Libbie Summers approaches cooking like a fun adventure, and Sweet and Vicious bursts with color, excitement and inspiration. Her mantras leap right off the page and snare your attention: Welcome the unexpected. Be fearless. Have fun. Be creative.
The book promises right in the introduction that the recipes are melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and they do not disappoint. Summers approach to baking is layering flavors together, some that you’re familiar with, and some that will delight and surprise you from the first bite to the last. Sweet and Vicious breaks the baking into chapters on cakes, sweet breads and pastries, savory breads, pies, cookies, canine goods and secret weapons. That’s right: There’s a whole section featuring treats for your furry friends (and my own pup can attest that these recipes are something special).
The section entitled Secret Weapons is the one that really stands out and brings it all together. Libbie gives you recipes for myriad extracts, the essences that take the layered flavors in her recipes to the next level. You’ll also find a handful of especially wonderful drink recipes tucked in there, along with some infused sugar recipes and a frosting guide. Secret Weapons elevates recipes like the Hot Spiced Donut Holes (below) or the Salvation Cinnamon Rolls or the Lemonhead Cake. Sweet and Vicious also contains a lot of supplemental content that you can find on Libbie’s site. You can order a copy of Sweet and Vicious here.
Hot Spiced Donut Holes (Small + Spicy Donut Poppers)
Yields about 100 donuts
Donuts are the devil. They are the mischievous evil spirits of the diet world. If someone says they can make a low-fat donut that tastes good, they are lying to you. If you’re okay with that (I am), then eat on. I try to trick myself into believing donuts are not so bad when you don’t fry them and when the recipe doesn’t have too much sugar and when they are small enough to pop in your mouth and when they contain red pepper, which has a myriad of health benefits. This logic works for me; it may be orchestrated by the devil, but the devil is a good cook, and I’m okay with that, too.
2 tablespoons plus 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted, plus more for greasing
1 1/3 cups warm milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup plus 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 large eggs
1/3 cup red pepper flake sugar (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Grease a large mixing bowl with butter and set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer, stir together the milk, yeast, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, and 2 tablespoons melted butter with a spoon. Let the mixture rest for about 5 minutes, until the yeast starts to foam. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and nutmeg.
Fit a dough hook on the standing mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, red pepper flake sugar and the flour mixture and beat for 3 minutes, until the dough is smooth and tacky and pulls away from the side of the bowl. At this point, you can adjust the dough’s texture if needed. Add a little more milk if it is too dry, or a little more flour if it is too wet; the goal is for it to be smooth and tacky. Continue mixing the dough for 5 minutes more, until it becomes smooth and shiny. Transfer the dough to the prepared mixing bowl and turn over so both sides of the dough are buttered. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for about 1 hour, until it has doubled in size.
Line two or three baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Punch the dough down and roll it out on a lightly floured surface to 1/2-inch thick. Using a donut-hole cutter or a small (1-inch) ring mold, cut out circles of dough and transfer them to the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between the circles. Cover the tray with lightly greased plastic wrap. (At this point, you can refrigerate the donuts overnight, then let them rise in the morning before baking.) Let the donuts rise for about 45 minutes, until they are puffed and nearly doubled.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the remaining 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar and the cinnamon and set aside. Pour the remaining 1 cup butter into a separate bowl.
Bake the donut holes for 5 to 7 minutes, until the bottoms of the donuts are just golden brown. The donuts should be pale on the top, and the insides just barely baked through. They will continue to bake after they are removed from the oven. Cool for 2 minutes, then dip them into the melted butter just to moisten and roll them in the cinnamon-sugar mixture to coat. Serve immediately.
Red Pepper Flake Sugar
Yields 3 cups
3 teaspoons red pepper flakes
3 cups sugar
Have a sterilized 1-quart jar (run through a hot dishwasher cycle) with a tight-fitting lid ready.
Use a mortar and pestle or food processor to pulverize 2 teaspoons of the red pepper flakes with 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Put the pulverized mixture in a medium mixing bowl and stir in the remaining red pepper flakes and sugar. Spoon the mixture into the prepared jar and screw the lid on tightly. Label and date the jar. Set aside in a cool, dry place for 2 weeks to 1 month before using. For a milder flavor, you can sift through a fine-mesh colander before using. (I like all things hotter, so I leave it as it is.) Store in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.
This recipe was reprinted from Sweet and Vicious: Baking with Attitude with permission from Rizzoli USA. Photography by Chia Chong.