Bite size: In treat trends, it's a small, small world

In treat trends, it's a small, small world

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 4 2011 3:00 p.m. MDT

Rasperry Cheesecake from "101 Gourmet Cake Bites" by Wendy Paul and published by Cedar Fort.

Marielle Hayes

They say that less is more, and that's the theme of two dessert books recently published by two Utah authors: "101 Gourmet Cake Bites," by Wendy Paul (Cedar Fort Publishing), and "Small Sweet Treats," by Marguerite Henderson (Gibbs Smith).

The authors say the trend is treats that are small in portion but big on flavor.

"With everyone watching what they eat now, it's not a good idea to have that huge piece of chocolate cake or whatever," said Henderson. "The idea is to enjoy just a bite or two of a little something to get that sensation of sweetness, and that's all you really need."

One thing these recipes are not — and that's low-calorie or low-fat. Both Paul and Henderson use fair amounts of butter and cream. "That's what makes the recipes so delicious," said Henderson.

Paul decided that cake bites would be a fun follow-up to her successful "101 Gourmet Cupcakes" and "101 Gourmet Cookies" books. Currently "in" at weddings and bridal showers, they are crumbled bits of cake mixed with frosting and other add-ins, rolled into a bite-size ball and covered with melted chocolate. They can also be made into a "cake pop," with the addition of a candy stick.

"Watching how people react when they see and taste them, I just couldn't pass them up," she said. "It's the perfect combination of frosting and cake, all in one bite. You can keep them simple or make them into something extraordinary."

Paul went through a lot of trial and error to find some fun and unusual flavor combinations. Her family, friends neighbors and her husband's co-workers taste-tested her many experiments and offered feedback as well.

Cake bites aren't difficult to master, but the process takes longer because you bake a cake and wait for it to cool before crumbling it. You also need time to chill the balls in the refrigerator so that they're firm enough to dip in chocolate.

"I like to bake the cake one day and then assemble them the next day," Paul said.

Since they keep frozen in a sealed container for several months, they can be made well ahead of a special occasion.

"I found out that they taste real good frozen, too," she said. "When I noticed my supply in the freezer was getting smaller, I discovered my children were eating them straight out of the freezer. Now I've learned to hide them behind the bag of chicken."

A couple of tips for success: use a cookie scoop to get uniform-size balls. And use good quality melting chocolate. Paul likes to add 1 to 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil per 1 pound of melting chocolate or candy coating.

"It gives a smoother consistency and a thinner shell of chocolate coating," Paul said.

Her favorite chocolate coating is made by Guittard, and available at baking supply stores such as Orson Gygi and Baker's Cash and Carry.

"Merckens is also good," she said. "You can buy them in colors, or you can add a coloring especially made for chocolate if you want a certain color."

Paul said the book is doing well; as of press time it was listed No. 6 in the baking/desserts category of Amazon.com's best-seller lists.

"I beat Martha Stewart on the Amazon best-seller list!" she exclaimed. "I have been ahead of her for almost a week now."

Several other books on cake bites, cake pops and cake balls are also near the top of the list, underscoring their current popularity.

Henderson's book is a follow up in her series that includes "Small Plates" and "Small Parties." It features a wide variety of treats, from aebleskivers to zabaglione. Many, such as cookies, cupcakes and muffins, offer built-in portion control.

Some recipes may yield a whole cake or tart, "but you cut that tart into eight small pieces," she said.

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