Our Editors Answer: What’s Your Favorite Baking Book?
Everyone needs a baking bible—here are ours!
To end our all-about-pastry-making story series in style, we’ve asked our editors to name their favorite baking books. The result is this inspiring list of recommendations, put together especially for you.
You either bake or you don’t. Right? We beg to differ: This week we say that anyone can bake!
For the past 3 weeks we’ve been working in collaboration with our pastry chef Johanna to answer your most pressing baking-related questions. From cake doneness and texture matters to the science behind a golden crunchy bread crust and decorative edible flowers, we’ve covered it all. This week, to give Johanna a bit of a break and to encourage you, our community, to bake even more, we present you with a personalized collection of baking book recommendations.
Defying my initial apprehensions, gathering these 7 book recommendations for you was... a piece of cake. For a lot of people, myself included, baking is reminiscent of childhood memories and family-style baked treats. Consequently, it makes sense to think that evoking the childlike fearless and creative pastry chef inside you could be the beginning of the right path toward becoming a better baker. Many of the books in our list will do just that. In any case, whether you’re trying something new or just hoping to rekindle an old interest in baking, or even if you normally turn to the internet to find the right recipe, we highly recommend taking a look at our editors’ suggestions: Having the baking book that is right for you always at your disposal can be anything from a life (or party) saver to a great conversation starter to the incentive that you’d been missing all along to bake like there’s no tomorrow. Have fun!
Do you have a favorite baking book? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Sister Pie: The Recipes and Stories of a Big-Hearted Bakery in Detroit, by Lisa Ludwinski
Sister Pie is a sweet little bakery in Detroit, Michigan—one I literally drove 14 hours to visit for just one slice of toasted marshmallow butterscotch pie. It was incredibly worth it—and of course I ate more than my fair share of their other offerings while I was there as well. I just couldn’t not.
Lisa Ludwinski and her team of local bakers bring together combinations of flavors that are literally irresistible, and that’s the main reason why I love their cookbook. From a sweet potato coconut pie to their signature salted maple pie, wildcard malted lime pie to cardamom tahini squash pie, pie is, as expected, the focus, but there are also recipes for cookies, scones, salads, and even paczki—Polish-style donuts. Like the menu at the shop, the recipes are all filed into seasons—something I personally appreciate when I’m looking to get baking at home. The recipes are straightforward and easy to follow, and I just love everything about the people, what they stand for, and what they make, that I just can’t recommend it enough. Oh and, in my opinion, if you live within a 14-hour drive of the place, there’s just no reason why you shouldn’t plan on visiting them in person.
2. La Veganista backt: Kuchen und mehr ganz ohne Tier – Leckere Rezepte von süß bis herzhaft, by Nicole Just
How does baking without eggs, heavy cream, butter, milk, and gelatine work? If you’ve ever wanted to bake something vegan, you probably had to face this challenge. How helpful it would be to have a cookbook that answers all your vegan baking questions, right? In her book, Nicole Just not only explains what agar-agar is and how to use flaxseed for baking but also offers vegan recipe alternatives for all the beloved classics, from cheesecake to brownies. This book was my first friend when I started to bake vegan, and I still love to check it out for new recipes.
3. BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts, by Stella Parks
BraveTart by Stella Parks is a treatise on the classic American baked good—a category of sweets that is beloved for its straightforward, homey, and just plain irresistible approach to baking. From the classic (brownies, chocolate chip cookies, buttermilk biscuits) to the iconic (Twinkies, Oreos, Nutter Butters), the pursuit of the ultimate homemade recipe is a never-ending story in the world of recipe developers. No one takes this challenge more seriously than Stella Parks.
What's most remarkable about Parks is her scientific, dog-with-a-bone attitude on finding or recreating the perfect recipe from scratch (she can spend several months developing a single one). In the almost 400-page cookbook, she explains with methodical detail not only the technique attached to the recipes within, but also the historical context of their origin. This makes for a fascinating read and an incredible companion for baking beginners and experts alike.
4. Classic German Baking: The Very Best Recipes for Traditional Favorites, from Pfeffernüsse to Streuselkuchen, by Luisa Weiss
I really like the fact that Luisa Weiss keeps everything simple(-ish): recipe collections, photos, instructions—after all, who doesn’t love simple things? The dishes speak for themselves. Even though Luisa also has Italian and American background, she decided on traditional German recipes for her first cookbook, which means appropriate credit for German baking! I don’t know why, but I always feel at home when reading her books (she’s also written a memoir) or blog. First recipe you should try? I’d recommend starting with the Poppy-Seed Braid and baking your way to the Black Forest Torte top.
5. How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking, by Nigella Lawson
My biggest regret about my move to Berlin could be that I didn’t pack this book. Instead it’s stacked in the company of some other Nigella books in a storage container I don’t know where in Melbourne. And though I've since bought ersatz copies of my favorite cookbooks to stock my shelves here: I can’t bring myself to buy another of this particular title—it just feels like plain cheating. This was the first real, brand-new cookbook I bought for myself when I was about 15. Beyond the glossy pictures of heavy, Boston cream pie or glossy cupcakes in every pastel—what struck me most was how astutely and how engagingly she wrote not only about cooking, but about her unapologetic love of eating itself (a welcome refresh from young women’s media at the time): All the kinds of things I myself didn’t want to feel guilty about—cakes and bread and pies and anything loaded with cream. This book was and is my go-to for occasions—a mountain of brownies, my first Victoria sponge, her unfailingly reliable buttermilk birthday cake, frangipane mince pies for Christmas—as much as it was a frame of inspiration I used to flick through. I’m yet to make her white currant gin and tonic jelly and autumnal meringue cake dusted with walnuts like crunchy fallen leaves—but I can still picture them in my mind’s eye!
6. Patisserie Made Simple: From Macaron to Millefeuille and More, by Edd Kimber
I’ve always wondered how to master French pastries in my own kitchen: Those small, delicate treats that you find beautifully arranged in some of the best French bakeries (not only in France). Edd Kimber was declared the best amateur baker in the first season of The Great British Bake Off in 2010 and has blogged since then as The Boy Who Bakes. In Patisserie Made Simple you’ll find step-by-step instructions for classic recipes such as lemon tart and pain aux raisins (raisin bread), as well as canelés and showstopping cakes—which are slightly more time consuming, but still manageable. I like his way of turning sophisticated French pastries into a fun thing to do that can be accomplished by anyone with the right attitude and good quality, staple ingredients—and without the need for expensive equipment!
Vanessa, Editorial Assistant
7. All About Cake: A Milk Bar Cookbook, by Christina Tosi
“Welcome to the sugar-fueled, manically creative cake universe of Christina Tosi,” chef and founder of Milk Bar, an exceptional bakery with 16 locations in 6 different cities in the U.S. and Canada. Many things drew me to this book and the author herself: While living in New York City in 2008, I saw the first ever Milk Bar shop open in the East Village and still remember the hype around it. As a reality tv and cooking show lover, I’ve seen Tosi as a judge on Masterchef and featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table with her unforgettable cereal milk™ ice cream; I love her energy and sense of humor, which also comes through in her website and cookbooks; since I’ve nurtured a passion for decorated cakes and soft-baked cookies ever since I can remember, I made sure to pick a book that's obsessed with “a really freakin’ good cookie or an outstanding piece of cake,” all inspired by grocery store staples; last but not least, All About Cake is, in essence, a guide to unleash your imagination and create any flavor of cake you can think of—in Tosi’s own words, “The cake must have a strong point of view, a flavor ‘story.’” Covering from quick, sometimes much-needed, microwave mug cakes to elaborate naked layer cake creations, this is an essential addition to any (wannabe or not) baker’s library.
Celeste, Editorial Assistant
Published on May 24, 2019