Pros: Clear, easy to follow recipes, helpful tips
Cons: Repeat recipes, lack of pictures
I’m glad I had the opportunity to go through this cookbook and I think it would make a great gift for a beginning home cook. This book is very thorough and it explains the why behind the recipes. It tells what products worked and which ones did not. It definitely takes the guess work out for a beginning cook. This cookbook also helps to simplify recipes that may be a little more difficult for a novice. The tips that Cooks Illustrated magazines and cookbooks offer can’t be beat. All of the recipes that I tried came out flawless and one of my favorites was the key lime bars.
The big downfall of this cookbook is the repeat recipes. If you subscribe to the magazine, chances are you’ve seen some of the recipes. The repetition is not necessarily a bad thing. I personally like to have all of my recipes in a nice cookbook on my shelf rather than going through magazines. For the size of this cookbook, I was also expecting more recipes and pictures, but the tips and explanations make up for the lack of these.
Key Lime Bars
5 ounces animal crackers
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 large egg yolk
½ cup fresh lime juice, from about 20 Key limes or about 4 Persian limes
1.) Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 8-inch square baking pan with two pieces of foil and spray with vegetable oil spray.
2.) For the crust: Pulse the animal crackers in a food processor until broken down, about 10 pulses; process the crumbs until evenly fine, about 10 seconds (you should have about 1¼ cups crumbs). Add the brown sugar and salt; process to combine, 10 to 12 pulses (if large sugar lumps remain, break them apart with your fingers). Drizzle the butter over the crumbs and pulse until the crumbs are evenly moistened with the butter, about 10 pulses. Press the crumbs evenly and firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake until deep golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack while making the filling. Do not turn off the oven.
3.) For the filling: While the crust cools, in a medium bowl, stir the cream cheese, zest, and salt with a rubber spatula until softened, creamy, and thoroughly combined. Add the sweetened condensed milk and whisk vigorously until incorporated and no lumps of cream cheese remain; whisk in the egg yolk. Add the lime juice and whisk gently until incorporated (the mixture will thicken slightly).
4.) To assemble and bake: Pour the filling into the crust; spread to the corners and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. Bake until set and the edges begin to pull away slightly from the sides, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, 1 to 1½ hours. Cover with foil and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours.
5.) Loosen the edges with a paring knife and life the bars from the baking pan using the foil extensions; cut the bars into 16 squares. Sprinkle with the toasted coconut, if using, and serve. (Leftovers can be refrigerator up to 2 days; the crust will soften slightly. Let the bars stand at room temperature about 15 minutes before serving.)