This is my fourth book by Carole Walter - the preceding three being single-subject volumes covering Cakes, Cookies, and Pies & Tarts. Like the others, this book doesn't disappoint. If you're a fan of Dorie Greenspan, Maida Heatter, or Abigail Johnson Dodge, this will be a welcome addition to your library. It will be your "go to" cookbook when the baking bug hits you on a cold winter's day or when you're searching for the perfect "take-along" sweet for a family gathering.
Walter is a pro - and it shows - but she's also friendly and approachable. As you read through a recipe, you'll feel as though a much loved grandmother is guiding you through the process. Even the more difficult recipes, such as strudel and croissants seem doable. Most of the recipes are easy, however, and the levels of difficulty are indicated for each.
The first chapter opens with "Perfect Pound Cakes" and there are 16 from which to choose, including "Sour Cream Pound Cake"; "Lemon Cream Cheese Pound Cake"; and "Butter Pecan Pound Cake". All are remarkably simple to prepare and are baked in Bundt, angel food or loaf pans - equipment already in your cabinet. It's likely you'll have the ingredients on hand, too. The second chapter, "Home-Style Coffee Cakes" boasts 19 enticing options such as "Sour Cream Marble Cake"; "Butter Crumb Coffee-Cake"; "Irish Whiskey Cake"; "Banana Chocolate Chip Cake" and "Pineapple Squares with Coconut Streusel".
Additional chapters cover "Muffins & Quick Breads"; "Biscuits and Scones"; "Yeasted Coffee Cakes"; "Brioche, Croissants & Danish"; "Strudel"; and "Coffee Break Bites". The final chapter incorporates "Streusels, Glazes, Frostings & Spreads", all of which can be used for recipes outside of this book.
"Great Coffee Cakes" is full of helpful tips and techniques. A page is dedicated to "Marbling", making the whole process much less intimidating. Other handy tips include turning muffin recipes into quick breads; effectively dealing with cutting bar cookies; and working with yeast. Helpful drawings make the more challenging recipes less so. There are five pages dedicated to "Equipment" and there's a 24-page section dealing with "Ingredients and Techniques". Walter also provides eight sources for ingredients and equipment, complete with websites and phone numbers.
The book is peppered throughout with endearing quotes from the likes of Oscar Wilde, Julia Child, and Graham Greene. Each recipe begins with a memoir, a story, or a technique and ends with recommendations for storage (some cakes are actually better the next day - but I doubt you'll be able to resist that long!). The book is a nice size and the typeface is readible, if not ideal. There are 31 pages of beautiful photographs - which for a book of 200 recipes is quite generous. For old-fashioned comfort treats, this book is nearly perfect.