Milk & Cookies: 89 Heirloom Recipes from New York's Milk & Cookies Bakery Hardcover – Apr 6 2011
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About the Author
Tina Casaceli is the chef/owner of Milk & Cookies and a pastry instructor at the French Culinary Institute. She lives in New York City.
Antonis Achilleos is an award-winning food photographer.
Jacques Torres is an acclaimed pastry chef, author, television personality, and chocolatier. He lives in New York City.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I bought this book in Tina's store in NY within an hour of trying one of her cookies. A food tour took us by Milk & Cookies where we sampled Tina's amazing chocolate chip cookies (which I'd still recommend to anyone!). The book is incredibly disappointing.
I bake a lot, and while I've made mistakes before, I've tried several times to use this book and am sure I didn't make any mistakes in following directions EVERY time. I also used a scale to measure ingredients, and keep premium ingredients in my house.
Like others here, I agree the measurements are off. The first recipe I tried was the one that made me buy the book in the first place: the chocolate chip cookie. And like others, mine went wide and flat, delicious, but with a poor texture. There's no shortage of tasty cookie recipes. Funny thing about mixing fat, flour, and sugar in large quantities, it generally tastes good. I bought the book to hit that texture and balance I'd never seen in a cookie before.
And like others, I'm left to experiment. I increased the flour, and they're still unsatisfactory. I increased it even further, and they're STARTING to get closer to where I want them to be. I could also try processing the oats less, decreasing the butter, adding additional oats at the end to help with structure and chewiness, or kneading the dough longer (something borderline unheard of with quick breads). I could try all these things and more. I didn't buy the book to waste ingredients and guess at the missing parts to a recipe. I bought the book to replicate the cookies that sold me on the book in the first place. I had no shortage of "fun ideas" for baking. This book provides little more than a finger pointing in the general direction for success.
I'm giving it two stars because the pictures are enticing, there are some incredibly good ideas for cookies (despite the passive aggressive traps that are the inaccurate measurements), I haven't tried all the recipes (maybe there are more accurate ones, but from fellow reviewers, it doesn't look that way), and because the book is all around laid out very smartly, with each cookie in its own "family," an additional section on cookie-related recipes, and a smart bit of advice in the front that the author seemed to completely ignore.
I paid just under full price for the book. It was $24.95 and the tour I was on gave me a 10% off coupon. I would honestly not buy this book even if it were $5. I've already wasted well over $30 in ingredients for cookies unsatisfactory to present to co-workers or friends. Even in my home, each bite is bitter with the wasted potential of this book.
Edit 11/13/11: I am changing this from 2 to 5 stars. I've had the book for some time now, and had a chance to go through many of the recipes. I think I found what was causing them to go flat for everyone, and it's odd that it isn't emphasized more in the book. When it says to whip the butter to "light and creamy," they really mean whip the bejesus out of it. I put it on a Kitchen Aid mixer with the whisk attachment and just leave it on for a good 5-6 minutes on medium. I discovered this when I got distracted and left it on for far longer than I usually do; I had no idea butter could take on that texture, it reminded me of whipping egg whites to stiff peaks. I guess that "thicker" butter holds everything together long enough for the flour to do its job in the oven, versus going to liquid too soon and causing the whole structure to collapse (pure conjecture). I've made the chocolate chip cookie recipe 6 times now, and they've always gone flat and wide until I found this technique out, and the past two times they've been spot on examples of Tina's shop. Anyways, that's the first crucial thing that should be bolded in her print. As for the other, I suppose not overworking the dough. She says to knead it, but I ignore her, and lightly work the dry into the wet until just combined. That one is more common baking knowledge, but I just wanted to mention it.
So, bottom line: whip the butter! I haven't done every recipe yet, but I've done a few from each chapter and this one change is when everything started to work correctly.
12FEB12 update: Also don't do too small scoops. I tried to stretch a batch out further and they didn't collapse, but they lack that thick chewy texture (this applies to the peanut butter cookies as well). So just to recap: whip the butter thick!, don't overwork the dough, and be generous with your scoops (about 2 Tablespoons).
I tend to judge a cookie book by it's chocolate chip cookie recipe. The vanilla dough has ground oatmeal in it, and the chocolate chip cookies that come from it remind me of the ones from the $250 department store cookie recipe legend (which I mean as a compliment since I like to make those when I can't decide between chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal cookies). I did find that even though the recipe doesn't call for refridgerating the dough before baking, that my cookies held their shape better after the dough was chilled. There is also a more traditional chocolate chip cookie recipe (with an untraditional ingredient), and a recipe for chocolate chip bars.
The second half of the book has individual cookie recipes and is divided into special cookies, family favorites, and brownies and bars. Some of the recipes are pretty standard (snickerdoodles, gingersnaps, etc.), but there are also some recipes that are more unusual (ciambelli, sfingi, etc.)
All of the recipes have measurements listed by weight and by volume.
At the beginning of the book, we are advised to use weight measurements instead of "cups" or "tsp" etc. The thing is, when something called for "1 1/2 cups", she would list it as "7 oz." Well, a cup is supposed to be "5 oz". I went ahead and followed her measurement instructions since they were just a bit off; and I have no idea if my base dough turned out correctly. I do know that while she says the dough should make 2 dozen cookies, mine made over three, and although I could have possibly made smaller cookies (though I was shooting for 1 1/2 inch balls, just as advised) the interesting thing is that they were still incredibly under done at 8 minutes. In fact, they weren't really ready for 15 minutes. Is my oven going out? I don't think so; I just baked a cake for my daughter's birthday last weekend, without much deviation from the recipe. I suspect the cookies would turn out differently if I used measuring cups.
It would, as some other reviewer suggested, be helpful if Tina would have described how the dough is supposed to feel. The peanut butter dough turned out the lightest peanut butter cookie dough ever (which is a good thing!) but was it right? Was it too light, and therefore took longer to bake? Maybe I'll have to go down to the bakery and taste one to find out.
June 1 update: My daughter was attracted the picture of the creme-filled chocolate cookies (like Oreos) and we made them- again, I decided to go with the weight measurements. Is anyone else using those? Or are you just using cup measures? Anyway, they turned out beautifully- but almost inedibly sweet. Even my five-year-old could only take three bites before putting it down. I'm going to try the blondies next, and the chocolate chip cookie, and if I can't get those to work, I'll sell this book back.
June 11 update: We tried the chocolate chip cookies, using 10 oz. flour instead of 8 oz. as recipe called for. Delicious! Great texture! Finally! I've been wondering how all of the recipes are consistently short on flour in the recipes and I think it might be that she expects you to pick up 1-3 oz. flour in her last step where you dump the dough onto a floured surface and finish mixing it there. But again, when she emphasizes accuracy and provides weight measurements for everything, it might be helpful for her to say for example, "flour a clean work surface with 2 oz. flour" in order to get consistent results. As for me, I'll just interpret each cup of flour as 5 oz and I think everything will come out okay.
Thanks for your patience! I really wanted this book to be great. It did take some figuring out. Fire her editor! Ha ha.
The good thing about this for any bakers (novice/home whatever), is rather than looking at each type of cookie as a completely different/individual recipe (which I think sort of limits creativity), you look at cookies as families.
So the vanilla cookie family, chocolate cookie family...you get my picture.
As a non-professional home baker, you actually have a better perspective on baking and look at the similarities (doughs) and differences ("toppings") between the variations and can be creative. When i was a kid, experimenting and baking cookies, i'd make chocolate chip, or oatmeal, or whatever. But had a completely different recipe for each, and wasn't sure how much more/less butter or salt or vanilla to add/subtract to perfect the flavor so I was pretty much always following each recipe to the T. Looking at it as different families of doughs w/ a variety of toppings is great, esp. when teaching your kids how to bake.
I like the approach here - and she encourages the baker to experiment and add different nuts, raisins (golden vs. black), chocolate chips etc., and the dough "bases" are really good and can be easily memorized.
I got my book yesterday b/c i pre-ordered it. I tried the chocolate chip cookie recipe. I've added some pictures and the recipe is very good. The main differences between this and your average recipe are:
1) finely ground oatmeal.
2) bittersweet chocolate shavings/curls for "ribbons" of chocolate throughout the cookie
3) room temperature egg (most recipes don't bother w/ this tip)
I have to admit, I don't have quaker oatmeal in my house...b/c we've switched to "coach's oats" from costco...kind of like finer ground steel cut. quick to prepare, and SO delicious.
I really wanted to try this though so i just put that in the food processor. I pulsed and pulsed until it was powdery, but the texture was a little heartier than what I think the author intended, but it was still delicious!
Re: the bittersweet chocolate, I started shaving it...and it took too long (well i have 2 little kids) and i just took bittersweet chocolate (60%, ghiradelli) and chopped it up. I had the bowl on my electric scale and after 5 min. still only had about 1 oz....so i cheated a little. Resulted in small bits / shavings / curls...and i added it all in.
Her recipe says 2 dozen cookies. She must be using a very large ice cream cookie scoop...i used the small oxo scoop Oxo Good Grips Small Cookie Scoop and halved the recipe. I had 4 dozen small cookies.
The verdict? A delicious, chocolaty, crispy, chewy, crunchy cookie. Chocolate in every bite? Absolutely. The oatmeal made it nutty and hearty and very chewy. If i used the quaker oatmeal (more flaky, less "steel cut") i think i would have her her intended results. But i actually like this version and will try the other. I baked them for 14 minutes (not 15 as she suggests...but b/c i think my cookies are smaller than hers). I think they charge $1.95/cookie at her bakery and I would expect them to be larger than the cookies I made.
I wouldn't call this the "ultimate" chocolate chip cookie b/c i'm a purist and want a simple, smooth batter w/ chips. But this is the best chocolate chip cookie cookie w/ ground oatmeal i've ever had. My family loved them, including my 3 yr old.
This is a very comprehensive book. It is organized very well, and the vanilla base I have only tried so far is excellent. I think that using these bases and her variations (as well as your own)...you will have an endless number of cookies and bars to sample with.
I think it's well worth it to add to your cookbook collection if you love to bake, especially if you have kids or you're a novice baker...because once you have made each dough base, you can experiment and make anything you want!
Edit 4/23/11: i tried her crispy chocolate chip bar - like blondies. they were delicious! i added 2 photos above. very easy to make. i'd bake them for 2 min. less than suggested. otherwise, yummy!
The first recipe I tried was the rice krispy treats from the back of the book, and I really have to wonder if there is a typo in the recipe. It calls for 4 lbs of marshmallows and 5 cups of rice krispies (plus butter) which on paper may be hard to gauge, but when you buy the four one-lb bags of marshmallows you begin to see what you're getting into (plus the recipe on the back of the marshmallow bag called for a 1-1 ratio of marshmallow to krispy). I went forward with the recipe as written, even though it didn't quite seem right, until I had a bowl full of marshmallow fluff with a few rice krispies in it. I did end up adding 3-4 additional cups of rice krispies and the treats were STILL too gooey. There was a thick layer of marshmallow that sank to the bottom of the pan. They were tasty! Just not quite the texture I was hoping for. I will continue to adjust the marshmallow to krispy ratio until I get the 'perfect' rice krispy treat....
If anyone else tries this recipe and gets better results, or figures out the error, please let me know! Good luck!