It’s no surprise to me that Gourmet Magazine has within its archive the delicious and tantalizing recipes that are just begging to be lovingly baked at home. What is a surprise – and a very pleasant one at that – is that the recipes are reprinted exactly as they first appeared in the magazine. Those recipes that my grandmother and her mother knew so well and baked from memory, passed down on note cards in carefully elegant script, were not only maintained from the original but were also translated for our current, more vulgar methods of cooking where precision and no assumed knowledge is key.
The cookies range from simple to complex, with pictures accompanying each that bring to the reader’s awareness both what the cookies should (could, if done correctly) look like when finished and how loved the recipes are by those who assembled the book. Each photograph is a painstakingly beautiful masterpiece of a collection of the most delicious cookies – it’s plain to see that the taste testing was not lost on those who carefully tested and tried each recipe yet another time around. Each picture, each recipe, brings another longing to create that masterpiece at home – if only there were more hours in the day to make each and every cookie!
My favorite section is the 1940’s – I love that the recipes are arranged by decade, it means so much more to me to see the historical progression of the recipes than if they were jumbled together and sorted by main ingredient or finished appearance. There is also a commentary included with each recipe, explaining what happened in the world that year that influenced the cookie selection available. I really like the cookies that use honey as a sweetener because sugar was rationed during the war. I can picture my grandmother, in her apron and 1940’s clothing, standing in her mother’s kitchen and making these cookies. I can hear her voice as she tells me about how she wrote to the soldiers in the war and the recipe brings home to me the greatest appreciation for her – for my hero. I know I will be baking these cookies and taking them to her, to show her that I remember – and so does Gourmet Magazine – what happened back then.
My romantic daydreams aside, I do know that these recipes will be appreciated by many. As the mother of a child allergic to peanuts, I also have a huge appreciation for the use of tree nuts – walnuts, almonds, even Brazil nuts – and so many recipes with no peanuts or peanut butter whatsoever. For the novice baker, these cookies will knock the socks off of whoever you need to impress – new brides and fiancees should take heed and bake from this book when meeting your mother-in-law for dinner. Special care is given in the book to denote cookie recipes that were written for the intent of sending to soldiers overseas – and to think that someone will read this book and do the same is wonderful. Experienced bakers will also enjoy the complexities of some of the recipes, they may even recognize the issues of Gourmet from which the recipes were pulled. There is something for everyone here – both for children and also for sophisticated adult palettes, for the young and old, for new traditions and reminders of old memories. I highly recommend that you pick up this book, take it home, ooh and ahhh over the beautiful pictures and then start baking. You won’t be sorry you did!
If you do read this book, whether you try any recipes or not, I’d be very happy to hear what you have to say – and if you do bake from it, let me know how your cookies turn out!
Disclosure: This book was offered as a free galley read by the publisher. I have received no compensation for reviewing this book.
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