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The Drunken Botanist and Bakeless Sweets {Book Hounds}

Welcome to another episode of the long-lost series, Book Hounds. It's not that we aren't reading, I'm simply not finding time to write about books very often. But two came into my life recently that must be shared.

The Drunken Botanist The Plants That Create The World's Great Drinks

The Drunken Botanist hit me like a cold, strong drink on a long, hot afternoon. It is crisp, refreshing, and a beautiful pairing of two of my favorite things: gardening and cocktails. Part plant-text complete with latin names and growing instructions, part cocktail recipe book, Amy Stewart's latest is a refreshing homage to the many leafy, flowery things that comprise alcohol.

Organized by species, The Drunken Botanist describes basic fermentation ingredients like barley, apple, grapes, and agave and then delves into more obscure flavoring herbs and flowers. In her trademark witty writing style, Stewart tells how each plant grows, a short history of how the plant first became alcohol, and modern uses. Pages are illustrated with Victorian-esque single-color drawings.

Stewart includes cocktail recipes and growing instructions for the most commonly available imbibe-ables. These practical bits of information are written simply for beginning mixologists and gardeners, though if I have one criticism of the book it's that some of the growing instructions are not detailed enough for true success in my experience. More details, including a plant collection available on the West coast where Stewart lives, are on The Drunken Botanist website.

If you enjoy mixed drinks and growing plants, take a sip of The Drunken Botanist.

Bakeless Sweets Pudding, Panna Cotta, Fluffs, Icebox Cakes, and More No-Bake Desserts

bakeless sweets moldsWell over a year ago, TheKitchn.com editor Faith Durand and husband Michael joined us for dinner at mutual friends'. They were headed out of town, so Faith brought over a raft of desserts she was testing a cookbook project. The puddings and toppings I tasted then went on to become part of Bakeless Sweets, just released.

Bakeless Sweets is a cookbook of puddings, custards, jellies, and icebox cakes. All are prepared without an oven, from scratch, with simple ingredients and methods. Many are gluten-free; an index in the introduction lists desserts to meet all dietary preferences. Faith calls for serving most recipes at room temperature or chilled, making them great candidates for summer picnics and cookouts.

Bakeless Sweets contains classic recipes and updated versions like Lemon and Sour Cream Custard, Peach Jelly Terrine, and S'mores Pudding Cake. Like a tasty trifle, the book includes many useful side bars, trouble-shooting tips, and overviews among the smooth, well-tested recipes. I'm glad to see that Toasted Coconut Brittle made the cut into the cookbook because the sample I tried was fantastic. I bought rhubarb at the farmers' market yesterday to make Strawberry Rhubarb Fool when our next batch of strawberries are ripe.

Far from the stodgy, box-mix recipes of the 70s, Bakeless Sweets offers a fresh take on spoon-able desserts. Photographs by Stacy Newgent effortlessly illustrate this intersection of vintage inspiration and modern appeal. Two weeks ago, I bought some nesting gelatin molds at an antique store in anticipation of receiving Bakeless Sweets in the mail; when I opened the book it landed on the page pictured above with the same molds!

Faith is sharing photos that didn't make it into the book on the Bakeless Sweets website. She'll sign books and offer a demonstration at the Country Living Fair in early September in Columbus and I'm hopeful she'll have a pudding party in Central Ohio sooner than that as well. In the meantime, I highly recommend finding a copy of Bakeless Sweets to enliven your summer desserts.