Holiday Gift For Wife Getting Into Cookie Making
My wife has recently gotten more into making cookies and I wanted to get her a holiday "gift set" to encourage this habit! I was thinking a good cookbook and any side equipment.
As for cookbook I saw Maida Heater's cookbook recommended in other threads. But I know she also likes stuff with pictures and it doesn't seem this has it. Anything else that folks recommend that have good interesting recipes with pictures...
And is there any equipment (silicon baking sheets, cooling racks etc). Figure this is a good way to use our 20% off coupons at BBB...
Off the top of my head, I'd say baking sheets and cooling racks are a great idea, along with pre-cut parchment sheets, ice cream scoops of various sizes (they make getting your cookies evenly sized a snap), oven mitts, fun molds and cutters, etc. Also, if she likes frosting/decorating, you could get her decorating bags and tips, food colorings, etc.
All of this^^^. And an extra note on cooling racks... get the kind that can stack on each other. If she makes a large quantity of cookies at once the racks can take up a lot of counter space. The stacking ones help with that. Oh and get the metal baking "half sheets" with the sides, not the non-stick variety.
Also there seems to be mixed opinions, but I really do like my silicon baking mats. Others prefer parchment. I've found the best prices to be on amazon.com for them though, not a brick & mortar store.
Not sure if she getting into cookies in general or specific kinds but the "Cookie Bible" is very basic cookbook for someone just getting started. To that you could include a roll of good parchment paper, a couple of silpats, cooling racks and cookie sheets.
If she likes or is interested in cut out cookies you could pick out some special/sentimental cookie cutters. They make so many cool ones so you could find one of your state or the state your were married, letters that spell our your names or initials, a variety of heart shapes, stars, moons. If you have animals (or she loves them) there are dogs, cats, pigs, cows etc.
re: cookie monster
that was my idea -- I was jumping up and down like a four-year-old when I opened the 6-quart Artisan Kitchenaid my hubby gave me for Christmas a few years ago.
it has turned out literally thousands of cookies over the last several years (I was the chief cookie supplier for the youth football league...it takes a LOT of cookies!) -- and shows no signs of stopping.
re: cookie monster
Thanks for all the quick responses. To answer some questions:
(1) I don't think she will be in to decorating - she primarily likes cookies b/c they take less time and less fuss than baking other things and my guess is decorating defeats that purpose
(2) Scoop and shapes sound like a fun idea
(3) Yes I think a kitchen aid mixer may be in the pipeline at some point
Any other cookbooks recommended to start with?
I just checked out my cook book shelves and the ones I own are:
Martha Stewart Cookies
Gourmet Cookie Cookbook (1941-2009)
Rose's Christmas Cookies
I probably use my Joy of Cooking cookbook the most for cookies since I tend to stick to the basics-chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin and sugar cookies. But I have to say that I love Rose's for cookie swaps as she has a huge selection and many of them are good for beginners or moderate bakers. Martha's is good too but I don't use as often. The Gourmet one is a great read, almost a coffee table book. If she likes to read cookbooks or enjoys reading food mags you can't go wrong with that one.
I love making cookies :) especially at Christmas, but most of my recipes are ones that have been passed down. I do have a list of favorites for tools, though :) 1) Silicone baking mats (make clean up 1,000x easier), 2) airbake/insulated cookie sheets 3) For roll out cookies, a good pastry mat that's NOT silicone. I have a Norpro one that has a wooden frame and is canvas. 4) Kitchenaid mixer - I've never happily made cookies without it :) 5) To go WITH the kitchenaid, I love my glass bowl and scraper blade - the scraper blade is perfect for the creaming stage of cookies 6) Cooling racks, not picky about brand or anything 7) If she likes rolled cookies at all, Wilton comfort grip cookie cutters are my favorites :) 8) I second the good vanilla, but get the vanilla beans (B Grade) and make your own in vodka ("steep" for 6 months) - super cheap and the best tasting vanilla you'll ever have 10) If you want fun ideas for stocking stuffers, find sprinkles/cookie cutters/fancy/gourmet baking chips (These really are in no particular order :))
writing without reading responses, sorry, no time at the moment cause I owe a recipe on here and way late in doing that.
so my $ .02
1. cooling racks aren't that important to me. I have 4 and honestly don't usually use them. again, that may be just me.
2. have been given as gifts silicone sheets and although I do love them, I find more often than not, I use parchment paper on top of the cookie sheets and the parchment I use is on a roll so I can rip/cut where I want it. and yes, I have bought presized parchment sheets, they're fine but for the extra cost, to me, not worth it, I'll rip.
3. it's a huge gift and expensive but I couldn't love my Ruby Red Kitchen Aid stand mixer more.
husband was a smart guy all those years ago when he spent a bundle @ Sears. :o
4. love my 4 sizes of ice cream scoops, boy they really do help and the cookies are all pretty much the same.
5. a marble rolling pin. my son used and loved mine so much I bought him one for his birthday. it's heavy and rolls beautifully plus stays cold, my sole opinion, maybe alone here.
6. extracts and decorations. I collect, no not kidding, jimmies/sprinkles/sugars etc. and have them always on hand for decorating. a box or ? of food coloring. extracts necessary in my kitchen are:lemon/orange/anise/chocolate/vanilla/coconut/almond/butter.
7. certain utensils such as offset spatula, good flipper, mixing spoons, specialty measuring cups/spoons
good luck to her and you're gonna be a very happy husband.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays
There have been lots of good recommendations so far, but one item that is missing is the cookie press. It's an absolute must for Christmas spritz cookies and elaborate designs. Some kits also come with pastry bags, so you kill two birds with one stone.
Thanks for all the amazing feedback. I think i know what i'm looking for at BBB:
baking sheets, cooling racks and scoops.
the last thing is the book. I'm a bit torn btw. the betty crocker, maida heater and the all american cookie book. Is one best for both newer baker but still interesting options...
Many of the cookie recipes I grew up with (and still use) are Betty Crocker... molasses crinkles, chocolate crinkles et al. I grew up thinking they were grandma's secret recipes LOL I was very disheartened to find out they just came out of the plain old Betty Crocker cookbook. I don't find the shortening to be off in them, although usually I use butter instead of actual shortening. Which recipes are you looking at where it seems to be off?
I do not like shortening myself and stopped baking all recipes that call for it. I need to go back and try snickerdoodles with coconut oil and see how they turn out--used to be a signature recipe for me.
I understand about liking pictures, but Maida is simply the best. If you really get into cookies, you gotta have Maida. One of her cookie cookbooks has a cover with a picture of many of the cookies all together--that would be a compromise. The old Martha Stewart Christmas book has many good cookie recipes in it and has pictures, BUT, they can be misleading as the lighting and darkness of the photo may be artistic and not that helpful to a baker.
I love cooling racks (small grid is essential), jelly roll pans, and pre-cut parchment (Silpats are just one more thing to clean). Something else that's really useful if she bakes many cookies at once (like I used to at Christmas) is extra bowls for the KitchenAid, an extra paddle, extra measuring cups and spoons, so that you don't have to stop to wash things or wait for the dishwasher but can immediately jump in with the next batch.
I originally started baking cookies as an anti-buttercream measure--I like them because they are less sweet than many American desserts. I don't really mind trouble if I'm going for something fancy. House on the Hill has the best cookie molds, but I won't lie to you, they are more work. http://houseonthehill.net/
Good luck and may we all receive such thoughtful gifts this holiday season :)
PS Forgot about the "in between" measuring cups, like 3/4 and 1 1/2 cups. Those are a godsend.
What a wonderful gift idea for your wife! I'm sure she'll love it (and you'll certainly get to reap the benefits)!
If I had to choose only 1 cookbook then for a new-er cookie baker I would go with the BC. And I say that as the owner of over 1000 cookbooks. BC has lots of yummy, old-fashioned cookies with plenty of pictures and recipes that are pretty much fool-proof, which means that she'll get great results every time. But, you know your wife best -- the BC can seem more 'simple' while some of the other books more 'fancy'.
Regarding the butter v shortening. Butter adds a lot of flavor to a recipe but, as others have noted, the cookie usually will be more crisp, spread more and, therefore, be a little more flat. Cookies made with shortening, which has no flavor to speak of, will be higher (won't spread as much), be lighter and usually more chewey. Honestly, there are some cookies, like my sugar cookies, that I will ~only make with butter, and there are others where shortening is more desireable.
Also, I wanted to say something about the baking sheets, since I've bought some in the past that didn't work for me. My preference is the light-colored (silver) heavy-duty sheets that may be labeled 'restaurant-quality' and that also are sometimes called 'jelly roll' pans. I'd try if possible to get at least 4. That way as one batch of 2 sheets is baking in the oven, she can be prepping the next batch on cool sheets. For a new baker, you might want to get 2 cookie sheets and 2 cooling racks so she feels like she has a true 'baking set' but, honestly, if I was making the purchase and had to choose between 4 cookie sheets and 2 sheets, 2 racks, then I would go with the cookie sheets. Newspaper and wax paper on any flat surface is sufficient for most drop-type cookies.
Keep your eye out for sales in Jan/Feb for the mixer. They sometimes also show up at places like Tues Morn (not sure if I can say a full store name on this site). The KA stand mixer really is a must-have for a baker. They're pricey but worth it -- unfortunately a food processor just doesn't do the same job as a mixer for cookies. But, look at it this way, you'll have her birthday present all lined up. :)
Ha! Probably the best suggestion!
I decided to purchase the martha stewart book - has good photos with a nice balance between classic and creative and another friend swears by it...
Chanukah is around the corner so gotta act fast! but if all goes well i'm sure more books will be in store. i think some of the other suggestions look good for once you get beyond the basics...
thanks all for the tips!
How about Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy by Alice Medrich?
Or The All-American Cookie Book by Nancy Baggett?
Or, as already mentioned, Rose's Christmas Cookies by Rose Levy Berenbaum.
Be sure to get REAL half sheet pans from a Sam's/Costco or a restaurant supply store. These last forever and are a kitchen necessity.
Cookie scoops are GREAT.
Cooling racks for sure. The bottoms of the cookies need air to avoid sogginess.
A no-nonsense metal spatula from a restaurant supply store.
KITCHENAID. 5 quart.
What a thoughtful gift you're putting together benny, I'm sure your wife will be incredibly thrilled.
You mention that your wife likes cookbooks with pictures and I do too so let me recommend a book that's on my Christmas list as well:
SIMPLY SENSATIONAL COOKIES by Nancy Baggett
Nancy is an award winning baker and food journalist and her recipes are known to be reliable and tasty. I had an opportunity to look through the book in the store and it was love at first sight! The book is chock full of beautiful photographs and the recipes really do look "Sensational".
Don't forget to put some Post-it tabs in your goody basket as well so she can mark all the recipes she wants to bake. Better yet, why don't you mark some you'd love to try!!
I know lots of folks love silicone liners but for most cookies, I much prefer parchment paper. Recently someone on Chowhound mentioned that King Arthur sells pre-cut parchment sheets, perfectly sized for baking sheets. I was so excited I ordered them right away. I've already started using them and they make clean up quick and easy. Here's a link in case that sounds like something she may be interested in: