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November/December 2010 Baking Cookbook of Two Months: MAIDA HEATTER'S COOKIE RECIPES & READY FOR DESSERT, David Lebovitz

The winners of the November/December 2010 Baking Cookbook of the Month are MAIDA HEATTER'S COOKIE RECIPES WHERE EVER YOU CAN FIND THEM and READY FOR DESSERT: My Best Recipes, by David Lebovitz.

This thread will be a place to discuss ingredients, techniques and the books in general. On November 1st, the recipe threads for these two cookbooks will be posted. Please wait to post your reviews until those threads are up so that we have them nicely organized going forward. I should add that my library may or may not be able to deliver these books to me in time. If a few of you already have these books on their shelves, would you email me with the name of the books you own? I might need your help to create the proper threads.

For our new members, reviewing a recipe is easy. Locate the best thread for your dish, post the name of the recipe and page number, and then review away!

Some of the questions you might answer include: Did it come out well? Did you modify the ingredients? Was the seasoning good or did you need less/more? How did your family like it? Would you make it again? Is this a quick weekday or a company is coming recipe? Did your kid(s) like it? And bonus points for photos.

Enjoy!

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  1. Thanks smtucker for wading through all the discussions. This is going to be so much fun!

    1 Reply
    1. re: roxlet

      Absolutely, I've been baking from Ms. Heatter since the late '70's, her recipes are staples, wonderful, and the Lebovitz looks like great fun.

    2. I am very excited for holiday baking. Hoping to carve out some time to bake along.

      But I am a little confused. My library has Maida Heatter's Cookie and Maida Haetter's Book of Great cookies. Which one should I get? Do they contain the same recipes?

      2 Replies
      1. re: greeneggsnham

        The winner was COOKIES, any cookie recipe of Maida Heatter's that you can find, regardless of its origin. This is pretty wide open I believe. Get both!

        1. re: smtucker

          According to the dust jacket, Maida Heatter's Cookies "collects every single cookie recipe from three of Maida's long-out-of-print cookbooks" which are her "Book of Great Cookies" and "New Book of Great Desserts", and "Book of Great American Desserts".

          Here's a link to the book on Amazon as jen provided: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7389...

          ~TDQ

      2. I'm thinking this might be the time to finally buy a stand mixer? I just opened the Heatter cookie book at random to 3 different recipes and each one says "In the large bowl of an elctric mixer..."
        Is butter creamed by mixer going to be different, or just easier?

        16 Replies
        1. re: blue room

          Just easier, I baked for 20 yrs with a cheapo hand electric mixer (and by hand), her recipes too.

          1. re: blue room

            If you don't have a mixer at all, and are thinking of adding one to your batterie de cuisine, I'd definitely go for a hand mixer. I've never had a stand mixer, and found there's not too much that can't be done with a wooden spoon or hand mixer, especially if it's cookies you're aiming to bake.

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              The new ones (Cuisinart etc) are very good and not very expensive. I still have my 1973 Hamilton Beach in turquoise and white!

              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                If you want to make heatter's Palm Beach Brownies, that feature I think a 10 min beating of the eggs and sugar, your hand will get tired from the vibration! but sure, why not.

                1. re: jen kalb

                  I know what you mean, Jen. I haven't made that recipe, but I've done a few that involved holding the hand mixer for a loooong time, and it taxed my arm way more than the mixer. But most baking recipes don't demand a stand mixer.

                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                    My mother never had one and my mother-in-law abandoned hers when her '50s Mixmaster died. I love my KA and have had it since 1987 but it's certainly not essential.

                    1. re: buttertart

                      I grew up with a KA and have had one of my own for 25 years. No question I could bake without it but it definitely makes life easier for cakes, cookies and bread. Dont know if I would be strong enuf to make bread without that dough hook!

                      1. re: jen kalb

                        I generally use the food processor for bread dough.

                        1. re: jen kalb

                          I tell my husband that I married him for his KA. Like yours, it is an old model which I have heard is better since all the component parts are metal, not plastic. I got a Electolux Assistant for Christmas about 5 years ago, and it is incredible for bread, but because there is no paddle beater, not so great for cookies and cakes. Despite the embarrassment of mixer riches, I frequently make cookies by hand anyway.

                  2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                    Would I be right to think that of these 3-- cakes, cookies, bread -- I would want a stand mixer LEAST for cookies?

                    1. re: blue room

                      a stand mixer is good for any recipe that requres creaming of butter and sugar and such or that requires a beating time of several minutes. You can walk away and prepare other elements while a stand mixer is working rather than being chained to it. But if you do all your prep ahead and have all your ingredients ready around you (eggs shelled and ready, pan greased, etc) you will be ok. Im a big multitasker but if you are methodical and arent trying to do too many things (i.e. baking at the same time you are mixing) you will be probably go almost as quickly

                      1. re: jen kalb

                        You know, I just watched a little video
                        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRBX-4...
                        that helped a lot--
                        it made clear that the butter should be @ room temp, not melty from the microwave, and you want air mixed into the butter, and then the sugar should be dissolved, not grainy. I do hate it when a recipe calls for "fluffy" butter--to me, fluffy is a dry quality like down in a pillow! But if they mean that air has been incorporated, OK I get it. My hand mixer has klunky blades (like an old egg beater). I notice the one in the video has thin (whisk) beaters -- I wonder if that is important?

                        1. re: blue room

                          You might also find this article helpful in regards to butter and cookie baking: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/17/din...

                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                            Bingo! Timely information and much appreciated that you took the trouble to find this. The article contains so much of the kind of things I want to know.

                      2. re: blue room

                        I would say that you need a stand mixer least for cookies, of those items. I have made a variety of cakes, and my mother did before me, including some that require long whipping of eggs and sugar, with only a hand mixer, and not found it a burden, though it would certainly be easier with a stand mixer (as would the springerle my family used to bake for Christmas, again with long-whipped eggs and sugar).

                        I currently have a $20 Black & Decker hand mixer that I bought at a drugstore when my previous one died literally in the middle of mixing cooking project that I could not sacrifice, and it has plenty of power and works great, certainly exceeding my expectation for an emergeny run to CVS..

                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                          I read recently (either in Bake! or this Lebovitz) that you don't want to overbeat the butter and sugar for most cookies, that it causes them to rise and then fall and spread in the oven. So hand mixing (or hand mixer) is just as useful.

                  3. Given that Maida Heatter has many different books that include cookie recipes, plus there are no doubt many available online that may or may not indicate which book they are from, perhaps one general thread for Maida Heatter's cookies would suffice, or if that threatens to be too unwieldy, two or three threads classed by general types (e.g., drop cookies; rolled and molded cookies; bar cookies).

                    2 Replies
                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                        Already built the threads with this idea firmly in mind. Great to know that the bakers agree!

                      2. smtucker, the second review down on Amazon's Ready for Dessert listing has a chapter breakdown that lists everything in the book, in case that's helpful to you.

                        http://www.amazon.com/Ready-Dessert-M...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                          This is terrific! My library system has 18 copies of this book, and not one of them is available, so I can't be sure that I will receive it before November 1st. Now I can sleep at night!

                        2. Just spotted on Jessica's Biscuit. Ready for Dessert, 40% off. I haven't done a big price comparison, so do your own research before buying!

                          http://www.ecookbooks.com/p-24462-rea...

                          12 Replies
                          1. re: smtucker

                            I just finished looking around for Ready for Dessert online. Several of the reviews on Amazon complained that there were no (or few) color photos. Is this true? One of the posters says that the reviewers mentioning this lack may be those who got an early copy of the book before color photos were added.. The preview photos of the book I saw somewhere certainly did have color photos....anybody have any info on this?

                            1. re: oakjoan

                              I would describe the book as being dotted with photographs. It certainly does not have photographs of every recipe.

                              1. re: roxlet

                                There are enough to be satisfying and tantalizing, don't you think?

                                1. re: buttertart

                                  Yes, I do think so, but I also don't know about the other issue -- whether there was an earlier iteration that had fewer photos. I got my copy for a great price -- about $14 I think-- at Home Goods while I was on vacation. When I got it home, I realized that the recipe for rice pudding had been torn out and was missing. I decided to not return the book since I despise rice pudding anyway. I think that there might have been a photo on that page that was missing though...

                                  1. re: roxlet

                                    I read through it and don't remember thinking jeez I wish there were more photos. But then I've been trained by Maida Heatter's almost unillustrated books among others to have a good food mental image generator.

                              2. re: oakjoan

                                Do you think people are complaining because cookbooks without pictures are less entertaining & nice to own, or because they feel it really helps them to cook the dishes? Well, it must be both, I realize as I'm typing this.
                                One of the best baking books I own has only black and white drawings. I've also made the mistake of relying on pictures and missing very crucial details in the text.
                                Of course I love seeing the pictures here with the COTM posts!
                                It does occur to me that photos would be more important in a dessert cookbook than in a meat & potatoes book (?) Inside my 1988 "Paula Wolfert's World of Food" there are NO pics.

                                1. re: blue room

                                  It is both, of course, but sometimes it really helps to see what the final product looks like, especially if you are unfamiliar with a dish. Or, sometimes, a photo will seem more (or less) appealing than the recipe itself.

                                  But, on the other hand, you can cram a lot more recipes into a book if there are no photos!

                                  ~TDQ

                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                    Photos increase the cost of book production by a whole heck of a lot, too. That's why novels are say $24.95 or so and cookbooks $40 + .

                                    1. re: buttertart

                                      How-to photos are great, but photoshopped touched-up food-stylist pictures don't really advance the cause. They do make you want to buy the book.

                                      1. re: blue room

                                        I don't necessarily need "how to" photos: sometimes just a shot of the final dish is enough, but only if it accurately represents the final product!

                                        ~TDQ

                                  2. re: blue room

                                    I was sitting here pondering that question when I realized how much I loved both Mai Pham's Vietnamese book and the Gourmet Today book; I don't think there are any pictures in either one. So, while I love pictures, and they do help, I think they're not really necessary.

                                  3. re: oakjoan

                                    I looked at it in a bookstore -- it had pictures. (/shrug)
                                    Maybe because it's such a large book, there's some other expectation, more like the traveloguey cookbooks? Beats me...it's glossy.

                                    Amazon has an extensive Look Inside for Lebovitz's "Ready", so you can see for yourself. Not every page of course, but you can get an accurate feel for his style.
                                    http://www.amazon.com/reader/15800813...

                                    The good news is, his fabulous fresh ginger cake recipe from "Room For Dessert" is in this one.

                                2. I don't know if this is true of all her books, but I just got a look at Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies, and it appears to have what I think of after discussion earlier this month as the Barefoot Contessa Problem: in the section on ingredients, she says that, unless otherwise specified, eggs should be extra large. (I haven't looked in any detail, but the only "otherwise specified" I noticed was in one recipe, "or jumb.") If I make any of these recipes, I will probably just use the large that I am likely to have around.

                                  Question for those who have baked from Heatter in the past: Which of her cookie recipes do you particularly like?

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                    One that springs immediately to mind without looking at any of her books is called Charlie Browns. It is a dough where you break off pieces, roll in dry roasted peanuts that have been chopped, make a depression in the middle, put a small gob of peanut butter and then cover that with mini chocolate chips. They are quite a bit of trouble, but oh my! A sort of sophisticated Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in cookie form.

                                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                      Caitlin, I have "Maida Heatter's Cookies" 1997. There's a page stating that the recipes in it were originally published in 3 other books-- 1977 (which is the one you have, "...Great...") and 1982 and '85.

                                      But in my book she says unless otherwise specified, use eggs graded .. large.

                                      1. re: blue room

                                        That is interesting. I don't imagine it makes a huge difference, and as I said, I would just go ahead and use lagre, anyway.

                                      2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                        I love her rugelach recipe (in MH's Book of Great cookies) and was planning on making them even before this COTM. That book was the first baking cookbook I ever had-- I remember really liking the Farmer's Wife's Pecan cookies, though now I wonder if I would find them a bit tough. My sister has always loved the Vanilla Bar Wafers, a very plain cookie (the phrase "shortbread gone wrong-- but in a good way" comes to mind).

                                        I haven't baked from her in a long time, though I have very fond memories of trying her recipes and actually having them turn out the way she described (a new experience at the time). Really looking forward to trying out some different recipes this time and baking alongside the 'Hounds.

                                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                          I'd never noticed reference to ex-l eggs (and wouldn't have paid attention to it if I had, most likely). Make the Hungarian Walnut Shortbread...especially with the new walnuts you must have in the stores there...wow.

                                          1. re: buttertart

                                            I looked up the Hungarian Walnut Bars, and they do look good (and rich, with two layers of shortbread and the walnut filling). Makes me think of this walnut torte recipe of my mothers, which she made for birthdays and such, with two layers of walnut cake and a cooked walnut filling.