24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Very good reference for all the standards. Recommended,
This review is from: A Baker's Field Guide to Christmas Cookies (Hardcover-spiral)
This `A Baker's Field Guide to Christmas Cookies' by Dede Wilson is a perfect example of how the same subject can be served well in two very different ways. The obvious touchstone against which to proof this volume may be Rose Levy Beranbaum's book on Christmas cookies. But, this would be an unfair comparison. Beranbaum's work covers the very high end of Cookie making, ending with a truly glorious creation of a gingerbread cathedral of Notre Dame. Beranbaum also covers just about every little issue you may possibly encounter in baking cookies and provides us with lots of unusual recipes.
Dede Wilson, on the other hand, has given us a very practical kitchen reference for lots and lots of common cookie recipes baked for Christmas, including several ethnic favorites such as the relatively difficult Moravian Ginger Cookies.
My favorite thing about Ms. Wilson's contribution aside from its spiral binding which lays flat on the table is the fact that you often have more than one recipe for a particular type of cookie. For a rolled gingerbread / spice cookie recipe, there are at least three alternatives, not even including the difficult Moravian cookie. That generally means that if you want to make a particular kind of cookie, you have your choice between an easy, intermediate, and hard recipe.
Other very nice features are the fact that every recipe falls on two facing pages, begins with a very clear picture of one or two of the cookies, states the type and (very cute here) habitat, gives a description of the cookie and alternatives, gives the shelf life under proper storage conditions, and gives appropriate tips on making this and similar cookies. I think the recipes are well written and leave little room for error, although I was just a bit confused by the instructions to form rolled gingerbread dough into a disk. This sounded more like instructions for a freezer cookie than a rolled cookie.
The introductory material to the book gives nothing near the detail of Beranbaum, but gives enough to avoid any egregious errors. It also does not give lessons on using piping bags and other decorating techniques, but none of the cookies require elaborate methods.
The book does include an appendix on sources, most of that are probably familiar to regular bakers such as King Arthur, KitchenAid, and Wilton. Several are unfamiliar and welcome to me, especially New York Cake and Baking Distributors and The House on the Hill.
If I were the author, I may have included a bibliography of major works on cookies such as by Malgieri, Heatter, and Beranbaum, especially for help on decorating, but the book does a pretty good job of standing on its own as a great reference for common cookie recipes. It really fits its `Field Guide' metaphor well.