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Friday, October 18, 2013

Book Review: The 250 Best Cookie Recipes and The 250 Best Brownies Bars & Squares

I have been consistently impressed with the cookbooks I've gotten from Robert Rose, and here are two more winners:  the 250 best cookie recipes, and the 250 best brownie bars & squares.
Sure, you can go online and find recipes; I do it all the time. But it can be time-consuming to sift through them, and often the comments and reviews aren't very useful--somebody is sure to say that they substituted one ingredient for another and changed the oven temperature and cooking time, and then they base their review on that. And for me, if you do a lot of a certain type of cooking, it's nice to have a book handy in your kitchen.
What I like about these books is that they're well-organized, concise, easy to follow, and well illustrated. One trend these days is cookbooks that are dominated by the chef/author's personality, like a cross between a recipe collection and a group of essays. That's fine, but sometimes I just want good recipes. And that's what these books deliver.
The cookie book includes an introductory section on making cookies, with tips on ingredients, mixing, baking and storing. The bulk of the book is taken up by recipes, organized according to cookie type:  drop cookies, sliced, sandwich, and more. The recipes are concise and easy to follow, and though not every recipe is illustrated, there are two sections of excellent color photographs. In addition to the introduction, baking tips are interspersed throughout.
The same format is found in the 250 best brownie bars & squares. The introduction covers how to melt and store chocolate, troubleshooting baking problems, and other basics. The book goes on to cover bars and squares based on chocolate, coconut, fruit, and nuts, plus frostings and glazes and no-bake varieties. You want a basic brownie? It's here in four steps. Want something a little more impressive, if just as easy? How about spicy oatmeal bars with citrus glaze? You'll find them here. And again, the book is well-organized and helpfully laid out with easy-to-follow recipes.
Most of my baking is centered on bread and pizza, but I do like to bake the occasional dessert for family or guests, or a batch of cookies or brownies to share with coworkers. I am pleased to add these volumes to my bookshelf, to give me ideas and simple instructions next time I'm feeling like baking some sweet treats.

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