Samantha Seneviratne offers tasty treats and reflections on food in The New Sugar & Spice: A Recipe for Bolder Baking, a cookbook full of unexpected spices, reminiscences on childhood foods, and brief histories of the spices called for in each section. It offers new flavors and combinations, managing to give an additional pep even to that familiar wonder, the brownie.
Seneviratne’s goal is to create recipes that emphasize the flavors of the spices more over the sweetness of sugar. “In these recipes,” she writes, “I have tried to take down the sugar to bring up the flavor. I think that less sweet leaves more room for delicious.” This does not mean it is a low-sugar cookbook; these are still cakes, cookies, and pies, after all. It does mean, however, that she calls for more less sugar and more spice than the average cook and that she is bold in her choices. Salt and Pepper Caramel Brownies and Bay Leaf Rice Pudding are two of the more striking combinations. The Orange Clove Pull-Apart Bread offers a more traditional combination of flavors, with the clove nicely underlining the tang of the orange zest.
Most of the recipes call for easily-found ingredients. It is the combinations that can be surprising, not the contents. No one is going to have to look too hard for pepper, cloves, or cinnamon. A few recipes do call for ingredients that will need further searching: Lyle’s Golden Syrup and Rose Water are not found in just any store. The recipes calling for such ingredients, however, are in the minority and one can always plan ahead. There are no calorie counts listed with the recipes, so the cook will have to estimate if he or she wishes to know.
Seneviratne also provides alternative measurements and ingredients for many of the recipes, suggesting additions, alterations, and adjustments that the cook may wish to try. She is also one of the very few cookbook authors who recognizes just how much the rising time for bread may vary.
The New Sugar and Spice is in sections based on the dominant spice used in the recipes. Senetivaratne includes a short world history of the spice coupled with her personal recollection of seeing the spices growing and tasting foods made with them when she visited her grandparents in Sri Lanka. The vignettes at the beginning of each chapter and recipe give the reader a sense of being a part of a larger world, and a confirmation that yes, food matters well beyond the simple nutritional value.
The New Sugar and Spice: A Recipe for Bolder Baking by Samantha Seneviratne comes out on September 15, 2015. Look for it on Amazon/a>