Grace’s Sweet Life, a go-to special occasion cookbook featuring a stunning cross-section of handmade Italian desserts; new from Canada’s Grace Langlois.
This is a first for author Grace Langlois of London, Ontario, who began her sweet life in April of 2010 with her blog site, gracessweetlife.com (La Mia Vita Dolce). Her blog is a tribute to all things sweet, borrowing heavily from her Italian heritage and now that same flare can grace your bookshelf.
In life and in writing, always go with what you know and Langlois knows Italian sweets well. In her first published collection of recipes you find her rendition of classics like Italian Waffle Cookies, Sicilian Cannoli, Panna Cotta and of course Tiramisu as well as a selection of cheesecakes, tortes, and doughnuts. The recipes are well thought-out, the technique appears solid and the directions are easy to follow.
Grace’s Sweet Life begins with a chapter on basics, where she covers doughs, pastery creams, semifeddo and a proper Italian meringue. Followed by mini-desserts, cakes, cheesecakes, pies, tarts, creams, custards, mousses, and soufflés. I swear to God I’m going to make the Nutella Soufflé! (She had me at Nutella…)
This is a book for the passionate at home cook with a love for all things Italian. If you follow Grace’s advice, I’m quite certain you’ll wow the in-laws.
Grace’s Sweet Life also a fun way to learn a little Italian. As a good (Italian) friend of mine once said as he listened to me butcher an Italain menu – “just pronounce every letter”. Unlike English or French, the Italian language has no silent letters; it’s much more fun to say “Crumble di Lamponi e Miritti con Pistachio e Mandorle” rather than “Raspberry, Blueberry and Pistachio- Almond Crumble”.
Before I review a book I make it a policy to recipe test, in this case so I whipped up the Crumble di Lamponi e Miritti con Pistachio e Mandorle (Raspberry, Blueberry and Pistachio- Almond Crumble) this weekend. One of my favorite desserts, I had to try Langlois’ nutty version, a simple twist on a homespun classic, it was a hit at our house. (Here’s a link to our take on Grace’s recipe.)
My one criticism, of Grace’s Sweet Life (the book) is that I find the photography and food styling a bit flat. Some photos appear a tad underexposed, the black background does not often show some of the baked goods to their best advantage, and the art direction of the book, overall, is inconsistent. In reading the book’s Acknowledgments, I know the photography is the handiwork of Langlois’ teen-aged daughter, Liana, a talented armature photographer who shoots all of the food for grace’s Sweet Life the website as well.
Food being such a visual (and competitive) medium, it’s vital that it almost leap off the page, the screen, and (figuratively speaking) the plate. As a storyteller of all things delicious myself, I am constantly looking for ways to push my food art, from the product to the plate and it’s image. Two books I reccomend for passionate food photo addicts (or bloggers) are The Food Stylist Handbook by Danise Vivaldo and Plate to Pixel, Digital Food Photography & Styling by Helene Dujardin. Reading Vivaldo was a revelation, I’s particularly fond of the troubleshooting section, it has helped me correct some complete disasters. While Dujardin has helped me take what I know of film and apply it to the world of digital photography. Two terrific resources for a budding food photographer, perhaps a small investment to help make Grace’s Sweets even sweeter.