After over 20 years on TV, 81 books, a magazine and countless self-branded household products from linens to cookware, Martha Stewart falls nothing short of a domestic Empress. It follows, then, that her new trio of books, "Martha Stewart's Cupcakes," "Martha Stewart's New Pies & Tarts" and "Martha Stewart's Cakes," which contain over 500 recipes in total, form a comprehensive and definitive guide to baking. In typical Martha style, the books' pages brim with both stunning photographs of each finished treat and helpful how-to information on decorating techniques, packaging and presentation. The back of each book focuses on basics including general baking tips and techniques as well as advice on ingredients and equipment. She also includes recipes for "extras" such as sauces and garnishes (coulis, creme anglaise, sugared fruit, chocolate-covered mint leaves etc). "Cupcakes," the most impressive of the three books, spotlights the perfect cupcake for every occasion. Swirled and sprinkled, dipped and glazed, Stewart proves that these diminutive cakes can become both showstoppers for special occasions and everyday treats. Alongside traditional favorites like yellow buttermilk cupcakes with fluffy vanilla frosting and devil’s food cupcakes crowned with dark chocolate buttercream, she presents sweet surprises such as peanut butter and jelly cupcakes, dainty delights like tiny almond-cherry tea cakes, and festive centrepieces topped with marizpan ladybugs or candy clowns. "New Pies & Tarts" likewise contains classics such as pecan, pumpkin and apple but also the more exotic Vanilla Bean-Pineapple Tart and Persimmon Tartlets with Caramel Cream. The sheer number of crusts featured in the book astonishes; one could certainly mix and match crusts with fillings to produce a different pie/tart every day for years. The recipes in "Cakes" do not quite match those in "Cupcakes" on the level of fun or interest but, again, Stewart's Molasses-Spice Cake with Cream Cheese-Sour Cream Frosting and Brown-Sugar Glaze (yes, that is ONE recipe title!), Strawberries-and-Cream Cheesecake, Lemon Meringue Cake, and Cheesecake with Poached Apricots will surely appeal to non-traditionalists. The book also includes a decent selection of gluten-free and vegan offerings. The recipes in these three books certainly do not intend to be "healthy." Readers will not find any low-fat, low-carb, low-sugar offerings and the density/richness of the desserts may turn some off of the books. Additionally, though all recipes fit nicely on one page, many reference other recipes. For example, Poppy-Seed Tartlets with Lemon Curd (page 194) requires the baker to turn to three other pages to make the crust (page 333), lemon curd (page 339) and candied lemon slices (page 339). Despite these minor drawbacks, this trio of baking books proves all you need to create a memorable dessert for any occasion.
Jan 18, 2014