“Bring on the dessert, I think I am about to die.”–Pierret Brillat-Savarin
Dale Carnegie thought you could win friends and influence people with a steady gaze and a firm handshake. I prefer Libbie Summers‘ approach. Woo them Side Slap & Tickle Cookies, charm them with Meatball Muffins, and win them with Hog Heaven Chocolate Cake.
Summers calls it baking with attitude–fearless and fun. Make your guests giggle and sigh as they slice into chocolate Post-Coital Pie or reach for another of Bob’s Fried Firecrackers. This is the only baking book I’ve ever seen that encourages you to change the recipes–“and make them more personal, more provocative.” And a provocative creativity is Summers’ main ingredient in chapters on cakes, sweet and savory breads and pastries, pies, cookies, even dog treats.
Rather than starting the book with the usual information you probably already know–the difference between dutch and regular cocoa, use the best ingredients–she saves her tips for a final chapter called Secret Weapons. We’ve all infused vodka with a vanilla bean, but how about with jalapeño, lavender, or star anise. Might as well infuse sugars too, or color sugar cubes to make bright and bold decorations. Since you’ve done all that extracting and infusing, Summers includes a few cocktails to celebrate your work.
Flavors fly and swoop. Heat is just the beginning; jalapeno shortbread and Chocolate Maniac Fire Bread seem almost obvious. Movie Night Cookies–there’s got to be popcorn in there somewhere–are made with buttered popcorn jelly beans. Sweet and Salty recipes combine flavors in Fig and Pig Pies, and Sugar Cookies are goosed with chai, citrus, coconut, or basil.
But to break the rules, you need to learn them and Summers includes good basic skills and recipes–baguette, puff pastry, brioche, and bagels. She describes how to ice a layer cake and then cuts loose, topping them with lemon head candies, bacon and pecans, cotton candy, or cinnamon candy frosting.
By the way, this stuff works. I took those Side Slap and Tickle Cookies to a party and made a new friend who fell for the malt and chocolate flavors. And the Pull-Apart Boy Bread flavored with garlic, olive oil, and grated Parmesan? It was pulled apart–fast–and devoured.
When you need to make a statement or get some attention–make it Sweet & Vicious.