Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Book Review - "Great Cookies" by Carole Walter

In the last two years I've acquired another half dozen books devoted to cookies (my collection of baking books is now at 65 volumes). There's not a dud among the cookie books, but I do have three favorites: The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion; the All-American Cookie Book by Nancy Baggett; and Great Cookies by Carole Walter. I bought Walter's book on a cold rainy day last fall and proceeded to read it - cover to cover.

Walter is a pro - in the same league as Maida Heatter, Rose Levy Beranbaum, Dorie Greenspan, Nick Malgieri, and Abigail Johnson Dodge. Aside from the recipes, which are nearly flawless, the 44-page "Teacher's Secrets for Sensational Cookies" is marvelous. This section includes such features as a two-page spread on the characteristics of various brands of chocolate chips; decorating and garnishing; guidelines for storing, wrapping and mailing cookies; an encyclopedic explanation of "Nuts and Seeds"; and a page entitled "Troubleshooting" to help decipher what can go wrong and how to avoid those pitfalls.

A helpful list of sources for equipment and ingredients is also included, along with a substantial bibliography. The section on Chocolate Chip Cookies has a bulleted list of helpful hints on producing the best of the best. The "Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies" on page 32 are a personal favorite. There are also lists of secrets for making giant cookies, Biscotti, and Rugalah, among others. This is really a professional textbook on how to make superlative cookies - and it's the tips and techniques that set this volume apart.

There are many recipes for ethnic favorites, too, such as Hamantaschen, Baklava, Springerle, and Jan Hagels (a personal favorite). Whether you're searching for holiday cookies, after-school treats, comfy bar cookies, or a cookie worthy of a dinner party (the Black and Whites are very chic!), you'll find them among the more than 200 recipes provided. The dozen recipes for fillings and glazes are a plus and the "Caramel Mascarpone Cream" is heavenly.

The book's layout is approachable and navigable, the fonts easy on the eyes, and the photographs both beautiful and helpful. The book is a bit heavy for it's size but not unwieldy. The Index would have been better with a larger typeface and darker ink, but that is my only complaint.

If you buy the book, just be sure to stock up on milk.