Cookbook Review: The Gourmet Cookie Book



I’ll cut to the chase. This is hands down, the best baking cookbook for 2010. And I’ve been through at least a couple of dozen of the latest and greatest just in the past year.

Despite all the cookie collections that have recently hit bookshelves, “The Gourmet Cookie Book”  
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is not just any old compendium of cookies. This book lists the single best recipe for each year from 1941 to 2009, offering not only an archive of the best cookies over the decades, but documenting America’s history and evolving taste buds through its cookies. 
Its honey refrigerator cookies, for example, were published in 1942 when the war was on and sugar was rationed and Gourmet did “its patriotic bit” by printing an article telling its readers how to use honey in place of sugar.

The mocha toffee bars were published in 1987 when the stock market had just crashed and Gourmet was trying to cheer up its readers “with visions of a prosperous and patriotic holiday season” and printed a recipe for this decadent combination of buttery toffee and chocolate.

Even if the illuminating blurb accompanying every recipe isn’t enough to win you over, I can guarantee you will appreciate the full-page glossy full-colour photo of each cookie. Let’s face it,  we eat with our eyes as much as we eat with our mouths and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.

Truth be told, you could find all these recipes online at but if you truly love baking and are still feeling Gourmet’s loss in the publishing world, you will want this book for your collection. It includes the best cookies from every era without including too many of the tried-tested-and-true recipes you will find at elementary school bake sales and compiles them in an easy-to-navigate format. You will find some gems in here you probably never heard of. So – buy it. Don’t put it on your Christmas wish list because you will want it before the holiday season to start baking. You’ll be covered in flour in no time.

As an incentive to buy this book, just because I know you will love it once you own it, I will let you in on a little secret. If you are curious to know how old I am, I’ll tell you this – the Cloudt’s Pecan Treats were published in the year I was born. Now, aren’t you dying to flip through the book?


Quick and dirty review of recipes I tried:

Pecan tassies (1985): I had never even heard of these miniature pecan tarts until this year and suddenly they are everywhere (see photo above). These butter-drenched nut tarts are made of a cream cheese pastry and they taste just as good a couple of days later than they do when they first come out of the oven. You will need a mini-muffin tin but if you have gotten this far in this blog post, you probably love baking as much as I do, and you have a tin in the drawer under your oven. (Am I right?)

Glittering lemon sandwich cookies (2008): Full disclaimer here: I made and blogged about these a while back, and I wasn’t surprised to see them featured in this book because they are often featured in Epicurious’ top ten cookie lists, which is where I first discovered them. What did I think? Well, they are gorgeous, perhaps slightly lacking in flavour but that’s not what my husband would say. Click on the link above to read my full post.

Kourambiedes (1974/1975): These Greek butter cookies had all the makings of a successful recipe. They came via a restaurant owner of Greek origins, and included liqueur, lots of butter, and blanched almonds. Yum. I could almost imagine them crumbling in my mouth. And then I made them. Big, huge, utter, epic fail.

There was no saving these cookies. I could barely taste the sugar and the consistency was almost mealy. My husband told me he couldn’t stand the eggy taste. And yet I only used one egg yolk. Don’t make this one, I don’t think its salvageable. No, I know it’s not salvageable.

And despite this. I urge you to buy this book. If for no reason but to play the “which cookie was featured on my birth year” game.



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5 responses to “Cookbook Review: The Gourmet Cookie Book”

  1. Sean Grey Hanson Avatar

    I do love this book. So, after borrowing this book from my Aunt Helly, I eagerly delved into the pages.

  2. Jamie Avatar

    I don’t often make cookies only because I find it much more time-consuming and attention-demanding than baking a cake, but my men demand them and love bringing a box of cookies to friends’ houses or the office, so I do bake them. I have a couple of small cookie cookbooks and am always at a loss for new, great recipes. This is one book I MUST have! I’ll bet the fabulous choice of cookie recipes will be enough to keep me excited about baking them. Great review! As simple as your words you actually succeeded in getting me excited about cookies! And on-line? I love having a cookbook in my hands!

  3. Mary Avatar

    I was the same Jamie until recently, didn’t really want to spend the time on cookies because cakes are instantly gratifying. So if I make cookies, they have to be rather special, and this cookbook is full of those kinds of recipes!

  4. Stay-At-Home-Chef Avatar

    Loved reading your review! I also tested the Pecan Tassies which I thought were great, but the other two cookies I tried (Bizcochitos & Irish Coffee Crunchies) were complete flops.

  5. Mary Avatar

    @ Stay-at-home chef. That’s great to know! I won’t attempt those recipes either then 🙂