Most helpful positive review
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Start Cookie-Making Here
on December 28, 2011
I have been baking cookies off and on for many years and we have 'family favorite' recipes but I still bought this book. I wanted to see if ideas had moved on since 'Fanny Farmer' (Marion Cunningham), the King Arthur Flour Cookbook and my grandma and mother's traditional recipes. I believe that this book, written by expert instructors at the Culinary Institute of America, offers a great way to get organized for cookie baking, to learn a wide range of basic techniques and to learn how to bake and decorate a range of cookies, using good recipes that show influences of Austrian, Italian, French, Hispanic and American baking traditions. More advanced bakers will find recipes that challenge notions of what flavors one finds in cookies and artistic bakers can learn how to do more ambitious cookie decorations.
The 218-page, square-shaped book fits on the typical bookshelf and features plenty of 'tasty' full-color photographs of finished products and of some key baking techniques (where appropriate.) The book starts with a chapter on useful cookie baking equipment: weighing and measuring tools; hand tools from rolling pins to sieves to knives, graters, zesters, whisks, spoons and spatulas; tools for baking such as parchement paper, pots, pans, baking sheets and cooling racks; and appliances like ovens, mixers, blenders and food processors. Next, the authors present material on basic ingredients and methods in cookie making. There is a chapter devoted to decorating and packaging cookies that is aimed at the home baker who wants to 'gift' cookies but is probably of more interest to the culinary student who is looking to open a shop or to bake for the restaurant trade. The remainder of the book addresses recipes for various types of cookies: drop cookies, bar cookies, rolled-out, sliced or cut-out cookies, molded, stenciled or otherwise shaped cookies, piped cookies and twice-baked cookies. A final chapter introduces the idea of savory cookies and biscuits to be used with appetizers or partnered with dessert items to add 'punch' or contrast. For seasonal interest, there is a section on baking a Holiday gingerbread house and a template set is included that can be traced and used to cut the cookie panels to assemble the project.
Recipes make roughly two-to-three dozen cookies and use traditional ingredients (not commercial bakery substitutes and additives). The focus on ingredients is aimed at real butter, true vanilla extract, cane sugar products, quality chocolate products and the like. Chocolate Chip, Gingersnaps and Peanut Butter cookie recipes aim to produce 'soft and chewy' products. Crisp cookies include the very popular pecan shortbread and Italian-influenced recipes include Amaretti and Pignoli cookies. Of course there are recipes for brownies: fudge brownies, cake brownies, peanut butter swirl brownies, German Chocolate brownies and Blondies. There is a recipe for homemade Whoopie Pie filled cookies. There is a fine recipe for Baklava, made with walnuts and spiked with orange zest. French-influenced offerings include Macaroons and Madeleines. A basic Biscotti recipe is presented and almond, anise and orange biscotti variations are explained. One could continue but you get the idea... Read, bake and enjoy. Make the recipes you feel comfortable with. Adventurous or experienced bakers will appreciate the more advanced recipes on offer.