My mother was not a cookbook collector, recipe horder, coupon clipper, or gourmet cook when I grew up. She had two cookbooks, one being the old fashioned Better Homes and Gardens. Every year at Christmas time she would spend hours creating the same recipes to hand out to everyone on Christmas plates – Banana Bread (she makes the best ever, a secret is self-rise flour instead of all purpose for hers), chocolate fudge, peanut butter fudge, mint brownies, coconut balls, date balls, and snowballs (which I found out since are also known as Russian tea cakes.) Almost all of her recipes came from better Homes and Gardens.
No matter how simple it seems, or how complex, it’s almost always delicious. I was absolutely delighted to have this one to read – dedicated to baking from the best? Yes, please. Their traditional kitchen and timeless techniques are covered in detail within these pages. They go through everything in their basics, each page a large picture with writing over it, many times with additional pictures. Everything from lining pans with different items to all the types of sugars, chocolates, and extra ingredients. They even show four pictures and instructions each on every way of mixing and blending baking ingredients.
Thinking the instructions weren’t fancy enough, even the recipe pages are decorated with background photos and art. It’s awesome, really. I wonder how their chocolate chip cookie recipe measures up to my beloved toll-house cookie recipe? I’m especially curious to try the Soft Maple Sugar cookies! I’m so picky on sugar cookies already but these look delicious. Maple icing too? Yum!
I love their chapter on decorated cakes, especially the make-it-mine mini birthday cake ideas and cheeseburger ice cream cake. I have made a Big Mac cake before but never with ice cream. The burger part turns out to be the chocolate ice cream and the fries are part of the food. How great does this look?? Their cakes are all easy to do without having to purchase special molds, which is a nice change for some fancy, creative cakes such as the lollipop one.
It’s normal – and I expected – for them to have chapters on stuff like cakes, cookies, pies and tarts,
but I didn’t expect an entire chapter on Cheesecakes, one of the more difficult items to make. Excellent. Good grief, cheesecake is rich enough, I think the Chocolate Peanut Butter cheesecake should almost be illegal! They had my favorite, and I kept searching for it, a Pumpkin Cheesecake. But theirs is with Sugar Pepitas, and I really have no idea what that is. It looks like something you make (they give you a recipe for it), but I think I’d rather have it without.
My favorite section ended up being “Coffee Shop.” Not because I want to make these for coffee, but because I have an obsession with baby desserts and having them with tea and for tea parties. I’ve found some of the most delicious recipes in the world doing that, trust me. The ones they have here are pretty good too and in the same vein, although I suppose they use the title coffee shop since that’s the more popular drink.
Did all my mom’s recipes from the book make the cut and carry through? Sadly, no. For the size of the book they of course can’t fit all the recipes in there that were in the original. Plus, there are more than triple the pictures and detailed instructions in this edition. I did spot her banana bread, using all purpose of course as before, but they’ve now added the twist of cinnamon. I missed the sight of her other Christmas classics, but at least I have her recipes handed down for those.
Overall a great recipe/dessert book from a cookbook publisher I trust. Since it’s baking, they of course don’t have it filled with the newer, modern low fat editions. They do make a note at the beginning on ways you can cut down on fat in any recipe you create at home, which is to me more useful than just providing it in the recipes themselves. This leaves the option for the creator.
The most intriguing, unusual recipe I found that looks delicious, a bit difficult, and to wow people: Opera cake.