Author: Esther BrodyPublisher: Robert Rose (2013)
Christmastime in my house means one thing more than any other – cookies. My mom’s classic shortbreads are infamous to all those who are lucky enough to get a box of them each year, and for those of us who get a taste of the raw dough, they are pure nirvana. Try as I might, I still can’t recreate those melt-in-your-mouth treats exactly, but that doesn’t mean my gift baskets are cookieless. Instead, I tend to include a handful of unique creations that change year to year. Coming up with new twists on something as basic as a cookie can be challenging, but luckily new books like Esther Brody’s The 250 Best Cookie Recipes Cookbook are a great source of inspiration and know how.
Like its title, Brody’s book consists of 250 recipes for almost any type of cookie you can imagine. From run of the mill Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies (p. 23) to the exotic-sounding Komish Bread Cookies (p. 140). There are so many varieties (and variations) that it would take years to get through them all, but you would undoubtedly find a favourite to stick to before then. This book is particularly good for those looking to start their own family tradition of cookie making, since while the recipes may be delicious in their own right we all know that none of them will match Mom’s or Grandma’s.
Knowing that I’d be gunning for disappointment if I attempted to make shortbreads (my mom’s specialty), I chose a few treats to try that we never made as kids. The first one I picked from Best Cookie Recipes – Wholesome Banana Granola Drops (p. 16) – came as a result of far too many bananas sitting on the counter and a batch of freshly made granola in my pantry. These serendipitous cookies turned out soft but not mushy, with a pillowy crumb flecked with crunchy morsels. They were not only delicious on their own, but made fantastic sandwich cookies with a smear of Nutella or peanut butter in between. The only shame is that these yummy (and semi-healthy) bites are really too tender for all but the most carefully packed lunchboxes, as they would make a perfect treat at school.
A more “packable” and “giftable” treat that I found in the pages of Best Cookie Recipes was Shirley’s Meringue Cookies (p. 137). This recipe piqued my interest because of it’s use of an added starch – potato or corn in this case. I was confused at the beginning though, as the ingredient list calls for potato flour, which is a very different ingredient than it’s suggested substitute of cornstarch. In the end, I opted for potato starch, and I think that was what the recipe author intended. To add a bit of extra flavour (since meringues are notorious for tasting just sweet), I used a minty trifecta of dried peppermint, peppermint extract and mint chocolate chips. The meringues took a lot longer to dry out that the stated 60 minutes, and I wound up turning off the oven (after an hour and 45 minutes) and leaving the cookies inside to cool completely. That said, the first bite of one was incredible – a crisp shattering of the outer shell, a not-quite-soft interior and a cooling pop of mint. Of all the meringues I’ve made over the years, these are definitely in my “top 5” after my revisions.
There are so many unique ideas in Best Cookie Recipes that I want to try in every section of the book! While the photos are minimal, they are there, and I appreciate the author’s foresight on that part. Brody also dedicates the book’s first five pagest to her Tips for Making Perfect Cookies, covering everything from ingredients and mixing techniques to freezing, room temperature storage and how to fix any problems that may arise. Even though I’ve been making cookies for years, it is valuable information to have and I suggest that every baker give this section a browse.
Whether you churn out dozens of different kinds for the holidays, or simply like to have a sweet treat in the cookie jar for when you come home, you are sure to find at least a few new options in Esther Brody’s The 250 Best Cookie Recipes Cookbook. While nothing will replace my mom’s shortbreads, I know that I can at least find another treat to call my own!Available on Amazon