June 29, 2011

Book Review: "Homemade Soda" by Andrew Schloss

from Storey Publishing
Available from Amazon (also on Kindle), Barnes and Noble (also on Nook).

I saw that this was released early this May and I have been aching to get my hands on a copy. On the surface, it appears to be an updated version of Cresswell’s book, some recipes even look similar. Schloss’ 7-Root Beer (pg. 94) bears some resemblance to Cresswell’s 10 Root Spring Tonic if only in complexity. Deeper examination reveals that the two are companions, rather than one replacing the other. Schloss’ book seems to have more of a “health food” slant, with sections on sparkling waters (similar to a carbonated mineral or vitamin water) plus herbal and energy drinks. However, the book does have its fair share or more of indulgent recipes as well. Where Cresswell is the expert on basic, tried-and-true stand by recipes, Schloss writes to the established foodie who is unafraid to try new and unconventional culinary concoctions and blends such as prune and chocolate, rosemary with berries, and ancho chile and lime. Even the the array of classic recipes is more diverse with a couple of different colas and even the original Orange Crush recipe (pg. 66).

His intended foodie audience is ever apparent when considering all the recipes are scaled to single servings, most likely for those accustomed to venturing alone into uncharted culinary territories. I have felt that disappointment myself when I have made even a one gallon batch of beverage which I am left to consume alone. That being said, each recipe is scaled differently depending on the most convenient and most appropriate preparation method.

Schloss’s book is set up similar to Cresswell’s in that he begins with an intriguing history of carbonated beverages. While Schloss’s history seems more inclusive, some pieces don’t seem to fit with that recounted by Cresswell. Which is more accurate is hard to say, nonetheless a moot point. Along with the history, Schloss occasionally hints at imminent scientific discussion, only to vaguely yet tastefully steer away from it. For a food scientist like me, this is a bit disappointing. For the average foodie, this seems a natural flow of discourse more directed toward great flavor rather than the nitty gritty chemistry.

That particular slant is actually one thing that makes the book great. Schloss’s passion for things new and exciting, as well as for mimicking old stand-bys, shows through in every recipe, no matter how simple.

Schloss makes his recipes more appealing to a wider audience by providing multiple carbonation instructions for most recipes. He offers up instructions on carbonating in a siphon (force carbonating), mixing with seltzer (post mixing) or brewing (natural carbonation from yeast). Some recipes do have instructions for all three, but some recipes lend themselves better to different methods, such as the Fermented Honey Soda. Fermenting gives a more complex flavor and would be more like a traditional mead, whereas force carbonation will be more of a honey sweetened seltzer with a more simple flavor.

A disadvantage perhaps unseen by many would be that many recipes are to be made and consumed right away. Certainly those recipes for which brewing instructions are included can be stored for some length of time, but the rest would not bottle well due to ingredient concerns. Some have ingredients susceptible to microbial contamination (there’s an entire section on cream sodas, most using real cream or milk) if stored for a length of time, others have ingredients that would settle out or separate if bottled. While these are still great recipes, and Schloss makes no pretense that these recipes can or should be bottled, the reader should be sure they know the implications of bottling should they choose to do so. I personally think that there is something to be said for “bottle conditioning” certain sodas, as certain flavors change (for better or for worse) over time.

With most of the recipes being single serve or small batch, those making their own sodas for economic savings over commercial sodas may be disappointed. Some specialty ingredients are necessary for certain recipes that may make them more costly. The reader should keep in mind that the commercial equivalent of Schloss’s recipes would definitely fall under the category of boutique or gourmet sodas along the lines of Thomas Kemper and Sprecher or better. Even the most simple recipes compete at the gourmet level. Such as the Sparkling Honey Lemonade (pg. 58), which is at parity with an authentic Italian limonata such as San Pellegrino, yet more complex with the floral notes provided by the honey. These recipes are certainly for the artisan soda maker, the craft brewer and the DIYer who’s looking for something incomparably better than what’s available for commercially.

With 200 recipes, including a myriad of recipes for foods made with homemade or commercial sodas, Schloss definitely adds inspiring variety to any homemade soda brewer’s repertoire. I highly recommend a copy.
"Homemade Soda: 200 Recipes..." by Andrew Schloss

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