Despite all the cookie collections that have recently hit bookshelves, "The Gourmet Cookie Book" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is not just any old compendium of cookies. This book lists the single best recipe for each year from 1941 to 2009, offering not only an archive of the best cookies over the decades, but documenting America's history and evolving taste buds through its cookies.
Its honey refrigerator cookies, for example, were published in 1942 when the war was on and sugar was rationed and Gourmet did "its patriotic bit" by printing an article telling its readers how to use honey in place of sugar.
The mocha toffee bars were published in 1987 when the stock market had just crashed and Gourmet was trying to cheer up its readers "with visions of a prosperous and patriotic holiday season" and printed a recipe for this decadent combination of buttery toffee and chocolate.
Even if the illuminating blurb accompanying every recipe isn't enough to win you over, I can guarantee you will appreciate the full-page glossy full-colour photo of each cookie. Let's face it, we eat with our eyes as much as we eat with our mouths and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.
Truth be told, you could find all these recipes online at http://www.epicurious.com/ but if you truly love baking and are still feeling Gourmet's loss in the publishing world, you will want this book for your collection. It includes the best cookies from every era without including too many of the tried-tested-and-true recipes you will find at elementary school bake sales and compiles them in an easy-to-navigate format. You will find some gems in here you probably never heard of. So - buy it. Don't put it on your Christmas wish list because you will want it before the holiday season to start baking. You'll be covered in flour in no time.
As an incentive to buy this book, just because I know you will love it once you own it, I will let you in on a little secret. If you are curious to know how old I am, I'll tell you this - the Cloudt's Pecan Treats were published in the year I was born. Now, aren't you dying to flip through the book?
Quick and dirty review of recipes I tried:
Pecan tassies (1985): I had never even heard of these miniature pecan tarts until this year and suddenly they are everywhere (see photo above). These butter-drenched nut tarts are made of a cream cheese pastry and they taste just as good a couple of days later than they do when they first come out of the oven. You will need a mini-muffin tin but if you have gotten this far in this blog post, you probably love baking as much as I do, and you have a tin in the drawer under your oven. (Am I right?)
Glittering lemon sandwich cookies (2008): Full disclaimer here: I made and blogged about these a while back, and I wasn't surprised to see them featured in this book because they are often featured in Epicurious' top ten cookie lists, which is where I first discovered them. What did I think? Well, they are gorgeous, perhaps slightly lacking in flavour but that's not what my husband would say. Click on the link above to read my full post.
Kourambiedes (1974/1975): These Greek butter cookies had all the makings of a successful recipe. They came via a restaurant owner of Greek origins, and included liqueur, lots of butter, and blanched almonds. Yum. I could almost imagine them crumbling in my mouth. And then I made them. Big, huge, utter, epic fail.
There was no saving these cookies. I could barely taste the sugar and the consistency was almost mealy. My husband told me he couldn't stand the eggy taste. And yet I only used one egg yolk. Don't make this one, I don't think its salvageable. No, I know it's not salvageable.
And despite this. I urge you to buy this book. If for no reason but to play the "which cookie was featured on my birth year" game.