Sweet & Southern

sweet and southern cover

Sweet & Southern, Classic Desserts with a Twist by Ben Mims, Rizzoli 2014, hardback $39.95, 224 pages

Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.

–Ernestine Ulmer

Let’s just say it, Ben Mims cooks like a boy. Which can be a wonderful thing. He bakes and frosts, kneads and melts with no thought of diet or thrift–only flavor and fun.

And I’m with him. My feeling is that if you’re going to make dessert, go all the way. Mims grew up in Mississippi and his sweet touchstones are his grandmother’s coconut layer cake, his mom’s pecan pie, and his aunt’s tins of Christmas confections.

In this book, he’s updated those hard-wired flavors to be a little less sweet, but with plenty of flavor–and still “Southern in spirit.” His time at Saveur magazine gave him an international view of desserts and he’s introduced new ingredients to familiar desserts–Mexican camotes step into a Thanksgiving sweet potato pie, shredded phyllo gets a pumpkin filling, and the heavenly Sicilian cassata is re-composed with pecan, bourbon, and coconut.

Mims’ chapters cover cakes, pies and tarts, custards and puddings, cookies and confections, as well as frozen treats, along with a chapter on biscuits, breads, and pastries. And since we’re all trying to live better these days, I found every excuse to bake from this book and share with other people (which is as it should be anyway).

The Culinary Historians were delighted with Birthday Cake Cookies–perfect, cakey sugar cookies paved with sprinkles. In a very un-Mimsian move, I used the opportunity to finish off three half bottles of sprinkles, so my presentation was a motley mix of purple and pink, chocolate and vanilla, gold and silver. Didn’t matter–I came home empty-tinned.

For a small dinner, I made Buttermilk Ile Flottante. I love buttermilk and I’m always looking for new ways to use it. Here it makes a tangy custard sauce, pooling around nutmeg and allspiced flavored meringues. It’s an impressive presentation and as Mims advises, the leftover custard makes a rapture-inducing ice cream.

Though I was tempted by the Edam Cheese Rolls, six egg yolks was too much for me. But I couldn’t resist German Sugar Bread, a wheaty yeast loaf spiced with cinnamon and studded with chunks of sugar cube. It made for a week of lovely breakfasts.

So whether you’re sharing or indulging, enjoy a sweet twist on the classics.


About Appetite for Books

read, cook, eat, repeat
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