This review was prepared by Lizanne Gosselin of of Bits ‘n Bites.
A while back, I jumped at the chance of reviewing a cookbook for Daring Kitchen after reading Ivonne’s offer preceding one of the challenges’ post. To my delight, I was given Diner Desserts, by Tish Boyle.
Published in 2000, Diner Desserts is an enjoyable baker’s journey through one of America’s most cherished institution, the diner. A big fan of “triple-D”, I looked forward to trying true diner-style recipes. This soft cover book is packed with vintage photographs and diner lore. After flipping a few minutes through it, though, I was surprised to see no pictures of the recipes in the book, except for the cover photo of the chocolate cream pie. A little strange, I thought, for a cookbook.
The book is broken into 11 chapters, covering pies, cakes, cheesecakes, cobblers and crisps, pudding, cookies and bars, “dunkables” (donuts, pastries) and recipes from the soda fountain. There is a good chapter on the equipment needed and the ingredients and techniques used in diner baking. It ends with a page on diner slang, where I learned that “Adam’s ale” is a glass of water, “nervous pudding” is Jello-O, “sea dust” is salt and “Eve with a lid on” is apple pie.
It took me a while to figure out which recipes to try. These are designed to feed a crowd. I just have to feed me and my boyfriend. I settled on the classic Apple pie with cheddar cheese crust, the Mega oatmeal, walnut and chocolate chip cookies, and my all-time favorite pie, the Chocolate chunk pecan pie.
The pie crust recipe in this book uses both butter and lard. I rarely use lard in my baking, but I found this combination worked well. The addition of cheddar for the apple pie recipe gave this crust a nice rich flavour, that cut across the sweetness of the apple filling. The recipe calls for a total of seven medium apples. I’m still not sure how I managed to fit all of these in my 9” pie plate. This pie was dubbed “The beast” by my boyfriend, as we contemplated how to handle the leftovers (freeze!). An extremely satisfying pie, this is a sure crowd pleaser. The aroma wafting in the kitchen when I took it out of the oven was divine.
Next up were the Mega oatmeal, walnut and chocolate chip cookies. They lived up to their name. I didn’t make them as big as the book suggested (“Place 3-tablespoon-sized, slightly rounded mounds of dough…”). A couple of these with my dessert yogurt at lunch, and I’m set for the rest of the afternoon, not too sweet, with a nice crunch from the two-cups of walnut pieces. The recipe makes 32 large cookies. Well worth the effort.
The final recipe I tried for this review was the Chocolate chunk pecan pie. The book promised it wouldn’t be as cloyingly sweet as some pecan pies can be. I found that hard to believe with the amount of brown sugar, white sugar and corn syrup going into it. But sure enough, the cup and a half of toasted pecan halves and three ounces of bittersweet chocolate provided the necessary balance. With a scoop (or two) of vanilla ice cream, it was a nice finish to a couple of dinners, with more still leftover. This is a pie I know I’ll make again.
There are many more recipes here I will be trying in the future (Hmm….turtle cheesecake…Hmm… peanut butter cookies…). If you bake for big gatherings, or are into potlucks, Diner Desserts offers a wide range of classic desserts and sweets. It’s a nice slice of Americana, offering down to earth recipes. All is missing is the metal-rimmed stool on which to sit and enjoy a “cup of mud” or “P.T.” or “velvet” with a slice of freshly baked “A-pie”.