Martha Stewart's Cookies: The Very Best Treats to Bake and to Share [MARTHA STEW]
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Culinary Commetary: Martha Stewart's Cookies Jun 05, 2009
By Anne G. Evans
I have baked EVERY recipe cover-to-cover in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook - & I and now offering my experience with her "Martha Stewart's Cookies". To date, I have baked over 40 of the recipes from "Martha Stewart's Cookies" - at least once
The following is my "Culinary Commentary" on this book:
The Positives [Many]
* This Book's Organization:
o Cookie recipe chapters are organized based on cookie texture [e.g., "Light & Delicate" , "Crumbly & Sandy" ...] which is both unique and exceptionally helpful to the bakers targeting creating a cookie specific to preference [e.g., my husband only likes "Soft and Chewy" cookies]
o The book's opening pages are pictorial representations of each cookie featured in each chapter - enabling the baker to readily select recipes based on both appearance and texture.
* What you see is what you bake!
o Each recipe is accompanied by a color photograph of the finished product - & indeed, if you follow the recipe you will create a "picture perfect" rendition of the recipe
o Each recipe is equally true to its chapter-specific texture - e.g., if a recipe is specified as "Soft and Chewy", if you follow the recipe, it will be "Soft and Chewy".
* A treasured resource for any baker - novice to advanced
o For the novice - ever so many no-fail, crowd-pleasing, really easy recipes [e.g., Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies - page 87]
o For the advanced baker - recipes huge in flavor, yet requiring a commitment to purchasing the absolute best of ingredients & understanding that this amazing creation requires multiple steps requiring attention to detail [e.g., "Chocolate Cherry Crumb Bars" - page 305; "Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti" - page 246.
The Negatives [Few yet Significant]
* The book's binding is terrible. Clearly the binding is done with cheap glue. The consequence is that if "Cookies" is used as it should be [i.e., perpetually as a trusted and frequently used resource] the pages begin to fall out. I had to take my copy to "Staples" to have my copy spiral rebound [i.e., original binding cut, pages spiral cut and spiral plastic binding inserted - no regrets as spiral binding = a book that will lay flat when open which is "baker friendly".
* The page paper quality is not "annotation-friendly". In my opinion, any baker must annotate any recipe with notes specific to what they learned while baking a recipe. I found that any notes that I penned onto the pages of "Martha Stewart's Cookies" tend to smear illegibly unless I was extremely careful to (1) let the ink dry prior to closing the book & (2) never allowing moisture to contact my previously penned notes.
My Favorite Recipes:
* From the chapter on Light and Delicate: "Chocolate Meringues" [pg 33] - an easy introduction into piped cookies.
* From the chapter on Soft and Chewy: hands down it is the "Old Fashioned Sugar Cookie" [pg 87] - amazing cookies and a hard-to-find recipe for this type of cookie.
* From the chapter on Crumbly and Sandy: "Rum Raisin Shortbread" [pg 134] - this cookie is amazing if one uses quality raisins and rum.
* From the chapter on Chunky and Nutty: "Banana-Walnut Chocolate-Chunk Cookies" [pg 170] - everyone loved these and they keep REALLY well.
* From the chapter on Cakey and Tender: "Pear, Pistachio and Ginger Blondies" [pg 201] - so long as THE BEST ingredients are used and these are served same day these are AMAZING cookies.
* From the chapter on Crisp and Crunchy: "Chocolate Black Pepper Cookies" [pg 245] - a real winner with a real bite in flavor!
* From the chapter on Rich and Dense: "Chocolate Cherry Crumb Bars" [pg 305] - time consuming and expensive to make [& mandates the expense of quality ingredients] yet absolutely worth it!
My least Favorite Recipes:
* From the chapter on Light and Delicate: "Candy-Stripe Cookie Stripes" [pg 48] -too much preparation pain for culinary cookie-appreciation gain.
* From the chapter on Soft and Chewy: "Coconut Macaroons" [pg 62] - because I really do not like macaroons. Period!
* From the chapter on Crumbly and Sandy: "Mexican Wedding Cookies" [pg 112] - way too crumbly and dry. A far better rendition can be found in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook [pg 96 of Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook]
* From the chapter on Chunky and Nutty: "Double Chocolate Coconut Cookies" [pg 173] - despite the name, these cookies are incredibly lacking in chocolate flavor.
* From the chapter on Cakey and Tender: "Mini Black-and-White Cookies" [pg 213] - Black and White Cookies simply cannot be "mini" and retain being true to heritage and as such quality.
* From the chapter on Crisp and Crunchy: "Chocolate Pretzels" [pg 223] - dull flavor.
* From the chapter on Rich and Dense: "Cream Cheese Swirl Blondies" [pg 275] - personally, I found the flavor combination unappealing.
My "Culinary Conclusions":
* To the prospective buyer of "Martha Stewart's Cookies": YES. Absolutely purchase the book and use it and learn from it!
* To Martha: Good Grief Martha, for the next edition of your "Martha Stewart's Cookies" please "practice what you preach" i.e., quality! - and as such price in quality binding so that pages will not fall out of this fabulous resource by those that respect, repeatedly use, and treasure your "Baking Handbook".
Anne Evans, MVP*
*MVP = Most Valuable Patisserie