The Best Baking Cookbooks
Looking for more? These are the seven must-have cookbooks for making cookies.
Every year around this time, we're inundated with a slew of new baking books. While we never say no to trying out a book with a recipe for a killer chocolate cake or superb buckwheat bread, we are picky about the baking books that get a prized spot on our bookshelf. A great baking book should be dusted in flour from use. Its recipes should never ask us to spend hours in a kitchen only to disappoint. It should teach us something that sticks with us. These 10 books do just that.
The Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum (William Morrow Cookbooks, $35)
Famed baker and cookbook author Maida Heatter says it best in the introduction, "If you ever bake a cake, or if you always bake cakes—professionally or not—this book will become your partner in the kitchen." Rose Levy Beranbaum taught a generation how to bake cakes with straightforward directions and a new way of mixing batter. Almost 30 years after its publication, it is still indeed the bible of cakes.
Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan (Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $40)
Dorie Greenspan has more than a handful of James Beard Awards and has coauthored books for luminaries like Daniel Boulud and Pierre Hermé, but this one is our favorite for the home chef. It even inspired an online movement called Tuesdays with Dorie, in which more than 400 baking bloggers became virtual friends and cooked their way through the book together. The recipes are a delight to read, and you'll never feel for one moment as if your trust in Greenspan could ever waver.
Baking Illustrated: A Best Recipe Classic, by the Editors of Cook's Illustrated (America's Test Kitchen, $15)
Few things are as disappointing as opening up the oven to find a collapsed mess after spending time baking what you thought would be a perfect cake. Luckily, that won't happen with this book in hand from the CI team who've diligently tested (and tested and tested) every one of its 350 recipes. Projects run from simple (banana bread) to complex (chocolate croissants) and even savory (Greek spanakopita), but with clear step-by-steps, helpful diagrams and detailed "why it works" headnotes, every one is easily attainable.
Tartine, by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson (Chronicle Books, $35)
Perhaps the best known artisanal bakery in the U.S. right now is the charming French-inflected Tartine in San Francisco's Mission. Lines of people hoping to score a fresh loaf, morning bun or perfect croissant form daily. Since publishing Tartine in 2006, the husband-and-wife owners have gone on to publish other excellent books, but it is the original that remains our favorite.
Momofuku Milk Bar, by Christina Tosi (Clarkson Potter, $35)
Imagine a world without Crack Pie, so-wrong-but-so-right liquid cheesecake and naked layered cake. Scary, right? Well, that's what it would be like if Christina Tosi never opened her cult NYC bakery, Momofuku Milk Bar, and published her now-classic 2011 cookbook by the same name. Like David Chang's Momofuku cookbook two years earlier, Tosi's tome gives insight into the restaurant kitchen and innerworkings, as well as the then-surprising but now-essential supermarket staples, like milk powder. The recipes err on the complex side, relying on gelatin sheets and stashes of crumbs and crunches, but standbys like Crack Pie and cornflake-choc-marshmallow cookies are easy enough to become part your dessert rotation.
Room for Dessert: 110 Recipes for Cakes, Custards, Souffles, Tarts, Pies, Cobblers, Sorbets, Sherbets, Ice Creams, Cookies, Candies, and Cordials, by David Lebovitz (William Morrow Cookbooks, $25)
Before David Lebovitz was a fabulous blogger in Paris, he was an acclaimed baker, training under Alice Waters and founding pastry chef Lindsey Shere at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. He puts that attention to seasonality and simplicity to use in his first cookbook, which earned him an IACP/KitchenAid Cookbook of the Year nomination and now remains one of the definitive dessert books. His recipes work, like his famous ginger cake and passion fruit pound cake, but, more importantly, they call us to the kitchen over and over.
My Bread, by Jim Lahey with Rick Flaste (W. W. Norton & Company, $20)
To this day, no artisanal bread recipe is simpler than Sullivan Street Bakery founder Jim Lahey's no-knead bread. The man is a master. His book is written with clear and concise language with helpful step-by-step technique photos to guide the home baker along. Walking readers through theory and process before diving into bread, pizza, focaccia, and dips and spreads for sandwiches.
The Secrets of Baking: Simple Techniques for Sophisticated Desserts, by Sherry Yard (Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30)
James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Sherry Yard writes a comprehensive base of baked goods and other desserts that allows for flexibility. Each chapter contains a master recipe with simple basic guidelines to perfect it, like caramel sauce, pound cake and lemon curd. What follows are simple and advanced variations, from comfort foods like banana bread and chewy snickerdoodles to croissants and chocolate soufflé. A friendly yet authoritative voice gives mini lessons and time-saving tips, making it easy for an amateur baker and pastry chef to perfect the basics and think outside of the box.
Huckleberry: Stories, Secrets, and Recipes from Our Kitchen, by Zoe Nathan and Josh Loeb (Chronicle Books, $35)
Home baker-turned-pro Zoe Nathan's book, Huckleberry (named for her successful bakery), is equal parts endearing and intriguing. Her recipes balance familiarity—muffins, galettes, scones and the like—with unusual touches, say, a grapefruit galette or a persimmon spice cake. She carries readers through her day of baking, which starts at the brutal hour of 3:30 a.m., welcoming us into her kitchen where berry-filled sweets and breads are always coming out of the oven.
The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook: Artisanal Baking from Around the World, by Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez and Julia Turshen (Clarkson Potter, $35)
Like dumplings and doughnuts, nearly every cuisine seems to have its own version of bread, spanning unleavened, like lavash, and crackly to enriched and fluffy, as in old-school Parker House rolls. Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez, the founder of NYC's part bakery, part social entrepreneurship, Hot Bread Kitchen, presents a good amount of them in her first cookbook, sourcing recipes—and not just breads but curries, salsas and more to serve them with—straight from the women she employs and empowers. It's ambitious and meticulous, as a bread book should be.
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