Pros: Gorgeous photos; tempting recipes; wonderful flavors
Cons: Structural problems; imbalanced flavors
Rating: 3 out of 5
Review book courtesy of Chronicle Books.
I’m counting this as my first review in the Soup’s On [dead link removed] challenge!
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.
I like chocolate, but there is definitely a such thing as too much (at least for my tummy). I wonder if these recipes could be redeemed by a little substituting and tweaking–but other hand, who wants to buy a recipe book and then rework the recipes? I’ll mix recipes up a little, but the base has got to be there. Bummer!
This is why I’m always wary of buying cookbooks when so many recipes are online. Online, at least, you can find recipes with comments attached on how to alter the recipe – what substitutions are safe, whether it’s got too much of one flavor, etc. I once had a very cool-looking muffin cookbook that nevertheless consistently made mediocre, dried-out muffins. So much for glossy photography being the best sign of a good cookbook.
Trish: Yeah, for instance, if I’m having chocolate chip cookies, I want to be able to taste the cookies! I’m caught on the question of whether I’d recommend this book to someone or not. I think marginally I would, because the results do taste good, but I’d recommend not buying it if you aren’t comfortable doing a little tweaking in the kitchen.
Liz: I’m still a cookbook gal. Many of them are SOOOO good, and I haven’t had wonderful luck with online recipes on the whole. Many cookbook recipes have been carefully and thoroughly kitchen-tested, often taking things like different kinds of equipment and stoves and such into account, while online recipes rarely go through that kind of testing. That doesn’t necessarily mean a cookbook will be better of course, but on average I’ve had better results with books.
The best chocolate for cooking is Callebaut or Bercolade. Both are Belgian and are absolutely amazing, you can’t buy it in shops but you can online if you look hard enough. They both make great cookies. The milk chocolate is extremely creamy, much better quality than anything available in the shops. The plain chocolate is the biggie though because it is totally different. Because the cocoa is a better quality than normal dark chocolate, it isn’t as bitter and has more flavour. I use both of these, try them in your cookies or just on their own!
I agree with the previos post’s author. Cookies with Callebaut are just so wonderful. Chocolate cookies are wonderful with it!
I love the chocolate addict tshirt 🙂 So awesome. The book is really cool. Thanks for the review.