Grace Massa Langlois might have been born in Belgium but she grew up in London, Ontario where she remains with her family. I was born and raised in London, Ontario so we have a connection in that regard but when it comes to baking, our paths diverge. I am a decent, simple baker and dessert maker and I make a few things quite well but Grace is a real dessert master. I was already familiar with her food blog, Grace's Sweet Life , and loved to peruse all of the delicious looking desserts while daydreaming that someone else would make these things for me.
When I was offered a copy of her new cookbook, I jumped at the chance. I read the entire thing, cover to cover and was incredibly impressed with the huge array of Italian sweets. Cannoli, Tiramisu and Panna Cotta are all fairly familiar but there were other things like Italian Peach Cookies, Boccanotti and Celletti which were all new to me. I have to admit, that as a lazy baker, many of these recipes are far too complicated for me to tackle but for those of you who are real bakers, this book is chock full of show stoppers. I have a couple of friends who are hard core and I am going to bribe them so that they will make some of this stuff for me.
I really liked the section with all the basics that are used in Italian dessert making like the various pastry creams used, ricotta cream, italian meringue and sweet pastry doughs and can see incorporating those elements in other desserts as well. Most importantly, this is a book is clearly a labour of love and her dedication to replicating the sweets of her childhood, preserving her family's traditions and her Italian heritage really shines through on every page.
When I was a kid, I went to school with mostly Italian children, with a handful of Portuguese and Polish kids thrown in - I was almost always the only girl in my class who had a name that didn't end in A. I loved to go home with my classmates and help their mothers and their nonnas cook, bake and jar tomatoes and I often fantasized about living in a big, boisterous Italian family who would eat desserts like these instead of Jello 1-2-3 and pudding cups. This is a book full of the desserts that I dreamed about when I was that kid with the name that didn't end in A and a perfectly lovely, but not very exotic (in my young eyes), mother. It was so weird to me when I realized that my Italian friends were eager to trade their delectable meatball or nutella sandwiches on crusty, fresh bread for my boring balogna on WonderBread - the grass is always greener, right?
I haven't actually made anything yet mostly because there are only three of us and so I don't make big desserts often - everyone gets a fancy pants dessert for their birthday (none of us like cake all that much) and when we have a big holiday dinner and none of those opportunities have come up but I do plan to make the Crostata al Cioccolato con Glassa al Cioccolato (Chocolate Truffle Tart with Chocolate Glaze) and Panna Cotta al Cocco e Vaniglia con Gelatina de Melagrana (Vanilla Coconut Panna Cotta with Pomegranate Jelly) over the Christmas Holidays when we entertain so that I can justify making big, elaborate desserts.
This recipe for Dark Chocolate Donuts with Salted Caramel Glaze on her blog is enough to make me go out and find myself a donut pan but that would mean I would start making donuts all the time and then I would have to stress over not eating all those donuts and then I would end up hating the donut pan when I really don't need another kitchen gadget. What I really want, is for a friend to buy a donut pan and make these for me and then just bring me one and then she can deal with not eating the rest of them her damn self.
The book is available on Amazon.ca , Amazon.com , Chapters/Indigo and Barnes and Noble