Sunday, February 24, 2013

Cookbook Review: Slow Cooker Desserts

By: Michelle Hershman
Just like most of America, I am totally hooked into the slow cooker craze. Set it and forget it? I love that! Pour a bunch of ingredients into a pot in the morning and they turn into a delicious chili or stew eight hours later? Amazing. But, I just cannot get on board with the Slow Cooker Desserts cookbook by Jonnie Downing. It doesn’t make sense to me. Why would anyone wait four hours for brownies when you can put the same ingredients in a baking dish, pop  that dish into the oven, and – voila! – brownies are ready in under 30 minutes.
You know that feeling you get when a cookie craving hits? That, “I need a cookie now or I’m going to hearken back to my childhood and throw a temper tantrum” feeling? Fortunately, once that craving appears, if you have the right ingredients on hand, you can usually mix up some batter, and 10-12 minutes later, you have freshly-baked cookies. If you follow the Slow Cooker Desserts recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars, you will have to endure that craving for the next four hours.
Despite my reluctance, I decided to give the book the benefit of the doubt. I was in the mood for Blondies, but the craving wasn’t dire, and I had 6-8 hours of time to kill. So, I followed the Slow Cooker Desserts Blondie recipe. All the directions are written out plain and simple. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and spread the dough on the bottom of your slow cooker (coated with cooking spray) and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
I started out hopeful, but by the time I finished mixing together the wet and dry ingredients, my confidence had waned. The dough was drier than I expected it to be, and I still had to mix in butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, AND walnuts. I started with the butterscotch chips and realized there was barely enough dough to accommodate the 2/3 cup of those chips called for in the recipe. I refrained from adding the chocolate chips and walnuts because I honestly didn’t think the dough could handle any more add-ins. Next, I spread the dough on the bottom of my slow cooker. The book does not specify the type of slow cooker, so I figured it was a “one size fits all” recipe. Well, either the ingredients make too little dough or my slow cooker is too large, because the dough barely covered the bottom of the cooker. And, since the dough was so dry and sticky, it was really hard to spread out.
Next, I “set it and forgot it” until I noticed a burning smell coming from my kitchen. It was only 3 hours into the cooking time, but one side of the Blondies was already burnt on the bottom while the top was still a gooey mess. Imagine what cookies would look like if you baked them on the lowest rack in your oven – that’s what was happening in my slow cooker. I let the Blondies continue cooking for a total cooking time of about 5 hours. By that time, they were fully cooked on top but most of the bottom was burnt. The middle, however, survived even for a taste test. They didn’t taste bad. In fact, what survived was pretty good. But, as I have never burned anything in my slow cooker before, I was very disheartened and could barely enjoy them.
Before you get the impression that I’m completely down on making desserts in a slow cooker, I do think this book provides some useful recipes. For example, Easy Apple Butter – that is exactly the type of spread that I imagine would work well in a slow cooker. Of course, the recipe calls for a 15-hour cooking time which means you better get those ingredients in the pot early. I also think some of the cobblers and crisps would do well in a slow cooker. But, if you want some brownies, just use your oven!

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