find desserts that startle with their simplicity -- a product of eggs, milk, cream, sugar, and just a few intelligent techniques.
Another feature of this book that must not go unappreciated is the vast range of desserts that Durand covers and the care and detail she awards to each and every one. The Real Fruit Jellies chapter provides an invaluable "Jelly Troubleshooting" section to resolve all gelatin-related woes. The Spiced Maple Pecans vanished within about 30 seconds of me setting them out.
This is a book that takes your hand and guides you through every stage of the pudding process -- never again need you feel wobbly about jelly or panicked about panna cotta. If you’re a dessert afficianado looking for your next foray, I would urge you to put your oven gloves to one side, pick up Bakeless Sweets, and let yourself be absorbed in Durand’s ingenious, indulgent, no-bake bliss.