Favorite Baking Books

It’s that time of the year, folks, when everyone’s thoughts turn to baking. Coincidentally it’s when the new crop of baking books are released, just in time for the sweet surge. This has been a pretty interesting year for cookbooks as the trends seem to be returning to books geared towards home bakers and cooks. Thankfully in my opinion.

Although some of these books were written by pastry chefs, all are geared towards the home cook. I’ve been making notes in each of them which desserts I plan to try in the upcoming months and I hope to share them with you as well.

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Demolition Desserts by Elizabeth Falkner

The long-awaited book from pastry chef Elizabeth Falkner, Demolition Desserts show how this very talented San Francisco baker breaks down classic desserts, and reconstructions them into whimsical, yet sophisticated presentations.

Although at first glance these look complicated, I envision many of these recipes being adaptable and great on their own. Tapioca with Concord Grapes is one winning combination I’m eyeing.

But there’s also simple Citizen Cake bakery classics: Chocolate Chip Cookies, Sticky Toffee Cupcakes, and puffy marshmallows which get dipped in a thin layer of dark chocolate at her bakery. If you’re not afraid to tackle some projects in the kitchen—and many recipes aren’t all that complicated—Elizabeth’s book is a wild, wacky ride through the world of modern baking.

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Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich

When Alice Medrich releases a new book, it’s always a special event. And I’ve never made a recipe of hers that didn’t go instantly into my ‘winner’ category.


In her just-released book, Pure Dessert, Alice delves deeply into a new approach to desserts: making things simple by focusing on the ingredients rather than complicated techniques and fussy recipes.

The White Chocolate Soufflé Cakes will give their darker cousins a run for their money, and I can’t wait for spring to pull a warm Cherry and Kirsch Gratin out of my oven. But no matter what season, there’s plenty of cookies and cakes.

Next on my list?
Salted Peanut Butter Toffee Cookies—bien sûr!

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Dolce Italiano by Gina DePalma

Does the world need another Italian cookbook?
After devouring Dolce Italiano, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. I haven’t seen such a comprehensive book featuring the best of Italian baking in a long, long time. Written with great care by Gina DePalma, who’s been the pastry chef at Babbo since it opened, there’s pages of recipes I can’t wait to try.

Happily, cornmeal finds its way into many of Gina’s desserts, everything from Biscotti di Polenta e Sesamo to a buttery crust cradling a rich chocolate filling, otherwise known as Crostada di Cioccolato e Polenta. I was fortunate enough to meet Gina last fall when her book came out. But if you’re not as lucky, Gina’s recipes can come to you.

Dolce Italiano was named one of Amazon’s Top Ten Cookbooks of the 2007 and is a new classic.

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Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Conner

There are some dangerous recipes here, guys. No doubt about it—Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey is the book of the year for anyone with a serious sweet tooth.

As the name of the book implies, these are desserts that celebrate richness. And you’ll find cakes and cupcakes drenched in caramel, bars like All-Grown Up ‘Smores, and Outrageously Thick Spanish Hot Chocolate with Churros (homemade!) That recipe may give the thick Parisian chocolate chaud a run for its money.

I love the photographs, which celebrate all the textures found in these mostly all-American desserts, especially the Banana Bread Pudding with Hot Fudge and Toasted Walnuts. I can only imagine being drenched in the same dreamy hot fudge that’s being poured over the whole she-bang. If you like your desserts rich, sinful, and close to being over-the-top (and perhaps a bit over), you can stop looking—this nifty book is for you.

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The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

If you haven’t gotten David’s latest book, you ought to have your head examined. The Perfect Scoop has gotten the world churning on it’s ice cream-slicked axis. This extraordinary achievement by the very kind and handsome and talented….

..oh, wait…what the heck?…hey, that’s my book!
Geez, sorry. I got a bit carried away there….

Anyhow.
If you know someone who’s interesting in churning out batches and batches of yummy ice creams and other frozen desserts, or even some home topping and sauces, paired with a brand-new ice cream freezer, it does make a swell holiday gift. I know that’s what everyone on my list is getting this year. But only the ones who’ve been nice; not the naughty ones.

And you know who you are…

Other Favorite Books From The Site in 2007

The Art of Simple Cooking by Alice Waters

Elements of Cooking by Michael Ruhlman

Meat by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Mediterranean Summer by David Shalleck

Perfect Light Desserts by Nick Malgieri and David Joachim

Secrets of Baking
by Sherry Yard

Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

Chocolate & Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier

Gluten-Free Girl
by Shauna James Ahern

What To Eat With What You Drink by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page

The Amateur Gourmet by Adam Roberts

Chocolate & Vanilla by Gale Gand

21 comments

  • Great recommendations, David. If all goes according to plan, Santa will bring me an ice cream maker so I can try your recipes that everyone’s been raving about!

    Regarding Alice Medrich, I’ve had the same 100% success rate with all of her recipes. I especially love her white chocolate Christmas bombe from her book, “Cocolat.”

  • Laurie: Her book Chocolate And The Art of Low-Fat Baking is amazing too. The Yam Cake with Apricots and Vermouth is the best, and so is the Buttermilk Pound Cake….I love them even though they’re not chocolate!

  • I already have a serious cookbook addiction. I mean an actual problem that may require an intervention… and now these? No no make it stop! But only after I get my hands on a copy of Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey …. and maybe Dolce Italiano… and I’ve already got The Perfect Scoop…..

  • I nearly licked the cover of Dolce Italiano at Borders the other day. Pretty embarrassing.

    Thank you for helping me write my Christmas list!

  • Hi David, I gave your book and an ice cream maker to one of my best friends for Xmas last year. The combo was a huge hit!

  • I really don’t need to buy another cookbook. Too bad I looked through a friend’s copy of DOLCE ITALIANO. Now I have to buy it.

  • I’m psyched! I already have several of these, including yours (which I love). I must have pretty good taste! ;)

  • I made Alice’s salted toffee PB cookies, and they were the nuttiest tasting cookies ever (that sounds bad, but it isn’t). They were sandy textured. I prefer mine chewier, so I’m still looking for an ideal PB cookie recipe.

  • David – Your book was so good, I ate it.

  • David, One more recommendation..Have you seen Carole Walter’s newest book Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More.

    All I can say is it’s amazing. I think you would like it.

  • Judy: I don’t have that book but her other books are really excellent so I’m sure for someone into coffee cakes and muffins, it’s a great resource.

    Cenk: That’s gonna hurt..later…

  • A great list, I was so excited to get Medrich’s new book. But my favorite new baking book has to be Annisa Helou’s “Mediterranean Baking.” I’ve already made several recipes with great success. Don’t know if it’s available in Europe, but keep an eye out for it.

  • I just bought The Perfect Scoop the other day after drooling at it for months, and it happily joined the other three books on the shelf by the same author. No, wait… that author is you!! Is there a prize for collecting all your books, like a batch of cookies or something?

  • Hi Tags: That’s an amazing book and when I got it, I was thrilled to find a book so comprehensive for dedicated home chocolatiers and professionals alike (although there’s plenty of interest for home cooks.)

    The only other book I’ve seen like it was called ‘Belgian Chocolates’ and was very hard-to-find, and expensive. I think that chocolate book is exception for the both clarity and variety of instructions, and technical information about chocolate. And the photographs are nice and precise as well.

    It’s perhaps the best, most comprehensive, book on chocolate-making I’ve seen, ever!

  • I love Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking. The way she lays out the family trees is awesome. Have you seen her latest book? I wonder if it is as good as her first?

  • I’m in love with Elizabeth Falkner. She’s hot. Don’t tell my husband I said that okay? Secret’s of Baking is awesome too, I love Sherry’s master recipes because they allow one to be creative once the basics are down. And PERFECT SCOOP is fantastic! I have a signed copy doncha ya know. Btw, I saw it in Sur La Table – congrats!

  • David – I stumbled across a blog post by a mother whose 13-year-old son needed to make macarons for a geography class. Here are some quotes I thought you would enjoy.

    “It was do or die. I don’t even have a mixing stand!! Our first attempt was a failure–tasted good, but looked awful. Cracked tops and flat bottoms. We used Patricia Wells’s recipe.”

    “Then my 15 yr-old daughter decided to try David Lebovitz. SUCCESS. Frilly feet and all. He’d better get a A.”

  • Those other cookbooks look good, but The Perfect Scoop by the enormously talented, funny, and gracious David definitely tops my list for 2007!

  • Thanks for these recs. I’ve been getting more and more serious about my baking, and I always need a new recipe!!

  • Thanks for the list!
    Citizen cake! Oh my God I love this restaurant. I loved going there when I was living in San Francisco! Souvenir, souvenir …