Bakepedia’s Choice for Outstanding Books of the Year
The year started out a bit slow but ended with a bang. A flurry of books from some well-known and loved experts in the field debuted this fall – Rose Levy Beranbaum, Dorie Greenspan and Peter Reinhart to name just a few. Here at Bakepedia we try to pay attention to books from various sources – the tried and true, the brand new authors (hello Dominique Ansel and Brooks Headley). We looked at big tomes, tiny ones, single subject, technique oriented and more. Here are our picks for Best Baking & Dessert Books of 2014 – the ones you should be paying attention to.
Bread: Some authors’ get better and better and surprise with each new book. Such was my experience with Peter Reinhart’s Bread Revolution. Not only is it written in Peter’s incredibly accessible style, but the book is truly aptly named. This book focuses on sprouted whole grains, unusual and heirloom flours and new techniques. When I got to the part about using peaches versus Parmesan cheese versus coffee beans to trap different kinds of wild yeasts, each of which would bring different qualities to my bread, my brain was spinning wildly with anticipation. I wanted to keep reading the book but I also wanted to race to the kitchen and get started! Check out our interview with Peter and if bread is your thing, this book is a must.
Technique: If you have followed our book reviews this year you know that I loved The Gentle Art of Preserving: Pickling, Smoking, Freezing, Drying, Curing, Fermenting, Bottling, Canning, and Making Jams, Jellies and Cordials. This book came as a surprise to me. I almost didn’t ask for a review copy but then I received it and I was truly drawn into the world of curing and preserving with vinegar, sugar, air, smoke, alcohol, oil, butter, fat, heat, cold and through fermentation. Sure there is plenty of non-dessert related content, but there is plenty for us dessert lovers such as homemade fruit leather, fruit cordials, marron glacé, jams and jellies and more. Tons of images. A great gift book or resource book for your own shelf.
Baking: Rose Levy Beranbaum has done it again and has brought us another “bible” – The Baking Bible – this one on baking in general, from the cover shot of the flaky, buttery, sweet, shatteringly crisp kouign amman to cakes, cookies, pies and tarts including a bit of savory. Read our full-review. A must-have for the cookbook collector, Rose aficionado and those that love to know (need to know) the why’s of baking. Her Frozen Pecan Tart is a revelation, the Fourth of July Cheesecake with a red velvet cake base is a stunner and the almost impossible perfect looking Meringue Birch Twigs are pure Rose – sublime perfection.
General Desserts: Dorie Greenspan’s newest, Baking Chez Moi, might be about what she bakes in her Paris kitchen, but the recipes, most very accessible, will be at home wherever you live. Check out our interview with Dorie; she gave me one of my favorite quotes of the year: “Deliciousness is the final criterion”. If that speaks to you, so will this book. I was particularly drawn to her Brown Butter-Peach Tourte, Bubble Eclairs, Apple Speculoos Crumble (perfect for right now) and her Matcha Financiers.
Gluten-Free: I have already sung from the rooftops over my appreciation for all the hard work that Karen Morgan has done with GF research and recipe development. Her book, The Everyday Art of Gluten-Freeis so far beyond in its sophistication of any other GF books I read this year that it stands alone. Karen’s concept is that she has broken down GF baking and cooking (savory and sweet) into 6 categories. Each has its own fool-proof GF blend, which you can make or purchase: Biscuit Blend, Donut & Fritter Blend, Pie & Pasta Blend, Cookie Jar Blend, Cake & Muffins Blend and Bread & Pizza Blend. She helped me create the GF bagel of my dreams and for that she will have my never-ending gratitude. A chewy NY-style bagel folks! The waffles that grace the cover got huge thumbs-up around here, too.
New Author: Dominique Ansel and his debut book, Dominique Ansel: The Secret Recipes, might have been included under our chef category but Dominique is such a gifted writer that calling him out as an “author” seems so much more appropriate. The book is roughly divided in half: half recipes and half beautifully written philosophical treatises on his approach to food and the creative process. I have never seen a cookbook like this before. Get it. As a gorgeous present for someone else, sure (the images are absolutely stunning), but you have to read it to. This is one of those books I took to bed – and then into the kitchen.
Restaurant Chef: Okay I know I just said this above about Dominique’s book, but I have never seen a book like Brooks Headley’s Fancy Dessertseither (he is the pastry chef at Mario Batali’s Del Posto). I mean, it kinda confounds me. So why is it included here? Because it is also highly entertaining and if you bake and you often find yourself thinking about why you bake or why you bake what you bake or how your days as a drummer in a punk band have informed your approach to pastry, then you need to read this book. I never thought I would read about a pastry chef putting olive oil and nutritional yeast on his popcorn (I do this too – hint to Headley, put the olive oil in a mister; it rocks). The book is weird. Good weird. Cucumber Creamsicle, “The Best Thing I Have Eaten in America” (hint: it’s a biscuit), Smoked Applesauce and Yeast Gelato. Here’s a quote so you know what you are in for: “ The key to making great food is to get the best possible stuff and avoid f*cking it up”. There ya go.
Candy: I am a chocolate fiend. Marzipan makes me swoon. Anything caramel-y or toffee-like weakens my knees. My fave candy book for 2014 is Sweet Thingsby Annie Rigg. Great recipes packaged with a look that evokes old-fashioned confectionery stores with offerings like Violet Candies, homemade Candy Canes, Turkish Delight, Rosewater and Pistachio Marshmallows and all the standards too like fudge, chocolate bark, truffles, caramels and more. (We are highlighting Candy with Lollipop Dippers and Candy Buttons). The book is a workhorse with clear instructions, but pretty enough to give as a gift. Her version of Rose Truffles is one of the most elegant I have seen yet with a rose petal infused syrup and organic rose oil.
Single Subject: The Southern Cake Booktook me by surprise. It’s put together by Southern Living magazine and I had preconceived notions about being underwhelmed. Consider me schooled. Big time. I love this book. Every cake has a gorgeous photograph and of any book this year, I wanted to bake more recipes out of this book than any other. I mean, not just in my dreams, but actually go into the kitchen to make. Get what I am saying? These are good recipes. Great flavor combinations, simple solid technique, tested recipes and really enticing visuals: Baklava Cheesecake (crispy and creamy), Apple Cream Cheese Bundt (with a cream cheese tunnel and praline glaze), Pineapple Upside Down Carrot Cake (combining 2 perennial favorites) and Toffee S’Mores Cheesecake (time to indulge). This is a paperback but the book has a luxe feel. Great addition to a baking library for those who bake a lot of cakes.