When it comes to the cookie world, what's your poison? I'm a sucker for almost any variety of chocolate chip. Cookies seem to be a staple of the holiday diet, and it's one that I can't refuse. Have you been to a cookie exchange? Holiday bake sale? Are you one of those people who picks up the refrigerated cookie dough at the grocery, heats it up and calls it done? If so, and you're bored with that, I have just the thing.
There is a wide variety of cookie books out there. Yes, cookbooks that are just about cookies. I had no idea there were so many concoctions of crispy, chewy and captivating cookie confections.
I've pulled together some of our newer cookie books and found a few to suit every culinary flavor:
— In "One Sweet Cookie" by Tracey Zabar, celebrated chefs share their favorite recipes. Helpful hints start out the book, most recipes have pictures and some recipes call for more extravagant ingredients.
— "Julia M. Usher's Ultimate Cookies" is a book of fancy and highly detailed three-dimensional cookies with lots of whimsical decorations. This one is not for the amateur. A list of resources in the back is necessary to tell you where to find some of the crazy elements for the designs.
— "Christmas Cookies From the Whimsical Bakehouse" by Kaye Hansen and Liv Hansen has beautifully vivid photographs of each cookie. It includes common varieties and increases difficulty to the fancier recipes at the end.
— I liked the innovative "Mason Jar Cookie Cookbook" by Lonnette Parks. This one is for the gift giver who likes to give recipes to others included with a glass jar of ingredients. Great ideas for the holidays.
— The spiral binding makes it easier to read "Baker's Field Guide to Christmas Cookies" by Dede Wilson. Included are more than 75 cookies ranging from ginger snaps to coconut snowballs to toffee chocolate chunk almond bars. Great photos plus a helpful ingredients index makes this one a winner.
— "The Cookie Jar Cookbook" by Good Housekeeping starts with advice on butter versus margarine, the different types of flour and chocolates and which tools to use for accurate measuring. I also learned that apparently the darker no-stick pans cause the bookies to burn more easily. Sections include drop cookies, shaped cookies, icebox cookies and brownies and bar cookies. The easy-to-follow recipes include nutritional facts.
— The people at Gourmet magazine have given us "The Gourmet Cookie Book" and boasts "The Single Best Recipe from each year 1941-2009." Each cookie is given two pages, which include a lovely picture, a brief history of the cookies or the circumstances and the full recipe.
— In "Crazy About Cookies" by Krystina Castella, the reader is given so much introductory information, that I was on Page 53 before I even got to a recipe. But the book had more than 300 kinds of cookies, and there was a nice index with ingredients if I had something on hand that I wanted to use.
— Divided by most requested, family favorites, bake sale cookies, brownies, then holiday cookies, "Best of the Pillsbury Bake-Off Cookies & Bars" is from the good people at General Mills. Nutritional info is listed for each cookie. Although most ranged from 70 to 140 calories, I found one that boasted 430 calories for one bar: the chocolate chip peanut butter squares. Each recipe listed the baker's name, city and the year they won the bake-off.
— Last but not least, we have "Best Ever Cookies" by Gooseberry Patch. This one has spiral binding and is formatted like an old church recipe book. It has no color pictures but lists some great recipes with the provider's name and hometown. It also has cute little country helpful hints, like "Arrange scrumptious home-baked goodies on a three-tiered cake stand for a delightful dessert tray that doesn't take up much space on a buffet."
So now there are no excuses. It's time to get out there, get your recipes and start baking. Let us know your favorite recipes, and we'll lead you to even more cookbooks.
Kelly Strom is the collection manager at the Champaign Public Library. She orders books, magazines, newspapers, audiobooks and CDs.