Cookies 101 To PhD | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Cookies 101 To PhD

Cookies 101 To PhD

Courtesy of Ten Speed Press

‘Cookie Love’ is meant to be read cover to cover.

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I stand corrected. When I first perused Mindy Segal’s book, “Cookie Love” I thought the intended audience was a competent baker who wanted to up the ante on cooking baking. Many of the cookies involve several steps since they’re layered, dipped, filled, rolled (or a combination). The recipe font is small and the instructions cover at least two pages with subheads marking the next steps such as “To Make The Filling” or “To Shape The Cookies.” Multi-step cooking baking felt intimidating to me, I prefer the one bowl dump, mix and bake method.

But Segal, a trained pastry chef and owner of HotChocolate Restaurant in Chicago, set me straight in a kind and gentle way. She described her very detailed cookbook as a tutorial. “I designed the book to be a progressive book for you to read cover to cover,” said Segal in a phone conversation from the floor of her Bucktown eatery. “First and second chapters are fairly easy and once you get through those you can get through the rest of the book.”

Now “Cookie Love” makes more sense to me and so do the informative appendixes which include “Tools Of The Trade” and “Tricks Of The Trade.” The author wanted those sections to appear in the front of her book but the editors preferred jumping right into the recipes and delectable photography. Thanks to Segal, I’m adding a plastic bench scraper to my utensil drawer. The scraper is a flexible rectangle and she recommends one for mixing ingredients by hand. From “Cookie Love” I also learned that chilling raw dough improves its texture (something about proteins and starches breaking down in the fridge) so plan ahead when trying her Classic Chocolate Chip or Ginger Sorghum cookie recipes.

Segal is a life-long baker. “I was not a very good kid and I was always grounded,” she said. “I really found baking and cooking to be very comforting for myself. It was something I always enjoyed doing.” She still owns the professional grade Kitchen-Aid mixer she received as a Chanukah present when she was 13 years old.

She likes to evoke emotions in people through food and nostalgia plays a large part in her desserts. When she and her brother slept at her grandparents they snacked on blueberries with brown sugar and sour cream. “To me it’s a natural flavor combination and reminds me of my childhood,” she said. She hopes for the same effect with Strawberry Rhubarb Rugelach with Oatmeal Streusel. “I know that someone somewhere picked rhubarb with their grandmother when they were little so rhubarb is a nostalgic, emotion-evoking food for people.”

The quality of ingredients used is important. Never swap out butter for a non-dairy replacement, according to Segal. Her butter is always unsalted. For chocolate she uses discs, chunks or bars (not chips). She uses a variety of salts in her baking and recommends Murray River salt. Hmm…. I’ll have to check that out. “Cookie Love” offers a great education in baking techniques even if I don’t ever make it past chapter three’s Chocolate Pretzel Shortbread with Milk Chocolate Caramel.

“The book is for everybody, they should not be afraid,” she said.

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