Spending a lot of time as I do making (or trying to make) classic pastries, it’s easy to forget about the day-to-day trends that crop up in popular baking. More than that it’s possible to become an outright snob in regard to them, and dismiss the trendy stuff entirely as, well, trendy. But the snob misses out on a lot. And I don’t just mean the pleasure of a deep fried Twinkie. I mean the bigger picture of what’s going on in the world of pop pastry — which matters…for not only is it fun (and often funny in a good way), it can be a great source of inspiration for other work, whatever form it may take.
Case in point a couple of books that came my way from Ulysses Press last week: Mini Pies by Christie Beaver & Morgan Greenseth and Crazy for Cake Pops by Molly Bakes. Both would be easy to dismiss laid out on a table at one of those (rapidly disappearing) mega book stores. However I spent a little time with both of these short books over the weekend and found that beneath the gimmickry — balls of cake crumbs on sticks and pies that fit in muffin tins — there was some innovative thinking at work.
Now mind you, I’ve only eaten one cake pop in my life, it was this past summer in Saugatuck, Michigan. Being made from cake crumbs bound together with a little frosting, I thought the core was pretty dense, sweet stuff, but there was no denying its visual appeal, which was formidable. A decorated one-and-a-half-inch wide chocolate-enrobed ball on a stick. You couldn’t help wanting to pick one up. If the eating experience didn’t quite live up to the promise of the package…oh well, at least it was fun.
And that’s what Crazy for Cake Pops is really all about: having fun. The appeal of the book really isn’t in the “what” of the pops themselves (though there seem to be some decent formulas for different types of cake layers) but in the designs, which are fantastic. From multi-color dips to intricate shapes like teacups, fish, ice cream cones, doughnuts and monkey faces, creative presentation is really what this book is about, and on that level it’s a stunner. All kinds of great ideas in there for people who decorate cakes or petits fours. Of course if you really dig cake pops for their own sake, hey man, knock yourself out! I think I’ll try some for little Jo’s birthday party. They’re her kinda thing for sure.
As for Mini Pies, again the real attraction here isn’t the petit pies, but the crust and filling recipes, which are consistently creative. People who fear pie crust will be encouraged by the down-to-earth tips the authors provide for rolling and shaping, as well as with the breadth of recipes (one of which is savory cheddar cheese — cool!). And no matter what size pie you gravitate toward, the fillings are pretty darned inspired. Blueberry rosewater and raspberry rhubarb whiskey are two I’m going to try (normal-sized, I think), right after the cranberry pear. So again, there’s plenty of utility here, though maybe not in quite the way the authors or publisher intended.
All in all these are two great examples of why it’s important for bakers of all stripes to be voracious book readers: because you never know where that diamond-in-rough idea, the one that’s going to put your next creation over the top, is going to come from. These books are packed full of creative thinking, and they make delightful browsing to boot.
Thanks Ulysses Press! I’ll keep them on my shelf. I’ll also add that you can find great deals on books, foods and a whole lot more right here: www.centrsource.com.