"Cookie Love," a new cookie cookbook by Mindy Segal of Chicago's HotChocolate restaurant and dessert bar.
I was so excited about getting a review copy of this. I requested it with my sister, an avid baker, in mind. This is our combined review.
A cookbook should be made to last for quite a while. (Cookie Love seems to be. A weighty tome, bound in hardcover, with sewn binding so that it lays flat on the counter, or on your knees when you're reading in bed. Yes, cookbooks make good bedtime stories.)
A good cookbook should make you hungry as you read it. (Yes. Indeed. Hungry for raspberry rugelach!)
It should have lots of photos. (Check. Full color and full page.)
The narration- recipes and introductions- should be detailed and conversational. (I loved the personal stories she included. What's the first cookie Mindy distinctly remembers eating? A brownie krinkle, the day her kindergarten teacher came to lunch. When did get get serious in the kitchen? Age thirteen, when she received a KitchenAid mixer as a Hanukkah gift.)
Mindy is serious about baking. It's art, craft, work, love, and science. That's why this book is such delightful reading, and why it will lead to delicious kitchen adventures. There are recipes for every kind of cookie. Drop, sandwich, shortbread, biscotti, thumbprint, and all of them have been taken to new heights. You'll see expected ingredients used in unexpected ways, and you'll see unlikely ingredients used to make new favorites.
Does she call for some things that you may not have right in hand? Yes, occasionally, but there's usually a good reason for it. Goat butter adds a "mild tang," sorghum syrup adds a "rounded sweetness," and Cyprus salt is "assertive and crunchy." Could you stick with cow butter, Grandma's molasses, and Morton salt? Probably. But when you're ready to try something different, Mindy will encourage you.
The stated purpose of this book is to arm you with foundational technique and then turn you loose on the world, reading to do bold, beautiful things in the name of baking. "Make my recipes your own," says Mindy. "Riff on them... make some mistakes in the process."
I think that even if you never follow one of these recipes to the letter, you will find simple, awesome ideas to incorporate into your kitchen. One I've gotta try? Freeze a sheet of peanut butter and break it into the dough, so each cookie has "a ribbon of peanut flavor running through it."
There's an appendix called "My Cookie Pantry." This section is fun and informative. She introduces us to seven different chocolate products; she talks about the nuances of butter and milk and eggs, and she describes the properties of various flours and leavening agents and salts and sweeteners.
After that is "Tools of the Trade." She talks about what she uses and why it works. Evaluate your own pantry or use this chapter as a gift-list for your favorite baker. She's convinced me to supplement my plastic spatulas with a bench scraper.
The book closes with "Tricks of the Trade," to answer your "How did she do that?" questions. There's hints and instructions for using a double boiler, dipping cookies, working a pastry bag and a few other things that expand your repertoire.
In my house, I think this book will get quite a bit of wear. I read with pen in hand, marking what I'm craving for myself and what might ship well to a cousin in Florida.
Mindy says it more than once: Making cookies is a generous act. Create them, enjoy them, share them. And, she insists, the best part is the smile when people try one.
I thank the authors, and Ten Speed Press, and Blogging for Books for providing me with my review copy.