Pros: Delicious and easy recipes
Cons: I’d love more coffee drink recipes!
Rating: 5 out of 5
First published 5/8/2001
I am a coffee wimp. I can’t stand black coffee, or even just sugared coffee. It has to have plenty of cream and sugar. I want my coffee to masquerade as a breakfast-time dessert, darnit! Unfortunately I also get restless (read: bored) easily. So not only do I want my coffee to masquerade as dessert, but I want it to happen in new and interesting ways. “The Coffee Book” sort of delivered – at least it provided a couple of new and interesting things. But that was it. So, on I moved, to the “Maxwell House Coffee Drinks & Desserts Cookbook.”
I had unrealistic expectations, I know. I should apologize to Maxwell House for that. I still want to find a cookbook someday entitled “365 Dessert Coffee Beverage Recipes,” except with a much better title (are any of you cookbook authors out there paying attention? You have one guaranteed customer!). This book has 46 beverage recipes in it, not all of which suit my tastes (and as we all know, every recipe of every cookbook must suit my tastes, BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!). Ahem. Yes, well. Moving right along…
The traditional informational stuff
The book starts off with some information about coffee, some history on coffee, and “The Maxwell House Story,” followed by some information about brewing & serving coffee. There’s some neat stuff on the coffee tree and what it looks like, and a glossary of common coffee terms (ever wondered what a Caffe Ristretto is? Hmm, neither have I, actually…). Then there’s a listing of the word for coffee in a handful of different languages.
The brewing & serving tricks are fairly standard from what I’ve seen before: things like starting with fresh cold water, measuring precisely, serving promptly, and so on.
The “Using Coffee in this Book” section includes measurement instructions for regular, strong, and double-strength coffee, using either ground coffee or instant coffee. For those people who still aren’t clear on the distinction between the two (hey, don’t laugh, it took me a while), this section makes it very clear which you should be using when you’re adding coffee in dry form to a recipe.
There’s also a brief section on “how to guarantee delicious desserts.” This is stuff like how to measure the flour so you end up with the same amount the kitchen-testers used; not leaving the salt out of the sweet recipes; letting eggs come to room temperature; what you can and can’t substitute for butter; and so on.
Divisions and layout
The rest of the book seems a little arbitrarily divided up. The sections are: Breakfast & Brunch; Coffee Break; Lunch; Afternoon Coffee Time; Dinner; After the Show; Midnight Snack. This might sound cool, but really it means that if you want to find a certain kind of recipe, you should look in the index instead of trying to find the right chapter. After all, there are plenty of things that could work equally well for any of the above coffee times, so you sort of have to guess which one the authors of this book might have chosen. The beginning of each chapter has a list of the recipes in it, though, which helps.
The layout of the recipes is great. Most recipes are quite short and simple. Prep time and baking time are provided up front! The ingredients are set off from the instructions quite well. The instructions are broken up into manageable chunks, and the first word of each piece is bolded and capitalized and gives some idea of which part of the recipe you’re tackling in that portion.
Recipes and ingredients
Most of the ingredients are pretty common and easy to find (although I’m still pathologically unable to locate dark corn syrup in any grocery store near where I live).
The beverages are simple, and some of them kind of made me shrug. We already do things like add cinnamon or vanilla to our coffee, or a bit of Grand Marnier, or some maple syrup, so those recipes don’t add anything new to our repertoire. On the other hand, there are things like the “Shake Awake Smoothie,” with double-strength coffee, banana, vanilla yogurt, sugar, and ice cubes. Simple it may be, but it’s also yummy! There’s spiced orange coffee, mocha punch, lemon ginger coffee, my favorite banana coffee cooler (it’s amazing how good a simple mix of double-strength coffee, banana, and coffee ice cream can be!), raspberry java, sugar ‘n spice cappuccino, Thai coffee, mocha orange coffee, hot white chocolate coffee, exotic Arabian coffee, toffee coffee, and the marvelous black & white chocolate coffee (we added extra brown sugar for sweetness).
Some recipes call for instant mixes, which may rub some people the wrong way. The cocoa java, for instance, is just instant hot cocoa mix and coffee. The hot chocolate cappuccino is milk, chocolate, and instant cappuccino mix.
The only “problem” I’ve had with these recipes is that the beverages aren’t always the right sweetness for me, but then, everyone has their own preference for how sweet they like their coffee – just adjust to taste.
The non-beverage stuff
What, you actually want to know about the non-beverage stuff? Oh, all right. It ranges from fairly normal stuff (carrot cake), to delicious stuff like coffee cream cheese frosting, to coffee angel pie… Everything from new & unusual stuff, to old favorites slightly spiced up with the use of coffee, to very coffee-flavored versions of normal foods.
Again, most of these are from scratch, but some use mixes – the coffee angel food cake uses angel food cake mix (which seems sort of weird, since angel food cake isn’t that difficult to make). The cafe au lait parfaits use instant puddings. The fluffy coffee cheesecake uses a pre-prepared graham cracker crust. Coffee Napoleons with strawberries use frozen puff pastry and frozen whipped topping. My second-favorite icing recipe of all-time, the cappucino buttercream frosting, uses instant cappuccino mix to wonderful effect.
You’ll also find shortcakes with espresso cream, Hawaiian dessert sauce (making use of pineapple, coffee, and coconut), cappuccino sticky buns, coffee cream cheese for your bagels, cinnamon coffee crinkles (cookies), coffee cinnamon cream cheese brownies, banana caramel cafe pie, white chocolate ginger biscotti, cafe panna cotta, caffe latte bread pudding, tiramisu cheesecake, and much, much more.
Many of the recipes come with wonderful pictures – if you like putting a little extra effort in, many of those pictures will give you ideas for extra presentation bits.
This is an absolutely wonderful cookbook, and every recipe we’ve tried from it has come out perfectly. You don’t have to drink Maxwell House to enjoy this book – we use our our regular coffee with it. It is a fine source of both new & unusual ways to drink coffee, and interesting recipes you can make with coffee.