People love dichotomies, which exist in infinite number in the world of our kitchens. For example: cooking or baking? Gas or Electric? Cookbooks or websites? Cakes or Cookies? When it comes to this last one, I’ll be brave and say “neither.” Or maybe even: either. Which can I bake, with love, and share it with my family and friends? Baking is a lonely endeavor if there is no one to share it with. This being said, I look forward to December for just this reason — being able to share baking (along with some seasonal cheer!) with my friends and neighbours. Normally, my holiday cookie boxes are modestly packed with a small, yet delicious, variety of cookies and squares. So, 2021 was looking to finish off with another delightful box of cookies delivered around my neighbourhood. But when King Arthur Baking Company posted the New Classics Cookies back at the beginning of December, my cookie plans were tossed and my machinations for Cookiepalooza 2021 took shape.
It’s no secret that I love King Arthur baking products, books, and recipes! Early in 2021, I wrote a review for the revised and updated version of their All-Purpose Baker’s Companion (here). In that review I shared why I trust and enjoy their recipes so much, which is why, when they posted 14 “new classics” cookies, I changed my plans so easily. In the end, 6 of their recipes made it into my holiday cookie box (out of 10) and, they helped set the bar for all my future cookie boxes! Speaking of King Arthur cookie recipes, I was sent a copy of the revised and updated version of the King Arthur Baking Company: The Essential Cookie Companion at the end of last year and it is full of wonderful cookie and cookie-adjacent recipes (think squares and slices)! The cookie recipes are organized into 7 chapters (The Essentials, Bars & Squares, Drop Cookies, Roll-Out Cookies, Shaped Cookies, Batter Cookies, and No-Bake Cookies) with extra information in the “Getting Started” section along with chapters on The Finishing Touch (i.e., icings, fillings, ganache, etc.) and on Ingredients. After reading from and baking through the book, it’s obvious that the recipe developers at King Arthur are passionate about and committed to creating recipes for home bakers to enjoy.
I am in complete agreement when I read “The attraction [to cookies] is one that starts very young”(VII) in the Introduction. One of the first cookies that my daughter and I ever baked together was, in fact, the King Arthur recipe for Animal Crackers. When she was wee, she adored these cookie/crackers and, I thought it would be so much fun to bake them together. It was fun as well as frustrating (as only baking with a two-year-old can be) and the Animal Crackers were perfect. Not too sweet and just the perfect size to fit into her tiny hand. Since then, its one of our favourite recipes, which is why I was so glad to see it included in The Essential Cookie Companion!
In this edition that has been revised and updated there are new variations offered for classic recipes, all-new beautiful photographs, tips to reflect modern bakers, along with practical guidance to help home bakers achieve great results. And the results are everything when it comes to baking! I can confidently say that anything I’ve baked from King Arthur has turned out perfectly! Their devotion to extensively testing their recipes is evident as soon as you take that baking tray from the oven. I appreciate that the ingredients are given so that whether you’re most comfortable baking using volume or weight, you’re covered.
The Essential Cookie Companion is full of tried-and-true recipes — the homey, delicious recipes that have been passed down through generations of bakers. One such recipe is for the Chewy Date-Nut Bars. With only a handful of ingredients, these chewy and moist bars remind me of the kind of thing my grandmother would bake. The sweet stickiness of the chopped dates pairs so well with the chopped walnuts — it’s just as they say in the recipe head notes: “they’re perfect with a cup of tea.”(165) My daughter loves these as an after school snack with a glass of milk. Another recipe with a following that spans decades, the Ruth Wakefield’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars are truly everyone’s favourite. I appreciate that the dough is simply pressed into a jelly roll pan, then sliced after baking (rather than portioning out the dough for individual cookies). The bars are chewy and soft and have the perfect amount of chocolate chips and chopped nuts. Is it any wonder they’re a favourite of my chocolate-or-nothing husband? As a side note, he and my daughter also thought the Rocky Road Bars were delightful too!
When I’m baking for my friends, I never know which cookies are going to be a hit. No one ever says “no” to a box of home-baked cookies, but I love it when I find ones that they love! Take the Brown Sugar Crinkles — these classic crinkle cookies have a perfect butter pecan flavour and a crusty, cragged top with a soft middle. When I gave bags of cookies to my neighbours, one of them texted me to say that out of all the cookies that I’ve made for them, these were the best! Then when I baked a batch of Daisies (buttery cookies with jam-filled centres) for my friend, she told me how much she and her family enjoyed them! The moral of the story here is that there are no bad choices made from The Essential Cookie Companion.
With over 400 different recipes for home bakers of every level, there is always something delectable to bake. There is a reason why the original King Arthur Baking Company: The Essential Cookie Companion is a much-loved cookbook — it’s full of well-tested, flavorsome recipes as well as sharing helpful information on ingredients and techniques. I’m looking forward to a lifetime of baking delicious cookies from this book!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Countryman Press for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.