`The All-American Dessert Book' by the accomplished baking writer, Nancy Baggett is the fifth `American' dessert book I have reviewed in the last two years, not even counting her own, earlier `All American Cookie Book'. This seems to be an incredibly rich topic, as I see practically no `All American' books on other branches of cookery, except for the great `James Beard's American Cookery'.
The other `American Desserts' books are by Wayne Harley Brachman, Judith Fertig, Karen Barker, and Laura Brody (emphasis on chocolate). The great thing about this subject is that these books are uniformly superior cookbooks, but I will give two big nods to Ms. Baggett over the other books.
First, Ms. Baggett's two `All American' baking books form a larger body of recipes than any of the other four alone. While Nancy's second book does have a chapter on cookies and bars, there is no overlap of recipes with her earlier book, so the two are highly complementary, although the newer book does have a few which border topics in the cookie book, such as a new ginger cookie recipe.
Second, Ms. Baggett makes a point of giving us very detailed recipe instructions. The observation that very few of us got training at our mother's knee anymore is becoming more and more common in cookbooks, so many cookbooks, like Ms. Baggett, are giving us more detailed instructions. While I am very fond of Wayne Harley Brachman's book, especially for his many recipes for basic pastry doughs, I thing I would go to Ms. Baggett for her recipe for certain standards, if the two cover the same preparation.
The first thing I always go to in a baking book is the author's recipe for pie pastry. It is amazing to see the variety of additives one can find in this seemingly simple preparation. While many highly respected bakers will add vinegar or egg to the water in making the pastry, Ms. Baggett adds baking soda. Otherwise, her technique is the same you will see over and over again, with the new suggestion of using supermarket produce bags to sandwich the dough as you work it, due to their strength and food grade material.
Like Brachman's book, Baggett covers desserts which lie outside the world of baking such as puddings; custards; ice creams; sauces and sundaes; and candies and confections. The last subject is strong on fudges, taffies, caramels, and marshmallow.
Like all these books, this one is not by any stretch of the imagination a COMPLETE compendium of American desserts. I suspect that you could take all five books together and find a truly American sweet that is missing. I looked for my two favorite Pennsylvania Dutch sweets here, Apple Dumplings and Shoofly pie and found the former only as a variation to a peach dumpling recipe and found nothing on shoofly pie or molasses cake or anything else familiar to our Amish and Mennonite friends.
I am especially fond of the way Miss Nancy writes her recipes and whenever I need a cookie recipe, I always go to her book first, even before I go to bakery superstar, Nick Malgieri. And, I see the same attention to details in this volume. I am especially happy with her lecture on using the right sized pans and the techniques for assuring ourselves that our pans are comparable to what is called for in the recipe.
Very highly recommended book on American desserts of all kinds.
on January 29, 2006
Sure, the pictures are beautiful and the recipes sound delicious, but the true mark of a cookbook is how the final products taste.
Having made many of these recipes- some several times- I can vouch for the quality of the food. Chocolate chip cookies, blueberry buckle, apple pie. Simply put, everything I have made has been wonderful!
I wholeheartedly recommend this book for anyone who wants to delight a crowd. But you'd better double the recipe.
on December 9, 2005
Now this is the good stuff. I love Italian cooking and have yet to pass up anything French but, for me, it all comes down to dessert. This is a truly excellent dessert book. As well as the stock and standard dessert items we all love there is a multitude of specialty recipes from across the nation. Included are recipes for pies, cakes, tarts, and even puddings and custards. My favorite is Maple syrup on snow.
Since many of us aren't very versed with dessert cooking Baggett spends time with each recipe going over any special technique needed. I found that I learned quite a bit just trying new recipes. I also enjoyed the historical asides that highlight many of the recipes.
This is really an excellent cookbook that deserves to be on every shelf.
on October 5, 2005
I no longer need to beg my neighbor for her secret dessert recipe. Nancy Baggett has done the work for me in this delightful dessert book. Her recipes are researched, tested and perfected. The book is a treasure of marvelous and unique American desserts for everything from pies, tarts, and cheesecakes to trifles, cookies and candies. Instructions are comprehensive and easy for me to follow. A bonus: For the curious, each recipe is annotated with interesting or amusing background facts. Delicious!
on October 20, 2005
I've been reading the All American Dessert Book to my husband. He's fascinated by the history behind some recipes, both the ingredients, people and places. Some people read poetry to each other, some read cookbooks - it's fun.
on November 21, 2012
This book contains absolutely amazing recipes. I have cooked many of the desserts contained in this book multiple times, and completely abandoned my old recipes in favor of the ones in this book. Some reviewers have mentioned that the book lacks pictures, I agree. However, the instructions are very detailed. I did look some of the cooking techniques up on You Tube, just to make sure I was doing the techniques correctly. If like to have those "this is the best X I have ever tasted in my life" moments, this is the book for you.
If you can't buy the book, or aren't sure, it is available at many public libraries, at least in California.
on January 19, 2012
This is one of those rare cookbooks, which, even when trying a new recipe, one can trust that the result will be wonderful! So, go ahead and make what you will, even for company, even if you've never made it before, with confidence. I have done so several times, with only delicious results! My latest example is the "Heavenly Hash Faux Fudge", made for a group of people. The reviews were superlative, "This is the BEST fudge I have ever tasted!!" My only regret is that they didn't save a piece for me!! My other regret is that it's now hard to make new recipes, because everyone has a favorite. For example, I will be making -- again -- "Nana's Orange Chiffon Cake with Orange Glaze" for company on Saturday. One of my favorites, "Lattice-Topped Deep-Dish Raspberry-Apricot Pie" has been transported several times to summer events, and will be again, I'm sure. The recipes are not difficult; the pictures are lovely; and the results look like the pictures and taste even better! Wow!
on July 14, 2009
I agree with all the other reviewers: this cookbook is thorough, comprehensive, even fascinating as it goes over and beyond a usual recipe book by providing a bit of history and cultural background, which is great.
However, I cannot understand authors and publishers who offer cookbooks without a picture for each recipe. This is how readers know what to expect: how it should look like in the end, whether they are likely to try preparing and enjoy it. This book has one picture for every 3 to 4 recipes, which is not enough for me. This is why I knocked off one star. And if you are going to be stingy about pictures because they are expensive, may I suggest cramming two or three products in each picture?