Baking Across America

Arthur L. Meyer, Author, John A. Wilson, Illustrator, A. Wilson John, Illustrator
Arthur L. Meyer, Author, John A. Wilson, Illustrator, A. Wilson John, Illustrator University of Texas Press $45 (509p) ISBN 978-0-292-75216-0
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
Austin, Tex.-based consultant, certified master baker and author (Texas Tortes), Meyer delivers a meticulously researched volume on the tradition of baking in America, from its 17th-century predominantly English and European roots to its uniquely American characteristics in the 20th century. Part I details important influences in American baking: the development and use of leavening agents (yeast, baking powder) and flavorings (vanilla, chocolate), the incorporation of indigenous American ingredients such as pumpkin and corn and the evolution of the stove. Meyer folds excerpts from Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery, Eliza Smith's The Compleat Housewife (1728) and Amelia Simmons's American Cookery 1796 (among others) into the text, illustrating how American baking changed with the times. Part II showcases more than 700 original recipes for breads, pies, cakes and cookies culled from nearly 300 regional cookbooks, dating from the 1890s to the 1980s. Most of the recipes--some colorfully and quirkily titled (e.g., Isle of Hope Cinnamon Bread from Georgia; Navajo Puberty Cake from New Mexico)--call for basic pantry ingredients and are easy to read and prepare. Meyer's in-depth historical research and authoritative voice yield an invaluable reference on American baking for the culinary historian and baking enthusiast. (Nov.)
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