June 24, 2012

"Grace's Sweet Life"

I have been reading Grace's Sweet Life (La Mia Vita Dolce) for awhile now, as she's a fellow London, Ontario blogger, so I was thrilled when Ulysses Press sent me a copy of her new cookbook "Grace's Sweet Life: Homemade Italian Desserts from Cannoli, Tiramisu, and Panna Cotta to Torte, Pizzelle, and Struffoli." Even the title is a litany of sweet Italian goodness and the book is no different.

Her blog is always full of stunning, dramatic dessert photos, so I was happy to see them in print and with great descriptions of Italian classic dessert recipes and techniques. The instructions are quite in-depth for some of the recipes and there is quite a lot of text for a cookbook, but better to have more instructions than less when it comes to baking.

The book is divided into different dessert categories, such as "Cakes and Cheesecakes," "Pies and Tarts," "Pastries and Fried Desserts" and although there aren't a lot of personal anecdotes or connections described with the recipes, I think the book is intended more as a reference for learning about Italian baking rather than a "storybook" cookbook.

I would definitely look to this book for making a stunning dessert for a party or special occasion, as most of the recipes are quite rich and decadent. It's not really something I would look to for everyday baking (as if I even used the term "everyday baking." By that I mean something on the healthier side I would eat during the week as a quick dessert).

I went to a party on the weekend where one of the hosts is gluten intolerant, so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to make Grace's Amaretti cookies, "Amaretti Morbidi." The cookies are made with almond flour instead of all-purpose flour, so they are gluten-free. That doesn't mean they are lacking in flavour by any means though. They are also made with eggs, coated with icing sugar and decorated with a silver dragee. These cookies would be great for the holidays and I love how they are photographed in the book on top of a martini glass full of silver candies.

I made my own almond flour by grinding the almonds myself. The colour of the cookies were a bit different than the picture in the book as Grace mentions, the colour from using blanched almonds or store bought almond flour can vary. I think I must have used about $10 worth of almonds in this recipe, as it called for 4 1/2 cups, but it made about 3 dozen cookies.

I am also sometimes weary of recipes that call to separate the yolks and egg whites, as the few times I've made souffles, they haven't turned out right, but I managed to separate these fine and everything turned out to plan. I separated the eggs and mixed the ingredients together as per the instructions then let the dough chill in the fridge for a few hours.

I then formed the dough into small balls, coated them in icing sugar and placed a silver dragee lightly on top. I baked them for about 25 minutes at 325F.

They didn't turn out as pretty as the picture in the book, but for only having three ingredients they were extremely tasty and fairly simple to make.

The cookies were seemed to be a hit at the party--the silver candies added an elegant decoration for the occasion--and appreciated by the gluten-free crowd. I think I might make a pie this weekend for Canada Day, so I will also be trying Grace's tart shell recipe. There are many other amazing recipes in the book I would love to try, such as Italian peach cookies, custard tarts and vanilla bean rice pudding.

If you're like me and have certain go-to cookbooks for certain things (ex. bread, baking), I would highly recommend "Grace's Sweet Life" as your definitive Italian dessert resource. The pictures alone are worth flipping through and adding to your mental list of "food to daydream about eating."

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

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