Sweet & Southern is a gem of a cookbook. Author Ben Mims infuses wonderful tales of his childhood with the many and varied desserts that appear on over 220 pages, accompanied by 100 beautiful and mouth watering photographs. While keeping true to their southern roots, Mims adds a twist to the traditionally southern recipes - modernizing old world decadence and sweetness to fit in better with today's more sophisticated lifestyle and palate. A perfect example of this is his version of the Red Velvet Cake - gone is the artificial red food coloring which has replaced by a beautifully colored and tart pomegranate juice.
Mims describes his creations as "balanced between the overly rich sweets of the Deep South and the barely sweetened pastries on New York City and the fruity-heavy West Coast-style desserts." He keeps his ingredients as natural as possible - or, as he so eloquently states, "there's no bullshit added." He also claims that you can eat a slice of his pie or a piece of his cake and not feel the need to take a nap immediately afterwards. He obviously has not met me yet - I cannot eat just one slice or anything!
While completely Southern in spirit, Mims beautifully infuses flavors from around the world. Readers will notice influences from such places as England, Mexico, the Middle East and Sicily. As I read the recipes, with no roots in the south, having spent my childhood in New York City, the South of France and the UK, I saw recipes that brought me back to my own childhood - Trifle, Treacle, Eclairs, Ile Flottante. Why is it that food, desserts in particular, serve as a sort of time travel, bringing us back to places that have warmed our hearts and filled our stomachs? Mims makes these recipes relatable to all of us despite our diverse heritages and upbringings. He also has a way of gently guiding his readers, breaking down recipes into simple steps, so that even the novice and nervous baker can follow suit.
Ben Mims grew up in Mississippi and earned a degree in journalism from the University of Mississippi followed by a certificate from the French Culinary Institute in New York. For 5 years he worked for Saveur Magazine as an associate food editor and recipe editor where he worked in the magazine's test kitchen. In March of 2012 his cover story, "Sweet Southern Dreams" was featured in Best Food Writing 2012. Mims also served as the pastry chef at the James Beard award winning Bar Agricole. He has developed recipes for EveryDay with Rachael Ray and Southern Living.
Sweet & Southern is the type of cookbook that offers something for everyone. With the holidays fast approaching this gorgeous book makes a lovely gift - Or, if you can't bear to part with it, the recipes inside will delight dinner guests and holiday guests alike and make for wonderful gifts in their own right.
Many thanks to RIzzoli USA for providing me with this copy of Sweet & Southern.