Warmly effusive and dear yet gritty, Paula H. Deen seems mythically Southern. But this cooking luminary, proprietor of Savannah, Georgia's Lady & Sons restaurant, is the real thing. The Lady & Sons Just Desserts, her all-sweets follow-up to The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook and The Lady & Sons, Too!, celebrates the Southern sweet tooth with 120 recipes, including traditional formulas for the likes of Brown Sugar Pound Cake and Lemon Chess Pie as well as best-loved restaurant innovations like Turtle Cake, Lemon Curd Pudding, and Gooey Butter Cake. ("These are very, very rich," Deen advises, "and a little goes a long way--even for piggies like me!") Lovers of the restaurant--which grew to prominence from $200 and lots of determination--as well as those seeking easy-to-fix temptations should put this book to happy use.
Among its wide-ranging recipes, Desserts offers Carolyn's Jell-O Cheesecake, Lauren's Chocolate Drizzle Pie, and Hidden Mint Cookies--recipes based on cake mixes and other convenience foods. These creditable sweets are of course work saving, but are perhaps better viewed as solidly characteristic of their time and place. Equally particular are candies like Mamma's Divinity and Uncle Bubba's Benne Candy, and "other sweet things," as Deen dubs them, such as Banana Split Brownie Pizza, Easy Homemade Oreo Ice Cream, and Fresh Apples with Butterscotch Dip. With asides by Deen family members, including son Jamie's "Food Is Love" ("I am right this minute 20 pounds over-loved," he writes), useful tips (Deen provides an "emergency" recipe for sweetened condensed milk), and plenty of piquant anecdote (after Deen had rattled on endlessly to her grandmother about her intention to open a restaurant, the older woman paused and replied, "Paula, have you lost you damned mind?"), the spiral-bound book is not only full of delectable eating, it's lots of fun. --Arthur Boehm