Cons: Just remember to put that butter out to soften, and it helps to have a good stand mixer
Rating: 5 out of 5
Review book (published 2011) provided courtesy of Chronicle Books
I’m eating a lot less sweets these days, but I’m still a sucker for certain things. A great crisp cookie is one of them. Tina Casaceli’s Milk & Cookies: 89 Heirloom Recipes from New York’s Milk & Cookies Bakery includes 89 recipes for cookies of all kinds, from the soft to the uber-crisp. Casaceli organizes her recipes by type (vanilla cookies, double chocolate cookies, oatmeal cookies, peanut butter cookies, sugar cookies, and “special cookies”, as well as family favorites and brownies & bars).
Most chapters start off with a “base” dough for the relevant type of cookie, such as the vanilla base dough on page 20. Then each recipe within that chapter tells you how to alter or add to the base dough to get the results you want. This is a method that’s more important to an operation that’s trying to produce a ton of cookies on demand and doesn’t want to have to create 90 different doughs, and it does mean a little flipping around as you’re making your recipes. The changes are simple ones, though, so as long as you don’t have a three-second memory limit like I do, you’re probably fine. The classic chocolate chip cookies are a great example of a use of the vanilla dough base. They’re packed full of both chocolate chunks and chocolate curls (or shavings), and have a sort of soft inside and crispy edge. The recipe makes plenty, which is good, because they’ll disappear fast! (Ours certainly did.) The vanilla dough can also be used to make such recipes as white chocolate-macadamia nut cookies, dark chocolate-toffee cookies, and walnut cookies.
I admit I did not personally test the double chocolate cookies chapter. In my incipient old age I’ve found that double chocolate tends to be too overwhelming for me. However, if it’s half as good as the other chapters, I wouldn’t worry about it. There’s a dark chocolate base dough, followed by variations for mocha latte cookies, chocolate-hazelnut cookies, candied orange and pistachio cookies, and more. Similarly, since peanut butter cookies aren’t my thing, I didn’t try out the peanut butter and jelly cookies, nor the dark chocolate-peanut butter cookies.
Oatmeal cookies are something of a weakness of mine. There’s an oatmeal base dough, Scotchies, spiced oatmeal cookies, blueberry-oatmeal cookies, milk chocolate-orange oatmeal cookies, etc. It’s hard to go wrong with these recipes.
Usually I can take or leave sugar cookies. Most are bland things, and they’re okay when you want a cookie fix, but I wouldn’t deliberately choose them over other cookies. The sugar cookies from this book, however, break that mold. As usual we start with a sugar cookie base dough, and my favorite in this chapter is the first variation, brown sugar-cinnamon crisps. I did have a little difficulty getting the cinnamon-sugar to stick when the cookies were dipped in it, but I found that spooning the mixture over the cookies on the baking pan before cooking also worked. The results were so good that it was impossible to eat just one. Or two. I never even got around to making the lemon drop cookies, which I really want to try (real lemon juice and zest instead of flavor extract). There are directions for making decorated cut-out cookies, complete with a royal icing recipe. There are candied ginger-sugar cookies and chestnut cookies as well.
“Special cookies” aren’t based on a specific base dough. This chapter includes such delicious recipes as Snickerdoodles, s’mores, jumbles, gingersnaps, mocha-cherry drops, pumpkin-cranberry cookies, and my favorite, the orange sable cookies—a “classic butter cookie with just a hint of orange” (not to mention almond). It’s fantastic, and yes, if you can’t find almond flour, we found that carefully grinding up some almonds in a food processor works well (just make sure you don’t accidentally make almond butter!).
There are cookies with cream fillings, ice cream sandwiches, and carrot cake cookies with cream cheese fillings. The book includes multiple biscotti recipes, sfogliati, sfingi, bride’s cookies, almond horns, ciambelli, pinulata, and more in its family favorites chapter, whereas the “Brownies and Bars” chapter rather speaks for itself: Kahlua brownies, pecan bars, “magic bars”, apple crumble bars, toffee squares, vanilla shortbread, and so on.
Finally Ms. Casaceli includes a list of sources for a few items. There aren’t that many things in this book you can’t easily pick up locally, but it’s always nice to have additional suggestions just in case.
The index seems useful and thorough. There are many delicious pictures to accompany the recipes, although not one for each (certainly enough to get the idea). We haven’t yet found any errors in the recipes we’ve made, and the results have been addictive every time. If you want a good book of cookie recipes, give this one a try! The pretty presentation would make it a particularly nice gift book.