Sunday, August 7, 2011

Review: Sweet Chic

Summary:  Today’s baker faces a great challenge: With little time and a limited repertoire, she often needs to whip up a delicious dessert that’s dressed to impress. Rachel Schifter Thebault, founder and head confectioner of Tribeca Treats in New York City, knows all about making a sweet statement. Combining a confectioner’s expertise with fashion sense, she shares a scrumptious cache of popular dessert recipes that can be accessorized to fit any occasion.

What’s more, transforming a basic dessert into a masterpiece brimming with personality and flair can be easy, quick, and fun. In the same way you’d plan an outfit,
Sweet Chic pieces together a Devil’s Food Cake—the little black dress of delights—with such irresistible accessories as Caramel Buttercream (think knee-high boots) for ultimate decadence, turns Vanilla Cookies (the crisp oxford shirt) into Strawberry “Shortcakes” ideal for casual or dressy occasions, and blends brownies (the cashmere sweater of confectionery) with a swirl of mint for a showstopping number.

Gorgeous and appetizing color photos throughout reveal how a change of icing here and a substitute topping there can take a simple dessert from Sunday brunch to a date-night treat. Mix and match more than seventy recipes for cookies, cakes, and confections, including Peanut Butter and Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies, Brownie Sundae Parfait, Mini S’mores Cupcakes, Wasabi-Black Sesame Truffles, and so much more.

Whether you’re a novice baker hoping to master the basics or an experienced one looking to add a little versatility to your existing creations,
Sweet Chic is a clever and practical guide for memorable desserts, a one-sweet-fits-all way to make a tantalizing impression. -- Ballantine

Oh my goodness! SWEET CHIC: STYLISH TREATS TO DRESS UP FOR ANY OCCASION by Rachel Schifter Thebault is just an adorable cookbook. I was immediately drawn to the front cover, not to mention the hot pink lining inside. But I'm happy to say that SWEET CHIC is as useful as it is cute. I was very impressed with this practical baking cookbook.

After I got past my cover lust, I started skimming through this cookbook. It's as cute as the cover and has loads of beautiful photos of the baked goods. However, what I really liked about this cookbook is the recipes. They are all ones that I could see myself making. The ingredients were "normal" and most of the recipes were very easy. I really can't rave enough about this cookbook.

SWEET CHIC has a forward by Isaac Mizrahi (yes, the fashion designer!) which fits perfectly with the theme of the cookbook -- combining her baking expertise with her keen fashion sense. In fact, each chapter is tied to a piece of fashion. For example, the Scooped Cookie section is subtitled "The White T-Shirt," Brownies are called "The Cashmere Sweater," and the Graham Cracker recipe is referred to as "The Perfect-Fit Jeans." It might be a bit gimicky, but it's kind of cute -- especially for people like me who love clothes and confections. The cookbook is divided into the following sections: Cookies, Cakes, and Confections. Under each of these sections, there are multiple subheadings and recipes. Some of my favorites include Chocolate Amaretto Thumbprints, Rocky Road Cupcakes, and the Sweet-and-Salty Cake.

There were so many great recipes, but I decided to try a traditional Snickerdoodle Cookie. I don't remember ever making Snickerdoodle cookies before (I know crazy, right?), but the recipe was certainly simple enough and I had all of the ingredients on hand. The cookies looked perfect, but I did have a slight issue. The recipe said the yield was about three dozen cookies, and I only got 25. I made the cookies dough balls out of one tablespoon of dough (as called for), but I'm wondering if the recipe should have read one teaspoon. Anyway, the cookies weren't large (by my standards) so I'm just going to remember that the recipe makes closer to two dozen. Oh yeah... in case you are wondering, they were delicious and easy!

Ms. Thebault is the owner of Tribeca Treats since 2007, so she definitely knows baking. She is also a mom and I think that gives her a unique perspective on baking -- i.e. she also has limited time. Ms. Thebault has a wonderful website where she shares a few recipes as well as some baking tips. In addition, she has a blog where she talks about a little bit of everything.

If you are interested in getting a fun baking cookbook, then I highly recommend SWEET CHIC! In the meantime, I'll leave you with a recipe for Mini Black and White Cookies:

Mini Black and White Cookies

The black and white cookie is a New York City institution. The version found in almost every corner deli is about three times the size of these, but this smaller size is more popular for parties because it's more manageable to eat in a social setting. At Tribeca Treats customers frequently order them as favors for weddings or black-and-white color-schemed events.

Traditionally, the icing is applied to the bottom, or flat side, of the cookie. Doing so helps you create a neat delineation between your chocolate and white icings. Having the rounded side as the bottom also adds a topsy-turvy playfulness when plating them.

3 cups all-purpose flour 
teaspoon baking soda 
½ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup buttermilk

For the Glazes
1½ cups confectioner’s sugar
¼ cup buttermilk
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper or spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt into a mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. Beat the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment at high speed until it is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the sugar, and continue to mix on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula halfway through mixing to ensure the butter and sugar are well mixed.
  5. Add the eggs and mix until combined. Again, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure that the ingredients are incorporated.
  6. Add approximately half the flour mixture and mix on low speed just until the mixture is incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add the vanilla and buttermilk and mix until combined, about 15 seconds.
  7. Add the remaining flour and mix until combined, about 15 seconds. Remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom with a rubber spatula to make sure the flour is fully incorporated. Compared with other, drier cookie doughs, this dough has a more pasty consistency.
  8. Using a small ice cream scoop or a tablespoon measure, scoop the cookie dough about 1 inch apart onto the prepared pans. Bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans once halfway through, until the edges of the cookies are golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool on the pans to room temperature.
  9. While the cookies are cooling, prepare the white glaze. Sift 1 cup of confectioners' sugar into a small bowl. Add 2 tablespoons buttermilk and mix thoroughly with a fork.
  10. Once the cookies are at room temperature, flip them over and, using a small offset spatula, spread the white glaze over one-half of the bottom of each cookie.
  11. While the white glaze sets, sift ½ cup of confectioners' sugar and ½ cup cocoa powder into another bowl and add 2 tablespoons buttermilk. Mix thoroughly with a fork. Using a small offset spatula, spread the chocolate glaze onto the other half of each cookie. Allow the cookies to set for 20 minutes.
  12. Serve the set cookies immediately, or keep them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.
The above is an excerpt from the book Sweet Chic: Stylish Treats to Dress Up for Any Occasion by Rachel Thebault. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2011 Rachel Thebault, author of Sweet Chic: Stylish Treats to Dress Up for Any Occasion

Thanks to FSB Associates for providing a review copy of this book.

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TheBookGirl said...

I consider myself somewhere in between a novice baker and an acoomplished one. This looks like a great baking book -- I love to bake, much more than I like to cook -- so I am always in the market for great new baking tomes.
I like the "hook" to this one, of assembling desserts like you put together a wardrobe :)

Thanks for the great review, and the black and white cookie recipe (that's one of my husband's favorites).

Sandy Nawrot said...

I'm not much of a baker but my daughter is. I'm going to see if I can get my hands on this one for her. (OMG I love black & whites!) Have you ever seen the book "Hello Cupcake"? YOu want to talk about a love affair with pictures, just sit down with that one for an hour or two.

Beth F said...

This looks like fun. I love to bake, but don't do it often because, well, I don't burn calories off like I used to. :)

bermudaonion said...

I love baking too, but don't have anyone to eat my baked goods these days. That cover is so darn cute!!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I love black and whites too! (became a frequent purchase for me at BEA!) Good to see what goes into them!

Marg said...

I can't say I have ever had Black and White cookies, but these look fantastic and the book looks like lots of fun.

Anonymous said...

So I am NOT a cook but my sister in law is and I love to see her work...both the action of her WORKING and her actual finished product. She's a pastry chef and it seriously a genius. Thanks for sharing this book. LOVE the title...very witty.

Beth Hoffman said...

I simply must get this book for my girlfriend who is a fabulous baker!

Thanks for the cookie recipe, Julie. I want to see how they turn out when I make them gluten-free.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

oh, yum! I like this mini version of the black & white cookies - sounds like a "just right" size.