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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 1999
No one in the world of baking understands the '4 basic food groups' - butter, sugar, flour and eggs - like Gale Gand. After a lifetime of collecting dessert cookbooks, this one now has the place of honor, IN the kitchen, not ON the shelf!
The recipes are thoughtful and easy to follow and the results delicious and unbeatable combination.
AND, can we talk about he BLACKOUT CAKE! It appears that Gale has cracked the code and figured out the secrets of this legendery New York icon. For that alone, buy the book!
This book is a must-have and a must-give.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2000
My husband and I ended up buying a copy of this book for each other for Christmas. It was a good thing we had two copies in the house for a while because neither of us wanted to put it down. Tiramisu is my all-time favorite dessert and I have tried many recipes and variations--both at home and dining out. I made the Tiramisu in this book for a New Year's Eve party and it was BY FAR the most incredibly wonderful piece of tiramisu I have ever had. It was time consuming, but well worth the effort! The other recipes look equally wonderful and I can't wait to try them!
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2000
This is easily the best dessert cookbook we've ever run across. With everything from traditional long-standing favorites to "nouveau" modern day treats - all of which are easy to follow and very approachable, even for a beginner. Great anecdotes accompany each recipe, which detail the history or creation of the dessert, or provide helpful tips on the preparation. Excellent book - a must for any dessert lover.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on December 1, 2007
I've had some great desserts made from this book -- which is why I bought it -- but I should have looked inside more thoroughly first. The editing is really sloppy.

Most of the yeast recipes are way off. The standard conversion for fresh yeast to active dry yeast is 2:1 -- 1 oz. of fresh equals 1/2 oz. of active dry, 2 oz. of fresh equal 1 oz. of active dry, and so on. But look at cinnamon apple bumpy bread; for 3 cups of flour, it shows the substitute for 1-1/2 oz. of fresh yeast to be 3 oz. of active dry yeast -- that's 12 packets, or 9 tablespoons. The lemon custard-filled sugar brioche shows the conversion for 1 oz. of fresh yeast to be 2 oz. of active dry -- 8 packets, or 6 tablespoons. Most of the recipes call for four times as much active dry yeast as they should. But not all of them. The conversion for the sugar-crusted Breton butter cake is correct. The hot cross buns don't use fresh yeast, but match 2 oz. of active dry -- again, 8 packets -- with 3-1/2 cups of flour. Scary.

I've been baking with yeast for over 40 years, so these major errors popped right off the page for me, but a beginning baker would be left in tears.

There are also errors in the keying of photographs to recipes. I looked in vain for a photo of Brooklyn blackout cake on page 142 -- which is where the recipe says it will be -- but found Gale's famous truffles instead. The blackout cake was on page 149. This is a minor problem -- no one would mistake one for the other, but it makes me wonder where the errors are in the other recipes. Are they major or minor? Are there lots of them or just a few? Did I simply defy the odds and find errors in the first few recipes I happened to look at? Understand, I wasn't looking for errors. It's almost as if they were looking for me.

I feel as if I have to give each recipe a sanity check now, something I shouldn't have to do with a good cookbook.

Buy it, but buy it with your eyes open.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2000
I baked my first pie using this apple pie recipe. Gale's great instructions took the fear out of pie crust and it was so easy! The crust came out so buttery and flaky without using any solid vegetable shortening. Besides giving thorough instructions, there is useful information on ingredients and baking equipment that other books omit. It's great for any baker experienced or not.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2006
This book fails to live up to its promise.

I know that people don't like negative reviews, but I want to post this to warn other readers/cooks.

I always like it when cookbook reviewers spell out specific recipes tried (what worked, what didn't, favorites), because it shows that they have actually used the book for cooking and not just as eye candy. So here goes:

I made the Black and Whites (classic New York cookies), but they didn't have the soft texture of what I think of as real Black and Whites. They were glorified, rather hard-textured sugar cookies. Fine, but not exciting.'s Black and Whites recipes is tastier and some might say, more authentic.

Yesterday, I made the Marzipan Torte, and while the taste was okay, the texture was too dense and there were moist streaks where the structure of the cake had collapsed.

I made no ingredient substitutions in either recipe.

I'm giving this book 2 stars where I wanted to give it 1 star, because I have only tried 2 recipes, and in the case of the torte, it may have been my error. If I were to go at it again, I would use superfine sugar in the torte, and I'd make sure that the marzipan/sugar combination was in even finer crumbs before beating it in, and use a larger pan than was specified. However, I fault the recipe for not being more clear about the texture, minutes of beating time, and the ingredients (does it make a difference if one uses canned marzipan or tube marzipan? Superfine or regular granulated sugar?). A more precise recipe would spell this out.

Another tangential issue: the cake component of the Blackout Cake recipe in this book is identical, measure for measure, ingredient for ingredient, with the cake component of the Blackout Cake in Lynn Stallworth's _The Brooklyn Cookbook_. However, neither the original recipe developer (Ceri E. Hadda) nor Stallworth is credited by Gand or Tramonto in the text of the recipe. I don't know if this was some kind of omission, but it seems odd to me. People borrow from other recipes all the time, but surely it better to give credit within the recipe's description, if not the recipe title? For example, in his _New York City Food_ book, Arthur Schwartz has yet another Blackout Cake recipe (an excellent one, by the way), in which he combines a cake base by Karen Barker and the pudding from Lynn Stallworth's book, and he credits both of his colleagues.

On the good side, this is an unusual and wide-ranging collection of dessert recipes, which is what attracted me to it in the first place. For each recipe, Gand and Tramonto write a little about the recipe's history and what makes it special. The book is well designed (good font and layout).

Perhaps if I began with different recipes, I would have a better review to write. I may try another few recipes before I totally give up. If the next few somethings I make from this book are wonderful, then I will revise this review.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2000
What a great book to actually read first, then cook. Not only are the recipes clearly and simply written, but the scientific side notes are interesting and make everything click. I can't wait to try the cover recipe - Pavlova - looks delectable!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2003
I've actually only baked a few recipes from this book, but there are quite a few I'd like to try, including the Brooklyn Blackout Cake. I found the recipes fairly easy to follow, although you may need to add your own experience to achieve the best results. For instance, I believe that the Coffee Cake needs more butter, and I've found that it bakes much more evenly in a tube pan, than the square pan called for in the book.
The author has a background of somewhat mixed ethnicity, which shows up in the wide range of recipes. Everyone will find something they like, whether it's German, Jewish, Italian, French, Scandinavian, or just good old American favorites. The use of unique combinations of ingredients is also nice, with combinations like grapefruit-cream cheese, lemon-strawberry, and ginger-orange.
Some of these recipes may be a bit advanced for beginning bakers, but that's not really a problem. Follow these directions, and I'll bet that the worst of your flops will still be good to eat.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 2001
For anyone who loves a NY Bakery Black-and-White (aka Half-Moon) Cookie - GET this book. The recipie is the Real Thing! I almost cried when I ate the first one it reminded me so much of home. This cookbook is fabulous - even my husband thumbed threw it and said that I had to make the Brooklyn Blackout Cake.
For those that do not bake a lot, the book includes information on the purpose of each ingredient, helping make sense of how the recipie is put together. This is a must have for any dessert baker, novice and expert alike.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2001
I consider myself an adequate but certainly not an expert baker. I loved this book. I have made almost every item in it. It is quite basic in parts but I have to admit I learned a few things. Some of the recipes are a little complicated but it is easy to work yourself "up to them". I was thrilled with the chocolate cake, rich and dark. Especially helpful were the pastry and pie recipes. I have to admit, anything with a rollout crust has been a problem for me. I found the advice to be just the thing I needed to gain confidence. Nice book, excellent gift.
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