cover image The All-American Dessert Book

The All-American Dessert Book

Nancy Baggett, . . Houghton Mifflin, $35 (406pp) ISBN 978-0-618-24000-5

Apple pie may be America's signature dessert, but if this fine cookbook is any measure, there are a number of contenders that could reign equally supreme. Take Yellow Sour Cream–Butter Layer Cake, for example: a staple of wedding and birthday celebrations, it can be paired with nearly any icing and, in Baggett's version, is moist, aromatic and "very buttery." Baggett (The All-American Cookie Book ) canvassed the country, visiting bakeries, restaurants, confectioneries and old-fashioned soda shops to come up with this collection of 150 recipes. Her book covers pies, tarts and cheesecakes; cakes and frostings; fruit desserts; puddings; cookies; ice creams; candies; and easy gifts and treats, such as Maple Sugar on Snow (a popular Vermont confection). There are, naturally, many regional favorites, such as Black Walnut Pound Cake, adapted from several versions from Missouri, where black walnuts grow in abundance. Many recipes include instructional asides (e.g., a lesson on forming the lattice top for a pie, used in both Deep-Dish Blueberry Pie and Deep-Dish Raspberry-Apricot Pie), and useful sidebars detailing the history of Concord grapes, Key limes, Martha Washington's cheeseless cheesecake and other fare. Most recipes also have a solid introduction explaining the recipe and any required techniques. Elegant and inspiring, this volume has something for every cook. Photos. (Oct.)