Best pastry/baking cookbook?
So I just received this 40% off coupon at Border's and I really want to spend it on a pastry/baking type cook book. Does anyone have any recommendations? I've seen the older boards but they are about 3 years old which leaves out a lot of new books. I consider myself to have some experience with pastry in that I could make pies from scratch and the like but I can't make things like French macarons or anything. Thanks for any help.
My personal favorite is "Room for Dessert" by David Lebovitz with foreward by Alice Waters (Harper Collins, NY; 1999.)
$30 when I bought it. Lebovitz was the pastry chef at Chez Panisse for 12 years. He covers Cakes, Custards and Souffles, Fruit Desserts, Sorbets, Sherbets, Ice Cream and Gelees, Cookies and Candies, Liquers and Preserves and Basics (like Tart Dough, Pie Dough and Galette Dough as well as sauces.) He has a recipe for Coconut Macaroons (p. 152 with photo!) I've never made them. But everything I have tried has turned well: Coconut Cake, Orange Almond Bread Pudding, Apple and Frangipane Galette, Summer Pudding and my personal favorite: Fresh Ginger Cake (p. 44 with photo!) He calls for four ounces of fresh ginger but over the years I've come to always use at least six ounces - or more. I love making his free form Galettes. I usually make extra dough so if there any problems rolling it out I have extra that I can use to make repairs. Nobody knows. He also has a recipe for Seville Orange Marmalade that I've wanted to tackle but can never find Seville Oranges in NYC - the local fruit suppliers here say they could get them when in season but would never be able to see enough volume to justify them placing an order.
I wanted to chime in with a few thoughts.
I have Dorie Greenspan's Baking book and it is pretty good -- most of the things I've made from that are quite nice. Photos galore. Contains both traditional Parisian desserts and American favorites.
Pure Dessert is inspiring, but a bit different from most books; take a look at it before you decide. Organized by flavor. The theme is items with one pure flavor, for example, a dessert that has a pure dairy taste, or a strong citrus flavor.
I think the King Arthur Flour Baking Companion, while not brand new, is a fairly well-rounded volume. Has an interesting few pages on how to make your pie crust about 5 different ways (medium flake, long flake, etc), if you're into that sort of thing. More homey than fancy.
It is worth noting that New Southern Baking contains a fair bit of historical recipes; this may or may not appeal to you.
I just read the Essential Baker, and the font was just too tiny -- but she has come up with a semi-new way of writing recipes, by listing the ingredients in one column as you move through the recipe. She groups by flavor (spices, citrus, chocolate, fruit).
I particularly like Baking Illustrated (as well as the entire line of Cooks Illustrated books).
I like the Dorie Greenspan book a lot. I have made several of the recipes, all have been very good to excellent. The pear tart I made at Thanksgiving disappeared in seconds and received raves from everyone. Her "playing around" sidebars are a nice touch and the pictures are pure food porn.