Pros: Gorgeous photos; tempting recipes; wonderful flavors; sugar levels that could kill you!
Cons: Some flavors aren’t as expected; O the excess pounds!
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
For all that I’m trying to eat more healthfully, sometimes I can’t resist a decadent dessert. In particular I like to make such desserts when we have guests or are about to visit friends, so we can spread the fat and sugar across many people, and thus alleviate some of the guilt. Jill O’Connor’s Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey is definitely a cookbook for such occasions! As the author herself notes:
If you share my philosophy of “if some is good, more is better,” than [sic] this is definitely the book for you.
Anyone who recommends stockpiling an entire case of marshmallow fluff is definitely not sharing recipes that are good for you!
(Just to specify since it falls within the quote I couldn’t resist sharing: that typo is unusual for this book. By and large the editing job is quite good.)
Like most Chronicle cookbooks this one is beautifully laid out, with fun colors and designs, gorgeously delectable photographs of some of the recipes, and a simple, easy-to-read and -follow recipe format. It includes basic notes on equipment and ingredients.
Chapter 1 focuses on chocolate, with delights ranging from the somewhat familiar (Heart of Darkness Brownies, which are stuffed full of mouth-watering sinful ingredients) to the gourmet (Dark Chocolate Soup with Cinnamon-Toasted Pound Cake Croutons) to the exotic (Outrageously Thick Spanish Hot Chocolate with Churros).
Chapter 2 is all about puddings (my favorite!). I don’t know how anyone could resist such delights as Butterscotch Pots, Sticky Toffee Pudding, or Mocha Hazelnut Trifle with Kahlua Whipped Cream. However, while I found the Coconut Milk-Cream Cheese Flan to be absolutely irresistible, the coconut flavor was so understated, as was the flan-like character, that it tasted as though it was a slightly smoother than normal crustless cheesecake with caramel sauce. Don’t get me wrong, that’s utterly sinful and delicious, but when you’re expecting coconut flavor and hear the word ‘flan’ it’s just not what you’re expecting.
Chapter 3 is all about cookies, cakes, and pies. As much as I wanted to try the Gooey Caramel Butter Bars or the Honey Caramel-Pecan Phyllo Slices, I couldn’t resist making the Nutty Coconut Macaroons (macaroons with three different kinds of toasted nuts in them). They were absolutely delightful, although the recipe’s assertion that they would keep for up to two days in an airtight container didn’t work out entirely well. One of these days, however, I will make the Butterscotch-Bourbon Macadamia Nut Pie.
Finally, chapter 4 is all about over-the-top items (as if all those others weren’t!) ‘for the kid in all of us’. Cheesecake milkshake sounds awesome, and someday I’ll surely break down and make the Gingersnap Dulce de Leche Ice-Cream Sandwiches. But the piece de resistance must be the Quicky Sticky Biscuits. If you think you’ve had good sticky buns then you have to try these. I hate throwing out food, but I have to admit that halfway through the batch we tossed these for our own good. They were so over-the-top delicious that they kicked off my compulsive eating worse than it’s ever been, and I just couldn’t stop. If you aren’t a compulsive eater—and if you haven’t tried these absolutely stunning treats—then you probably have no idea how hard it was to toss those. I can still taste every nuance of pecan, sticky sauce, and buttery biscuit.
If you have good willpower and aren’t worried about your fat or sugar intake, then absolutely pick up a copy of this cookbook; its recipes will bowl you over. As for me, I’m going to hide it in a deep, dark corner of the house and pray that I forget where I put it even as it haunts my dreams. (And you think I’m joking!)