Friday, January 27, 2012

Book Review: The Treats Truck Baking Book

Near the end of 2011 I received two cookbooks to review via the Amazon Vine Program and today I want to share my evaluation of one of these books. The Treats Truck Baking Book: Cookies, Brownies & Goodies Galore!is a fairly small book of only 159 pages from start to finish, you might expect a lot more given the long title, huh?

The Treats Truck can be found in Brooklyn, New York, so not far from where I lived in the mid 1990s while I earned my master's and then continued some other work at Columbia University including getting my first two book published.  I never saw the Treats Truck, but then it's been a while, right?  From this cookbook it looks like a storefront plus a truck they send out with treats to sell along the street or in parks and other locations.  The book has photos of the truck, the lady in charge, Kim Ima, along with customers enjoying their treats.  What is lacking are the traditional photos of the recipes' results.  Instead of these photos the book has a lot of colorful graphics and drawings; cute but not a big help when you want to check to see if your batter looks like it should or you want inspiration to urge you to put in an extra effort to try and get your pie to match the picture.

Graphics and photos aside, I think the most important aspect of any cookbook is the recipes.  Are they clear?  Can you follow them?  Are techniques described so that someone with less experience can figure things out?  On this front The Treats Truck Baking Book: Cookies, Brownies & Goodies Galore! is fairly good but not great.  Most of the techniques are described in opening sections though a few hints are included in individual recipes.  Each of the recipes I tried missed something or didn't offer a hint that could have been very helpful.  I tried three recipes so let's look at those.

First I made the "Chocolate Cookies" (p 12) a roll out version of a cookie that seemed like a basic sugar cookie with cocoa.  Since Valentine's Day is approaching I decided to use my heart cookie cutter to cut out around 50 cookies with enough left over for a solo round cookie.  While most of the directions were clear, this recipe is also a good example of "read the entire recipe first".  If you followed the directions as numbered you'd be wasting a lot of energy by preheating your oven and leaving it on while you mix the cookies, put the dough in the frig, and then roll and cut them out.  Don't start heating up you oven until you have the dough chilled and can roll it out.  Also do use the parchment paper as suggested because you can just slip that entire think plus cookies off to cool. I turned these cookies into sandwich cookies (p 270, a category itself in this cookbook but an odd category where it primarily references the cookies from an earlier chapter and one of the frostings or fillings in a later chapter.  I made the Chocolate Ganache (p 64) and it went well in the microwave though to be blunt I had to use a lot more chocolate to get the consistency I wanted and the recipe didn't give me many details of how thick it should be.  Easy to make but again lacking information that a less experience cook might need. Together these two recipes make a delicious treat but the cookie itself was very bland.

The ganache was way too much; even this week I was dipping cookies and nuts in it still and this is after  I made another recipe from the book and covered it with the ganache.  I made brownies, dark cakey ones (pp 40-41). Now I don't normally make brownies from scratch because I find they are much less healthy than making them from a box -- I can get a mix that has no transfat and little other fats and then use applesauce or healthier oil but from scratch brownies tend to  use a lot of butter or vegetable shortening and this recipe was not exception to that rule.  As you can see in the photo the brownie was thick (I made it in a big pan) and I put a good layer of the ganache on top.  These smelled good and they tasted fairly good but, oddly, they were also a bit dry.  I think this might have been a reflection of the weather but with the only liquids being butter, eggs, and vanilla I didn't feel comfortable adding in extras that I might if the recipe asked for a bit of water.   This recipe was well written and organized and the dryness issue is more my house issue perhaps.

If this sounds like a good little book for you or another baker in your life, check it out and please use our enclosed links to help support The Chocolate Cult when you do so.

The Treats Truck Baking Book: Cookies, Brownies & Goodies Galore!

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