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on October 15, 1999
If you only own a few cookbooks make this one of them! I bought this book years ago when I was first learning to make desserts. All sorts of crazes have come and gone since then but these desserts have never gone out of style. I have made Maida's two different chocolate mousse recipes for the same party, and let the guests pick which type they preferred, dense and deeply chocolate or lighter and creamier. Everyone had a preference! The strawberry bavarian is easy to make and a real crowd pleaser, as is the Queen of Sheba Torte. I treasure my old battered and stained copy of this book, and should buy a new copy to hold in reserve. My other absolute favorite dessert book is Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax.
0Comment41 of 41 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
`Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts' by, of course, Maida Heatter, comes with enormous expectations. Not only do you have the presumptuous title, you have the enormous reputation of the author as a writer of superior dessert cookbooks for the last 30 years. Piled on top of that, you have the fact that the cover includes the placard announcing that the book has been inducted into the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Hall of Fame. Wow!

I am happy to say that this book lives up to expectations. On the most basic level, it contains recipes for virtually all the famous desserts you can think of. So, in very modest terms, the book can be seen as a collection of recipes for those desserts that have achieved greatness by enduring in popularity all these years, going back long before Ms. Heatter came on the stage.

This reassuringly long (528 pages for a scant $26.95 list) book has 22 chapters covering virtually every major type of dessert you can think of. These are:

Tortes (European `cakes' with little or no flour) such as the Linzer Torte, Dobosh Torte, and my own favorite Hungarian walnut torte.

Chocolate Cakes and Layer Cakes such as the Devils Food Cake and the Rum Chocolate Layer Cake

CoffeeCakes, Nut Cakes, FruitCakes, and Cakes Made with Fruit such as the Carrot Loaf, Pumpkin Cake, Banana-Nut Cake, and Walnut-Peach Kuchen.

Plain, Loaf, and Other Old-Fashioned Cakes such as a sponge cake, marble loaf cake, and buttermilk spice cake.

Pound Cakes, such as the King's (as in Elvis) Pound Cake and the Black and White Pound Cake.

Cookie Jar Cookies (sturdy cookies not prone to break easily) such as Oatmeal cookies, Hungarian Butter Biscuits, and French Chocolate Wafers.

Bar Cookies and Rusks (sheet cookies) such as brownies, date bars, and Biscotti.

Icebox and Shortbread Cookies such as Swedish Icebox Cookies and Scotch Shortbread.

Dainty Cookies such as Hungarian Hazelnut crescents, Viennese Almond Crescents, Ladyfingers, and Madeleines.

Rolled Wafers and Paper-Thin Cookies such as Oatmeal Wafers and Moravian Ginger Thins.

Individual Pastries and Petits Fours such as Mushroom Meringues, Chocolate Cupcakes, and French Almond Macaroon Crescents.

Fried Cookies and Pastries such as French-fried Wafers and Beignets Souffles.

Crepes, Blintzes, Popovers, Cream Puffs, Puff Pastry, and Chocolate Souffle. Enough Said!

Icebox Cakes and Cake Rolls such as Lemon Chiffon Icebox Cake, Black Velvet, and Cream Roll

Crumb Crust Pies such as Rum Pie, Vanilla Cream Pie, and Black Bottom Pecan Cream Pie.

Cheesecakes, Oh My!

Pots de Crème, Custards, and Puddings such as Flan, Crème Brulee, and Pumpkin Custard

Mousses, Cold Souffles, Bavarians, and Gelatin Desserts such as Orange Cream and Irish Coffee Jelly.

Ice Creams and Frozen Desserts such as Honey Parfait, Walnut Ice Cream, Lime Sherbet, and Spanish Lime Pie.

Fresh Fruit, and Fruit and Ice Cream Desserts such as AppleSauce, Peches Melba, and Bananas Nicoise.

Sauces such as Sauce Melba, Suzette Sauce, Ginger Cream and Chocolate Sauces.

Etcetera with garnishes such as chocolate cones, leaves, slabs, and cigarettes.

It should be clear from this sampling that this is not a book primarily about baking, but about ALL kinds of desserts, even those which require no oven. This means that while there are many difficult recipes in this book, there are also several simpler ones in the final few chapters.

This book leans fairly heavily toward famous European desserts, so many `American' classics such as Apple Pie; Pecan Pie; Shoofly Pie; Fruit Cobblers, Crumbles, and their allies, and Key Lime pie are not here, although some come close, as with the `Spanish Lime Pie'. This is not a great loss, as there are at least four or five excellent recently published books on American desserts by Wayne Harley Brachman, Nancy Baggett, and Judith Fertig.

This is also not a baking manual. While the detail in the recipe procedures is excellent, and I have found some techniques here I have not seen in other baking or dessert books, you will not find a lot of highly detailed expositions on technique separate from the desserts themselves. This is only fair, because as Ms. Heatter makes a point of saying, many recipes must be treated in their own special way, as in the technique to judge doneness. No one test fits all recipes. If you want well-illustrated training on technique, get Martha Stewart's new `Baking Manual'.

This book also does not have a LOT of bonhomie headnotes. There is some introduction on those recipes that come from personal sources, but this book is largely about the business of the recipes. I do get some sense that the book is showing its age by having no reference to, for example, silicone baking mats or silicone bakeware, but her instructions on when you want extra nonstick protection should be more than adequate to show when it is recommended you use the Silpat, if you have it.

The only very minor lapse I detected was with the Moravian ginger cookies, which she describes as being a Pennsylvania Dutch recipe. While living in the same general neighborhood as the Pennsylvania Dutch (Eastern Pennsylvania), the Moravians are neither Mennonite nor Amish, and these cookies are much more commonly baked in the Moravian enclave in North Carolina rather than in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

But that's trivia. For all I know, Ms. Heatter may have a much better source than I, in spite of my vantage point as a Bethlehem native.

As we all expect, this is hands down the best general book on classic desserts I have seen. Many of the more difficult recipes may require several practice runs, but I think you can always have faith that with the right care and effort, you will make great desserts from this book.
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VINE VOICEon November 13, 2002
Mrs. Heatter isn't your best known author when it comes to cooking, but her desserts are simply wonderful. She writes in a style that reminds me of Julia Child in her thoroughness. She will give you a tip or two about most recipes, or tell you where they come from. The fare in this book isn't what you would find in the grocery store, but rather these are the wonderful little cakes you might get from an old fashioned bakery. Her instructions are clear, concise, and will not leave you wondering if you are doing this correctly. I would highly recommend any of her books for enlarging your dessert offerings. She will have your guests wondering how you were able to make these delicious desserts.
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on July 3, 2000
I have been baking from this book for years and years. Now that it's been reissued, I won't have to worry about keeping my old book readable. Maida Heatter is a master teacher and baker. Her recipes and advice inspire confidence, especially for the beginner. She takes you step by step in the process so that you can't make a mistake. My teenage daughter started baking from this book when she was 11 (without me) and made great treats. Start from the beginning and bake your way through it!
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on December 13, 1999
Nobody makes it easier to bake delicious goodies than Maida Heatter. I've had this book since it came out and it's dogeared from use. You can page through it and see which recipes are my favorites, because there are stains everywhere. I collect cookbooks but I always turn to Maida Heatter for dessert. She is absolutely the best, for either beginner or expert baker.
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on April 25, 2006
RE: I recommend that readers disregard Very Disappointed's negative review of _Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts_. "Very" claims that the "Palm Beach Brownies" recipe failed. There is no such recipe in the book! In fact, there is no brownie recipe with macadamia nuts in this book! Moreover, there is no such recipe in _Maida Heatter's Book of Great American Desserts_, nor in _Maida Heatter's Best Dessert Book Ever_.

I am not a dessert cook--just a dessert eater--but my wife has cooked from the book under review for nearly 30 years and she raves about it. I can attest to the reliability and very quality of the results, due in no small part to my wife's religious devotion to the precise details of Heatter's instructions.

Here is what Maida Heatter writes in her Introduction:

"I have cooked and tested every one of the recipes in this book over and over so that they are worked out perfectly. But in order for these recipes to work for you as they do for me, it is of utmost importance that you follow every direction exactly" (xi).

These desserts are beyond good--they are perfect. Your family and your guests will be knocked over. Many recipes have become family classics that get passed around again and again.

Recommended most highly and without reservation.
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on July 29, 1997
This review is in reference to your book Maida Heatter's New Book of Great Desserts.

I think that I am your biggest fan Mrs. Heatters, my husband is just disgusted about my obsession with the book New Book of Great Desserts. I read this like it's a novel. Anyway, I think your book is marvelous, every receipe works beautifully.....except for one little mistake you made. On page 86 of this book with the recepie The Original Kentucky Whiskey Cake you forgot the oven temperature and obviously I had to improvise.

Anyway, I think it is wonderful, and I wish I had all of your books, but I have ordered some and I'am looking forward to receiving them.


sign - Mrs. Tricia Alleyne (Barbados)
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on March 29, 1998
Over two decades ago, I purchased a copy because Craig Clairborne of the New York Times mentioned it was his favorite dessert cookbook. I've purchased many of its competitors throughout the years, but this book has remained the dessert resource I've turned to again and again.
Unfailingly, the recipies get raves, and are the most requested from my family and friends. Because of this book, I've become known as the "dessert wizard." I couldn't recommend this book more highly
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on March 2, 2001
As someone who loves to bake, I've come to adore this cookbook. Ms. Heatter's easy to follow directions make it easy to achieve great results on recipes that can seem a bit daunting at first. She not only has great cake recipes, she also has recipes for glaceed strawberries (these are to die for!), ice cream sauces, cookies, brownies and much more. Anytime I want to bake something that will impress, this is the first book I pick up.
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on May 17, 2000
I have acquired quite a few cookbooks but this particular title is truly my favorite. I just bought another copy of this version for a friend of mine and she's absolutely thrilled with her new baking accomplishments! Like everyone says: "The Palm Beach Brownies are to DIE for...." Better make a double batch....they go quick!
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