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Baking cookbooks

I want to learn to bake breads, pies, cakes, etc. Would you chowhounds suggest a cookbook or two that will teach me? I cook all the time, and well; I just have never had an interest in baking until now. Oh, and my nine year old daughter wants to learn with me. Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

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  1. I can't believe I am saying this because I'm not a fan, but Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook is very good. It's the only book of hers I have and normally I avoid her stuff (she has the habit of putting her mug everywhere) but I have to concede that it's a great primer. It strikes the right balance between the rudimentary elements for a beginner and having a few unusual/more advanced recipes so that you will continue to use it. Lots of pictures, lots of explanation of equipment. A section on each of the main baking catergories (the ones you list above). And unlike the Rose Levy Berenbaum or Nick Malgieri (who both have good books too) it's not overwhelmingly comprehensive -- by that I mean each section has a handful of good recipes that you will most likely tackle, not everything and the kitchen sink of recipes.

    Also, it has a recent publishing date. Check it out from the library.

    1. Martha Stewart's Baking book is very comprehensive, and the recipes span the simple to complex. It would be a great book to start and grow with.

      It's also worthwhile to perhaps get a web subscription to Cook's Illustrated. They have a full online database of recipes that you can access, and many of their recipes include links to diagrams that help you with techniques, such as patting pastry dough in the pan.

      I loved cooking with my aunt when I was growing up! Good luck!

      1. Nick Malgieri's How to Bake cookbook is great...another chowhound gave it to me in a moving-related cookbook purge, and I'm grateful to have it in my collection (thanks, SarahC). It covers the waterfront from savory to sweet, and it is instructional without being pedantic or overly fussy. Technique is emphasized, but attention is also paid to taste as well. Cakes, cookies, tarts, pate de choux, puff pastry, breads/pizza, muffins, quickbreads, etc.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Hungry Celeste

          I second that suggestion. The Beranbaum books are wonderful but I think for a beginner they can be a bit intimidating.

          1. re: Hungry Celeste

            For all-purpose baking (fancy and simple) Malgieri's How to Bake is one of my favorites too.

            But you can also find some great recipes (and technique tips) in general-purpose cookbooks like CI's The New Best Recipe, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything and even the Joy of Cooking.

          2. Have to agree with the recs for Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, but I do love Martha! As Amanda said, the recipes range from very easy to complicated, so it's a good one to have if you are learning to bake. The Chocolate Brownie Cookies are my favorite thing I've tried so far! Many of the cookies in this cookbook made into my Cookie of the Month Club that I was sending to people a while back!

            1. "Fearless Baking" by Elinor Klivans is a great one to start with. It only deals with desserts though, not breads.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Chimayo Joe

                I wholeheartedly agree with this suggestion. She has very clear instructions and everything I have made from the book has been at least very good. Some of my favorites include the whoopie pies and the rolling pin almond cake. It might be hard to find, but ecookbooks (off the epicurious page) should have it (and probably for a discount).

              2. I know this does not go into the "cookbook" category, but I have learned a great deal from Cook's Illustrated (I subscribe to the website).

                As people have mentioned in this board, their recipes are not the "best", but they do work out consistently, and I love their little "tips" for most of the recipes. They definitely help. For a new baker, their reviews of the supplies and ingredients is also very helpful.

                Blog: http://virtualfrolic.blogspot.com

                1 Reply
                1. I like Nigella Lawson's Domestic Goddess book for baking. It's very easy and un-fussy, but the recipes make delicious cakes. I think there's also a section about baking for/with children, but I may be mistaken.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Kagey

                    I agree about Nigella. I have made many of her cakes (from books and her website and tv programs)and they've all been delicious.

                  2. I have had good luck with all of Dorie Greenspan's books, and just received the new one today - Baking: From My Home to Yours - will report on it once read and something made from it.

                    1 Reply
                    1. I have wheatmeal shortbread from MS Baking Handbook in my oven right now. I baked some yesterday but I only got one piece. My husband ate the other seven before bed. It has whole wheat and bran in it. It is SO delicious.

                      Everytime I bake something new from this cookbook, I expect not to like it, because no cookbook could have 100% great recipes could it? Everytime it turns out even better than I expected. I believe every recipe has a full-color inspiring picture as well.

                      My other favorite bakers are:

                      Cooks Illustrated (They have The Baking Handbook)
                      Dorie Greenspan
                      King Arthur
                      Pierre Herme (more advanced)
                      Alice Medrich ( Especially Bittersweet)
                      Fine Cooking and Cuisine at Home Magazines

                      I hope this helps.

                      1. Baking With Julia ... I use it all the time
                        King Arthur

                        1. This is the bread book you need:


                          "Dough" by Richard Bertinet is simple, modern bread baking for the home cook. It includes many ethnic breads, too. The instructional DVD that comes with it is awesome.

                          For desserts:


                          "Secrets of Baking" by Sherry Yard is the ultimate book on professional pastry applied to the home kitchen. It is organized by major technique, such as caramel, and then shows what is possible with it through related recipes.

                          1. I checked the Sherry Yard book out of the library and wasn't crazy about it. I lso am only so-so on Nick Malgieri.

                            I would consider either of these as a good, introductory, covers a broad swatch of baking (sweet and savory), books.



                            My best recommendation though is that you try to check some of the books that are recommended to you out of the library. I've saved myself lots of money by doing this as I've found that some books really aren't for me (for whatever reason). When you find a book that you 'click' with, you'll know it and you can then just buy it and ignore the rest!

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Smokey

                              The new King Arthur whole grain baking book is on its way to me now. I can't wait to try it!

                              1. re: doctor_mama

                                Yeah, I didn't even mention that one because it seemed as though it might be too specialized for what the OP was after. But I'll admit, I'm dyin' to get my hands on it!

                                1. re: doctor_mama

                                  Please report back what you think!! I's on my wishlist! :)


                                  1. re: Dommy

                                    Just got it yesterday! Will report when I try it.

                              2. I also really don't like MS, but her book and the photos are nice. However, many of the recipes have only instructions given for standup mixer - a big disadvantage for me (and other newbies) since I have no plan getting one soon. Same goes for Baking with Julia. That's one of the primary reasons I hardly ever used the Julia book even though it looks good. Plus many of the recipes there are quite time consuming and have large batches. I suppose if you got experience it's not so hard to adapt, but again, newbies may find it difficult.
                                I would suggest going to the library and really testing out 1 or 2 recipes. I myself am still searching for a good baking book. Nick Malgieri's looks good, but I will decide once I actually try his stuff out.

                                1. My all time favorite remains Paula Peck Art of Baking.

                                  Paula is no longer with us, but her cookbook is outstanding...the best! Often available on eBay.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Fleur

                                    I agree. In fact, in 30+ years I've worn out two copies. Luckily I recently found a hardbound reprint at a library sale. Paid a whopping 50 cents for it.

                                    But I doubt it's the kind of book the OP has in mind. I think of it as more of a do-it-yourself book since cake, filling, frosting, and decoration recipes are each given separately. Great when you know more or less what you want to do and are just looking for recipes for each component; not so great if you want the whole thing, start to finish, in a single recipe.

                                  2. Look for an *old* edition of Betty Crocker. Check the recipes to make sure the cake recipe ingredients don't incude cake mix.

                                    Lindsey Shere's "Chez Panisse Desserts"

                                    Julia Child's "The Way To Cook" (encyclopedic but the baking directions are good)

                                    Rose Levy Beranbaum's "Cake Bible" http://www.thecakebible.com

                                    1. I think a very good beginner book would be the cooks illustrated cookbook. costco even sells it (or amazon)
                                      it gives thorough explanations for everything and the recipes i've tried were good.

                                      the cake bible is also good
                                      julia child

                                      1. I have to second the King Arthur baking books, as well as Julia Child. Fine Cooking and Cooks Illustrated are also very helpful.
                                        RLB has great books but they can be intimidating for most beginners.
                                        I have found that Nick Malgerhi recipes always work, and they aren't too difficult to me intimidating.
                                        The CIA baking textbook is very good with basic techniques and theory, but some people find them pedantic and overly rigid.
                                        I find that Shirley Coorhier, Alton Brown and McGee's food science books are required, but They might not be everyones idea of baking knowledge.

                                        1. Baking with Julia
                                          Any of the Rose Levy Berenbaum books
                                          In the Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley - Great book for learning about ingredients, tools and techniques.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Flour Child

                                            I have owned Baking w/ Julia for years but haven't baked much from it after mixed results early on. What recipes do you especially like in that book? TIA.

                                            1. re: Carb Lover

                                              The challah, scones, French apple tart ... there are more.

                                          2. Baking Illustrated is pretty good..

                                            1. I'm quite surprised that no one has mentioned Maida Heatter's excellent series of cook books. They are all available via Amazon.com. Although her recipes look rather daunting at 1st glance, that really isn't the case, as she is communicating each and every detail to get optimal results. Her cookbooks aren't just full of baking recipes but include frozen desserts and ice creams. The Queen Mother Cake is to die for - recipe in her New Book of Great Desserts and also in
                                              Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts
                                              Maida Heatter'S Book Of Great Desserts (Hardcover

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: JW1

                                                Maida's are high quality, delicious recipes and tho she is precise in her directions (a good thing) not the least fussy.
                                                I highly recommend.

                                                For traditional American cakes, nothing beats the old Betty Crocker Baking Book from the 50s, which has come back out in facsimile. Pre-cake mix cake recipes, mostly easy techniques.

                                              2. I have made several recipes from the King Arthur Baking Book and in general the results have been fantastic. My biggest quibble with the book is that it is very poorly edited and I think that could pose problems for new bakers. For example, the instructions in the introduction to the layer cake section contradict the instructions in the recipes themselves. The instructions in the introduction are correct.

                                                I agree with the Maida Heatter suggestion. The fudge brownies in her cookie cookbook are the definition of my perfect brownie, not too fudgy or gooey but not dry or cakey. Very dark, moist and chocolatey.

                                                Finally, Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for More Food does a good job of explaining the science behind baking, though I haven't tested the recipes.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Velda Mae

                                                  Alton Brown is so pedantic and rigid that things have to be one way only and that there are ingredients that are mandatory but I often find myself disagreeing vehemently when I watch his show so I would not trust his cookbooks.

                                                2. I think books that are good for beginners and will yield good results are:
                                                  Baking at Home by Culinary Institute of America. Guides you through w/ a knowledgeable hand.
                                                  Martha Stewart's baking book (and I'm not generally a MS fan)

                                                  1. No one mentioned this one - Kathleen King - Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook. Her first book is impossible to get now but this new edition is very good. All of the recipes come out to perfection.

                                                    1. Here are five baking books that I like:

                                                      The Bakers Dozen Cookbook -- lots of good, tested recipes and hints and tips from a number of professional bakers and pastry chefs. The pie recipes are really terrific.

                                                      The Fanny Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham -- an excellent book for baking with children -- straight forward well-written recipes that work and that are relatively easy to make

                                                      The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum -- lots of good, tested recipes that work and text that tells you about ingredients and the why's and how's of baking.

                                                      King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking, The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion, The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion, and King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook -- These all together form a wonderfully complete baking cookbook set with lots and lots of excellent recipes and explanations re technique.

                                                      Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook -- This is an excellent general baking cookbook that also contains well-tested recipes that produce beautiful looking results that taste great.

                                                      1. Home Baking by Alford and Duguid is excellent.

                                                        1. You cannot go wrong with the King Arthur Flour baking books. They are quite the authority. Check out their website and then get on their mailing list for catalogs. The catalogs themselves are great and they feature good recipes.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: niki rothman

                                                            I went to the King Arthur website and found they have several baking books. Which one(s) do you reccomend? I one the one that has the most variety.

                                                            Thanks for the tip about the catelogs, too.

                                                            1. re: oakjoan

                                                              This is the standard baking cookbook. It is is not in here, you probably willhttp://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0881502472/... The recipes are more consistent when used with K-A flour.

                                                              The flour baking companion (red/white covered book) is also useful, but there is some overlap.

                                                              I would suggest you borrow them from a library before you buy.

                                                          2. I have Baking with Julia and find that book very inspirational, the photos are great. It is sort of a 'baking with master bakers' approach, and is intended as a teaching book, it seems. It has encouraged me to tackle some complex items but there are some simple recipes too-- I absolutely love the lemon loaf and what could be easier? Ditto the tomato and peach galette from Flo Braker. There is a really good variety and many savory items.

                                                            Can't compare because I don't have any other baking only book.