Iconic American Desserts
by Stella Parks (W. W. Norton, $35)
There’s an unofficial two-part test around here that determines whether a new baking book is any good. First, copy editor and bakeophile Chris Hoelck “borrows” the galley and begins baking from it. If the book is good, he doesn’t stop. Such is the case with Bravetart, from award-winning pastry chef Stella Parks. Between the covers: recipes for just about every American dessert that ever existed, including chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies, classic cherry and Key lime pies, devil’s and angel’s food cakes, plus engaging explanations on how many of these desserts came to be. The blondies and brownies Chris shared were spot on, but he was even more smitten with Parks’ Red (Wine) Velvet Cake—the wine underscores the fruity chocolate—and her method for caramelizing white chocolate by “roasting” it in the oven to give it a complex, malty flavor. But what many readers will love best is Parks’ homemade versions of the branded treats they grew up on: Nilla Wafers, Oreos, Milky Ways, and 3 Musketeers. As Parks notes in her introduction, she’s not out to “fix” these faves but rather to make them taste as they’re meant to be. Her versions are not as overly sweet as the packaged goods (a plus), but they still conjure that feeling you got upon opening your lunch box to find a Hostess Cupcake inside. In other words, pure joy.