I know home cooks will be making more cookies this year - for school parties, holiday gifts, homemade wedding favors and birthday parties. We're already seeing it in the dozens of questions that readers ask us every day. Julia Usher's Cookie Swap is a impressive collection of recipes and even more, ideas and techniques for decorating cookies like a professional. There are some confections that even I wouldn't attempt like the Wedding Cake Boxes (don't have the patience!) but each recipe is labeled with a rating between 1 and 3 (3 being the most advanced) so you always know what you're getting yourself into.
The decorating techniques are what set this book apart, some quite detailed and time-consuming (think rainy day activity) but some, like the oblong Witches' Fingers with sliced almond fingernails for Halloween, are wonderful and original ideas for seasonal and event-specific treats.
Obviously, this is a great book for parents with kids who are ready for sugar; I'm waiting a while longer for that big milestone.
• Buy the book: Cookie Swap: Creative Treats to Share Throughout the Year by Julia M. Usher (Amazon, $13.59)
More 2009 Book Reviews
• Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen
• Clean Food by Terry Walters
• On Food & Cooking by Harold McGee
• Secrets from My Tuscan Kitchen by Judy Witts Francini
• The Perfect Fruit by Chip Brantley
• Heard it Through the Grapevine by Matt Skinner
• Big Food by Elissa Altman
• Edible Schoolyard by Alice Waters
• The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
• Milk by Anne Mendelson
• The New Steak by Cree LeFavour
• A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
• Fresh Food From Small Places by R. J. Ruppenthal
• Eat Feed Autumn Winter by Anne Bramley
• Heirloom Beans by Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo