Following in the footsteps of Diana Kennedy, known as the Julia Child of Mexican cuisine, and Rick Bayless, celebrity chef and restaurateur, New York City-based chef Fany Gerson brings together history and culture and in her collection of authentic Mexican dulces recipes in My Sweet Mexico. More than a mere compilation of recipes, the cookbook is filled with Gerson's memories of the sweets in her native Mexico City, the heritage of indigenous and colonial ingredients, and Mexico's holiday baking traditions. My Sweet Mexico is an enlightening and engaging cookbook to read, sprinkled with Gerson's personal and cultural antidotes.
My Sweet Mexico is a 2011 James Beard nominee for best cookbook in the Baking and Desserts category -- and I can see why.
Fany Gerson left Mexico to study at The Culinary Institute of America. She worked in Spain's three-star Michelin rated Akelare, and in New York at Eleven Madison Park and Rosa Mexicano. She earned a stellar reputation with her adaptations of classic desserts using Mexican flavors and ingredients.
Gerson spent over a year of travel in Mexico researching regional specialties handed down through generations of home cooks and sweet vendors. She accomplishes her goal for the cookbook- to preserve recipes that are loosing ground to lack of interest and time, and the transformation of hand crafted sweets into industrial products.
In the introduction, Gerson explains the historic influences-pre-Hispanic, colonial Spanish, Arab (via Spain), and French on the culture and cuisine of Mexico. She gives a nod to the vast regional diversity of the country and notes how the combination of Old and New World ingredients and technique have shaped authentic Mexican food.
The Ingredients Guide is comprehensive and thorough. More than a mere description, Gerson explains what to look for when choosing, preparing and using, as well as substitutions for common and specialty ingredients. The guide alone is a valuable resource for baking and a Mexican grocery tour.
The recipes in the book are categorized in chapters: Bebidas (beverages) Dulces De Convento (sweets from the convents), Maiz (corn), Dulces de Antano (heirloom sweets), Pan Dulce (bread), Fruta (fruits), Postres (desserts), Delicias Heladas (frozen treats) and Mexico Moderno (modern Mexico).
There are expected recipes familiar to the American market (Bunuelos, Conchas blanchas, sweet filled Empanadas, Churros, Orejones, and Pain de Muerto) mixed in with Gerson's adaptation of collected heirloom recipes.
In spite of Gerson's detailed explanations, all but the adventurous novice or practiced baker may find the recipes intimidating. Others may be put off by the emphasis on scratch cooking like soaking and peeling pumpkin seeds for Jamoncillo de Pepita in the chapter on sweets from the convent.
But the cookbook delivers both; complex and time- consuming recipes (Crema de Azahar-Orange Blossom Cream) as well as recipes that are simple and quick like Aceite de Vanilla (Vanilla cordial) and Besitos de Nuez (Pecan "kisses").
In one of the tip boxes on candy making, Gerson relates how when asked when the candy is done, many candy makers she met replied, "when it reaches punto"-when it reaches its point. Gerson recognized American taste for authentic Mexican flavors reached the point for this timely dessert cookbook.
Following the publication of My Sweet Mexico, Gerson and business partner Hannah Goldberg established La Newyorkina. Their artisan paletas, ice cream and beverages are sold at Hester street fair and New Amsterdam Market . Her next cookbook, Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Aguas Frescas & Shaved Ice, is due to be released June.