Throw out what you thought you knew about flavor pairings; Luane Kohnke's "Sassy Cookies" will take your taste buds on an extraordinary flavor journey through sweet, spicy, and savory ideas inspired by Latin America, Europe, and Asia. In addition to recipes starring cayenne and cherry, chocolate and ginger, goat cheese and caramel, saffron and pistachio, and green tea and almond, you'll pick up handy tips and techniques for working with a variety of traditional doughs as well as gluten-free macarons, meringues, and cookies.
I received a galley of "Sassy Cookies" late this spring, and had the chance to make many of the recipes including the chocolate Mexican spice cookies, mocha chocolate wedding cakes, lemon yogurt squares, chocolate-ginger fudge shortbread cookies, gingerbread and pumpkin brownies, mango-coconut bars, flourless peanut butter cookies noir, black mission fig cookies, and fleur de sel cashew cookies. I loved the Asian-inspired green tea macarons and the nod to Latin America in the goat cheese and caramel-swirl brownies (I live in a city with a huge variety of Mexican and Latin American markets, so sourcing cajeta and dulce de leche is no problem!), the Italian-inspired polenta blondies, and the Eastern-inspired chai tea and chocolate butter cookies and cardamom-ginger bars.
Recipes are clearly laid out in an easy-to-read font (ingredients are handily printed in contrasting red, baker's notes are in bold), and each recipe comes with a beautiful minimalist photo starring the featured baked good front and center, oftentimes surrounded by an artful deconstruction of its ingredients.
I loved that the book includes a wide variety of baked goods, from savories that make great cocktail / appetizer nibbles (black olive bites, blue cheese and cranberry cookies, Parmesan cheese coins with mascarpone filling, savory cheddar cocktail cookies) to sandwich cookies, bar cookies, and a good number of delicious gluten-free alternatives that don't rely on specialty GF flours or starches (the peanut butter noir and fleur de sel cookies both use a base of nut butter and sugar; the meringues and macarons rely on egg whites and almond flour).
My current favorites are the addictive chocolate Mexican spice cookies (with plenty of bittersweet chocolate, dried cherries, and a hint of heat from the cayenne) modeled after Lindt's chocolate, chili, and cherry bar, and the gingerbread and pumpkin brownies, which are perfect for fall. Both received rave reviews from my testers; the next time I make the gingerbread and pumpkin brownies, I am going to add some softened cream cheese to the pumpkin filling and sprinkle some chopped crystallized ginger on top for even more of a ginger kick! The fleur de sel cashew cookies were also a hit; I sprinkled my favorite salt Falksalt Crystal Flakes Natural Sea Salt Natural 4.4 Ozon top. These will be an occasional splurge for me, though, as the cheapest jar of organic cashew butter in my neck of the woods goes for close to fourteen dollars! I have plenty of other recipes bookmarked as well that I am eager to try.
Verdict: "Sassy Cookies" is a must-have in any baker's collection and is sure to spice up your baking!
(Thank you to Pelican Publishing for the review copy and for the book blurb!)