In our house, Disney is a daily fact of life. Whether that’s music, movies, shows, or even the many trips to Disney parks, cruises, and events available in the past. With the pandemic, we’ve been stuck at home, not able to go to theaters, visit parks, or even board ships. Thankfully, we have access to The Unofficial Disney Parks Cookbook from Adams Media. This cookbook showcases recipes from US-based Disney parks, but some recipes are better than others. Before reviewing the book, I made a list of questions I wanted to answer. I didn’t always like the answers I found, but I was often pleasantly surprised.
How many Disney parks are featured?
Only six of Disney’s twelve parks are featured, all of which are at US resorts, meaning you won’t find the menu items from the Asian or Parisian parks. There is some international cuisine, since Epcot’s World Showcase features so many treats from other countries, but a lot of “American-ized” foods are featured, too, such as cheeseburger spring rolls and pumpkin spice churros, which are definitely not foods native to the countries the unadulterated versions of those foods are from.
Do I Need to Buy a Bunch of Weird Ingredients?
This question was disappointingly difficult to answer. Ultimately, it depends heavily on the recipe. Some recipes can be made with zero extra ingredients or tools, just things we had in the kitchen. Tiger Tails (pictured above) were easy enough, since we are regular bakers. The strangest ingredient was yeast, so if you’re in for the bread products, you’re probably safe. The drinks, though, were a completely different animal. Some drinks required specific difficult-to-source ingredients, such as boba balls or watermelon syrup. Other things you might not be familiar with, or keep around the house, like puff pastry sheets, clam juice, or flavocol. (Note: Our family found Tiger Tails to be a lackluster recipe on its own, but the dough makes excellent pizza dough!)
Do I Need Special Equipment?
Only sometimes. For recipes like Dole Whip (which needs an ice cream maker) or anything with “Mickey” in the name (which usually need Mickey Mouse Cookie Cutters), you’re going to need something you probably don’t already have at home. Other things, like candy apples or frozen chocolate-covered bananas, only need everyday kitchen implements. Other times, you can just ignore the intended shape and make it with a shape you like. For example, the cookies shown above (Mickey Sugar Cookies) are made with a teddy bear cookie cutter from the drawer. I used a reference photo to decorate one like Mickey, and that was more than good enough for me. My family decided it wasn’t worth the trouble, and just decorated them as they liked.
Are the Recipes Good?
Again, this is totally hit-or-miss. We tried a range of recipes, and actually liked everything we ate. That said, we skipped certain recipes because they didn’t sound good. These recipes include the Baked Macaroni & Cheese with Pulled Pork recipe, which calls for “barbecue sauce” for the pork, with limited other ingredients. After noting that detail, we passed on the recipe because “barbecue sauce” is so fundamentally vague as to tell us nothing about what it was meant to taste like. Are we talking about tomato-based, vinegar-based, mustard based, or mayonnaise-based barbecue sauce? What dominant flavors are we looking for? Since I’ve never had the original (from Disney’s Animal Kingdom), I don’t know where to start, and that’s a mark against the recipe that I wasn’t willing to ignore.
Other recipes were simplified a bit too far for my tastes. Most pastries use store bought sheets of puff pastry, with no recipe included for making them. Considering the number of recipes which called for puff pastry, it would have made this cookbook a lot less Google-dependent if it had a universal recipe for the cook to refer to. Other recipes used shortcuts that really undercut the quality, like using canned biscuits for croissant doughnuts. For some people, that makes the recipes more accessible, and that’s great. But I’m a snob about a few things, and croissants and doughnuts are on that list.
Should I Buy/Gift a Copy?
Ultimately, I’m glad to own the cookbook. It offers a nice range of recipes, and my family will continue using it for some time, especially the Tiger Tails dough recipe! Some of the recipes are made easy enough for kids, and I just can’t argue with that, considering how much work it is to make a family meal sometimes. But I’d be much more likely to give copies to young adults/teens then I would be to give an older adult or experienced cook a copy.
The Unofficial Disney Parks Cookbook is a charming but slightly odd cookbook which combines made-from-scratch recipes with recipes which rely heavily on pre-made ingredients. Recipes from US-based parks are included, and there are plenty of recipes you can make without being forced to buy special ingredients or equipment you’ll never use again. It’s available on Amazon now.