Pros: Lots and lots of cookies
Cons: Layout not so great; sense of humor that makes me wince in places
Rating: 4 out of 5
First posted 9/29/2000
Honestly, I’m not much of a cookie person. From a dessert standpoint I like a good creme caramel, bread pudding, or fruit pie better. From a snack standpoint I should really stick to healthier things. From a cooking standpoint…well, they just never provided much of a challenge. You’ve made one cookie recipe and you’ve made about a third of the cookie recipes out there, more or less.
When I do want cookies, though, I have to admit that this is a great cookbook.
Judy Rosenberg starts off with “Rules of the Game,” including techniques and tips, equipment and ingredient advice. She points out that cookie-making is a perfect activity to do with your child, as it’s pretty straightforward. Her list of equipment is blessedly short – these are cookies, after all. She even covers the types of cookies that travel well in the mail, and how to package them. Very useful!
“Know Your Dough” is an overview of the various types of cookie doughs, and how they should be treated. This includes baking notes, mixing notes, and storage tips.
“Chewy Crunchy” is an entire chapter of cookies with crispy edges and chewy centers. “Crispy Chompy” are the hard cookies (like shortbreads and biscotti). “Cakey Cookies” are mini-cakes, glazed or frosted. “Sandwiched Together” covers filled cookies. “The Bar Crowd” deals with bar cookies (including 12 different kinds of brownies). “Tidbits” covers itty-bitty things, and “Holiday Cookies”…well, I think that one’s pretty obvious.
This cookbook has many of the same layout problems that Rosie’s baking book has. For one, the recipes come one right after the other on the pages, so recipes often go from the front of a page to the back. When you’re propping a cookbook open to bake with, this can be a royal pain.
Then there are all those little pink hearts across the top of every page, and a few names like “Fudgie Wudgies.” I guess if you’re a grandmother baking for your grandkids it might seem appropriate, but I find it kind of annoying. Ms. Rosenberg’s sense of humor also has that overly-cute (one might say saccharine) feel to it in the introductory bits of writing here and there; some of the jokes just make me wince.
One of the things I really do like about the layout, however, is that Ms. Rosenberg puts “drop cookie” or “formed cookie” or whatever just below the name of the recipe, so you know what you’re in for without having to read the whole recipe.
Ms. Rosenberg has declared the chewy-crunchy cookie to be “quintessentially American.” This category of cookie includes things like chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal cookies. My favorite of her recipes from this chapter is the Dark Brown Sugar Chocolate Chips – the dough is positively orgasmic! When she says the recipe makes 24 “large” cookies, though, she definitely means bakery-large. We made them large by our standards, and the recipe made 50. There are healthier cookies in here too, like the Whole-Grain Earthy Chocolate Chips, and Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Cookies made with fresh cranberries. The Apple ‘n’ Spice Drops look fabulous.
The Chocolate Peanut Butter Volcanoes are okay by themselves, but best with vanilla ice cream to temper the sheer richness. The Classic Snicker-doodles (sugar cookies) are quite good. (Addendum, later the same night: After reviewing this book, I couldn’t help but go make “Noah’s Chocolate Chocolatey Chocolate Chips,” although we substituted white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and toffee chips for the semisweet. Wow! Best cookies I’ve ever had, and they really are crispy around the edges and chewy in the middle. Perfect texture.)
Not all “Crispy-Chompy” cookies thrill me – I will never understand the attraction of biscotti. The Broken Brittle Crisps, however, are fantastic, as are the Fresh Ginger Crisps and the Lovely Lemon Crisps. I look forward to trying the Cappucino Shortbread Sails and the Ginger Shortbread.
Cakey cookies are more temperamental about things like baking time and temperature than most cookies, and they don’t store well. They’re yummy, though – light and airy, with delicious frosting. Besides, it’s hard not to get hungry when you see one of the first recipes in here – Banana Cream Cheese Mounds. You’ll also find Lemon Orange Sour Cream Cookies and Maple Softies.
Next come the filled cookies. Believe it or not, Ms. Rosenberg has a filled-cookie version of a Boston Cream Pie. Then there are the Triple-Ginger Lemon Sandwiches, and the Pumpkin Whoopee Pies.
Bar cookies were never my favorite; as I mentioned in my review of Rosie’s Bakery Book, I actually think that the No Pudge nonfat brownies (www.nopudge.com) are fudgier than any from-scratch brownie I’ve ever tasted, and much healthier to boot. But there are definitely some yummy things in here. For example, there’s the Sour Cherry Cheesecake Brownies, and the Bourbon Brownies, and the Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Brownies. There’s Cherry Crumb Bars, Creamy Cranberry Orange Bars, and Raspberry Cream Cheese Bars.
In “Tidbits,” Ms. Rosenberg suggests keeping a stock of these little sweet things in the freezer – yum! This chapter includes such delights as Apple Galettes, Baby Cheesecakes, Rosy Cranberry Tartlets, Lemon Curd Tartlets, and Mini Eclairs.
Of course, everyone makes cookies at the holidays. So, although M.F.K. Fisher’s Ginger Hottendots (from “Classic Home Desserts,” which I also reviewed some time ago) will always be my favorite holiday cookie recipe, I expect to make a few of these as well. After all, how could you resist a big plate of Molasses Ginger Cookies, yummy Gingerbread People (I’d reduce the amount of orange zest from 1.5T to 1T or 0.5T, though), Dutch Almond Butter Rings, or Chocolate Snowballs?
These recipes are, overall, more innovative and “new” than the ones in Rosie’s Bakery Book. You’ll also find a number of cookies designed to mimic certain brand-name store-bought cookies. For anyone who loves cookies this is a fabulous investment; for the rest of us it’s good too. Because of that I really feel I should give this book a 4…Since its purpose is to be a cookbook, I won’t lower it to a 3 just because of the author’s sense of humor…even though I’m tempted to.