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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cookbooks for Bakers & Wannabe Bakers

Given the current state of the economy, it feels somewhat odd to be making shopping recommendations this holiday season. But I can still get behind buying food and drink, cookbooks, and cooking utensils. I dare say each will undoubtedly go to very good use. In the cookbook category I'm recommending a variety of different books, hopefully something for everybody. Today's installment is for bakers and wannabe bakers. Check back tomorrow for cookbooks for families and the cocktail set...

The Art & Soul of BakingMy first pick is The Art & Soul of Baking. This massive book is nothing short of amazing. For beginners or for master bakers, it has the tips, the techniques and the recipes to ensure success. It is super practical and yet indulgent at the same time. Learn about yeast and quick breads, pastries, pies, cookies, cakes, tarts, fruit desserts, custards and puddings, plus souffles, cheesecakes and more. Even how to stock your pantry is included. Recipes include classic brownies, pot pies, Danish pastries, elegant souffl├ęs, breads, pizza and are peppered with tips "what the pros know."

Sweet! Sweet!From Agave to Turbinado, Home Baking with Every Kind of Natural Sugar and Sweetener is the latest book from Mani Niall. Let me start by saying I have enjoyed every single one of Mani Niall's baked goods I have ever tried. He is a terrific baker and knows a lot about working with different sweeteners. He literally wrote the book on honey. What I really like about this book is that Niall tells you which recipes are good for beginners, and the hows and why each recipe works. Interestingly enough he even includes some savory dishes that rely on interesting sweeteners like palm sugar. I've flagged Lemon Cupcakes with Mascarpone Cream and Raspberries which uses agave syrup and Cranberry Almond Breakfast Bars. Wonder which one I will make first?

Baking for all OccasionsAnother baking book for bakers of all levels is Baking for all Occasions by Flo Braker. Flo Braker really ought to be named Flo Baker. She is revered by just about every serious pastry chef I know, ok, I only know about half a dozen, but still, this woman knows what she's doing! The recipes are super precise using both gram and ounce measurements. If you don't already have a Flo Braker book in your collection, this might be the one to tempt you with recipes like Persimmon Bread Puddings, Tangy Lemon Custard Tart with Pomegranate Gelee and Congo Brownies.

Field Guide to CookiesLast but not least, Field Guide to Cookies by Anita Chu. This is my friend Anita's book, so how could I not recommend it? Anita is the talented local pastry chef and blogger. Her blog is Dessert First so you know she is serious about her baking! I love that it has photos of the cookies so you know what the end result is supposed to look like. For the serious cookie baker or the novice this is a perfect little guide to just about every cookie under the sun. I tried several of Anita's cookies at a recent book party and all of them were very good.