For some reason, especially around holidays during the summer, I get a craving to make lots of really classic American desserts. Strawberry shortcake, apple pie, star-spangled cupcakes. Since they’re all delicious desserts, I rarely make an attempt to fight this desire, and instead turn to a cookbook like All American Desserts to find the perfect dish.
This cookbook is very comprehensive, with over 400 dessert recipes that seem to include every classic dessert – some very obviously American and some not – you can think of, which certainly makes it come in handy when you have an idea for a dessert and don’t know where to start looking for the recipe. The recipes themselves are well-written and easy to follow, even for novice bakers, but the book doesn’t simply rehash the same old “classics” that are found in every cookbook, so there is plenty of new material (new flavor combinations, innovative cooking techniques) to keep experienced bakers coming back, as well.
One of my favorite things about the book is that the author manages to pack a lot of food history into it alongside the recipes. She spends time on each and every dish describing things like its origin, the meaning of its name (differentiating between crisps/crumbles/pandowdys/etc, for example), and giving background on the regional variations of the recipes, as well as explaining what makes the desserts American in the event that the dish migrated from another country to become a staple here in the US. She also shares tips and tricks with the reader on ingredients, baking and cooking techniques and possible shortcuts.
My only complaint about this cookbook is that there are no pictures of the dishes, which is always a nice addition in a cookbook. That said, the fascinating food histories, as well as the quality of the recipes, are certainly strong enough to stand on their own and the lack of pictures hasn’t stopped me from using the cookbook – and isn’t likely to in the future.