Well-written recipes -> outrageously good seasonal fruit-based desserts
Reviewed in the United States on 23 March 2016
I really admire that Yossy chose a theme (baking with seasonal fruit), introduced why (her upbringing picking berries in the summer with her family, which has continued to influence how she cooks currently), and then highlighted 19 fruit categories in a wide variety of different desserts. Each category gets a little intro, with a gorgeous cover photo and advice on when and how to select the fruit at its peak.
Every recipe is itself accompanied by a photo, and as you might expect, they are all stunning. The recipes often incorporate whole grains and aren't too sweet - we're told she strives for a sweet-savory balance, stemming from the influence of her Iranian father's cooking. Since it's officially spring now, I thought the cherry and poppy seed yogurt cake & the pistachio pound cake (without the strawberries, but with the lavender sugar) would be two good choices for testing these recipes. Both were quite easy and quick to assemble, Yossy's instructions are clear and accurate, and both cakes tasted (and smelled) divine. I did use frozen cherries instead of fresh ones for the yogurt cake, because I don't have access to fresh, reasonably priced cherries currently, but the end result was still delicious.
After these, I made the brown butter blondies, because even though they're under "winter" due to the dried fruit/chocolate combo, blondies are amazing all-year round, especially ones with dates and dried cherries! Yossy's version of blondies very possibly outshines my standard go-to blondies from Back in the Day Bakery (which also have bourbon and chocolate chips, but include dried coconut instead of dates & cherries). As with the cakes, Yossy's blondie recipe is simple to follow, doesn't require too much time or effort, the measurements & timing is all accurate, and the end dessert is outstanding! I was able to bake all three of these desserts in one evening after working a full day, and I'm not necessarily the most efficient baker, so that's a huge plus for Sweeter off the Vine.
I'm really excited for summer to arrive so I can try her cantaloupe and mint yogurt pops especially, but almost all of the recipes included in this little book are appealing to me (except the rhubarb ones - I wish I liked rhubarb, but I just can't seem to enjoy it.) I am also really pleased with her small-batch apricot jam recipe, because I think a lot more people would make their own jam when the scary/extra-hassle step of sterilizing the jars is removed because the intent is not long-term storage, but rather short-term consumption.
I highly recommend Sweeter off the Vine. The photos are gorgeous and plentiful, the desserts are delicious, and although there are relatively few recipes (76 total), Yossy offers plenty of variations to give you a wide range of options. Almost all of her recipes are "unique", there's nothing here that I feel is a duplicate of other recipes I have, which is great, because I have a lot of dessert cookbooks. The twists might be small (yogurt, cherries, and lime instead of a standard lemon poppy seed cake), but they aren't something I've thought to do and they yield remarkable desserts. My only "complaint" is I confess to being a little saddened by the choice of fruit-based desserts, because I love what Yossy does with bread... I'm holding out hope it means there is a second book coming from her soon that will be bread-focused!
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