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Sweet Stuff: Karen Barker's American Desserts Hardcover – April 19, 2004

5 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An award-winning pastry chef, Barkerâ€"coauthor (with her husband) of Not Afraid of Flavor, a cookbook from their restaurant, Magnolia Grill, in Durham, N.C.â€"presents a diverse and balanced selection of her favorite American desserts. She enthusiastically introduces home cooks to the basics of pies, fruit desserts, custards, ice cream, cookies, cakes, waffles and other breakfastlike desserts with clear, unintimidating directions and copious suggestions for variations. Every recipe includes a personal introduction, succinct directions, elaborate baker's notes with additional hints and advice, and serving suggestions that sometimes refer to other recipes in the book. By altering just a few ingredients or adding an unusual spice, Barker creates out-of-the-ordinary twists on classics, such as Apple Rhubarb Cardamom Crumb Pie, Buttermilk Vanilla Bean Custard Pie and Coffee Anise Creme Caramel, as well as more obscure tastes like Blackberry Slump with Sweet Potato Dumplings or Peanut Butter Cheesecake. Full-page photographs illustrate the dishes in mouth-watering detail. Although the book will satisfy any sweet tooth, lovers of fruit desserts will especially appreciate the abundance of recipes for pies, cobblers, crumbles, crunches, crisps, buckles, grunts, slumps and betties, as well as Barker's tutorial on how to tell the difference between them.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Try Barker's chocolate shortcake. . . . Oh, man, it's good." -- Candy Sagan, Washington Post, June 2004

"Unpretentious, deceptively simple-sounding, unfailingly delectable desserts." -- New York Times, May 23, 2004

Clear and concise recipes that are also mouthwateringly tempting. . . . This lovely book [has] . . . a warm, friendly tone. -- Cookbook Digest, February 2005

Karen Barker is one of the country's best working bakers. -- The New York Times Food Review, December 5, 2004

This new collection of [Barker's] delicious desserts is sure to bring joy to any home baker. . . . For all baking collections. -- Library Journal, March 15, 2004

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; First Edition edition (April 19, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807828580
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807828588
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 7.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #254,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I've been a cookbook fan and user of Karen and her husband having enjoyed cooking from their cookbook, but now to have one devoted to Karen's outstanding talents and love for desserts is neat.

She has a philosophy here that should comfort and inspire: to get us back cooking our own desserts using great recipes. That's how she and previous generations learned, at the side of someone who had a great recipe. Her styling of this collection of desserts is with the home chef in mind. So, ingredients, techniques and equipment are with us in mind, and she tells us her preferences and what she used to make these. Also, she provides info as one proceeds with the recipe on what to expect, adjust, etc.

Most of the recipes are not complex, nor simple, but all delicious and most very unique and creative. But none of them are of that category of being "over the top" that would scare most of us home dessert makers to ignore trying them, except in those unique times when we would torture ourselves and our patience to take days to make a special one. None of that here! Just great desserts!

I've tried several of the following with great results and look forward to more of the same: Lime Meringue Tart; Blackberry Slump with Sweet Potato Dumplings; Bourbon Creme Caramel with Bruleed Bananas; Summer Cherry Berry Pudding; Dark Chocolate Peppermint Pattie Cake; Banana Upside Down Cakes; Pumpkin Cognac Cheesecake Brulee; Ruby Port Ice Cream; Purple Plum Rum Sorbet; Cornmeal Vanilla Bean Shortbreads; Raised Cocoa Waffles a la Mode.

There is much useful sections as well: Baker's Bookshelf; Sources; Equivalent Pan Sizes (this I find extremely useful);

All in all a most delightful and substantial dessert guide for just us home bakers. And great color photos of so many!
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Format: Hardcover
Award-winning pastry chef Barker admonishes the reader (gently) not to skip the opening primer on techniques, tools and ingredients, and, along with the usual baking do's and don'ts, you will find useful information on the equipment and ingredients used in these American dessert recipes.
Her Basics chapter offers various pastry doughs as well as dessert sauces of all kinds, from classic chocolate to Concord Grape Syrup and Marshmallow Fluff.
All the classics are here, many with a twist (Apple Rhubarb Cardamom Crumb Pie, Goat Cheese Cheesecake in a Hazelnut Crust) and Barker offers homey tips as well as variations and serving suggestions. Notes throughout explain how to choose or handle specific ingredients, and recipes are very clearly organized and written.
Not just for bakers, there are ice creams; custards and puddings; pancakes, waffles and fritters; and numerous fruit desserts, baked and not.
With gorgeous photographs, lots of variety and clear, thorough instructions for success, this is a well-rounded book for beginners as well as experienced cooks.
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Format: Hardcover
I love it! I used my Mom's and now have my own copy to share with my 2 little girls as we bake up a storm! This cookbook is very eary to follow with simple, yet tasty recipes. Thank you, Karen Barker, for sharing such wonderful recipes and your personal touch to each of them!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
`sweet stuff' is subtitled `Karen Barker's American Desserts', that is, probably coincidentally, almost exactly the title of Wayne Harley Brachman's new book published a few months ago. In summary, both books are great treatments of American desserts, covering very much the same territory. Brachman's book is funnier and it may explain some basic techniques a bit more thoroughly. Ms. Barker's book is a bit longer, covers some topics in somewhat greater depth. Karen's recipes are centered in Southern desserts while Wayne's center of gravity is somewhere between Brooklyn, New York and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I suggest you get both if you are a big dessert maker. Brachman covers doughnuts and does a better job on teaching piecrusts. Brachman's volume may be better for the novice. Barker's book has more recipes overall.
I recently reviewed Gale Gand's new book `short + sweet' on fast desserts and it is quite a good book for working with kids. Karen has definitely done desserts for grown-up tastes, in spite of the large number of peanut and peanut butter recipes. The presence of rum, bourbon, and Jack Daniels as ingredients is just one indication of how this book is aimed at adult tastes.
The reciped chapters in this book are named:
The Basics: A Baker's Building Blocks
A Pie Primer
Fruit Somethings
Custards & Puddings: Low and Slow is the Way to Go
Let Them Eat Cake
We All Scream for Ice Cream
The Joy of Cookies
Pancakes, Waffles, Fritters, and other Breakfast-Like Desserts
As cheesecake is actually a type of custard pie, you may be puzzled to find it discussed in the chapter on cakes. That aside, I found the Ms. Brown's recipe, techniques, and explanations for how and why a cheesecake can go wrong is quite the best I have seen.
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