Jenny McCoy's Desserts for Every Season is the kind of book where you flip through the pages and vow to try every other recipe you look at. McCoy has the rare ability to blend traditional homey type desserts (caramel Lady apples, pumpkin roulade, iced raisin oatmeal scones) with upscale twists on old classics (beehive baked Alaskas, chestnut-chocolate layer cake with caramel mousse,brown sugar buttercream and dark chocolate ganache).
The book is well bound and stays open on its own without the use of a cookbook stand. The recipes within are arranged by season in beginning with autumn and ending with spring. McCoy incorporates lots of fruits, nuts, and occasionally vegetables into her recipes so she groups them according to when these ingredients will be in season so they taste their best. I try to cook seasonally, but I am still getting accustomed to cookbooks being arranged seasonally. I admit that I find I get more use out of a cookbook when chapters are labeled by food category rather than by season. She includes a wonderful seasonal harvest calendar that will tell you what tastes best when and what produce is fresh year round.
Her introduction is telling. McCoy has worked with everyone from Emeril Lagasse to Tom Colicchio but she is practical in refreshing ways in the kitchen. If you accidentally have the oven too hot, she espouses shortening the baking time. She's all for nonstick spray to grease baking pans. She doesn't measure out specific amounts of citrus juices. I found these tips to be refreshing. She expects her readers to be able to think and improvise and appreciate a little time saved in the kitchen. The index is well referenced and she introduces each recipe with a short blurb about why it is special.
This is not a dessert book for the beginner. While the book contains recipes that can be easily made in a short time (such as banana pudding pops or funnel cakes), many require a few separate recipes (such as the aforementioned chocolate cake or the chocolate-peanut butter s'mores) that require advance planning over a couple days to actually complete. Although a beginner could easily make many of the recipes, I am going to call this a book for the moderate level baker.
I give McCoy major props for including beverages in a dessert book. Too often people forget what delicious treats a well-crafted drink can be. McCoy includes recipes for mulled apple cider, holiday hot cocoa, raspberry and lavender floats, moonshine eggnog, and strawberry thyme lemonade.
I also appreciate her thoughtful "basics" chapter in which you'll find recipes things that you can use in her recipes or elsewhere such as caramel sauce, streusel, pie dough, and icings.
I did have some trouble locating all the ingredients in the cookbook so some of you might have the same trouble. I can't readily locate sage honey, Aperol, Creole cream cheese, buckwheat honey, and a few other odds and ends (mostly aperitifs), but I can substitute with a little research.
The photography is some of the best I've seen this fall. There isn't a photograph of every recipe but close enough. The images are full color, full page, and look ready to fall into your hand so you can devour the beautiful, beautiful food. If I couldn't bake much besides chocolate chip cookies, I would derive great pleasure from owning this book. It is stunning.
The blueberry-almond cream tart alone might justify the cost of the book.
My bottom line? This is a gorgeous, useful, thoughtful baking book best given to someone who enjoys a little extra attention to detail in the kitchen. McCoy has produced a fine cookbook that people with experience will enjoy for years to come, and I am proud to have it in my kitchen.