Trust me. If you're generous to the cook in your life, then you could be eating taffy and marshmallows as well. You could be comparing different batches of caramels, suggesting different nut mixes for crunchy brittles.
Sugar Baby is a cookbook of desserts that aren't cookies and cake. It's candies, fudge, toffee and even lollipops. Mrs. HowChow saw Gesine make macarons on the Today Show, and I bought the book because I saw good things happening.
Cooking isn't generally Mrs. HowChow's fun. But cooking with sugar has turned out to be an inspiration. She made taffy. She made marshmallows. She made caramels and peanut brittle.
I'm eating them all. This is spectacular.
Sugar Baby works because Mrs. HowChow has had a ball learning to make candy. New skills -- mostly variations on boiling sugar, then stretching, pulling and moving it around. You can get burnt, but the photos and descriptions walk you through the steps. Mrs. HowChow says it's like chemistry lab, but with much better payoff at the end.
But the book stands out because Mrs. HowChow reads it for fun. Gesine's stories of childhood. Her jokes in the recipes. Mrs. HowChow even went on the Sugar Baby Facebook page to post questions, and Gesine wrote back. That has inspired experiments like lavender marshmallows, rose-flavored hard candies, and a brittle with pumpkin seeds for Halloween.
Here's the secret: Candy is fun, and it can actually be easy. Brittle and marshmallow are basically heat, mix and pour out to cool. The hot sugars get complex, but a caramel that stayed soft became ice cream topping. If you mess up a batch, you'll run to Harris Teeter where you'll learn that people's food shopping habits are so weird so no one even asks why you need a gallon of corn syrup at 10 pm.
If you buy Sugar Baby, consider a candy thermometer as well. If your sweet tooth catches the bug, you can work through other gifts like sugar gloves, a marble slab or more. Check out the natural flavors at Silver Cloud Estates in Halethorpe.