37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Variety of Cookie Recipes.,
This review is from: Cookies Unlimited (Hardcover)
`Cookies Unlimited' by Nick Malgieri is the sixth book dedicated exclusively to cookies I have reviewed, and I can honestly say I have found not a single poor book in the lot. However, there are several reasons for selecting one of these books over the other depending on your needs at the time. Two books, `Rose's Christmas Cookies' and `Field Guide to Christmas Cookies' are dedicated to Christmas cookies, so you may only want these if you bake cookies only around Christmas, except that the first of the two books by Rose Levy Beranbaum has a great introduction to baking cookies in general. One of these books, `The All American Cookie Book' by Nancy Baggett is dedicated, obviously, to American cookie recipes, including some of the very best recipes for chocolate chip cookies and the Pennsylvania Dutch specialities. The `King Arthur Cookie Companion' and Carol Walter's `Great Cookies' are both superb general cookie books, although the King Arthur writers give a much better introduction to cookie making in general. King Arthur and Rose Levy Beranbaum do the best job, in general, on the cookie tutorial at the beginning of the book. So where does Nick Malgieri's book fit in?
For starters, while Malgieri's book does cover several famous American cookie types such as the chocolate chip and the Pennsylvania Dutch sugar cookie, he devotes much space to a lot of classic French, Austrian, and Italian cookies. If you could have but two cookie cookbooks, this book paired with Nancy Baggett's `All American' book would do a good job of covering the subject worldwide.
Malgieri also does not give us the in-depth tutorial we get from King Arthur, Beranbaum, and Carole Walter. Instead, we get a seven (7) page no nonsense survey of ingredients, equipment, and technique which I strongly urge you to read before doing any of the recipes. As a former chemist, I am a pretty good baker, as I am expert at weighing and measuring. My downfall usually comes when I mix things, as the rule of the day in chemistry is that things be mixed thoroughly. As with biscuits and pastry dough, many cookie doughs are better mixed lightly, leaving a certain coarseness in the mix so that the baking cookies are not leavened too much by the sugar's creating little air pockets in the creamed butter. As counterintuitive as this sounds, I am taking Herr Malgieri's word on this as he is the baking instructor and I am not.
My general experience with Malgieri's books is that except for yeast bread baking, it is to him I always look first for a particular recipe for things like cakes, pies, and quick breads. Now that I have this book, I am sure I will come to him first for cookies as well, since I have never been disappointed with my implementing any of his recipes. The only weakness I have found in any of Malgieri's books is in the misleading title `How to Bake', which is much more a collection of really good recipes than a tutorial on baking technique. Malgieri simply knows how to write a recipe that is easy to follow and which delivers satisfactory results.
`Cookies Unlimited' is organized in the same way as Carole Walter's book, by style of baking. That is, his chapters are on:
Filled and Sandwich Cookies
Crackers and Savory Cookies
Fillings, Icings, and Glazes
Decorating Projects, including a great plan for making a gingerbread house from scratch.
Walter's book is organized around a smaller number of topics, not quite as neatly summarized. Choosing between these two books is not easy. They cost the same, they are of similar lengths, and both contain high quality recipes. Neither book gives pictures for all their recipes, but Walter's pictures are just a little better. Both books make a great virtue of giving us recipes from colleagues and friends. So much so in Malgieri's part that the book begins to look like the publication of his personal cookie recipe box. In fact, Walter's book contains a Malgieri recipe and Malgieri's book contains a Walter recipe. Malgieri gives us a very nice little page of lists of recipes by country. Oddly, this list does not include American recipes, in spite of the obviously American source for some of the recipes.
Overall, I believe Carole Walter's book (and the King Arthur book) is superior if you are really serious about learning everything there is to know about cookie baking; however, I think Nick Malgieri's book is as good a source of a wide variety of recipes, especially from international sources. And, it gives a somewhat better coverage of some specialized topics such as Springerle cookies imprinted with a German or Swiss rolling pin or mold and his very nice little gingerbread house. The single most useful theme I found in Malgieri's book was his doing some classic cookie types in several different ways, as when he does the classic Linzer cookie as a sheet, a roll, or a traditional square.
I also suspect that for the casual cookie baker, Malgieri's book may be slightly better as a simple collection of very good recipes from a wide variety of sources, including most of the famous cookies from around the world such as Madelaines, Arnhem cookies, Springerles, Zeppole, Linzer cookies, Pizzele, and Wiener Mandelgipferl (Almond Crescents).
If you love cookie baking, get all of these books. If you simply want a good source of unusual cookies, Malgieri's book will do the job for you.