May 24, 2009
By Tan Hsueh Yun
Easy to make, easier still to gobble up. Cookies never fail to please. But how well do these cookie books stack up?
By Kate Shirazi
2009/Pavilion Books/ Hardcover/112 pages/
Newbies who are nervous about baking cookies would do well to pick up this book. Shirazi's bright and breezy tone is reassuring.
The writer, who runs a cupcake business from her home in Devon, Britain, personalises each recipe with homespun stories about her childhood and family, or with baking tips.
Dotted about the book are mostly charming photos that look good because they are not overstyled.
Hard to believe but there is such a thing as too much food-porn. The recipes are also interesting. I have never thought to make my own Digestive, Bourbon or Rich Tea biscuits. But they sound a lot better than store-bought ones.
What I really liked, though, was the fact that she included a good selection of savoury biscuit recipes.
The proof is in the eating and I was not disappointed with Cecilia's Parmesan Biscuits. This recipe is a keeper.
Plus, the recipes yield sane numbers of cookies so you are not made to make five or six dozen at a go.
Measurements are given in metric, imperial and by cup, which leaves fewer things to chance.
Field Guide To Cookies
By Anita Chu
2008/Quirk Productions/ Paperback/
328 pages/ $30.90/Books Kinokuniya
This little book functions the way a guidebook on birds might, giving information about different kinds of cookies.
So if you have always wanted to know the history behind French madeleines and macarons or the delicious South American sandwich cookie called Alfajores, you will find it here.
I like the notes on turning out perfect cookies, baking tools and baking ingredients in the front of the book.
There is a lot to like about this book but the recipe for Green Tea Cookies is not one of them.
I chilled the very soft dough for the recommended two hours the first time I made it and it turned to mush when I tried to roll it out.
The next time, I chilled it overnight but that did not work either. Good thing I had rolled up some of the dough into a log shape. The final product was crumbly, fragile and underwhelming. Nobody in the office would touch the mutant specimens.
Much better was a recipe for soft, fudgy Chocolate Crinkles, perfect with milk.
I do wish metric and imperial measurements were given with the recipes because it is a pain and a half to measure out a quarter cup plus 2 Tbs of butter.
So while this is a good source of information about cookies, there are better recipes elsewhere.
Betty Crocker's Cooky Book
1963/Hungry Minds/ Hardcover/
156 pages/ $43.50/25 Degree Celcius
This book is a spanking new reprint of the 1963 original, complete with the original layout, illustrations, blurry photos, instructions and prim portrait of the fictional Betty Crocker.
I enjoyed thumbing through the book and marvelling at how liberally trans fat-filled margarine was used back in the day.
Reading the recipes, I also got a sense of how people used to live.
Mrs Alfred T Neilsen from Iowa contributed a recipe for Lemon Crinkles, calling it a simple recipe that leaves her 'time for her hobby of making hats'.
There is a sense of excitement behind the recipe for French Lace Cookies. With jet travel, says the book, 'travellers come home anxious to imitate or adapt the exciting and unusual foods that they enjoyed abroad'.
Despite the quaintness and general folksiness, this is no throwaway cookbook. It comes with a serious Cooky Primer to read before baking.
I made Salted Peanut Crisps, apparently the 'Best Cooky' of 1950-1955 and it was not bad.
What makes the recipes here a challenge to tackle is the yields. We are talking four to eight dozen cookies each time. Cookie overload alert.
Crocker Cookies Cookies
Forty some years on and Betty Crocker is still alive and kicking and baking with margarine.
This book, sans portrait, is subtitled 100 Recipes For The Way You Really Cook.
So apart from the margarine, people also apparently make cookies using cake mixes and they make cookies that do not require baking.
If you like that sort of thing, this book is perfect. But there are other worthy recipes for those willing to fire up their ovens.
Malted Madness Cookies turned out fairly well and there are a couple more I would like to try out.
What's stopping me is the yields. Seriously, do I really need six dozen of one kind of cookie?