With Thanksgiving over, I’m sure that yet another feast is the last thing you want to see. But it is the season to start getting chummy with those in the office who make the best cookies and treats. My favorite sweet to share is a classic sugar cookie with icing, and I’ve made it so many times now I know the recipe by heart. While you wait an hour for the dough to set in the fridge or for your dozens and dozens of cookies to chill, open up one of these great books exploring the history of the ingredients you’ll be using!
Is there anything better than butter? Didn’t think so. This ode to the key of the kitchen is also an exploration of its creation and history, which beautifully serves up all the respect our BFF butter deserves. Peppered with recipes for decadent creations and for making butter itself, Elaine Khosrova’s text is as entertaining as it is informative.
Beat 1½ cups of softened butter with 2 cups of white sugar until smooth.
Sugar gets a bad rap sometimes, and it’s completely understandable, but I for one could never give it up. No ingredient on this list has had as much of an impact on the building of countries, cultures, and commodities as sugar has. Elizabeth Abbott’s compelling look at this pantry staple travels from Hawaii to the Caribbean, Germany, Africa, and the kitchens in between, all in the name of defining its “bittersweet history.”
Beat 4 eggs and 1 teaspoon of vanilla into the butter and sugar.
I tried in vain to get my parents to let me raise backyard chickens for years, not just because it’s like Easter every day once they start laying eggs but because of how often I really use them (and how expensive farm-fresh eggs are nowadays). This cookbook doubles as an investigation into the fundamental powers of eggs, and it explores their countless uses with the help of step-by-step pictures and recipes.
Stir in 5 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt until combined and smooth.
I would love to be one of those bakers who shaves her own vanilla beans or bottles her own extract, but I’m really just the kind of baker who goes to the store and hopes that red-and-white box of bottled pure vanilla extract is on sale. Tim Ecott’s history of this essential ingredient dives into its rich past, from the times it was considered an aphrodisiac, a fruit of the gods, and currency, to the present day, with its high-priced spot on modern retail shelves.
Cover and chill dough in the fridge for at least one hour, or up to two weeks in the freezer.
When I moved into my own apartment, I inherited our family’s treasured flour jar. It’s an old pickle jar with a red tin twist-off lid and years and years of experience as a devoted flour house. Joanne Chang’s cookbook is full of recipes from her famous Boston bakery, and I can personally attest from baking it at least a dozen times that the banana bread is amazing (especially when you add chocolate chunks).
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and roll out the dough on a floured surface to ¼- or ½-inch thick.
Nothing beats the combo of sugary goodness with a salty bite—and that, my friends, is the excuse I will use for eating way too many of these cookies. Mark Kurlansky’s masterpiece about the “only rock we eat” is a sweeping history of one of the most influential ingredients in the world. Fascinating on every level, SALT will open your eyes to the way this mineral has shaped civilization and flavor.
Cut dough into shapes with any cookie cutter, place 1 inch apart on a cookie sheet, and bake for 6-8 minutes.
It would be criminal to make a batch of cookies without accompanying them with a cold glass of milk. If you’re curious about how milk became a key component of our daily diets, look no further than Anne Mendelson’s chronicle of milk’s journey into our homes from the Old World and beyond. Along with the explanation of the intricacies behind milk products like yogurt, cheese, and butter, MILK is also resplendent with recipes that utilize the delicious gallon in your fridge.
Mix confectioner’s sugar and milk until you reach a desired consistency for icing your cookies. Add food coloring and apply with a brush once the cookies are completely cool.