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Sweet Kentucky

Take a trip down memory lane as you explore the state’s history and whip up something decadent for the holidays.

With Kentucky Sweets by Sarah Baird you’ll be torn between reading delectable history or launching into an all-day baking frenzy—that is, unless you get stuck on page 49 singing the lyrics to Way Down Yonder in the Paw Paw Patch. The song explains the native fruit that rural kids gathered for use in pudding, bread, and ice cream (recipes provided).

Baird spoons out uniquely Kentucky recipes for treats such as cushaw pie, elderberry syrup, and blackberry cobbler. Try your hand at making cooked dried apples for an Appalachian stack cake—that area’s original wedding cake. There’s an updated recipe for slow-cooker apple butter. She melts you with pulled cream candy, sorghum taffy, buttermilk pecan candy, and hickory brittle.

Also written by a Kentucky native, Bourbon Desserts features sweets made with the Commonwealth’s native spirit, along with fun trivia on bourbon and its origins. Food writer and home chef Lynn Marie Hulsman organizes the cookbook by category and features more than 100 recipes for cakes, pies, puddings, frozen delights, sauces, candies, preserves, dessert drinks, and more. You’ll find an excellent mix of recipes for a sumptuous grand finale and casual family meals, fitted both for sophisticated cooks or amateur.

The cover recipe, Sweet and Boozy Graham Cracker Candies, is as easy as it gets, as is the four-ingredient Bourbon-Cherry Jam. For the holidays, check out the Bourbon Crème Brulee or Classic Kentucky Eggnog, or for gift giving there’s Coffee-and-Bourbon Pralines.

You’ll want these two cookbooks in your collection, and they’d be welcome gifts. Kentucky Sweets, softcover $21.99, published by History Press, and Bourbon Desserts, hardcover $19.95, from University Press of Kentucky, are available from local booksellers and from the publisher or other online retailers.

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