Salty Sweets by Christie Matheson

Book Review 2010

We hadn't even moved beyond the cover before we were reaching for our measuring cups and mixing bowls. We can't remember the last time we felt such a strong call of "Must make this!" in reaction to simply picking a book off the shelf! And, folks, those cupcakes on the cover are really just the beginning.

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Title & Publisher: Salty Sweets: Delectable Desserts and Tempting Treats with a Sublime Kiss of Salt by Christie Matheson. Published by Harvard Common Press, 2009.

First Impressions: Once we got past those gooey cupcakes on the cover...well, it didn't get much better. Full color pictures of drool-worthy, crave-inducing treats confronted us from every other page. We were helpless to resist.

The book is a good size for propping open on the counter and the binding looks like it can handle more than a few crumbs. Each recipe gets its own page, and the ingredients and step-by-step instructions are both very clear and easy to read. An index and mini table-of-contents at the beginning of each chapter make the book easy to navigate (though all you really have to do is thumb through and stop at the first picture to catch your eye).

The Angle: Matheson explains that "salt...heightens the flavors of foods and stimulates the palate." Her cookbook shows us how well this principle applies to sweet treats, and her recipes play with that salty-sweet balance in ways that are both familiar and that take us out of our comfort zone. She goes way beyond sprinkling a pinch of salt over your caramels (though there's a recipe for those in the book, too!).

The Recipes: There's a little something for everyone in this book. She covers cookies and cakes, fruits and ice creams, even snacks that can be eaten any time of the day. There's also a good range of laid-back recipes that could be made on a lazy Saturday afternoon or fancier recipes that could star at a dinner party.

The recipes are approachable, use familiar easy-to-find ingredients, and make us feel confident going into the kitchen. We like that she gives some ideas for substitutions and ways to play with the recipe, showing how we can take her ideas and run with them.

You'll find some old favorites in here like salted caramels and peanut butter cookies, but for the most part, Matheson's recipes felt fresh and exciting (see some of our top picks below). By the time we finished going through the book, nearly half the pages in the book sported a "make soon!" sticky note.

Strengths & Weaknesses: It really seems like Matheson is presenting the idea of salty-sweet desserts in a whole new way. We felt inspired by her recipes and we're really looking forward to using some of those salts we've collected over the years in new ways. From the beautiful pictures to the recipes themselves, we think this book is a winner.

Recommended? Yes!

Recipes for Right Now: Old-Fashioned Kettle Corn, Toffee Cookies with Dark Chocolate Glaze, Dark Chocolate Fleur de Sel Cupcakes with Snappy Butterscotch Icing, Maple Creme Brulee, Oatmeal-Crusted Banana Tart, Nantucket Sea Salt Ice Cream

Buy the Book: Salty Sweets: Delectable Desserts and Tempting Treats with a Sublime Kiss of Salt by Christie Matheson, $14 on Amazon.com.

Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.

(Image: Harvard Common Press)

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