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Destined To Become A Classic
on April 29, 2010
CLASSIC SOUTHERN DESSERTS is quite simply the best cookbook I have seen in a long time on Southern desserts-- perhaps the best ever-- and is destined to become a classic. Published by the editors of the magazine "Southern Living," it contains over 200 recipes that according to the writers were selected from more than 10,000 recipes over the past 40 years. And there are almost as many color photographs as there are recipes. The pictures which are breathtaking will make your salivate. Unlike many of recent cookbooks of Southern Desserts this one makes no attempt at nouvelle cuisine, whatever that means, and offers recipes as traditional as a family reunion. And if you are looking for "cooking lite," look someplace else. For the most part these recipes are heavy on butter, sugar, nuts, flour, coconut, etc., etc. There are few cake recipes, for instance, without icing-- piled high and deep-- cream cheese frosting, praline frosting, chocolate marshmallow frosting, milk chocolate frosting, vanilla buttercream frosting, caramel frosting, coconut cream cheese frosting, nutty cream cheese frosting, 7-minute frosting, luscious lemon frosting-- you get the picture.
The chapters of recipes are as follows: "Luscious Layers & Other Cakes," "Crunchy Cookies & Chewy Bars," "Cheesecakes To Die For," "Old-Fashioned Pies, Cobblers & Tarts," 'Sweet Breads & Coffee Cakes," "Bread Puddings, Custards and More," "Ice Cream & Frozen Desserts." There is also a chapter on tips for successful baking with 13 tips on baking the perfect pound cake, the most tempermental of cakes as far as I am concerned.
A big fan of both baking and eating cheesecakes, I thought there were no more recipes to be had on the subject. I was wrong. Eleven cheesecake recipes are printed here including the New York Style South Cream-Topped Cheesecake similar to the one I bake often. But also included are Key Lime Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce, Uptown Banana Pudding Cheesecake-- looks interesting-- and Irish Strawberry-and-Cream Cheesecake.
The editors outdo themseselves, however, on the chapter of the rest of the cakes: the traditional Lane Cake, Black Forest Cake, Caramel Cake, Chocolate Layer Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting, Coconut Cake, Italian Cream Cake, Carrot Cake. There is the obligatory Red Velvet Cake without vinegar but with 2 ounces of red food coloring and the Triple-Decker Strawberry Cake-- the reason I bought the cookbook-- that appears to be the only cake in the collection made with a mix. But as a friend of mine would say, if you add several other ingredients-- in this case strawberry gelatin among others-- you are essentially baking from scratch. What the editors called an "Updated Hummingbird Cake" makes the cut as well. By that, they mean less sugar (1 3/4 cups) and less oil than the original. And they also inform us that this recipe first appeared in "Southern Living" in 1978, was submitted by Mrs. L. H. Wiggins of Greensboro, North Carolina and is the magazine's most requested recipe. By my counting there are 22 or more of these layer cakes and 10 or so pound cakes and some sheet cakes thrown in for good measure. Conspicious in its absence, however, is that country cousin of cakes, the Fruitcake, for which we can all say a little prayer of thanks at the family reunion.
While I'm not big on pies, the offerings here look great. Included are Key Lime Pie (it has to be made with condensed milk to meet my requirements and is), Lemon Meringue Pie, Coconut Cream Pie, Pecan Pie and the obligatory Sweet Potato Pie, to name a few. Even the artsy Grasshopper Pie is here as well. The editors let us cheat and use refrigerated piecrusts. By far the best cook I ever knew swore that you couldn't tell the difference in piecrusts done from scratch and the refrigerated ones-- not the frozen ones-- you buy at the supermarket, and he was seldom wrong about baking.
Bread Puddings, Frozen desserts, Rice Puddings and Cobblers (Sweet Potato Cobbler, which is one of my favorite cobblers and one that I had never seen published before) get their place in the sun as well-- Coffee Cakes, Scones, Cookies-- you name it.
CLASSIC SOUTHERN DESSERTS is a must for anyone who believes that desserts should be showy and outrageous and that lean cuisine should be reserved for the rest of the meal. My only complaint-- and it is minor-- is that the individual recipes are not listed in a table of contents page at the beginning of each section.