My Sweet Mexico: Recipes for Authentic Pastries, Breads, Candies, Beverages, and Frozen Treats
Reviewed by MM Pack, Fri., Oct. 29, 2010
My Sweet Mexico: Recipes for Authentic Pastries, Breads, Candies, Beverages, and Frozen Treatsby Fany Gerson (Ten Speed Press, 224 pp., $30)
"Sweetness in Mexico is found all around – in the intimacy of the home, at birthday parties, at patriotic holidays, during religious cele-brations, and even at death." Thus begins Fany Gerson's My Sweet Mexico, a definitive compendium of the sweet dishes of our neighbor to the south – never before collected in an English-language book.
Gerson is native to Mexico City, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, a resident of New York City, and a former pastry chef at Rosa Mexicano and Eleven Madison Park. She spent five years traversing Mexico's regions, seeking the best recipes for the sweet breads, cakes, cookies, puddings, candies, fruit concoctions, drinks, and frozen desserts so dear to the Mexican heart and palate.
Meticulously documented and gorgeously photographed by Ed Anderson, these sweet recipes represent an important facet of Mexico's culinary history – ingredients range from pre-Columbian chocolate, vanilla, canela, agave, and prickly pear, to the Spaniards' introduction of sugar and the rich confections prepared in Colonial-era convents, to present-day desserts in which traditional ingredients intersect with modern kitchen technology and creativity.
Although some recipes are easily accomplished, this isn't a book for beginners, and many of the dishes require some investment of time and energy. Gerson provides detailed glossaries of specialized ingredients and equipment, and her instructions are lucid, but there's an inherent expectation that readers know their ways around the kitchen.
If, however, you've got memories of sweet eating in Mexico (or visions of sugarplums) and you're willing to commit to some quality kitchen time, the rewards are huge. I wowed a dinner party with tangy cajeta (goat's milk caramel) ice cream and impressed myself with the quintessential special-occasion cake, pastel de tres leches. I'm not too accomplished with candy, but I managed a perfect lime-scented jamoncillo de leche (silky milk fudge). For a seasonal treat, I recommend the earthy calabaza en tacha (candied pumpkin), traditionally eaten for Day of the Dead. A simple preparation, it simmers for a slow three hours with orange peel, clove, and cinnamon in dark piloncillo syrup.