Originally reported by John Lehndorff in The Bloomsbury Review:
The austere Amish lifestyle may lack automobiles, electricity and other amenities we can’t live without, but Amish homes boast something most of us can’t imagine: freshly home-made breads, cookies, doughnuts and cakes on a weekly, if not daily, basis. That common luxury is celebrated in endearing, simple prose in The Amish Cook’s Baking Book.
Like The Amish Cook, the syndicated newspaper column Lovina Eicher pens, this collection from her kitchen parses the nuances of a diverse culture. For instance, the difference between baking in Indiana versus Michigan Amish communities is not nut breads versus bar cookies but rather whether gas stoves and indoor running water are allowed. As Eicher tells it, many of the 100 recipes were created from scratch because Amish women don’t always write them down and tend to improvise with available ingredients:
“Mom never measured anything for her apple pie; she always just knew how to make a perfect pie every time.” (Amish men apparently don’t bake.)
The hunger-inducing roster includes classic brownies, rolls, and pastries ranging from Tears on Your Pillow Pie, The World’s Best Sugar Cookies to Lard Cakes – really doughnuts, and the harvest-driven Zucchini Pie and Plum Cake. The 80 glowing photos illustrate the baking process and some very pretty goodies. Amish fare is certainly “locavore,” often “green,” and intentionally “slow food,” so it may finally become trendy. With Americans returning to the home kitchen in droves driven by a need to save money, it’s yet to be seen whether the new frugality drives them to actually start baking Oatmeal Whoopie Pies. That will determine whether The Amish Cook’s Baking Book becomes dog-eared and butter-stained or just another pretty cookbook on the shelf.
(The Amish Cook’s Baking Book by LOVINA EICHER with KEVIN WILLIAMS; Photographs by Betsy Dellaposta; Andrews McMeel Publishing, $29.99; ISBN: 978-0-7407-8547-4)