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The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: The Essential Cookie Cookbook (King Arthur Flour Cookbooks) Hardcover – November 9, 2004
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Americans spend over $550 million annually on Oreos, some indication of our cookie infatuation. Meeting that passion head-on, The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion offers 400-plus recipes for almost every cookie under the sun--from traditional favorites like oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies (13 recipes including the soft and crisp kinds, plus 11 variations, such a Orange-Pistachio Milk Chocolate Chippers); to global treats like shortbread, tuiles, springerle, and biscotti; to all kinds of bars and soft bites such as brownies, Whoopie Pies, and Hot and Sweet Ginger Squares.
The Cookie Companion is in the King Arthur tradition, which means that it's a teaching cookbook--one overflowing with tips, pointers, lore, and other compelling information. Thus, for example, the introduction to Special Roll-Out Sugar Cookies informs readers that thorough dough-rolling creates thin, snapping-crisp cookies, but roll the dough a bit thicker, and "youve got crunchy." Their no-detail-too-small introductory basics are greatly aided by the tour-de-force illustrations of Laura Hartman Maestro. For example, a box on bar-cookie cutting shows readers the five basic size configurations, depending on pan dimensions. Bakers who have routinely paused, knife in hand, before a pan of just-baked brownies, trying to decide how to end up with, say, 24 large squares, won't, following the illustrations, do so again. A section on cookie decoration is equally definitive, as is a final chapter on ingredients, which offers, for example, a full discussion of sugars, plus asides like "Is Splenda the Answer to Low-Calorie Baking" (maybe) and "Can I Substitute a Liquid Sweetener for a Dry One to Make My Cookies Sifter?" (sometimes, but never measurement for measurement).
With "Create-a-Cookie," a section that focuses on manipulating basic dough mixtures to make checkerboard and pinwheel cookies among others; recipes for glazes, icings, dips and finishes; illustrated equipment profiles; plus color photos that depict the cookies in all their edible glory, the book is, simply, a must-have for cookie bakers everywhere. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
The holidays may be the only time of year when store-bought cookies just arent special enough to share with friends and family. Even novice bakers are willing to move beyond their comfort zone and try something festive. Now, they dont have to go it alone. The King Arthur Flour Company, the largest educator of bakers in the world, has provided a thorough how-to on cookies that will appeal to beginners and advanced bakers alike. The companys bakers have already won The James Beard Foundation KitchenAid Cookbook of the Year award for the King Arthur Flour Bakers Companion (2003), and now they set their sights on the cookie. The bakers have singled out eight essential cookieschocolate chip, oatmeal, sugar, peanut butter, shortbread, molasses-ginger, brownies and biscottiand offer both traditional and exotic recipes, as well as variations and decorating tips to allow for bursts of inspiration. Of course all baking starts with the basics, so the bakers begin by providing information on measuring, baking pans, cookie cutters, ingredients, tools and flour, and they end with a chapter on The Finishing Touch, where they dissect icing. With mouth-watering photos as motivation and drawings to offer assistance, this cookbook is a must for any serious baker. It leaves no cookie unturned.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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So, I didn't need this book, but I was looking for a cookie book to give as a gift for my daughter -- who is a scientist and bakes on the fly -- that would present the standard variety (and hopefully more) in an accurate and easy to follow manner. None of the books I had on my own shelves fit all my criteria, so I did a little exploring on Amazon and found this one. I liked what I read enough to buy a copy for myself, first and have now given it as a gift to many people. I am very happy with it.
Once you know the ratios for each baking product [after all, the same four basic ingredients make up 95% of all baking: flour (base), water/liquid ('reagent'), eggs (leavening), butter/oil (fat)] what matters are the details and particulates added along with the proportions. In culinary school students memorize these ratios so they know the difference between a pancake and a crepe, a biscuit and a muffin. The trained eye can also recognize incorrect 'recipes' and wrong proportions that mean many bookstore baking books are useless and lead to failed projects (this is not a problem in Europe where formulas are considered sacred and product names reflect a standardized version of any baked product - almost as controlled as wines and cheeses! It is more of a dilemma here in the US where anyone can publish a book and call him or herself an expert - thus the dizzying and confusing array of baking books on the market here and their cumbersome size. Recipe books in Europe are concise - a small picture, a bullet list of ingredients, a short paragraph of instruction, since most people know what goes into making a classic croissant, for example and don't need or want every author to repeat it). For that reason, when I peruse baking books, I skip the measurements and instructions and instead merely look for interesting flavors, particulates, embellishments, i.e., the creative and imaginative input of other minds. For the accurate formula for any product, I turn to professional resources.
Now, having said all of that - back to the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion. This is a great start for home bakers who want accuracy and a thorough range of standard US cookies without being burdened with too much technical information or formulas (recipes) that take too long to prepare. Most people do not have any time to waste. For a professional version of this kind of baking, turn to Wayne Gisslen's two introductory culinary textbooks (baking and cooking) - they are well worth the investment. Short of Gisslen, this book fits the needs of any home baker.
I am particularly impressed by the amount of professional instruction and explanation that they have managed to include without its interfering with getting the project done. There are simply shaded sidebars throughout that give the kind of tips that elevate the amateur product to the professional and commercial level. For example, using Fiori di Sicilia - standard in commercial kitchens, the principle of docking, without which many products will simply fail (pizza principal among them!) and dough relaxers, among others of this genre.
As for the issue that someone raised about the book failing to discuss proper ingredient temperatures, I believe this was done within the descriptions and explanations of the individual products - perhaps not emphasized as much as would be ideal, but again, too much technical information can be offputting to people who are not meticulous. The important thing is to have formulas that work even when today's hurried home bakers are a bit careless. This book provides those kinds of recipes. But, for example, the concept of eggs brought to room temperature is dealt with on page 485. Softened butter is discussed on page 484. Some cookies doughs need to be chilled and that is addressed throughout the book. Cold butter and cold eggs can be a problem when incorporating hot liquids or other hot ingredients but for the most part these are not serious issues when making cookies (in contrast, cold ingredients are key to a successful pie dough, for example).
Do not expect spectacular imagination and decoration from this basic, accurate, how-to instruction reference. You can find all of that in thousands of ordinary cookie books, online, most of them through Amazon. I still buy them from time to time, myself, to stimulate my own creativity.
There are a handful of professional baking books that the serious baker should have (Amendola, Gisslen, etc.). I keep them in one spot on my cookbook shelves. The rest of my baking books are just for their imaginative details - they are inspirational but little more. The reason baking seems daunting is that it is grounded in math, chemistry and biology. The challenge of all that is they are a bit difficult to master at first, but the reward is, once understood and properly employed, a correct knowledge of baking science will mean perfect outcomes, every single time and the ability to make one or a thousand items with rather simple equipment and tools, anywhere you land.
If I had to throw away all my famous-name, home baking cookie books and keep just one, it would be King Arthur's.
Ease of use: Beginner.
My favorite recipes are the lavender cookies, hobnails, soft oatmeal raisin, chewy chocolate chip, and their variation on the Jewish tricorn cookies Hamantash.
If you want to have endless fun with cookies, buy this book and a 25lb. bag of flour and call your friends over--this will never disappoint!