Who's a sucker for cute packaging? I know, me too. There's something about a self-contained dessert that is irresistible. Combine the popularity of cupcakes with the renewed interest in canning, and its no surprise desserts served in vintage-looking jars are hot. Shaina Olmanson knows this, and her new book Desserts in Jars includes 50 recipes for desserts as cute as they are unique and delicious.
The concept is quite simple really. A dessert normally baked in a ramekin or served in a bowl has the potential to be baked in a jar. That means pretty much every dessert qualifies. Cheesecake? Yup. There are recipes for mini caramel crème, orange-white chocolate, and pumpkin cheesecakes in this book. Fruit pies? Naturally. You'll find recipes for rhubarb custard pies, coconut cream, lemon meringue, apple pie, and peach pie. Other recipes include sweet corn panna cotta, dark chocolate-hazelnut pots de crème, lemon-blueberry bread puddings, and more.
Olmanson stretches the idea at times. Macarons in a jar? Really. I know macarons are popular, but baking them, then stacking three in a jar is kind of silly. Cupcakes baked in a cupcake pan, then transferred to a jar to eat with a fork or spoon? Isn't the point of cookies and cupcakes that they can be eaten with your hands? For a baby shower or kid's birthday party though, I'll admit these would look pretty cute on a buffet table and probably save some mess.
There are some fresh ideas for baking in jars though too. Pull-apart cinnamon bread, peanut butter & jelly parfaits, and apple pancake puffs all make cute single-serving treats. And the last chapter of the book includes seven recipes for "mixes for giving." Jars are filled with layers of ingredients, wrapped up with cute ribbons and labels, and given as gifts the recipient can later mix up and bake themselves. There's cranberry-walnut quick bread, campfire bars, espresso brownie mix, and more.
This compact cookbook is spiral-bound, making it easy to lie flat on your countertop while you bake. The introduction is short, but includes tips on where to buy jars, how to fill, bake and decorate jars, and advice for freezing desserts. I wish recipe yields were smaller--many are for eight or 12 desserts--but Olmanson is a mother of four, so it makes sense to cook for a crowd. Plus, if you're going to go to the trouble of making adorable desserts, you probably want to share them.
Shaina Olmanson will be in Seattle next week to promote Dessert in Jars at events around town. You can attend free book signings at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park on Monday, August 20 at 7 p.m. or at Book Larder in Fremont on August 22 at 6:30 p.m. On Tuesday, August 21, Olmanson will be at Hot Cakes in Ballard for an early afternoon dessert demo, tasting and book signing. The event begins at 1 p.m. and cost is $20 per person. Cost includes a sampling of sweets from the book and the Hot Cakes kitchen, plus house-made sodas, and a copy of Dessert in Jars. Reserve in advance by calling Hot Cakes at (206) 420-3431.