When “The Great Minnesota Cookie Book” made its way into my kitchen with a request to write a review, I was a little intimidated. While I have binge-watched every baking show available on Netflix, I am no expert when it comes to baking. In fact, it’s been a good baking day if there’s no smoke coming from the oven and the floor is only half covered in flour.
Being originally from Wisconsin, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the recipes that Minnesotans claim as their own. The collection is from 15 years of the Star Tribune’s holiday cookie contest, and each one has a story associated with it. From cherished memories of baking with family members to recipes brought over by immigrant ancestors, each cookie is unique and offers something different from the last.
Knowing my baking knowledge was minimal at best, I combed through the book until I had three that looked within my skill range. Picking those recipes was the hardest task of the entire review. Should I start with a French-Swiss butter cookie? Or Grandma Eva’s Ginger Cream Cookies? There were even recipes for chocolate covered churros and decadent looking cranberry nut bars. There was a wide range of different cookie styles, and it looked like many of the recipes could easily be adapted for those with allergies or other food intolerances.
Craving the krumkake that I associate with Minnesota, I started with a recipe for Almond Spoons. These thin sugar and almond cookies are meant to be curled up when they are still hot out of the oven, creating a scoop-like shape. The only problem was that the cookies had two temperature settings out of the oven- molten goo or rock solid. After five batches, I only managed to roll seven pathetic attempts at a scoop, even after trying out different rolling methods recommended by the internet. I also found these overly sweet and sort of greasy, no doubt due to the corn syrup called for in the recipe. I will definitely pass on these in the future, especially because they were nothing like krumkake in the end.
My second experiment was with the orange ginger drops, which ended up being gingerbread dough with some citrus tossed in. The recipe was easy to follow, and despite the dark color of the dough, I managed not to burn any of them. However, the dough baked in the same round shape I rolled it into before putting it in the oven, creating little balls of cookie with a hard outside and a half-cooked inside. I remedied this in my second batch by pressing them flat with the heel of my hand. This would be a good dough to roll out with a rolling pin and cut out shapes with, and the cookies bake fairly hard, so they could stand on their own in a gingerbread display. They tasted okay, but they weren’t anything I would have sent home to my family as a holiday treat.
But it was the cardamom cookies that made up for the lackluster results of the previous two. These were surprisingly easy to make, simple to roll and press into circles, and baked evenly in the time recommended by the recipe. The icing was messy to work with, even after letting the cookies cool completely, but it added a nice sugary topping to a well-balanced cookie. Plus, the combination of cardamom and cinnamon just sing “Christmas time!”, so the smell while baking was as enticing as what actually came out of the oven. These were fantastic, and I am going to be using this recipe regularly from now on.
Overall “The Great Minnesota Cookie Book” was a fun little peek into the recipes of the region, with a nice range of recipe difficulties for different levels of baking knowledge. As an amateur, the recipes definitely were not a perfect fit for me, but I think with a few more practice bakes I could get them down.
I also really enjoyed reading the stories of the people who submitted the original recipes, and the meaning each recipe had for their family. After all, isn’t that what baking cookies at the holidays is all about- memories with those we love most? So if you get a chance to pick this book up this season, or want to gift it to the baking enthusiast on your gift list, its magical recipes will help you bake some special moments of your own.