How many people do you know who will turn down freshly-baked cookies? If you’re tally is like mine, it’s precious few. It’s one of life’s simple pleasures, starting with the aroma in the kitchen emanating from the oven down to the lingering flavor in our mouths and the last little crumbs licked off our fingers.
My first attempt at baking cookies was when I was five. I pushed cookie dough thick into my own miniature baking tins, then carefully removed the tins from the oven under my mother’s watchful eye. I proudly presented the half-baked cookies to my father, whom I knew had a sweet tooth.
Unfortunately, these were barely edible and once he asked my mother if he had to eat my latest offering. “If you want her to become a great cook, yes you do,” she replied. Years later, after the publication of my first cookbook, my father bought an expensive bottle of champagne to celebrate my success – and his willingness to endure my less-than-stellar early attempts at cookies.
All this is to say, cookies are a part of the fabric of many of our lives, whether we baked at home as children (think Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies), the cookies we coveted in our lunch boxes, or the divine cookies baked at home or a special bakery, that satisfy our craving for something chewy, gooey, crispy or crunchy.
Alice Medrich’s new book by just that name, is filled with cookie recipes that will make you want to get out of bed and bake at 11:00 pm, that is, if you are crazy enough to read her book late at night. Truly, it’s the kind of book you should read just after lunch so there’s time to create something fabulous for late afternoon on a rainy day or early in the morning when it’s mid-summer and too hot to have the oven on after noon.
Alice, for the few of you who don’t recognize the name, is a culinary legend. She began her career when her landlady in Paris gave her a recipe for chocolate truffles along with a box of them, when she left to return to California. Later that year she began selling chocolate truffles at the Pig By The Tail Charcuterie across from Chez Panisse. She launched her own chocolate shop, Cocolat, in 1976.
Since launching her iconic store, now long gone, she has written eight cookbooks, the most recent of which is Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy (2010; Artisan, a Division of Workman Publishing Company, Inc.; NY, NY), which has won three cookbook-of-the-year and great praise. She is a member of a number of culinary associations, including Les Dames d’ Escoffier, has appeared on television with many luminaries, including Julia Child, taught classes and consulted at venerable chocolate companies and with famous chocolate entrepreneurs and much, much more. However, despite her great recognition worldwide for her many accomplishments, Alice is a warm, charming and humble woman.
Let me rattle off some of the cookie recipes in her latest book: Cinnamon Stick Tuiles, Wheat-Free Toffee Bars, Bittersweet Decadence Cookies, Chunky Peanut Butter Clouds, Chestnut Macaroons, Spicy Linzer Bars, Alfajores, Sticky Pecan Bites, Cardamom Caramel Palmiers, GoldenKamut Shortbread and Mini-Chocolate Cupcakes with Minty White Chocolate Ganache. That’s only some of the many cookies in her meticulously-researched book. She also has several versions of brownies and chocolate-chip cookies, including one made with barley flour.
How to choose the two recipes for this review? It’s a tough call. In fact, in order to leaf through this book for the twentieth time (I’ve been reading it and baking from it ever since I received a review copy several months ago), I had to eat some ice cream as I haven’t any cookies in the house. However, in order to post a gorgeous picture with the review, I need to bake, so soon I will have…Almond Sables and Bittersweet Decadence Cookies. And for you who are reading this review, don’t just think and drool – buy Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies right here! You’ll be glad you did.