I consider myself to be an above average home cook. I get lots of practice, what with putting dinner on the table seven nights a week and all (six if my husband gives in to my love of Pete’s Apizza.) Desserts, though….not so much. I don’t even care for desserts most of the time. I prefer a cold beer and a handful of sour cream and onion potato chips for a late-night snack. Still, it is nice to bring a show-stopping sweet to a potluck now and then. Plus, I just know that one of these days, someone is going to rope me into a bake sale. So, when the chance arose to review a copy of The Big Book of Desserts and Pastries by Claes Karlsson, I volunteered.
As expected, when the book arrived, it was filled with beautiful, full-color photos. I skipped right past the candy section. As I said, when it comes to desserts, I know my limits. If it involves a thermometer, I’m out. I settled on the honey pine nut cake. I had all of the ingredients on hand, the directions were simple, and the picture in the book was drool-worthy. But my DIY result was…disappointing. Sure, my little pine nut cupcakes tasted good, kind of like sugar cookies with pine nuts on top, but they did not look particularly beautiful. Mission not accomplished.
Next, I went for the thin tuiles. This go-around, I even bought heavy cream, something not normally on hand at our house. I mixed, spoon, and baked as per the instructions. The resulting cookies were so fragile that the trip from the pan to the cooling rack was enough to shatter them. I blame the fact that the recipe calls for an oven heated to 390 degrees, and chances are that my very old, non-digital oven was off by more than a few notches. Grr. The crumbled cookies did make an excellent topping for ice cream, so all was not lost, but I still had not achieved my goal of a photo-worthy dessert.
After failing twice, I was ready to move this book from the cookbook shelf to the coffee table. Clearly, in my less than capable hands, it would be better for browsing. I was having tea with a friend the next day, however, so I decided to make one last attempt, with a recipe for coffee-flavored chocolate cake. I didn’t have the correct pan shape, but I refused to let this stop me. An hour or so later, I sighed with relief as I pulled out my camera. The resulting cake cubes were not only delectably chocolatey with a hint of coffee-flavor, they were gorgeous. Thank goodness.