Edible Reads: Wild Sweetness by Thalia Ho

Thawing with Thalia Ho’s Wild Sweetness: Recipes Inspired by Nature

Thawing with Thalia Ho’s Wild Sweetness: Recipes Inspired by Nature
By Gina Nutt

The first crocus stems peeking from the soil hint at the thaw after the freeze, a graceful balance. As in nature, baking embraces the art of transformation. It’s also a science of carefully measured ingredients, timing, and patience. This harmony flavors Thalia Ho’s cookbook Wild Sweetness: Recipes Inspired by Nature.

These dessert recipes balance the bitter and dark with the bright and the sweet. The Dense Fernet Cake soaked in a digestif syrup, for instance, is a rich chocolate cake that calls to mind shorter days and fireside reading. While the White Rose Cake with rosewater-infused buttercream is an uplifting, floral indulgence.

Throughout Wild Sweetness, gardeners and foragers will find opportunities to bake their harvests and hauls. The Bay Leaf Blondies, for example, offer an original, herbal spin on the beloved bar confection. The many produce and dairy farms that call the Finger Lakes region home offer many opportunities to source ingredients locally and support local agriculture as we create these treats. Our surrounding gardens, trails, lakes, and falls lend us plenty of surroundings we may look to for inspiration, no matter which season we seek it.

For ingredients bakers may find difficult to obtain, Ho recommends substitutes. The Tayberry Granita, for example, is a refreshing conclusion to a summer dinner party. If tayberries prove tricky to locate, Ho suggests swapping them for a simple combination of raspberries and blackberries, plus rosewater.

Rather than categorize the recipes according to fall, winter, spring, and summer, Ho has artfully organized Wild Sweetness into sections that evoke seasonal essences and atmospheres–Flora, Evergreen, and Smoke, to name a few. The book itself is a beautiful art object. From the stamped pink clothbound hardcover and artfully styled photo-illustrations, to quotes throughout from literary luminaries such as Clarice Lispector, Marguerite Duras, and Hélène Cixous. It’s an aesthetic delight to flip through as you plot your next bake.

Gina Nutt is a bookseller at Odyssey Bookstore and a writer. She lives in Ithaca.

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