For me life's simple pleasures are the best: petting my dog and cats, strolling through the garden (or as in this time of year, a seed catalogue), chatting with friends, sipping an aromatic cup of tea before the fire. And there's the quiet pleasure of flipping through a new cookbook, with the promise of so many new recipes and ideas for future edibles waltzing through my head. And when the new cookbook is about baking, there's always the alchemical magic of having simple ingredients puff up into cakes, pastries, biscuits or other treats.
So it was with pleasure that I have been reading through and baking from Stacy Adimando's new cookbook: The Cookiepedia: Mixing, Baking and Reinventing the Classics (Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2011, $18.95). I have my favorite cookies to bake up at holiday time, but there's always the excitement of trying out something new for my cookie tray and I'm happy to report that the Dried Fruit Cookies I made from her recipe (p. 87 - subbing in a blend of sorghum, tapioca starch, white rice flour and a 1/2 tsp. of xanthan gum for the wheat flour to make them gluten-free) made a wonderful batch of cookies that disappeared in no time. The cookies were chewy and studded with nuggets of dried cranberries, with a hint of cinnamon. Perfect!
The Cookiepedia is a great example of graphic design. The durable covers and wire spiral binding lay out flat so that a baker can use this workhouse of a cookbook over and over without banging it up. There are many color photos of what the final product should look like and Adimando adds in tips about handling dough, baking times and ways to alter the recipe to make even novice cooks feel comfortable in the kitchen. There is even space for owner notes in each recipe and the author actively encourages readers to experiment with variations on each cookie recipe.
The book is interestingly organized. There are chapters on Buttery Cookies, Chocolaty Cookies, Fancy Cookies, Fruity Cookies, Spicy Cookies and Nutty and Seedy Cookies. Readers will find many traditional recipes for Snickerdoodles, Thumbprints, Shortbread and Brownies, but there are many other unusual cookie species to explore as well. I am looking forward to making some delicate Green Tea Cookies and Alfajores (buttery sandwich cookies filled with dulce de leche) in the New Year, for sure!
I enjoyed reading through the introductory chapter on the ABCs of Cookie Baking and picked up some new information to incorporate in my baking routines. Unlike many baking projects, cookies are fun and uncomplicated and the author certainly relays this playfulness in her directions for each recipe. It's easy to relax and just tinker around with her recipes, and this spirited combination of prose, photos and other illustrations really sets this cookie cookbook apart from the many other baking cookbooks I've seen.
My only quibble with this cookbook is its title. With just over 50 recipes and 160 pages, I would hardly refer to this cookbook as being encyclopedic. Sure, there are many variations suggested for each recipe, but it does not encompass the universe of cookie recipes. Still, aside from this overly ambitious title, I have really enjoyed poring over this stylish, fun new cookbook and it has earned a (floury) place in my cookbook library.
Note: I received a review copy of this cookbook from the publisher, but I was under no obligation to write a review, favorable or no. My comments are, as always, completely my own.