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Desserts 4 Today: Flavorful Desserts with Just Four Ingredients
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I may have to stop reviewing cookbooks from Taunton Press--every single one I have chosen to review thus far I have wanted to own. My personal copy ordered from Amazon is on it's way to me as I type this.

What is it about this one? At first glance, it seems a little gimmicky. About 10 or 12 years ago, there were several cookbooks published that either limited the number of ingredients or number of steps for a recipe. Sometimes they were successful and sometimes less so.

Johnson Dodge has an understanding of ingredients, of chemistry, of baking and cooking, and of today's cook that works like magic here. When you only have four ingredients, they all count, and they all must work together to make the finished product. She gives a great introductory section where she talks about ingredients, techniques, equipment and more. Almost every recipe has suggestions to change it up, or comments on technical things or ways to gussy it up with sauces or glazes or the like. Usually when I review a cookbook, I make two or three dishes to see how they turn out. These recipes were so easy and so good, I found myself making one every time I turned around.

I started with Jammin' Sugar Cookie Thumbprints (p. 22) and Toasted Pistachio Crisps (p. 19). I am lazy, so I almost never get out my mixer. On the thumbprints, I filled them with raspberry preserves. They were rich, buttery, crispy and the raspberry was a perfect contrast. There were several suggestions for switch-ins and anyone with a little imagination could come up with more. I was not able to slice the dough for the crisps, it kept crumbling. (Possibly my fault for either mixing by hand or not chopping my nuts finely enough). It didn't matter, I rolled the dough into balls and pressed each flat with the palm of my hand. My husband loved them, suggesting I add them to my regular baking. From there I tried Crunchy Peanut Butter Buttons (p. 32). You will be amazed that such simple ingredients make such a divine cookie. Next time I think I'll try the suggestion and add mini M&Ms. These cookies were surprisingly even more peanuttier the second day. The Oatmeal-Cinnamon Crisps (p. 28) made a believer out of me. I looked at the "dough" and then my homely piles of oats on the cookie sheets and thought there is no way this is going to work. And then it did, almost like magic, when the brown sugar caramelized to make little crunchy mounds of goodness.

There were two recipes that were less successful however. The Lemon Meltaways (p. 29) had nice texture but didn't taste very lemony. This again may have been my fault, as I didn't measure my lemon zest, just zested the one lemon I had and figured it was enough. The Chocolate-Toffee Crumble Cups (p. 37) were delicious when first baked, but after they had cooled, the toffee in the dough seemed to get very hard and chewy and made them not as good. In this case, I think I would make them again and only put the toffee on the top, or try one of the suggestions for other things to switch-in their place.

Almost every recipe I tried had a higher yield than indicated. (If you are into cooking or just like to be exact, I recommend buying cookie scoops of varying sizes, they work so well.) I wanted to try other recipes in the book, so I can't wait for my copy to get here. And Abigail Johnson Dodge, if you see this, I would love a Cookies 4 Today book next. (You can tell I can't get enough of these cookie recipes!)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2010
Format: Paperback
I don't love to bake and the truth is, with a couple of small kids, I don't have time to do things I don't enjoy. Abby Dodge's book has changed all that. She's made it possible for me to easily and quickly pull together desserts with minimal ingredients and effort and have them come out beautifully each time.

Don't get me wrong, this book isn't just for baking beginners. The recipes are innovative, imaginative and sophisticated. That is the genius of Desserts 4 Today - it's not your typical "made-easy" book, with simple steps but lack-luster, mediocre results. These desserts work for meals with the family, or for an elegant dinner party.

And really.... four ingredients? Want to make Chocolate Bourbon balls? Chocolate, butter, bourbon, vanilla wafer cookies. Ladyfingers? Eggs, sugar, lemon zest, flour. Nutella Fudge Brownies? Nutella, egg, flour, hazelnuts. See what I mean? No stress. No need for a scale or a pantry so stocked Martha Stewart would be envious.

It really is a book written just for me, and for anyone who wants to make an impressive, tasty dessert without having it turn the whole affair into an agonizing marathon. I've had the book a little over a month and we've made eight desserts out of it. All wonderful and imminently do-able, beautifully designed for someone who gets that she can't do it all, but wants to be completely awesome anyway.

Thanks Abby, this is a book I'll have on my shelf for years!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
For years I have been praised for my amazing desserts and baked goods, but the credit is largely due to Ms. Johnson Dodge and her perfect recipes. In her articles for Fine Cooking and in The Weekend Baker I have never been disappointed. I was so thrilled to receive Desserts 4 Today for Christmas and eagerly flipped through the pages to see how this amazing chef could create a book full of miracles with only four ingredients each. Alas, the answer is by using ingredients such as "one pound cake", or "8 ginger cookies" and by including recipes which layer three flavors of ice cream or freeze four different juices on a stick. I'm sure I will use some recipes and my children will enjoy making some, but anyone who has successfully baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies should move along to one of her other books.

I have been pleased to see earlier books (not this one) by Ms. Johnson Dodge include cup measurements as well as weight and volume measurements. Please return to that in future books!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2010
Format: Paperback
There are so many adjectives that could accurately describe this book: simple, easy, approachable, delectable, delicious, AMAZING.

Hello - 4 ingredient brownies? I've personally made the Nutella brownies. They took 15 minutes from bowl to cooling rack and tasted like heaven in a mini cupcake liner.

What I love about this book more than anything is how approachable the recipes are. I guarantee you have the ingredients for half the book hiding in your pantry right now. So when you're feeling that sweet tooth tug, Abby's got you covered in a multitude of ways.

What I also love is that the recipes make fairly small portions, so if you commit to a recipe, you don't commit to a week's worth of thigh busting cookies or parfaits, just a night's worth.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is a must-buy for all bakers. Novice bakers will get simple desserts without complex techniques that will result in maximum flavors. Seasoned bakers will get a break with easy peasy desserts they can put together in a flash. I bake on a regular basis and loved that the Nutella Fudge Brownies took 15 minutes TOTAL to make - from the time I started to measure the ingredients til I took the out of the oven. And to boot - when you chef up any of the recipes in the book, you won't be left with a huge layer cake or 2 dozen cupcakes. So for those of you who like to bake but also watch your waistline - this one's for you.

The recipes in this book are simple, easy, approachable but don't skimp of flavor. Do yourself a favor - buy this book - you won't be disappointed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2010
Format: Paperback
I couldn't wait to get a copy of Desserts 4 Today in my hands and start baking! I knew I would enjoy the cookbook, but I had no idea how much I would fall in love. After all, I'm not usually a big cookbook person. I like to page through them for inspiration, but I often end up tossing the cookbook aside and coming up with something on my own. With Desserts 4 Today, though, I found myself having a difficult time deciding which recipe to try first. They all looked like desserts that I would be thrilled to serve without feeling like I needed to "fix" anything in the recipe... And I can be kind of picky when it comes to desserts!

Desserts 4 Today is a book that I am thrilled to add to my cookbook collection, and I think it will have a permanent spot on my "priority" shelf - the shelf in my kitchen where I keep the "go-to" cookbooks that I reference on a daily basis. Here's why I love it so much...

Approachable, Yet Elegant Recipes - Desserts 4 Today caters to cooks of all skill levels. The recipes are simple enough for an inexperienced home cook, while still remaining sophisticated enough to become a beloved staple in the kitchen of those who have been cooking and baking for years.

Versatility - Not only do the recipes only contain 4 ingredients, but each recipe allows for substitutions that are listed in the cookbook as "Switch Ins" so you can use the ingredients you prefer, or what's already on hand in your pantry!

Endless Possibilities - With options to "Change It Up" with slightly different flavor profiles and "Gussy It Up" to garnish or dress up the dessert with only a few additional ingredients, you can really make each recipe your own. I love that creativity is encouraged!

So far, I have prepared 4 recipes from the book, all of which I enjoyed!
- Creamy Espresso Pudding for Two (p 78)
- Banana-Brown Sugar Pie Pockets (p 147)
- Ice Cream Puffs (p 170)
- Sparkling Cocoa Drops (p 16)

I think Desserts 4 Today is a great resource for anyone who likes to cook, bake, or entertain... It will be on my holiday gift list this year for a few of my favorite cooks!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2010
Format: Paperback
Make no mistake, Abby Dodge's new book is a glorious ode to desserts! For those who are intimidated by the science of pastry arts, this powerful book eliminates the 'scary'. Using only 4 ingredients; REAL foods, too, not chemically based imitation food products, Abby has succeeded in creating sophisticated dishes that are easy to replicate. Cookies, fruit desserts, creamy desserts...they're all there!
Beautifully photographed, thoughtfully mapped out. There are even notes with suggestions as to how to alter the recipes using different ingredients.

And, with helpful guidelines outlining kitchen equipment, gadgets and pantry items, there's no need to fear desserts. The section on 'add-ons' could be it's own recipe book, too, since Abby's given the reader even more ammunition to make a winning dessert plate. Sauces, toppings, glazes, decorating hints...they're all there! Anyone can now be the pastry chef of their own home thanks to this mighty little tome.

This book is a welcome addition to my cookbook shelf, and I've been making desserts for YEARS!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Abby Dodge has hit on a wonderful concept with her latest book - four ingredient desserts that are quick and simple to put together but still knock your socks off with flavor. The recipes are creative and interesting and the ingredients are easy to come by and usually sitting in your fridge or pantry. I've already made a handful of these and they are perfect for weeknight company. For example, the Nutella Fudge Brownies took me five minutes to mix together and ten to cook, and I served them with ice cream to some very happy guests. Much easier than even a batch of brownies. Homemade OR from a box. And MUCH better tasting.

The book layout is clean and easy-to-follow, directions are clear, and Abby thoughtfully suggests ingredient substitutions and ways to dress up each recipe.

Desserts 4 today is definitely one to add to your baking aresenal, and several people I know are going to be getting it as a gift.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2010
Format: Paperback
Desserts 4 Today: Flavorful Desserts With Just Four Ingredients lives up to its title with a cornucopia of delectable dessert recipes, each relatively effortless to prepare with only four main ingredients. From Orange "Creamsicle" Rice Pudding (naval orange, whole or 2% milk, long or medium-grain white rice, and granulated sugar) to Mulled Pear Cider Sorbet (pear cider, mulling spices, granulated sugar, pear liqueur) to Banana-Brown Sugar Pie Pockets (banana, brown sugar, pure vanilla extract, premade pie dough) and more, these tasty treats are none the less savory for their simplicity, and many involve creative use of fruit and other healthful ingredients. Full-color photographs of many of the dishes illustrate this excellent choice for dessert lovers.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2010
Format: Paperback
This little gem is a 'must have' for any dessert lover! There is nothing pretentious about any of the recipes - just straight forward ingredients that almost everyone will have in their pantry. And yes, you read the title correctly, with 4 ingredients you can make sweet, satisfying desserts like Mini Bittersweet Chocolate Cheesecakes, the infamous Nutella Fudge Brownies, Crunchy Peanut Butter Buttons or even Maple-Glazed Figs with Hazelnut Mascarpone. Rich and satisfying, I love that most recipes make smaller amounts so you're not tempted to break the calorie bank with midnight snacking ( although midnight snacking isn't necessarily a bad thing, right?)

Abby also gives what she calls 'Switch-Ins' where swapping out one ingredient creates another fabulous dessert. Simple enough for every day but fancy enough to serve company, the book is filled with 125 recipes using everyday pantry ingredients that will keep me in desserts for quite some time. I think this is the perfect cookbook for every type of baker including young bakers. I just can't say enough about 'Desserts 4 Today' - it does not disappoint!
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