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)

ms american pieBeth M. Howard knows about pie. She made pies at California’s Malibu Kitchen for celebrities including Barbra Streisand (lemon meringue), Dick Van Dyke (strawberry rhubarb), and Steven Spielberg (coconut cream) before moving back home to rural Iowa. She now lives in the famous American Gothic House (the backdrop for Grant Wood’s famous painting) and runs the hugely popular Pitchfork Pie Stand.  

With full-color photos throughout, Ms. American Pie features 80 of Beth’s coveted pie recipes and some of her own true tales to accompany them. With chapters like Pies to Heal, Pies to Seduce, and Pies to Win the Iowa State Fair, Beth will divulge her secret for making a killer crust without refrigerating the dough and will show you how to break every rule you’ve ever learned about making delicious, homemade pie. (description from publisher)

Not that they’ve ever really gone out of style, but pies are enjoying a resurgence of popularity these days with several new books extolling their virtues and delights. And what better time to try some new pie recipes than the holidays?

A Year of Pies presents beautifully photographed seasonal recipes that include such delights as a Chocolate & Orange Marmalade Tart in winter, a Strawberry & Rhubarb Ginger Hand Pie in spring, a classic Lattice Top Triple Berry Pie in summer, and Rosemary Bourbon Sweet Potato Pie in autumn. A Basics section offers six piecrust recipes, troubleshooting tips, and advice on selecting seasonal ingredients.

An utterly charming collection of regional heirloom American pies, from long-lost recipes to classic favorites, sweetly illustrated and chock-full of time-tested baking tips and secrets for perfect pies Before cooking shows and celebrity chefs there were church dinners, community bake sales, and county fairs-events for which regular women made and served their prized family recipes. The United States of Pie invites readers on a journey back in time.

From a ‘proper’ quiche Lorraine to an indulgent raspberry cheesecake pie, Tart it Up shows you the secrets for creating great pies and tarts every time. Pies and tarts are the ultimate comfort food. Whether sweet or savory, elegant or hearty, they are great for relaxed entertaining, family get-togethers and even weekday suppers.

(descriptions from publishers)

When journalist Beth Howard’s young husband dies suddenly, she packs up the RV he left behind and hits the American highways. At every stop along the way – whether filming a documentary or handing out free slices on the streets of Los Angeles – Beth uses pie as a way to find purpose. Howard eventually returns to her Iowa roots and creates the perfect synergy between two of America’s greatest icons – pie and the American Gothic House, the little farmhouse in Eldon, Iowa immortalized in Grant Wood’s famous painting, where she now lives and runs the Pitchfork Pie Stand.

Making Piece powerfully shows how one courageous woman triumphs over tragedy. This beautifully written memoir is, ultimately, about hope. It’s about the journey of healing and recovery, of facing fears, finding meaning in life again, and moving forward with purpose and, eventually, joy. It’s about the nourishment of the heart and soul that comes from the simple act of giving to others, like baking a homemade pie and sharing it with someone whose pain is even greater than your own. And it tells of the role of fate, second chances and the strength found in community.

I am going to admit to what many people would consider a glaring character flaw: I’m not a big fan of pies. Except for my Mother’s Apple Crisp pie and the Raisin Cream Pie at the Ox Yoke Inn in Amana (don’t ask), I can pass on pie. Well, here’s a book that might just change my mind.

Perfect Pies by Michele Stuart covers a whole range of sweet and savory delights. Ranging from “Farm Stand Pies” (which use fresh fruit) to “Nut Pies” to “Cream Pies”, “Party Pies” to “Savory Pies”  just about every pie craving can be met with this book. Stuart has won multiple National Pie Championship Awards and it shows in her attention to detail. However, don’t be scared off – she favors simple and straightforward to fancy and show-off, allowing the flavor of excellent ingredients to shine through. There are also chapters on making the perfect crust and creating little extras such as whipped creams and sauces.

The hard part is going to be which pie to start with – Chocolate-Pecan-Bourbon Pie? Michele’s Mud Pie? Ultimate Banana Split Pie? Or the classic – Country Apple Pie? Decisions, decisions….


ConfectionsFed up with a Hollywood lifestyle of “doing lunch”, massive traffic jams and insincere relationships, Gesine Bullock-Prado abandoned all the things that are supposed to make you happy – money, designer clothes, access to famous stars – and escaped to the Green Mountains of Vermont. There she found peace and happiness by following her true passion – baking.

In 2004 Gesine and her husband Ray opened Gesine Confectionary in Montpelier, Vermont largely on the popularity of her macaroons. Expecting to start small and build by word-of-mouth, they were overwhelmed by the long lines that snaked out the door on opening day – maybe it was the fact that Gesine’s sister, movie star Sandra Bullock, was helping at the register?

Star gazing might have brought people to the shop at first but the sweet, luscious treats bring them back again and again. Pies, sticky buns, croissants, scones and cakes of all description guarantee a slew of return customers. Customers become regulars, who become friends and consultants and the empty existence of their former Hollywood life becomes a distant memory. Not everything is perfect – there are setbacks and frustrations, bad employees and unreasonable demands – but mostly it is a dream come true.

Each chapter of Confections of a Closet Master Baker – written in a wry, straightforward voice – finishes with a delectable recipe. Gesine’s stories of her beloved family and memories of her hated Hollywood job ring clear and true. For anyone who longs to drop out of the rat race and follow their passion – or for anyone that loves to eat – this is a must read!

Easy Gluten Free BakingThe diagnosis of a wheat allergy or celiac disease can be devasting for the cook when they realize just how much wheat, wheat-by products and related grains are present in common foods and ingredients. Planning and preparing meals that are flavorful and healthy may seem impossible. If you’re in this boat, we’ve got a lifesaver for you – Easy Gluten-Free Baking by Elizabeth Barbone will make working in the kitchen a pleasure again.

Recipes cover all the favorites – muffins and quick breads, yeast breads, cookies, cakes and pies. There’s even a chapter on “tastes like” so that you can reproduce some of those treats you can no longer eat – Twinkies, Oreos, Ritz crackers and even saltine crackers. Best of all, everyone, whether they are on a gluten-free diet or not, will love the results.

Barbone tested each recipe 40-50 times, so you know there aren’t going to be any surprises and they’ll work every time. There’s lots of information about how to stock your gluten-free kitchen and tips for converting recipes to gluten-free. The ingredients used throughout the book are easy-to-find.

Barbone is also the founder of the popular Web site GlutenFreeBaking where you can find lots more resources and advice for people living gluten free.

Happy 234th Birthday to Johnny Appleseed! Of course, Johnny’s no longer around to celebrate with us, but his legacy of introducing apples to America, especially in the Ohio Valley region, continues.

Born in Massachusetts, Johnny Chapman spent his adult life wandering what was then just-settled frontier. The popular view of Johnny Appleseed is that he scattered apple seeds randomly wherever he walked when in fact he was an astute businessman. He established apple tree nurseries, hired local caretakers, then returned every year or two to check on them and collect his fees. Although he was known and loved for his kindness and caring (he would accept food or used clothing instead of cash, and gave away most of his belongings to people in need), his estate was worth millions when he died.

September is a great time to be thinking about apples – locally grown apples are now available at the Farmer’s Markets (Washington is the leading producer of apples in America but Iowa is no slouch when it comes to apples – the Red Delicious apple was discovered in Peru, Iowa in 1880; originally named “Hawkeye”, breeding for color and appearance has altered the original sweet flavor) There are also local orchards that offer retail and pick-your-own sales.

Put those apples to good use in applesauce, tarts and – of course – apple pie. Apple Pie Perfect by Ken Haedrich will provide you with an almost endless supply of apple dessert recipes and gives you excellent tips on creating the perfect crust. The massive Pie, also by Ken Haedrich, provides 300 recipes for all kinds of pies – fruit, berry, nut, ice cream. (And wouldn’t you love to be invited over to Ken’s house for supper?!)

Remember – “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. No one said it couldn’t be part of an apple pie!

Sometimes non-riders will ask, “How much weight did you lose on RAGBRAI?” They’re missing the whole point! Probably a more accurate question is “How much weight did you gain?” If nothing else, RAGBRAI is a food-fest. To really experience it, you have to sample it all. If you’re riding, or if you’re just looking for some vicarious enjoyment, here’s the top five RAGBRAI foods:

1) Corn on the cob. It’s put on a stick and dipped into a crock-pot of melted butter. This is Iowa – we grow corn. Those cornfields aren’t just for emergency potty breaks!

2) Grilled pork chops. These are at least an inch-thick and freshly prepared over huge grills made from livestock watering tanks. They can be served at any time of th day. I’ve eaten them as early as 8:30 in the morning – they actually make a pretty good breakfast!

3) Fresh, cold watermelon. Okay, we do eat some things that are healthy. This is a real treat on a hot afternoon. It is kind of messy, but fellow bikers don’t mind when you spit your seeds.

4) Beer. Kegs are readily available and a cold one really does taste good at the end of the day’s ride. Yes, there’s a party atmosphere, and some do overdo, but most riders want to make it to their destination first!

5) Pie. My favorite! I learned on my first RAGBRAI that if you didn’t hit the first town before 10am, the homemade pies would all be gone. Trust me, when you’re cycling this long, you deserve some extra carbs and nothing tastes better than a slice of freshly made apple pie. Or cherry, or peach, or….

Mmmm, sounds like the perfect picnic. If you’d like other ideas for good old-fashioned Iowa farm food, try these country cookbooks available at the Davenport library:

Prairie Home Cooking by Judith Fertig

Up a Country Lane Cookbook by Evelyn Birkby

Favorite Recipes from Iowa’s Bed and Breakfasts by Ann Crowley