Pros: Gorgeous photos; tempting recipes; wonderful flavors
Cons: Structural problems; imbalanced flavors
Rating: 3 out of 5
I’m addicted to Chronicle cookbooks. In my years of playing with cookbooks, they have a superb history of well-tested, delectable recipes. Thus I was quite surprised when we kept having problems with the recipes in this book.
First, the good stuff. The cookbook is absolutely lovely, including a decent number of color photographs, a clean layout, and easy-to-read recipes. The pages are thick and somewhat glossy, comparatively easy to keep clean. It’s the kind of cookbook that makes your mouth water; page through and you’ll find everything from cookies to bar cookies, muffins to pies, tarts and puddings to cakes, and of course, ice cream desserts. The table of contents names each and every recipe, while the index allows you to look up recipes by major ingredient. If you want to find that lovely banana cream pie with graham cracker crunch, you can look under ‘bananas’ in the index or the ‘pies’ chapter in the table of contents.
The first recipe we made was a cinnamon and chips chiffon cake. Unfortunately, the mini-chips sank straight through the batter during baking, stuck to the pan, and then largely stayed behind when the cake was removed, leaving the cake with holes and a thick layer of remaining chocolate chips at the top. It didn’t look great, but it did taste quite good. It also left me thinking that if all of those chips had actually remained in the cake, the amount of chocolate would have overwhelmed the taste of the chiffon cake.
We made banana-oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Every person who tried them agreed they would have been better with about half the chips in them. Again, the chocolate was overwhelming. When the chips were added it looked as though there was just enough dough to hold them together.
The chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake bars
The photograph: A full layer of cheesecake filling sits atop a graham-chocolate chip crust. Small blobs of crispy baked chocolate chip cookie dough obscure some of the filling, and lines of chocolate drizzle criss-cross the entire thing.
The reality: A thin layer of cheesecake filling sits atop graham-chocolate crumbs. A full, thick layer of what appears to be a chocolate-chip crumb topping sits atop that.
Or in other words: the crust kept falling apart; the layer of cheesecake was minimal and, ultimately, difficult to taste amongst everything else; the ‘cookie dough’ was far too abundant and didn’t come together as a dough; and if we’d actually included the drizzled chocolate, the result would have, once again, tasted overwhelmingly of chocolate (for that matter, even without the drizzle the chocolate was a bit much). Our guess is that there should have been about twice as much cheesecake filling; the crust perhaps needed a bit more butter; and the cookie dough needed more liquid (a little milk? an egg?) and should have been halved.
The flavors are good, if unbalanced (I never thought I’d say this, but pretty much everything had too much chocolate in it). The book is beautiful. Unfortunately, not a single recipe we tried came out great, and a couple of them had noticeable ‘issues.’ As much as I love Chronicle cookbooks on the whole, this is not one of their best.