a la modeAre you ready to take your baking over the top? Here are sixty decadent and delightful ice creams and the sixty desserts that are their vehicles. A la Mode offers not just solid dessert recipes, from raspberry oat bars to bear claws, from chocolate pecan pie to a white chocolate pavlova, but also gives you the unforgettable pairings that make these desserts smash hits: apple cranberry pie with Camembert ice cream, chocolate sheet cake with salt caramel frozen custard, and espresso cream jelly roll with mascarpone ice cream.

Let’s face it: vanilla can sometimes be so… vanilla. A great a-la-mode pairing should be as decadent as finding the perfect wine to go with your cheese plate. With A la Mode , IACP winners and cookbook dynamos Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough show you how to create innovative delights such as creamy hazelnut gelato atop coffee-poached pears, or maple frozen custard with a mouthwatering cinnamon roll cake, alongside simpler classics like confetti ice cream with layered vanilla birthday cake. You haven’t lived until you’ve had peanut brittle pie with popcorn ice cream, a Cracker Jack fantasy!

Because what’s a warm pie without ice cream? With A la Mode , you’ll have an answer to that question! (description from publisher)

This month celebrates lots of national food holidays. Our blog today is going to highlight some of those holidays and give you great recommendations for books that pair well with each. I hope you are hungry!

fried chickenJuly 6: National Fried Chicken Day. Fried chicken is a staple at every summer picnic across America. From my own experience, the chicken is usually purchased from a name brand such as KFC or Walmart. Rarely do I get to enjoy some home cooked fried chicken. Check out Fried and True by Lee Schrager for 50 different fried chicken and sides recipes. Interested in chicken on the lighter side? Weightwatchers Ultimate Chicken Cookbook has more than 250 healthy recipes with chicken.

sugar cookiesJuly 9: National Sugar Cookie Day. Anybody and I mean anybody can make sugar cookies. For the novice baker, I would suggest purchasing the already prepared dough from the store. All you do is put the pieces on a cookie sheet, bake and decorate! Decorating after all is the best part. Whether you are using icing from the can or making your own, it’s always fun. If you love decorating sugar cookies take a look at 50 Deliciously Decorative Cookies by Fiona Pearce. This book is full of creative cookies. For a twist on a cookie, try Smart Cookie by Christi Johnstone. It’s decorating without the baking!

pieJuly 12: National Pecan Pie Day. I still remember the first time I ever tried to bake a pie. It was a sad looking apple pie, but it tasted great. Over time my pies improved and today they are absolutely gorgeous. Making a pie from scratch may seem daunting, but I encourage anyone who has interest to give it a try. We have the perfect book to get you started! Pie School by Kate Lebo includes 50 different pie recipes and all her pie baking secrets.

ice creamJuly 19: National Ice Cream Day. Nothing says summer like a scoop of ice cream on a hot day. If you love ice cream you definitely want to read Scoop Adventures by Lindsay Clendanial. In her book are the best ice cream recipes from each of the 50 states. In the Quad Cities we are home to an ice cream establishment that is known throughout the country. To learn more about its history visit the Whitey’s Ice Cream.

July 30: National Cheesecake Day. Cheesecake is much easier to bake than a pie and comes in just as many wonderful flavors. You will need a springform pan which can be purchased anywhere that sells baking pans. Once you have that, you are good go. The Cheesecake Bible by George Geary contains 200 different recipes for making cheesecake. You can be making your own cheesecake in no time! If you’d rather go to a restaurant, try the Phoenix in Davenport. They have excellent cheesecake.

ice cream queenIn 1913, little Malka Treynovsky flees Russia with her family in The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street. Bedazzled by tales of gold and movie stardom, she tricks them into buying tickets for America. Yet no sooner do they land on the squalid Lower East Side of Manhattan, than Malka is crippled and abandoned in the street.

Taken in by a tough-loving Italian ices peddler, she manages to survive through cunning and inventiveness. As she learns the secrets of his trade, she begins to shape her own destiny. She falls in love with a gorgeous, illiterate radical named Albert, and they set off across America in an ice cream truck. Slowly, she transforms herself into Lillian Dunkle, “The Ice Cream Queen” — doyenne of an empire of ice cream franchises and a celebrated television personality.

Lillian’s rise to fame and fortune spans seventy years and is inextricably linked to the course of American history itself, from Prohibition to the disco days of Studio 54. Yet Lillian Dunkle is nothing like the whimsical motherly persona she crafts for herself in the media. Conniving, profane, and irreverent, she is a supremely complex woman who prefers a good stiff drink to an ice cream cone . And when her past begins to catch up with her, everything she has spent her life building is at stake. (description from publisher)

We’re lucky here in the Quad Cities to have one of the best ice cream makers in the country right on our doorstep, but there’s nothing quite as sublime as homemade ice cream – sweet and creamy, mixed to your taste with your favorite ingredients. Learn how to take your ice cream up a step into artistry with Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer. You’ll never look back.

Each recipe in this book has been repeatedly tested by Jeni at home using only readily available home equipment. She shows that unique flavor combinations and creamy consistency are easily in reach. Lots of yummy pictures, friendly practical advice and personal stories make this book a pleasure to read. As well as ice cream, there are recipes for frozen yogurt and sorbets and suggestions for decadent desserts – such as a “Tuscan Sundae” made up of Salty Carmel ice cream, honey and vin santo sauce, biscotti and whipped cream.

Just reading through the names of the flavors is addicting and fun. Who could resist “Baked Alaska Pie Ice Cream”, “Watermelon Lemondae Sorbet” or “Roasted Strawberry and Buttermilk Ice Cream”. And though I think I”ll pass on the “Cucumber, Honeydew and Cayenne Frozen Yogurt”  and the “Celery Ice Cream”, call me the minute you make “The Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World”. I’ll bring my own spoon.

Making Artisan GelatoGelato. If you’ve ever been to Italy, you know how special it is. Elizabeth Gilbert talks about eating it at least once a day during her stay in Italy in Eat, Pray, Love. It’s a bit exotic and deliciously decadent but now, thanks to Making Artisan Gelato by Torrance Kopfer, you can make it at home as easily as ice cream. If you’re concerned about details, gelato is similar to ice cream, but contains less butterfat and has more air whipped into it. The important thing to know is that it’s sweet and incredibly delicious.

The first half of this beautifully photographed book covers all the basics – history, how to choose the best ingredients, equipment (gelato can be made in your ice cream maker), techniques and ideas for combining flavors. Then comes the fun part – recipes! They range from easy (raspberry, pistachio, French vanilla) to moderate (macadamia nut, dark chocolate-orange, espresso) to challenging (caramel, peanut butter cup, chocolate-cinnamon) There are familiar flavors – cookies and creme – and there are more exotic flavors – blueberry lavender. There are also recipes for sorbets and granitas and several decadent toppings and toppings. Through it all Kopfer guides you with a steady hand and friendly voice. Go ahead and treat yourself!