Cookbooks help solve practical problems, like what to make on a Thursday when you have 30 minutes or so to spare, what to bring to a vegan friend’s potluck, and what to do on the weekend to get ready for dinner. That’s not the point of baking books. They’re all about having fun. Doing things that aren’t important, like celebrating a 91st birthday or making a midnight snack. Below are 21 of our favorite baking books, chosen by both our staff and the people who come to our store. Assortment by title isn’t complete; we want you to add your own picks in the comments below.
BakeWise by Shirley O. Corriher
You should read Shirley O. Corriher’s book BakeWise if you love baking, because it will make you a better baker and give you a lot of good cake recipes, too. The Creative Director of Genius is Kristen Miglore.
BraveTart by Stella Parks
I could tell you about how BraveTart won the James Beard Foundation award for Best Baking and Desserts, or how it was a best-seller on the New York Times’ list. If you want to do this book justice, it’s really hard to do. It goes without saying that it has recipes that have been obsessively tested, like the Twinkies, Nilla wafers, and Animal Crackers that Stella writes about on Serious Eats. It also takes a look at the history of American desserts, from chocolate chip cookies to brownies to apple turnovers made by McDonald’s. Learning from it is just as sweet as baking from it, so that’s what I mean.
Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman
You should read this book if you want to learn more about bread (and make and eat it). It was first written in 2004. For example, you will learn how to make ciabatta bread with olive oil and wheat germ, or sourdough rye bread, which has raisins and walnuts, on the first day of the class. “It is very interesting, well-written, and has all of my favorite bread recipes in it.” You should have written at least half of your text books the same way. It changed the direction of my career from engineering to baking.” Baking community member: —BakerBren
Dorie’s Cookies & 5. Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
All of your favorite cookies are in Dorie’s Cookies, but there are also some real surprises that you’ll love” (strawberry shortcake cookies, spicy togarashi meringues). That’s not all: “Dorie’s wise advice and detailed instructions can make even the worst bakers out of us.” Brinda Ayer is the managing editor.
One more book that got an honorable mention from Dorie: Baking: from my home to yours has 300 recipes, including the corniest corn muffins, raisin-swirl bread, and caramel peanut–covered brownie cake. It also has a lot of spin-offs and encouraging words.
The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser
Only because these aren’t my recipes, but I usually use my Essential New York Times Cookbook for baking recipes from before 2000. There are so many great ones that the Times has written about over the years! Amanda Hesser is a co-founder.
Genius Desserts by Kristen Miglore
Kristen Miglore, our Genius Creative Director, found more than 100 of the smartest and most iconic dessert recipes of our time, drawing from the biggest names in desserts and the wisdom of the Food52 community, as well as the genius tips, mini-recipes, and riffs that make them your own. Lindsey-Jean Hard, a contributor, says:
Fancy Desserts by Brooks Headley
A punk rock drummer who became a pastry chef makes it easy to explain how Fancy Desserts looks and what it tastes like. What makes this book come together so well are Headley’s love for Italian cooking and the people who have passed it down. He emphasizes simplicity and flavor over presentation and pretense. He also wants the book to be about collaboration and not just about Headley’s success as a chef.
“Headley’s recipes aren’t very fancy. They are more Italian than fancy. Fennel cake with pickled green strawberries on top is one of Headley’s recipes, but he’s more like an Italian grandmother than a chef who turns fruit into foam. As a contributor: —Marian Bull
The Fearless Baker by Erin McDowell
Over 100 pounds of butter were used in the photo shoots for The Fearless Baker. This gives you a sense of how much good stuff there is in this huge collection of recipes and ideas. As a Food52 contributor since 2009, Erin gives us a lot of tips for making our baked goods better. From peachy coconut macaroons to black-bottom crème brûlée, she tells us how to make them better.
Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich
You can always count on Alice Medrich for the best desserts. She makes cookies that are soft, dark chocolate that is pure and simple flavors. She is an obsessive baker and a hard worker. Her recipes are well-written and quickly become classics. In Flavor Flours, Medrich shows how to get the best out of eight “alternative” flours, like teff, oat, and rice. He shows how to get the best texture, taste, and spices and other ingredients out of each one. Eight types of flavor flours have been tried and tested and mastered by Medrich. They have been used to make crackers, cookies, cakes, and pies that feel like new things rather than substitutions. It is a “quiet” gluten-free book that focuses more on taste and innovation than on dieting. As a contributor: —Marian Bull
Happiness Is Baking by Maida Heatter
This book is great for “tested and true home baking,” says our co-founder, Amanda, who is in love with Maida Heatter’s Best Dessert Book Ever. In 1990, this cookbook made the Heatters known as “Queen of Desserts.” A new book called “Happiness Is Baking” is called “a modern-classic collection” of recipes from the late author. It includes recipes like Budapest Coffee Cake and minty Palm Beach Brownies, as well as lemon cake on East 62nd Street. There are a lot of colorful, happy pictures in this book.
Hot Bread Kitchen by Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez
This book won the Piglet in 2016. Since then, we haven’t stopped going back to it. Hot Bread Kitchen is a New York City-based nonprofit that helps women who are struggling with money start small businesses and learn how to cook. Its menu and cookbook are based on the recipes of its bakers, who come from all over the world. This results in a wide range of recipes, including m’smen, challah, lavash, tortillas, paratha, and more.
How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking by Nigella Lawson
Anybody who’s seen Nigella Lawson bake on TV knows how relaxing she makes it look. I’ve really taken advantage of that whenever I get out the measuring cups and start mixing up flour and sugar.” “Most of all, there’s this royal icing cupcake in the picture at the top of the page. I’ve been very popular at birthday parties because of this cupcake.” In this case, Eric Kim is a senior editor at the magazine.
In the Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley
In The Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley won the IACP Cookbook of the Year in 2001, and almost two decades later, it’s still a favorite: “I have many baking cookbooks, but I find myself using In The Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley often.” —Wendy, a member of the group.
The Joys of Baking by Samantha Seneviratne
“This book killed me. There is a cookbook that I haven’t kept so close to me like it was a book. When Samantha says something, it’s very thought-out, and it’s full of grace. In The Joys of Baking, the author makes it clear that baking is a way to deal with the pains of life. Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls With Browned Butter Cream Cheese Glaze, Dark Chocolate Malt Celebration Cake, and Danish Butter Cookies are just a few of the baked goods that she makes. She also writes personal essays about what happens when we are broken. People don’t need chocolate cake or other sweets to live, she says in the introduction. That is, until the point when you need a chocolate cake to live. In this case, Eric Kim is a senior editor at the magazine.