Mothers and comfort food, especially all manner of delightful desserts Sally Lunn, linzertorte, baklava, brownies and bourbon balls seem to go together. So here's a sweet melange of cookbooks appropriate for Mother's Day or any other day.
Karen Barker, winner of the James Beard Award for Best Pastry Chef and co-owner of the Magnolia Grill in Durham, North Carolina, has gathered the favorites she goes back to time and again in Sweet Stuff: Karen Barker's American Desserts. The sweets here are "new riffs on old themes," American standards that have Barker's personal stamp. They're decidedly "doable" based on proven recipes that don't require special equipment, ingredients or a diploma from culinary school and Barker guarantees that they'll make people smile. She begins with an enlightening chapter on a baker's basic building blocks: pastry dough from her basic pie crust to one that is rich, spice-scented and walnut-crunchy; sauces and special toppings such as an unadulterated creamy caramel sauce that Karen considers "liquid gold" and mousse-like White Chocolate Cream. Then she moves on to a simple but stunning Meyer Lemon Shaker Pie, low-fuss-oh-so-delicious Bourbon Peach Cobbler with Cornmeal Cream Biscuits, tangy Buttermilk Panna Cotta, individual Banana Upside Down Cakes, Beat-the-Heat Frozen Mocha Velvet, summery Lemonade Sugar Cookies and wonderfully unexpected Maytag Blue Cheese Fritters, perfect with fruit and port, plus 150 more luscious desserts that "can leave an impression that lasts a lifetime."