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Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich Paperback – November 12, 2010
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The Amazon Book Review
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From Publishers Weekly
Medrich presents a compendium of exciting and enticing cookie recipes that reflects every aspect of our widening culinary landscape. Whole-grain flours as well as wheat-free alternatives are becoming more and more prevalent, and people are more often exposed and open to exotic spices and unique flavor combinations. Nibby buckwheat butter cookies, golden kamut shortbread, honey hemp bars, and whole wheat biscotti showcase whole-grain flours, while wheat-free versions of rugelach, toffee bars, butter cookies, and caramel cheesecake bars (just to scratch the surface) aim to please an increasing number of gluten-intolerant dessert lovers. There's a good chunk of dairy-free cookies as well as lower-fat versions (two Weight Watchers points, to be exact). Comfortingly, there are also homey recipes for classic peanut butter cookies, cakey brownies, and rocky road bars. Flavor combos are intriguing, as in the wheat-free grapefruit and basil butter cookies, aniseed and almond shortbread, and nutty cocoa cookie bark with Parmesan and sea salt. The recipes are organized by texture, hence the title, but there's also a section grouping cookies into categories like those containing whole grains, those that keep at least two weeks, ridiculously quick and easy cookies, and cookies to make with kids. This book has redesigned and reframed the often-overlooked cookie and is a boon to the modern, conscious baker. (Dec.)
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Textures, as her title shouts out, drive Medrich’s latest, more-than-130-recipe-filled cookie collection. Crispy? Try ginger Florentines and lavender tuiles. Crunchy means biscotti and nut slices. Oatmeal and honey hemp stands for chewy. As for gooey, flaky, and melt-in-your-mouth? Check out brownies in many flavors, rugelach, and the resurrected French macarons. Medrich sets the table by insisting (insofar as the written word can) that readers first review the user’s guide, a handy compendium of critical FAQs (e.g., how soft is softened butter?), an index of categories (e.g., whole grain, quick and easy, etc.), and troubleshooting details (e.g., the biggest issue with not-great cookies: too much flour). She carefully prepares bakers for success, including upgrades for most recipes (read variations) and notes about specific types, such as biscotti, tuiles, phyllo dough, and macarons. Last is her tech-support chapter, which wraps up her teachings on ingredients, equipment, and resources. It’s time to turn on the oven. --Barbara Jacobs
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The sections in the book are divided by the topics in the title (crispy, crunchy, chunky, chewy, gooey, flaky, and melt-in-your-mouth). At the end, there are a couple of other informative sections. There is a component section with various things like fillings, frostings, cookie icings, and crusts. There are also ingredient and equipment explanatory sections.
Some of the dry ingredients in the recipes, such as flour, sugar, and nuts, are given in both volume and weight measurements. Many of the recipes have an "upgrade" (variation) section following the recipe. There are also mini tutorials throughout the book. For example, there are a couple pages devoted to tuiles. The mini tutorial talks about tuile basics, how to make and use a stencil for tuiles, more efficient tuile baking, and how to make ice cream cones from tuile batter.
There are a variety of recipes in this book. There are a few traditional stand-bys like chocolate chip cookies and snickerdoodles. There are also more unusual recipes, such as honey hemp bars, pebbly-beach fruit squares, breakfast biscotti, spicy carrot masala macaroons, and alfajores. Also, macarons are becoming popular, and there is a recipe, with variations, for French macarons.
One note for people looking for recipes for individuals with food sensitivities or special diets - there is a guide at the back of the book the lists recipes for wheat-free cookies, dairy-free cookies, cookies made with whole grains, and less fat and 2 (Weight Watchers) point treats. Each of the cookies in the point section lists how many cookies you can have for the points. For example, melting chocolate meringues - 2 cookies for 2 points. Other listings include doughs that freeze well, cookies that will keep for at least two weeks, and quick and easy recipes. For some reason, the listings don't have page numbers with the names of the cookies, but the index immediately follows the listings.
There aren't very many pictures in the book - only about 2 to 4 recipes in a chapter are pictured. I find that a little disappointing because I love to see what I'm about to make.
What I love most about her books is present in this one and that's her excellent palate. This isn't another of the far-too-common books out there that wants to beat you over the head with excess. You know the type --- chocolate-covered-caramel-drizzled-nutty-salty-bacon sugar bombs. I can trust that I'm not going to end up with some cloyingly sweet, overly fatty, inedible concoction. There are already way too many books with over-the-top sweet baked goods. Too many that just seem to tack on more, more, not realizing that sometimes less is more. Medrich goes for textural perfection, for clean flavors. She's not trendy, but she is inventive. With a simple variation, she makes something familiar into something completely new. There's never any filler, nothing thrown in that isn't worth making. And she relies on quality ingredients and proper technique to speak for themselves. No gimmicks.
Now let me get specific because by now you want to know just what flavors and textures I'm talking about. Her coconut macaroons are perfect. They're crispy and caramelized on the outside, chewy within. These will make you forget stale-tasting, tooth-achingly sweet macaroons. They're also very, very easy to make and very cheap, if that's the sort of thing that factors in for you.
As soon as you get this book, you must make the coconut or the sesame sticks (well, you should make both really). They're just perfection. Buttery, crunchy, addictive cookies that nobody can resist. I will say that I found insulating the sheet pans by placing one sheet pan on top of another empty one was necessary for more even baking (so that the bottoms don't brown too much while the tops are still fairly pale), but so far nobody else who has made them has had this be the case. However, if you do have the same problem, well, the solution is pretty simple.
The spicy Linzer bars are chewy, nutty, and perfectly spiced. You can trick yourself into thinking they're not as rich in butter as they are and have them for breakfast. ;)
The coconut tuiles are simply amazing. I really can't wait to make them again. Golden, caramelized, and with a deep coconut flavor. They're like the cookie version of a potato chip.
Her crunchy seed cookies are very hard to stop eating. The fennel seeds in particular keep you coming back for more. The texture is perfect. I've made them twice now.
Hazelnut and cacao nib sables are perfectly sandy, nutty, toasty, and just the right amount of sweetness. The texture of the cookie combined with the crunch of the add-ins really is irresistible. They'll remind you a bit of chocolate chip cookies at times, but so much more addictive!
There are more I could list, but I'll stop because otherwise this review will be unmercifully long. All the recipes are very straightforward and simple. The results belie this simplicity. :)