Sunday, September 09, 2012

Desserts in Jars

With summer drawing to an end, and an abundance of posts urging us to all capitalize on the final long days of sun and warm weather, one specific memory of my grandmother keeps coming up...

During one of our regular hospital visits to see Avo last year, she shared with me & M, a story that I can't help but think of all the time. The hospital was located right on the waterfront, and that particular visit, she looked out the window at the lake and started laughing. She then proceeded to tell us, what it was like when she and my grandfather would plan a day downtown. It would look something like this:

They would talk about it all morning then make their way to the bakery or local take out restaurant and put together a meal. Then they'd go back home, load up the van with a cooler, blanket and umbrella (just in case!) and then make the 20 minute drive down to the harbourfront. They'd then proceed to take everything out of the car, set up their picnic on a blanket and then look at each other and say...

"So much effort! We could be eating at our table at home! I'm ready to go, you?"

I cannot even begin to tell you how this could just as easily have been me & M. We spend hours trying to figure out what we're going to do, only to spend even longer putting everything we need together and once we get there, all we want to do is go back and we can't even figure out why we wanted to go in the first place! 

I know...

We're super cool.

If nothing else, every time it happens I can't help but laugh and think that we're carrying on a bit of my grandparents traditions!


It's only fitting that, the author behind the fantastic blog, Food For My Family would create a cookbook that led to an evening of enjoying dessert while reminiscing about memories of my grandparents. Thanks to Shaina Olmanson's fantastic cookbook, Desserts in Jars I was able to prepare an ideal picnic treat that would have made them proud (or at the very least, laugh!).

This beautiful cookbook, makes preparing desserts, treats and gifts a simple and enjoyable experience. The presentation is timeless and the jars are more than a simple novel container. They are multi-purposeful, eco-friendly and aesthetically pleasing as well. With canning season in full swing, mason jars are available everywhere from your local vegetable market to Walmart! Also, if you aren't completely keen on the idea of searching out mason jars a week before Chaggim, don't despair, I found that a few of the recipes utilize the jars mainly for presentation purposes with the elements baked individually on their own and then assembled into the jar.


The cookbook provides a comprehensive tutorial on baking your treats in jars. Everything from important tips regarding hot and cold temperature fluctuations, to how to fill the jars, as well as how to choose the correct jars for each specific type of dessert. After just two paragraphs within the introductory pages, you're set on how to safely bake in jars! My favorite aspect of the introductory pages is that in every instance from describing equipment to various sizes of jars, recipes from the book with a corresponding page are included and used as examples. I appreciated the ability to flip to the recipe to better understand why that specific size jar was more applicable than another and so on. The information was directly pertinent to recipes I would be embarking on rather than a general overview of the what, whys and hows. I also can't help but love the quick tips on using ready made ingredients in recipes to further increase convenience, for instance in the Pain au Chocolat recipe (yes, that's made in a jar!).

Although the portability of the jars makes them ideal for picnics and outings, their versatility expands far beyond the summer. Imagine the ease and elegant presentation of individual "Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Gingersnap Crust" at your Thanksgiving table or apple pies in mason jars adorned with a ribbon! You'll be amazed at the variety you can create and the elevated level your biscuits, cupcakes, rolls and cheesecakes will be brought to when presented in their own special, individually portioned jars. The recipes yield large quantities, easing your dessert preparation for large gatherings and can be stored superbly (both aspects which are ideal for Chaggim!). I easily divided quantities when baking as well to produce fewer jars and the desserts turned out beautifully.

On that note, not only is the presentation elevated, but these seemingly traditional recipes are as well! If you're looking for a cookbook that appeals to everyone from the novice to the expert baker, this one will definitely have your guests applauding your efforts. Even the simple recipes stretch your imagination! Many of the recipes encourage you to expand on your palette - for instance Cinnamon Buns with Cardamom, Orange White Chocolate Cheesecake with Cranberry Sauce or Ginger Mascarpone with Caramelized Apricots. Not to worry, there are classics thrown in as well - think vanilla cupcakes in mason jars for a birthday party or Neapolitan Cakes and of course Strawberry Shortcakes! The ingredients are also staples in the kitchen and are fairly simple. In order to make Cinnamon Spiced Affogatos only four ingredients are required!



The book ends with a section of mixes that can be gifted in the jars with accompanying recipe tags. The Spiced Hot Chocolate would not only make a great quick gift, it would also be a fantastic staple to have within the pantry for those chilly fall evenings. The thoughtfulness and ease with which these gifts can be prepared and given are a parting, telling testament to Shaina's understanding, appreciation and ability to help you simply and skillfully assemble food for your family.

Overall, this cookbook provides recipes which are unique from taste to presentation! The pictures are absolutely beautiful and further solidify the ability of mason jars to elevate the presentation of any dessert. The elimination of rough slices, messy custard fillings or crumble are eliminated within the self contained, layered mason jars. The sweet, concise intros to the recipes are void of any extras and are simply comprised of beautiful write ups of the recipes as well as words to inspire you to stretch your imagination. There are 152 pages encouraging you to think outside of the 9"x13" pan so to speak, and test the boundaries of your baking and presentation skills!

As I made the Strawberry Shortcakes I couldn't help but think of how Avo felt there was no need to get all packed up and go out to have a picnic. With mason jars in hand, M & I sat on the balcony of my apartment and enjoyed fantastic desserts in jars to celebrate the end of summer without having to pack up the car yet retaining all the novelty and flavor of a summer picnic! This cookbook is a must for anyone looking to bake elegant homemade desserts for parties, dinners, as gifts or simply to make some extra special food for your family!


Disclaimer: I was kindly provided a copy of this wonderful cookbook to review by The Harvard Common Press. The opinions and views expressed in my review are completely my own.

10 comments:

  1. I love it! It makes the dessert have real personality!

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  2. i love anything in a mason jar! sounds yummy!

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  3. Great idea, sounds like a wonderful cookbook, thanks for sharing this review.

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  4. this looks lovely...the desserts looks o pretty in a jar

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  5. I use mason jars for all kinds of things in my kitchen and have been wanting to try baking in them. This book is going on my wishlist!

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  6. Such a fad now! I have to start using mason jars.

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  7. thanks for sharing I always think about mason jars for serving fun desserts but not actually baking in them --- your finished product pict looks good enough to be in the book!

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  8. you are so right! I am truly obsessed with trifles etc....

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  9. Hi victoria. I just discovered your blog and I adore it! My avo was a really special woman too and I remember her fondly. Feliz ano novo from a fellow lusophone frumista!

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