Downsizing your cookbook collection Keep this one book

The word “downsize ” took on a special meaning to me when we recently moved into a smaller home. I had to get rid of “stuff,” and one of the first things to go was a good deal of my massive cookbook collection.

After this painful process I promised myself to get off my cookbook addiction. It’s said that “addiction starts with a broken promise,” and Flo Braker’s “Baking for All Occasions” provided me with a needed fix. This new book found a prominent place on my bookshelf. The hefty 395-page volume containing 250 recipes is worth its weight in chocolate truffles.

Flo holds the reader’s hand from measuring cup to presentation and gives even the most timid baker a sense of “I can do this” confidence. It’s like attending a private cooking class in her kitchen.

The subtitle “A Treasury of Recipes for Everyday Celebrations” captured my heart, because its not only about the grand occasions but the small triumphs of our daily lives.

The opening chapters are all about basics; equipment, techniques ingredients. The final chapters deal with basic recipe components, sources and measurement equivalents. The chapters in between hold the recipes for cookies, pastries, coffee cakes, cupcakes, and breads organized by different occasions.

For holiday desserts, I can’t wait to try the book’s flourless banana chiffon cake, maple pecan Medjool date rugelach and cookie-dough hamentaschen. And speaking of special occasions, Chanukah is just around the corner, and “Baking for All Occasions” makes a terrific gift for the cook and baker.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Logs

Makes about 4 dozen

11⁄3 cups all purpose flour

1⁄2 tsp. baking soda

1⁄4 tsp. salt

4 oz. unsalted butter, softened

1⁄2 cup granulated sugar

1⁄3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 large egg

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1⁄2 cup semisweet pistoles*, such as Guittard brand

In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt just to blend. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and the sugars on medium low speed just until well blended, yet the mixture appears grainy or sandy, 45 to 60 seconds. Do not overbeat.

On low speed add the egg and vanilla and beat just until blended, then stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. On the lowest speed gradually add flour mixture and beat until incorporated. Detach the paddle and bowl from the mixer and tap the paddle against the side of the bowl to free the excess dough. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the pistoles.

Divide the soft dough in half. On a clean work surface, pat one-half of the dough into a rough log about 51⁄2 inches long. Repeat with second half. Then, compress each log so it is rounder, more uniformly shaped and about 7 inches long. Wrap the logs separately in parchment paper and refrigerate until cold and very firm, at least several hours or up to overnight. For longer storage over wrap with aluminum foil, label with the contents and date, and freeze up to 1 month. Thaw in the refrigerator for 8 hours or up to overnight.

Before baking: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using a sharp knife and a sawing motion, cut the chilled logs into slices a scant 1⁄4-inch thick. Place slices on baking sheet, spacing them about 11⁄2 inches apart.

Bake the cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until they are flat and light golden brown, but still soft, 12 to 14 minutes. They will crisp as they cool. Let cool in the pan about 3 minutes, then transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely.

Stack cooled cookies in an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to a month. Thaw at room temperature.

*flat wafers or discs about 7⁄8 inch in diameter.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Rebecca Ets-Hokin. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].