Pros: Healthy desserts, simple, easy to make
Rating: 5 out of 5
First posted 8/19/2000
These are “homestyle” desserts, meant to be made with accessible ingredients and standard techniques. The Moosewood restaurant has never been about fancy food, but rather about practicality and good-for-you-ness. These recipes are simple and fairly quick, and they have been extensively kitchen-tested in the Moosewood restaurant kitchens.
The recipes include preparation time, chilling time, and baking time, which far too many cookbooks omit. It’s a snap to tell how long you’ll be spending on the Chocolate Date Walnut Baklava (50 minutes prep and 35 minutes baking), or Anna’s Country Spice Cake (40 minutes prep and 1 hour baking time).
Moosewood cookbooks can always be counted on to be healthier than your average cookbook, so you’ll even find some low-fat desserts and vegan desserts.
Not only does this cookbook have a useful index, but it has something even better. Check out page 380 for a list of recipes that are “Easy for Beginning Cooks.” It’s pretty long. On page 381 you’ll find the “Entertaining Made Easy” list. Page 382 contains the “Fun for Kids” list, and 383 is a long “Guiltless Low-fat Treats” list. Page 384 is the “Impressive Eye-Catchers” list, and page 385 is the “Last-Minute Desserts in a Pinch” list. Pages 386 and 387 contain the “Prepared in No Time” recipes list. Page 388 is the “Vegan Desserts” list.
My only complaint about these fantastic lists is that they don’t list page numbers, so you have to cross-reference with the index a lot.
More cookbooks should employ this sort of method (cookbook authors, are you listening?). It removes worry about how to organize your cookbook when there’s more than one possibility.
I almost forgot. On page 378 you’ll find a “mix-and-match” list that’ll tell you where to find all the pie crusts, fillings, frostings, glazes, and sauces. How amazingly useful! How completely non-egotistical, to realize that we might want to mix recipes up in ways they haven’t specifically laid out for us!
On top of all of this other useful information, you’ll even find a glossary of ingredients and a guide to tips and techniques. Now that’s thorough. The low-fat recipes provide nutritional information (unfortunately they don’t include fiber content, for those of you calculating points for the Weight Watchers system). I just wish that all of the recipes gave this info. Not everyone who’s counting calories or fat sticks strictly to “low-fat” recipes.
You won’t have to worry about unclear or confusing directions here. As stated in the “About the Recipes” section near the start, if a recipe calls for milk, it means you can use any kind of milk (whole, 1%, whatever) that you want. If a specific kind of milk is needed, it’ll say so.
Each recipe is followed by a list of equipment required. The authors even went so far as to mark “optional” whenever they thought you could get away without a certain piece of equipment, and “preferred” when they thought it made a difference, but you could still substitute. My only comment here is that sometimes it works just fine to substitute even when they think you really shouldn’t.
The recipes are fairly spare and simple, most taking up just one relatively small page. Vanilla Poached Apples is no exception to this. It’s even a low-fat recipe, with a bare 10 minutes of prep time.
The Triple Ginger Apple Crisp contains ginger preserves, ground ginger, and gingersnaps. Finally, my deep love of ginger will be satisfied! This one isn’t particularly low-fat, but it is quick and easy. The Strawberry Mango Cobbler is one of my favorite dishes, sweet, a little tart, with tender flaky buttermilk biscuitry on top.
For the kid in you, there’s Butterscotch Banana Cream Pie or Chocolate Meringue Pie. The Mango Pie, which we made this past sunday, combines two flavors that go extremely well together – mango and lime. Delicious sweet-tartness in a very flaky pastry crust!
Their Buttercream Frosting recipe isn’t my favorite type – it’s mostly butter, which I find to have a somewhat unpleasant taste. The Big Banana Bourbon Cake is sublime, though. As is the Frosted Orange Layer Cake, which comes with its own frosting, which has a much better ratio of sugar-to-butter.
The Plum Upside-Down Cake, “like a fruit cobbler turned upside down,” is fantastically delicious and incredibly easy to make. You just arrange plum wedges in a pan, top with a cooked butter and brown sugar mixture, and top with a cake batter. You cook it and invert onto a plate. That simple!
The Cappuccino Cheesecake was surprisingly good, particularly as it calls for a lot of healthy ingredients (shredded wheat crust, low-fat cream cheese, low-fat cottage cheese). Cheesecakes are pretty twitchy and if you wantonly throw reduced-fat substitutions around without knowing what you’re doing it can make things very strange, so this is where you can see evidence of the thorough kitchen-testing these recipes have undergone. I’m looking forward to trying the Tangerine Cheesecake next.
The Ginger Brandy Cookies are incredibly quick and easy. Just two paragraphs (plus one sentence) of directions, and a prep time of just 20 minutes. It’s the usual mix of molasses, ginger, and cinnamon, but this recipe also adds cloves and brandy.
The Butterscotch Tapioca (only 10-15 minutes prep time!) is divinely sweet. The Dark Chocolate Pudding with Bananas was okay, but not great. The Peach Bread Pudding is the best of all. However, while it suggests that you serve it with either Raspberry Sauce or Rum Custard Sauce, we instead suggest that you serve it with both. Yum!
The Granita di Caffe (Coffee Ice) is fantastic and simple. We suggest, however, that you treat it as a sorbet and make it in an ice cream maker, as this is much easier and simpler than traditional granita methods (which can be a real pain if you have an overactive freezer, as we do). I look forward to trying the Melon Midori Slush – a combination of melon, melon-flavored liqueur, and limeade concentrate.
The Cinnamon Honey Coffeecake is a little more complex than some of their recipes (it’s a yeasted coffeecake), but well worth the time.
The Strawberry Mango Lassi is one of their best dessert beverages, but then I’m a lassi fiend. For those of you not familiar with it, lassi is an Indian drink made from yogurt. If you haven’t tried it before, it’s well worth the effort of going to an Indian restaurant in order to try it (most have plain sweet lassi, and many have mango lassi as well), or buying this cookbook. I look forward to trying the Avocado Lime Shake, even though it sounds very weird. If you want a few new ways to have coffee, there’s a Coffee Shake, Coffee Breeze, and Spiced Ethiopian-style Coffee (if you’ve read my review of “The Coffee Book,” then you know I’m always on the lookout for more coffee drinks).
The sauces, too, are very yummy, and you can find something here for every occasion: Orange Sauce (fat-free!), Summer Berry Sauce, Raspberry Sauce (one of my favorites!), Warm Apple Walnut Sauce, Maple Cinnamon Coffee Sauce (I wonder if you can drink it?), Rum Custard Sauce (another favorite!), Flavored Whipped Creams (5 varieties!), and more.
I haven’t gotten around to trying any of the “confections” yet, but how can you go wrong with Mocha Grappa Truffles?
I hadn’t yet gotten this cookbook the last time I visited my relatives in Ithaca. If I had, I probably would have stopped by the Moosewood Restaurant while I was there. You won’t find any elaborate pastries in this book, but you will find a surprising array of very yummy recipes.