Book Review: The Christmas Cookie Cookbook by Ann Pearlman

It's coming time for the big Cookie Confab – though once again this year it is going to be downsized. Gail, Debbie and I have no days off in common anymore. It's sad. I love getting together to bake cookies and chew the fat. And drink. And bitch. And eat.

I have been pouring over my cookie books and even asked to review one. So yes – being the cheap chiseling food whore that I am - I got another free book.

The book I requested was The Christmas Cookie Cookbook, from Atria Books. This book is written by Ann Pearlman,  who also authored The Christmas Cookie Club, a book about a group of women who get together every year to trade cookies and share their lives.

Now ya know me – I am not a chick lit kinda gal. My family was filled with evil harridans who smiled nicely at each other in public and cut each other to ribbons with their razor sharp tongues behind closed doors. Family gatherings were not the sappy sweet female bonding experiences that you find in so many books aimed at women. So needless to say I haven't read the novel The Christmas Cookie Club.

But I do love cookies and have been running The Cookie Confab for almost 10 yrs now so I was very intrigued by the premise for this book.

All that being said – I really enjoyed reading The Christmas Cookie Cookbook. Ann talks about how the club got started, about the women involved, and the deep bonds that have developed over the last 20 years – yes 20 years. That is some stamina right there!! Plus, you get concrete advice on how to start your own club, hints on how to make the event a success from setting the date to passing out the goodies.

There are recipes too. Now, do not expect any ground shattering breakthroughs in cookie baking technology. Many of these recipes have seen print elsewhere – including the recipe that I made as a test batch. (In fact, the Ultimate Double Chocolate Cookie is from the Ghiridelli website, modified to make the dough a little easier to handle when shaping into log. I, and my boss, have made a couple other changes which I will share below.)

Other recipes are included for appetizers and buffet dishes to keep everyone on the edge of sobriety, plus cookie making tips.

Oh yeah – and then there are the Rules. The Rules are brilliant. The Rules are awesome. They are the work of someone who understands how to organize and maintain.

This is my snarky non-chick lit interpretations of the rules. If you want the nice friendly PC version, then you will just have to go and buy the book.

  1. Cookie variety – no chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin – it's freakin' Christmas so act like it whydoncha?
  2. No Goo – cuz too messy is no good...
  3. Exclusive membership – No one wants to bake 20 dozen cookies for a party, so no – you don't get to come!
  4. Commitment - what?! You came one time and now you wanna back out!!!?? Bitch!
  5. Life Membership- well if we can put up with you, you can put up with us every year... or in other words the only way to leave the cookie club is feet first!
  6. Packaging – Thou shalt invest in something pretty to hold your cookies – no paper plates ya lazy ho!
  7. Share a dish – we need some food to soak up all this booze!
  8. Charity – spread the love – and calories – around!
  9. More Fun – do things that will be memorable - memorable enough to cut through the alcohol-induced haze.

I think the one thing I would have like to see with the cookie recipes were “keeping instructions” - a consistent addendum to each recipe talking about how long the product would keep, and the proper way to store them. One would assume that these recipes have been made and tested by the ladies who submitted them and those ladies would have some idea of how long these different types of cookies keep. Maybe that is kinda nit-picky but I'm just sayin'...woulda been nice.

Overall, I would say buy this book, especially if you have ever dreamed of running a cookie exchange or even another seasonal event every year. The advice is sound, the tone supportive and if you are lucky enough to have friends and family who actually like each other then I say give it a try!

Now your reward for putting up with my ramblings – the recipe!!!

Here is the recipe for Ultimate Double Chocolate Cookies. They demand something like milk or, even better, the slight bitterness of black coffee.

Here is the recipe as it is written in the book.

Ultimate Double Chocolate Cookies
Yield: 24 cookies

12 ounces Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
11 1/2 ounces 60% Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
6 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts

In double boiler over hot water, melt bittersweet chocolate chips and butter. In large bowl, beat eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until thick. Stir in chocolate mixture. Set aside.

In small bowl, stir together flour and baking powder. Stir in chocolate mixture. Gently mix in semi-sweet chocolate chips and walnuts (dough will be gooey). Chill for 30 minutes to firm up.

On a sheet of plastic wrap, form dough into two logs, each 2 inches in diameter and about 8 inches long. Wrap tightly. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or until firm.

Shinny Shiny cookies...yummmy....
Pre-heat oven to 375°F. With sharp knife, cut into 3/4-inch slices and place on greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake 14 minutes or until shiny crust forms. Cookies should be soft inside. Transfer cookies to rack to cool.

Differences from the original recipe on the Ghiridelli sight:

  • The original recipe does not call for the 30 minute chill before shaping. This does make it easier to handle when shaping.
  • The shape of the logs is 2” in diameter and 12” long. Even though the recipe in the book says 8” - the logs did come out about 12” during the test.
  • The original recipe stipulates that you unwrap the logs before cutting. Duh.
  • The original recipe kept the cookies on the pan until cool. These are kinda delicate and I would cut the difference between the two recipes and let the cookies cool for a few minutes before removing them to the rack.
  • The original recipe called for 12-14 minutes. 12 minutes did the trick for me.
  • The original recipe states that these will keep up to one week. I hid a cookie and just pulled it out. A week is kinda pushing it – they were much better the first couple of days, but I still would not turn my nose up at one of these that was a week old.

Changes that I made to the recipe:

  • I would say chop the walnuts into medium to small pieces. Larger pieces taste good but are a bitch to cut.
  • Use a serrated knife when cutting the log. This is for two reasons: first, the sawing motion means you do not have to press down as hard on the log so you do not flatten it out or cause the dough to crumble. The second is it will cut through the chocolate chips when they are cold.
  • I also froze one of the logs of dough, then thawed it in the fridge overnight before baking. Turned out just as awesome as the non-frozen dough.
  • Lastly – this can easily be made gluten free! My boss, Melissa, substituted ½ cup of commercial gluten free flour and they turned out fantastic.


Agnieszka said...

Hi, Rosie! Very nice blog. Does this book has any photos of Xmas cookies?

Rosie said...


Unfortunately no. This is a very basic paperback book with just a few photos on the cover.

P.M. Hopkins said...

Hey Rosie! I've just been looking around your blog, checking things out - it's kept me chuckling, so I'll certainly stop back in again!

Rosie said...

P.M. -

Thanks! I look forward to seeing you around...

How's the freelance work comin' along?