Book review: Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy by Alice Medrich

11 February 2011 by
Book review: Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy by Alice Medrich

Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy: Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies By Alice Medrich
Artisan, £18.99
ISBN 978-1-5796-5397-2

This is not just a celebration of the charm and simplicity of cookies. Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy is a reminder that, with a little bit of tinkering, the bog standard biscuit can be transformed into something tantalisingly special.

Author Alice Medrich, whose self-taught pastry skills led her to the prestigious culinary college L'Ecole Lenôtre in France before she opened her influential dessert shop Cocolat in California, has done the leg work. Classic recipes have been tweaked and refined until she felt she could improve them no more. Taking nothing for granted, she challenges standard practice, such as her own commitment to white flour, and discovers she can indeed improve on what she previously thought couldn't be bettered.

As the title suggests, the recipes are categorised by texture. The crispy section deals with tuiles, wafers and cookies while its "brash, loud cousin" crunchy includes all manner of biscotti, snickerdoodles and graham crackers, the latter two emphasising the author's US roots. As well as chewy and gooey, there are chapters on chunky, flaky and melt-in-your-mouth delicacies, with many doubling up to produce the likes of chewy and chunky.

The page layouts are minimalist and the photography, while sleek and attractive, is included only sparingly. Presumably this is because the already weighty tome would need to be sold in multiple volumes in order to fit all of the recipes in. Chewy and gooey without crispy and crunchy simply wouldn't work, so the lack of images is ultimately acceptable though disappointing.

One tiny bugbear about the measurements. Most are in cups first, ounces second - no metric here, but there are conversion charts in the appendix - and that poses no major problem. However the butter is measured in tablespoons or ‘sticks'. Once you know that a stick equals 4oz, you're back on track.

The book opens with a user's guide that will certainly benefit home bakers and student pastry chefs alike but the seasoned pâtissier will perhaps need less reminding of the benefits of mise en place and resting the dough.

When it comes to anything that demands a little extra technical prowess, such as French macarons, Medrich takes the time to explain not only what works best but also why it works. Though her own experimentation with each of the recipes is exhaustive, Medrich is clearly arming the budding baker with the necessary knowledge to do some tweaking of their own.

The thorough selection of brownie recipes, for example, will doubtless turn up a standalone dessert worthy of any gastropub or casual dining room, while aspiring young pastry chefs eager to create a texture-balanced dessert will find plenty of delights to complement their semifreddos, glaces and syllabubs.

If you like this, you'll love these:

Cookie Magic: Biscuits and Cookies with Big Attitude Kate Shirazi
â- Biscuits, Brownies and Biscotti Susan Tomnay
â- The Biscuiteers Book of Iced Biscuits Sarah Moore and Harriet Hastings

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