{Cookbook Review}: 2012 Baking Cookbook Roundup

December 19th, 2012

simplysensational

Thanks to all who entered the minted giveaway! The winner, chosen by random number generator, is:

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Fork and Whisk! Congratulations, and I hope everyone enjoyed browsing through the holiday cards!

So I’m basically a week behind everything. I finished my Christmas cards over the weekend, when I should have sent them out a week ago, and I’m finally doing my yearly cookbook review, which I also should have done a week ago. Well, I had to finish my Christmas shopping so I wouldn’t be handing out presents a week late as well! For those of you still doing some last-minute shopping, or if you’re looking to reward yourself for finishing all your holidays tasks on time, here are my picks for my favorite additions to my baking library:

Best Cookie Book:

Every year brings a new crop of cookie books, so it takes a lot to stand out from the crowd. Leave that to Nancy Baggett and her Simply Sensational Cookies. Her The All-American Cookie Book has been a staple of my library for years, so I was excited to see her updated take on the subject. There are tons of modernized versions of classic cookies, and she plays around with traditional cookie making techniques, like using melted butter instead of creaming butter, and using natural ingredients to color cookies. Definitely a worthy addition to your library even if you already have a bunch of cookie books – this one is a standout.

Best Bakery Cookbook:

This was also a category with a lot of stiff competition this year, but in the end I have to give the nod to Thomas Keller and Sebastian Rouxel’s Bouchon Bakery.It’s just such a pleasure to leaf through, and makes me feel like I’m up in wine country, enjoying pastry amid some of the loveliest scenery around. See full review here.

Best Ingredient-Focused Book:

Ok, so this might be a little unfair because Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients focuses on 10 ingredients rather than just one, but it’s so well done that I had to include it in my roundup. Each chapter in the cookbook is dedicated to one of Matt Lewis and Renato Polinato’s chosen ingredients, from caramel to pumpkin to chocolate. The recipes are pleasingly eclectic yet homey. Special mention for the book design – the layout is crisp and appealing, and I love the little factoid graphics at the beginning of each chapter. The Baked series of cookbooks is turning out to be one of my favorites!

 Best Ice Cream Book:

Whenever out-of-towners ask for my favorite sweet spots in San Francisco and I list a few of my favorite ice cream shops, I almost always get, “But it’s so cold! Why would you eat ice cream?” I like to respond that in San Francisco there is no correlation between weather and ice cream consumption, otherwise no one would ever get to eat ice cream. We eat ice cream here because there’s some amazing ice cream artisans, so who cares that it’s fifty degrees outside? For those of you not able to make it to San Francisco, I’m pleased that one of the city’s signature ice shops, Bi-Rite Creamery, has finally come out with a cookbook. With Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones: 90 Recipes for Making Your Own Ice Cream and Frozen Treats from Bi-Rite Creamery, you can see what all the fuss is about and enjoy some salted caramel ice cream – SF fog not included.

Best Bread Book:

An updated reissue of a classic. Here’s your chance to explore Jeffrey Hamelman’s fantastic, comprehensive overview of bread with Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes. There are 140 recipes – virtually any kind of bread you can think of. The book can seem a little intimidating – there are few photos, and all the recipes are laid out as professional formulas, with weights and percentages. But if you’re serious about bread, you’ll appreciate the precision. The instructions are detailed and precise, and the beginning and end chapters are devoted to in-depth discussions about ingredients, shaping techniques, even how to develop your own cultures. An amazing resource for anyone who’s serious about bread.

Best Specialty Diet Baking Cookbook:

Peter Reinhart, one of the great baking experts and authors, has taken on the challenge of not just gluten-free but sugar-free baking, and he succeeds. The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Bakingis a welcome new resource for both people on restricted diets, and people like me who want to be able bake for their friends on restricted diets. There are recipes for all sorts of classic baked goods, from breads to muffins to cookies to cakes. Reinhart uses mostly nut and seed flours, and alternative sugar free sweeteners like Stevia. Really a great book to have, or to give to someone who might be missing out on dessert.

Best Professional Book:

Short of attending the CIA in New York, this is the closest you’ll get to learning from modern pastry master Francisco Migoya. His The Elements of Dessert is a beautiful, inspirational tome for any aspiring pastry chef or baking enthusiast. Although the recipes are quite sophisticated, the lengthy discussions on basic pastry components and techniques, flavor combinations and presentation make this a valuable resource for anyone with a serious interest in pastry. There are even instructions on how to make your own chocolate, so if you’ve ever wanted to take that challenge on, here you are!

 Best Food Science Book:

Ok, this isn’t totally about baking, but if you’re interested at all in your sense of taste (and I assume if you’re a cook or baker you must be), Taste What You’re Missing: The Passionate Eater’s Guide to Why Good Food Tastes Good is a fascinating exploration into how it works. Barb Stuckey is a professional food developer, and draws on her experiences to explain why things taste the way they do, and how people taste differently. There are numerous exercises in the book that help illustrate her points – mini experiments you can do to understand how something tastes bitter or sour, and how the addition of another ingredient can completely change your perception. A fascinating and illuminating read.

Let me know if you found any new favorite cookbooks this year!

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5 Comments so far ↓

  • Lynna #1

    Thanks for your own reviews! I have definitely stocked up my wishlist!

  • kamrul hasan #2

    i was the looking for the same and related info, what you describe on your article. And found you through google search. Its helps me a lots and i understood that you are one of skill article writer/ blogger. I have book marked your blog and hope to visit again to learn more. Thanks for your valuable efforts and time

  • Joanna #3

    Thanks for this wonderful round-up! I’ve had cookies on the brain this holiday season and another wonderful “alternative” book is Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa and Terry.

  • The Ninja Baker #4

    Thank you, Anita for this fabulous list. Given the wheat & sugar sensitives (and the calorie conscious) in the SoCal area I am especially appreciative of your recommendation of Peter Reinhart’s The Joy of Gluten-Free & Sugar Free Baking.

  • Camille Iman #5

    Thank so much for writing this Anita! I’m constantly trying to build my cookbook library!

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