The hunt for baking inspiration often leads me away from some of my go-to cookbooks and on a search for ones with more unusual recipes. I’m not always inclined to purchase such cookbooks, as there are many that I know I won’t cook from regardless of how inspirational they are (some of the cookbooks where the pastries might be mistaken for exhibits at a modern art gallery, for instance). I like to look though them and pick up tips and techniques, but I’d rather have a homier cake or pastry most of the time. As a result, cookbooks like Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague have a special appeal.
Kaffeehaus‘s recipes are presented in a familiar – and, more importantly, a very reproducible – way. Each strudel, torte and pudding is well-explained and seems like something that you or I could easily recreate at home. At the same time, these Eastern European specialties seem to be authentic, the kind that you might find at a corner bakery in Vienna or in the home of a friend from Prague whose mother happens to love to bake.
The book covers recipes from simple coffee cakes to delicate nut-rich cookies and sweet yeast breads, as well as presenting the reader with a number of “basic” recipes (frosting, whipped cream, puff pastry, etc) that can be used again and again, as a base or garnish for other recipes. Throughout the book there are pictures of some of the coffee houses of the three cities mentioned in the book’s title and little notes on their histories, as well as little histories of some of the more famous pastries included in with the recipes; these little asides give the cookbook the feel of a travelogue.