A couple of weeks ago, I shared some French (cook)book picks for the holidays. Today I’m sharing some of my recent baking cookbook acquisitions – it’s been a bumper Fall for baking book releases. Hopefully you’ll find a little something for the baker on your holiday gift list (or maybe something for yourself?!).
Dorie’s Cookies by Dorie Greenspan
I mean, of course I’m going to include this one. If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’ll know what a huge Dorie fan I am! I’ve cooked my way through Around my French Table, and am working my way through Baking Chez Moi as well as Dorie’s Cookies (full disclosure: Dorie is a friend but I wouldn’t write about her books if I didn’t truly love them!). Though Dorie’s expertise in French food was what initially interested me in her work, this book is, I think my absolute favourite (and that’s saying something).
It’s a striking book (for those of you familiar with Greenspan’s previous works, this is definitely not her typical style) where the star really is the cookies themselves. No fussy over-styled images. Just big, bright, bold beautiful images of cookies. As a visual baker, I love this – I need to know what the cookie looks like (or is supposed to look like!) and I don’t need much more than that. This book shows cookies in all their glory.
The book is divided into Brownies, Bars, Break Ups and Biscotti; Cookies for Every Day, Any Day; Cookies for the Weekends, Holidays and Other Celebrations; The Beurre & Sel Collection; Cocktail Cookies and Cookie Go-Alongs and Basics. There’s also probably my favourite part of the book entitled The Perfect Cookie Handbook: Techniques, Ingredients and Gear which gives you all the tools you need to bake cookies as gorgeous as Dorie’s (hint: this rolling pin and these cookie scoops are your friends!).
Though this is a large book, you’ll want to make room for it on both your coffee table and your kitchen counter. You’ll find yourself flipping through it and discovering something new each time. It will make you want to bake cookies every day. It’s that good. Buy this.
The Vanilla Bean Baking Book by Sarah Kieffer
The Vanilla Bean Baking Book is Sarah Kieffer’s debut cookbook. The voice behind The Vanilla Bean Blog, Kieffer has compiled a fabulous collection of recipes for home bakers of varying levels of expertise. The seven chapters focus on different baked goods – Morning Baking, Quick Breads Muffins + Everyday Cakes, Party Cakes, Pies + Tarts, Cookies + Bars, No-Churn Ice-Cream and Homemade Staples. There’s really something to suit everyone’s tastes and skill level. There’s a handy “Baking Tips” at the beginning of the book which I suggest everyone read first (it’s always the first place I look in a baking book to see what sorts of things I can learn!). Kieffer suggests, among other things, “being a lifelong learner” which I couldn’t agree with more. Cooking and especially baking, is such a science that you shouldn’t possibly expect to be able to learn all the things. I take a cooking or baking class wherever I can, I read a ton, I bake my way through cookbooks all the time. And I learn from my mistakes (another of Kieffer’s tips). The recipes themselves are a nod to the past (many of these recipes are based on childhood memories) or to tradition – but with a twist. I loved the story behind how Kieffer’s Orange Pie came to be – she simply didn’t have enough limes to bake a Key Lime Pie so substituted what she had – oranges. As someone who often finds herself googling substitutions for ingredients she doesn’t have enough of, I was happy to see the story ended well with the creation of a less-tart pie that was just as good as its green cousin. As well as clearly-written recipes, there are lots of step-by-step images for recipes like pie and tart dough which are so useful for novice home bakers. The photography is gorgeous, very minimalist but the food it the absolute star. A beautiful addition to any baker’s cookbook collection.
Bake with Anna Olson by Anna Olson
Canadians will know Anna Olson from her popular television show Bake with Anna Olson and this book is a compilation of some of the show’s favourite recipes. From weekday baking to desserts for special occasions, this book has inspiration for all levels of home bakers (each chapter is divided into “Simple”, “Scrumptious” and “Sensational” recipes for varying levels of skill). Olson says that the book
will allow you to find recipes by flavour and type but you can also treat it a little like a textbook, seeking out recipes according to your required skill level.
Olson also stresses that baking success comes from practice but encourages even novice bakers to undertake something from the “Sensational” sections because quite often, they are not difficult, rather, they are recipes requiring more steps (this is so often the case with French baked goods – a croquembouche looks complicated but the elements are actually really easy to make – the trick is in the assembly!).
Olson lists what she calls “Foundation Recipes” right at the beginning of the book – “the basics from which many other recipes grow” and these include a whole host of recipes from pastry to cake to custards intended to give you a thorough understanding of the science of baking before you undertake anything more complex. The rest of the book is divided into Essentials (tools and ingredients), Cookies and Bars, Pies and Tarts, Other Pastries, Other Desserts, Breads, Sauces and Décor (including sauces, fondant work and marzipan, intended to accentuate a dish on a plate). It’s a thorough baking textbook that’s clearly laid out with big, bright images and a few step-by-step technique photos too. If you’re a fan of the TV show, this accompanying book is a must.
How to Bake Everything by Mark Bittman
You know that anything in Bittman’s “How to …” series with a 70+ page index is going to be a weighty tome packed with information that will likely become your “go to”. Intended to be “the ultimate baking resource for any cook”, I’d say this is most definitely a contender!
With over 2000 recipes (!!!), variations on those recipes, mix and match flavour charts, sidebars and tips on adapting these recipes, it could, indeed, be the only baking book you’d ever need to consult! The chapters cover Kitchen Basics; Quick Breads, Muffins and Biscuits; Pancakes, Waffles and Doughnuts; Cookies, Brownies and Bars; Cakes; Frozen Puddings, and Candies; Crackers and Flatbreads; Yeast Breads; Pastry; Savory Baking and Frostings, Fillings and Sauces. There’s also a very useful Appendix which includes lists of favourite recipes (by flavour, theme, skill level, occasion etc…) and illustrations in the book as well as other handy charts (flavour combinations and the like). It’s a veritable baking bible. If you’re even slightly interested in baking, you need this book in your collection. It’s been a constant battle for me as I write up the recipes for my book because everytime look something up in this book, I get totally distracted! SO much great information in there. No pretty pictures (a few illustrations) which can be off-putting for some people (although if you know these Bittman books you’ll be familiar with this) but once you start reading the headnotes, you’ll stop looking for pictures – it’s like Bittman is there in your kitchen calmly walking your through the recipes.
Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky by Karlynn Johnston
Karlynn Johnston is the author of the popular blog The Kitchen Magpie and Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky is her first book. Johnson is all about revamping classic recipes (like the classic Prairie “Flapper Pie”) and putting a modern spin on them. Indeed, this is “A Modern Baker’s Guide to Old Fashioned Desserts”. The book features Johnston’s most-loved recipes from her childhood and Ukrainian upbringing and she’s re-written decades old recipes so they are easy to follow for modern bakers who might need a little more detail than “Beat until ready to pour”!
Johnston outlines the staples for an “Old Fashioned Baker’s Pantry” as well as basic equipment you’ll need for these recipes. The book is divided into seven recipe chapters: Pies; Cookies; Cakes and Trifles; Brownies, Dainties and Slices; Doughnuts and Yeast Breads; Candy and Confections and Icings Puddings and Sauces. The recipes – a mix of classics (i.e. Saskatoon Berry Pie) and classics with a modern twist (i.e. White Chocolate Saskatoon Galette)- are interspersed with stories about their origins and anecdotes from Johnston’s childhood.
Flapper Pie also showcases Johnston’s (obsession with her) extensive vintage glassware collection which gives the book a definite retro feel. It’s definitely a book that wouldn’t be out of place on your coffee table – it’s so colourful! If you love reading about family food memories and recipes that have been handed down through generations, this is a great pick for you!
The Baker in Me by Daphna Rabinovitch
The Baker in Me brings Rabinovitch’s years of experience as a professional pastry chef to the home baker. An enthusiastic baker from childhood, Rabinovitch went on to graduate from TanteMarie’s Cooking School in San Francisco and staged at the prestigious Badia A Coltibuono in Tuscany. But at heart, Rabinovitch is, in her own words, “a home baker.” The rest of us can be glad she’s choosing to share her extensive knowledge with us all in The Baker in Me because it’s an excellent resource for bakers both novice and more experienced.
My absolute favourite thing about the book is the inclusion of “sciency stuff” – in fact in the introduction, Rabinovitch spends over 30 pages discussing some of the basic baking ingredients (butter, sugar, flour, chemical leaveners, salt, eggs, chocolate, vanilla, spices, nuts and dairy products) and the science behind how they work in baking. The baking geek in me loved this (on p 15 of the book, no less – I hadn’t even gotten to the recipes!).
The book includes chapters on Cookies; Bars and Squares; All Things Chocolate; Muffins, Biscuits and Scones; Quick and Yeast Breads; Cakes and Pies, Tarts and Fruit Desserts and the recipes are all interspersed with Bakers Tips and History Notes. The headnotes touch on the science of the ingredients too, so if you’re a curious baker who always asks yourself why things happen the way they do in baking, this book is an absolute must. With gorgeous photography and so much more information that *just* recipes, this is a book to curl up with on a snowy afternoon, making a (very long) “to make” list!
Marbled, Swirled, and Layered by Irvin Lin
When I saw Irvin Lin, the voice behind the beautiful Eat the Love blog, was writing a book, I couldn’t be more excited. Lin is a talented writer and creator of gorgeous desserts, so I was keen to see the collection of recipes to be included in this book. The premise behind Marbled, Swirled, and Layered is creating beautiful pastry-chef quality desserts that require way less effort than you’d think. And the secret is in marbling, swirling and layering ingredients to make recipes look as good as they taste.
From novice to more experienced home bakers, the book has recipes for everyone with chapters covering Cookies; Brownies and Bars; Cakes; Pies, Tarts, Cobblers and Crisps; Muffins, Breads and Breakfast Goods and a chapter entitled “A Little Bit More” ( extra recipes “that are unexpected in their flavour or execution“). There’s a useful guide to essential baking equipment and ingredients as well as a troubleshooting section and a gluten-free conversion section where Lin includes recipes for an All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Blend, a Whole-Grain Gluten-Free Flour Blend and a Chocolate Gluten-Free Flour Blend to use with the recipes through the book.
At first glance, the recipes look much more complicated than they actually are – the photography and styling is stunning – but if you look closely, so many of these recipes are just riffs on a classic you’ll recognise. Take the humble lemon bar? Lin’s fancied it up with his Seville Orange Bars with Salted Shortbread and Gin Meringue. And if that’s not enough, there’s also a Lemon Ginger Bar with Tequila Meringue Topping. See what I mean? Base recipes you’ll recognise with unexpected flavours. Angel Food Cake is brought to a new level with mango, lime and strawberry all topped with a citrus glaze. The star of the cover of Marbled, Swirled, and Layered is a modern take on the Hostess CupCake – made into a full-sized cake with a marshmallow filling. It is, quite simply put, genius! Lin’s recipe directions are clear (even for something like the Kouign Amman) and easy to follow making it feel all very do-able.
While each of Lin’s recipes is, at its heart, a recipe you will recognise, the flavour combinations will surprise and delight. He includes many variations on the recipes too which will get your brain working in overdrive (“I wonder if *this* flavour might work in place of *that*?”) and your tastebuds tingling. Marbled, Swirled and Layered is a fun read – one that will enchant you if you are the type of person who reads cookbooks like novels (ahem…) and one that will inspire you to get in the kitchen and experiment. This is a book for people who love to have fun in the kitchen whilst producing gorgeous desserts.
Please note: The product links from Amazon and The Book Depository in this post are affiliate links, meaning if you click over and purchase something, I will receive a very small percentage of the purchase price (at no extra cost to you) which goes towards maintaining eat. live. travel. write. Thank you in advance!
Disclosure: I received copies of these books for review purposes from Raincoast Books, Whitecap, Penguin Canada and Appetite by Random House. I was not asked to write about the books, nor am I being compensated for doing do. All opinions 100% my own.