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The 5 best EVER dessert cookbooks?

  • Peter Jul 20, 2008 09:13 PM
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Folks-

I'm trying to put together a list of the 5 absolute best dessert cookbooks of all time. Ok, it's doesn't have to be limited to just 5 -- but it does have to be somewhat limited so I'll pretend that 5's the limit.

While I'm a SERIOUS dessert eater, I'm not much of a dessert cookbook expert -- or even especially knowledgeable, but for me, two very recent cookbooks come to mind. One, I think, really should be on the list and the other I'm curious as to what you think:

1. The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz.

Let's face it, there are a few fundamental formats of dessert. One of them (my personal favorite) is ice cream. And as someone who's made ice cream for a good while -- and tried all formats of recipes from all sorts of sources -- I I find this book to be a new go-to ice cream bible. Straightforward and still sophisticated and incredibly informative. I've been waiting for this book my whole life.

2. The Sweet Life by Kate Zuckerman

This one is nowhere near as focused as the one above (it's about a wide variety of desserts -- the author was/is the pastry chef at a high-end NYC restaurant for a decade) but for me, seems to be foolproof. I've made a dozen desserts form it -- many far more complex than things I typically try -- and they all work flawlessly.

Even more important, the book is full of great "why it works this way" type of information that speaks to my preference for "Cooks Illustrated/Best Recipe" type cookbook reading. I like to know why things work so I can improvise and experiment with some sense of impending results.

... so, what do you think of the two books above? What else should join them? I assume there's some sort of "bible" when it comes to cookies. And when it comes to cakes. Is there a pie bible? (there should be!)

Again, I'm looking for a list of 5 books in the end. Ah heck, if it's 7 or 10 that's ok. Of course this is ENTIRELY subjective but that's ok. That's what makes this fun. :)

Peter
http://www.flashlightworthybooks.com

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  1. Fabulous thread you have started! Sorry, to be a little vague in "precise" cookbooks to add to your list. Just in from a Margarita laden Sunday evening here in the San Fernando valley area of Los Angeles. I will tell you that in my life of cooking/baking, there is a dessert maven whom I have relied on for years. Her name is Maida Heatter, and her dessert books have been ummmazing. She gives exceptionally explicit details in her recipes---some might think that the directions are too extreme---but by me, these directions are exquisite foundation----if you follow them, you will be creating desserts that would make Ms. Heatter proud. More currently I have been enjoying the book called "Sweet Stuff" by Karen Barker---a modern day dessert maven, if ever there was.

    Cheers and thanx for your post,
    Jeff

    5 Replies
    1. re: JeffW

      Jeff-

      Thanks for the feedback -- I don't know why I didn't think of Maida Heatter already.

      Does anyone know if there's one book of hers that stands above the rest?

      Peter
      http://www.flashlightworthybooks.com

      1. re: Peter

        She has a compilation cookie book (I believe it's a combination of at least 3 previously published books), and a chocolate one. Maida's the best ...

        1. re: foiegras

          I expressed an interest in baking at a pretty early age and a long time friend of the family gave me a copy of her book "Great Desserts" for christmas that year. I still have the book over 30 years later and I recently bought a hardcover copy of the same title. It's a terrific book.

      2. re: JeffW

        Yes yes yes to all of Maida Heatter's books. I have them all, some have had to have their bindings taped because of all the years and all the use. I have never had but one failure from her books, Mildred Knopf's Orange Puff cake and weirdly I had made it at least 6 times in earlier years with beautiful success but the last 3 or 4 efforts were dreadful - more like an awful failed souffle. So I have given up on that particular cake. OW all her recipes are fantastic and fail proof.

        1. re: ElsieB

          Curious, did you by any chance acquire a new oven in the time in between success and failure with that particular recipe? Because I had that happen to me as well, with different recipes. Some of the recipes that came out flawlessly in my old oven, I have nothing but trouble with in my new one. It's very frustrating. The thing I'm having the most trouble with, of all things, is crumb cake. I have two recipes that used to come out perfect every time I baked then in my old el-cheapo gas Maytag but in my newer GE Cafe Gas oven, the crumbs melt into the cake every single time. The oven temp is correct (I'm always checking it) and I STILL can;t figure out what is going wrong. It's driving me crazy because these were 2 family favorites. :(

      3. There is a "Cake Bible" as well as a "Pie and Pastry Bible" by Rose Levey Beranbaum, but my favorite cookbook of hers is "Rose's Christmas Cookies". A beautiful book, especially the photography, but some of the recipes are "nice to look at but will never ever make them".

        4 Replies
        1. re: coney with everything

          I haven't read "Cake Bible" but I have and refer often to "Pie and Pastry Bible". The beauty of the Pie and Pastry Bible is that Beranbaum's recipes run the gamut from the classics of American, French, German, Austrian, etc. to what seem like her own riffs on classic recipes. Full of good recipes, gives you a grounding in classic preparations and prepares you to invent your own creations through her thorough explanations, recipes and foundation recipes. I love this book; it will make anyone a better pastry cook.

          1. re: coney with everything

            Wow -- when I said "bible" I didn't mean it so literally... but I suppose I should have known that with enough time, there'd be a cookbook with every title. :)

            Has anyone used these two cookbooks? Do they live up to their titles? (Man, it's gotta take some serious guts to name your book the Bible!)

            Thanks!

            Peter
            http://www.flashlightworthybooks.com

            1. re: Peter

              I can vouch for the Beranbaum books. They're very useful, although quite technical in places - she has a background in food science, so it isn't altogether unexpected.

              1. re: Peter

                I have both of these books and just started using the pie and pastry bible more often. I made cherry turnovers from it the other day that came out really good. But I find her technique super fussy at times. I followed her directions to prepare the filiing and the dough but not to actually put it all together. My way was MUCH easier and they looked very pretty when I was finished.

                But as for the 5 (or whatever), best dessert books ever? That's a tough one. I have tons of cookbooks, and many of them are dessert/baking books. I don't know if I could 5 or even 10 that I would say were just so much better than the rest. I love many of them for

            2. My personal list:
              -Baking With Julia (Dorie Greenspan)
              -Baking: From My Home to Yours (also DG)
              -Great Cookies (Carole Walter)
              -Death by Chocolate (Marcel Desaulniers)

              I can't decide on a fifth one. I have tons of cookbooks, and many dessert-only ones, but often I combine parts of recipes from various books. I like Maida Heatter's cookie cookbook, but I haven't tried her other recipes. I have Berenbaum's Pie & Pastry Bible, but I don't use it too often for some reason.

              11 Replies
              1. re: Chocolatechipkt

                "Death by Chocolate" Doh!

                Of COURSE one of the books on the list has to be a chocolate-oriented book. I don't know why I didn't think of that.

                Ok, the way I see it, what I'm looking for is:

                -- 1 book on ice cream
                -- 1 book on cakes
                -- 1 book on cookies
                -- 1 book on pies, etc.
                -- 1 book on chocolate
                -- 1 book on desserts in general
                -- 1 book on "fancy" desserts

                So I guess I'm looking for at LEAST seven books. Probably it'll end up being 10 because there will be a few ties.

                So... any great chocolate-oriented books out there?

                Peter
                http://www.flashlightworthybooks.com

                1. re: Peter

                  This ain't gonna work. You wanna see "fancy," look at "Demolition Desserts." But them aren't classic desserts, you see. Or maybe you could accept not classic "Demolition Desserts" and find a classic "chocolate" or "cakes" cookbook. For "pies," you could just include something like "Farm Journal's Complete Pie Cookbook" by Nell B. Nichols. That would give you the best of the standards, but not pies for the chandeliered ballroom. Those might be under "tarts." Then where are you going to put the fusion "Sweet Spot?" No, this ain't gonna work. I'd help if I could.

                  1. re: yayadave

                    I guess I'd have to agree since I think most cookbooks present have a wide variety of deserts. Personally I love Lebovizt's "Room for Desert" ( Harper Collins, 1999) which offers a full array of recipes for pies, cakes, tarts, sorbets, cobblers, sherbets and much more.

                  2. re: Peter

                    For cookies I'd definitely pick The Good Cookie by Tish Boyle. I'm a pastry chef & every single recipe I've made works. It's my go to cookie book if I need a recipe in a hurry. I know that no matter what recipe it is..it will work & taste great.

                    Rose Levy's Cake Bible has some good cake recipes..& her Mousseline Buttercream is the only one I use but some of the other recipes aren't that great.
                    Ditto for the Pie & Pastry Bible..a few great recipes ..but otherwise..eh.
                    Stars Desserts cookbook by Emily Luchetti..out of print but you can find some in Ebay. Her ice cream book..A Passion fro Ice Cream is good as well.

                    1. re: sugarbuzz

                      I also love The Good Cookie... many of the favorites for my Cookie of the Month Club came from this book.

                      1. re: sugarbuzz

                        Sugarbuzz - I just bought Emily Luchetti's "Stars Cafe" cookbook. I'm new to baking but I wanted to try her Cinnamon Rolls Recipe (which probably isn't for a beginner). I had a hard time with the dry yeast dissolving in the milk. Is there a secret to this? I had to whisk the clumps out and it didn't bubble up so I'm sure I did something wrong.

                        1. re: sweetandsavory75

                          Was the milk warm?

                          1. re: roxlet

                            Yes, I used a thermometer so I made sure it was at 110F. I think it might have been bad yeast even though it was new and not expired b/c I let it dissolve for 15 minutes so that should have been enough time.

                        2. re: sugarbuzz

                          Classic Stars Desserts has been failproof and superb for me, though it does not have much of the "why things work" etc. Just recipes.

                          1. re: sugarbuzz

                            sugarbuzz and Katie -- Could you suggest some of your favorite recipes from The Good Cookie? I just acquired the book after reading your recommendations, and I'm not sure where to start baking with the abundance of temptations!

                          2. re: Peter

                            I cooked from "Death by Chocolate" and I'd advise against it. The results were so rich that neither I nor my guests could eat them.

                            I am passionate about chocolate, but that much fat becomes repulsive.

                        3. I also find Rose B's "Bible" books too technical. Pies don't need to be that fussy. I've made some of her cakes and they were great, but for a fancy cake book I prefer The Art of the Cake by Healy and Bugat.

                          I've had a lot of luck with Richard Sax's Classic Home Desserts.

                          Everything I've made so far from Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert has been wonderful. (But most especially the sour cream ice cream.)

                          And I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the late Bill Neal's Biscuits, Spoonbread & Sweet Potato Pie which is full of Southern homestyle desserts, many of them old-fashioned, like the Osgood pie. His apple dumplings are AMAZING.

                          1. The dessert cookbooks put out by King Arthur Flour are ones I often turn to.

                            1. My favorites:

                              1. The Baker's Dozen Cookbook

                              2. Southern Cakes

                              3. Desserts by the Yard

                              4. Perfect Cakes

                              5. Baking: From my home to yours

                              6. Gale Gand's Just a Bite: 125 Luscious Little Desserts

                              7. Pure Dessert

                              and for personal, sentimental reasons:

                              8. Filipino Desserts: the mini cookbook series

                              Great thread :)

                              1. Any book by Maida Heatter
                                Any book by Rose Levy Beranbaum
                                Any book by Alice Medrich
                                Any book by Carole Walter
                                Any book by Nick Malgieri
                                Baking with Julia, by Julia Child and Dorie Greenspan

                                There are other good baking books out there, but that ought to get you started!

                                34 Replies
                                1. re: ChefJune

                                  June-

                                  Thanks so much for the leads on Authors... can I be a pain and ask you to narrow it down?

                                  Let's just start with Maida... of all her books, what's the ONE book that you think is a must-have?

                                  And thanks again!

                                  Peter
                                  http://www.flashlightworthybooks.com
                                  Books so good they'll keep you up past your bedtime. ;)

                                  1. re: Peter

                                    Nick Malgieri's Chocolate is very good, as is Alice Medrich's Bittersweet. I like the other Death by books (cakes, cookies), but the original is still the best, IMO.

                                    1. re: Chocolatechipkt

                                      I defiantly agree with Nick Malgieri's book. The book may be a bit old but the recipes always work and you can play with the amounts to personalize them if you choose. My fine would be Bo Friberg's tomes, the King Arthur books, Dorrie Greenspan, and maybe RLB.

                                    2. re: Peter

                                      I would go to a big bookstore & take a look at what they have ... see which author you connect with.

                                      However, I would not recommend Malgieri for beginners. In past discussions here, I've learned I'm not the only one who's had issues with his recipes ...

                                      As far as Maida, I'm a cookie person, so her compilation cookie book is the one I'd say to start with. But if your focus is something else, one of her other books might be better. Take a look at Amazon & see what you think ...

                                      As someone else mentioned, Maida has a very particular style. She's a Virgo & very detailed ... as a technical writer I appreciate her style & thoroughness. It may be overkill, but it ensures you won't screw up. I have cookbooks by Maida, Nick, and Dorie ... you could have a very fulfilling baking career just with Maida and Dorie's recipes, IMHO ;)

                                      1. re: foiegras

                                        Imho, I think Perfect Pastry by Nick Malgieri is perfect for beginners. He goes into detail on how to perform some difficult tasks. Patisserie is part art and part science, which can be quite difficult to follow using just a recipe without much experience and/or understanding.

                                        Any time I would use a new recipe, I would always test the recipe out. Different oven, different kitchen, different ingredients, even time of year can change the out come of any pastry recipe. Not to mention the skill it takes to make fine pastry. There are many, many fine chefs who are useless in the pastry kitchen. Producing pastry, home style or fine French style, takes some experience and understanding.

                                        I see that there are a few chocolate books mention in the above posts. Chocolate can be a very difficult ingredient to work with. If people are working with chocolate (not cocoa powder or Bakers Chocolate) in their desserts, chocolate mousse, chocolate ice cream, ganache, etc… Then I would assume that N Malgieri’s Perfect Pastry and his other books would not be all that difficult to follow.

                                        Imho I would not expect a beginner to make pate a bombe or Italian meringue. But I don’t think that making a sabayon is all that difficult. A bain-marie, whisk, yokes, sugar, and a liquid and in no time you have sabayon. If I’m not mistaken making a sabayon, French meringue, or even pate a Chou are as difficult as it gets in Perfect Pastry.

                                        1. re: Pastryrocks

                                          I'm aware of the difficulty of baking ...

                                          What I know is this ... I experienced a number of 'failed' Malgieri recipes before I set his books aside (Perfect Pastry is not one I tried). By failed I mean dry and relatively flavorless. And many others here on chowhound have reported the same thing.

                                          I've baked a Maida recipe I didn't like before, but that's only happened because I didn't like the flavor (e.g., I'm not a fan of great quantities of candied ginger as she is). I don't remember ever having a real problem with a Maida recipe.

                                          1. re: foiegras

                                            Foiegras I’m sure anyone who has tried to bake from scratch is aware of the difficulties, at least at the beginning anyway. Hence the reason why people purchase frozen cookie dough, ready made frozen puff dough, frozen cakes in a box, frozen pie dough, etc… My point is that just because someone published a recipe for something does not mean that it will turn out just like the picture. My point was that there are various reasons way it won’t turn out like the picture. Since I did not know the issue, I tried my best to explain what could be the problem.

                                            As far as taste goes, well that is subjective. I prefer richness over sweetness, but then all my nieces and nephews prefer it sweet and colorful. I feel that what salt is to savory food, sugar is the same in pastry. It would appear from what most supermarket bakeries produce these days, my nephews and nieces are right.

                                            Unsure of what Malgieri recipes have ‘failed’ or maybe you don’t like. It would appear from what Cookiegirl and Nofunlatte have posted that Perfect Light Desserts and How To Bake have issues. I assume that these where cookie recipes from the first post. If the cookies where in the style of petits fours secs, which I understand many Italian style cookies are, then they possibly turned out ok. Unsure if it is the recipes’ or it is your expectations’ that are at issue.

                                            My favorite way to make mousse is by making a sabayon with the yokes and some flavorful liquid. Every time I make mousse this way imho it turns out wonderfully rich and much denser than modern recipes for mousse. This is from Perfect Pastry. Also, “[w]hat I know is” that every recipe I have used from Perfect Pastry turns out, well perfect.

                                            1. re: Pastryrocks

                                              I also found the one dessert I made from Perfect Light Desserts to be flavorless. Perhaps I didn't give the book enough of a chance but I sold it after that.

                                          2. re: Pastryrocks

                                            I have Malgieri's Chocolate and I just recently ordered "perfect pastry" because it is supposed to be a good primer.

                                            Oh "The Art of Chocolate" by Elaine Gonzalez is very good and so is "Death by Chocolate" by Marcel Desaulnier.

                                      2. re: ChefJune

                                        ChefJune's list is very good - for specific books I would suggest (a lot of these are since the post):
                                        MH: Book of Great Desserts and Book of Great Chocolate Desserts (the others are all great, I'm least fond of the newer Great Cookies book, but it has some doozies in it too - and Great American Desserts is a lot of fun)
                                        RLB: Beautiful Cakes (everything I've made from it has been mindblowing and it's less intimidating than the Bibles)
                                        AM: Pure Dessert (a fantastic book, very innovative)
                                        CW: Have read a couple of her books, not a big fan
                                        NM: All books except Perfect Light Desserts, particularly A Baker's Tour, recipes from around the world, all seriously good. I've never had a failure with one of his recipes myself.
                                        DG: Baking with Julia (with JC of course) AND Paris Sweets - by far my favorite of DG's, nice focus, great recipes.
                                        Others - David Lebovitz Time for Dessert and Dede Wilson Unforgettable Desserts - have read them but haven't baked from them, but just about everything in them appeals - the techniques in the Wilson are particularly exciting.

                                        1. re: buttertart

                                          Is CW = Carole Walter? If it is, than I would have to vigorously disagree. I find myself turning to her over and over again. Her book "Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns..." is the one I use the most. I've never had a failure with her recipes, whereas I unfortunately have with some of Malgieri's recipes.

                                          1. re: flourgirl

                                            I've only read Cookies and the one you mention, and wasn't moved to make anything from them. They may be great books but something didn't grab me enough at the time I looked at them. I still have the Coffee Cakes book somewhere and will look at it again. Re Malgieri, have you looked at/baked from A Baker's Tour? Which of his recipes haven't worked for you?

                                            1. re: buttertart

                                              Her banana chocolate chip cake in "Coffee Cakes" is wonderful, the orange cream cheese pepita crunch muffins are delicious, and the lemon cream cheese pound cake is really good too. Those are just the ones off of the top of my head.

                                              I have "A Baker's Tour", I've read it but I've never baked from it. As you may remember, I had a complete and total failure with a recipe from Bake! & I haven't been willing to try anything else in there yet. I also have Modern Baker & I made a couple of things out of it which were just meh.

                                              1. re: flourgirl

                                                Different strokes. I'll have a look at the Walters again. The white chocolate and lemon torta Caprese and the English tea cake are really great in the Baker's Tour.

                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                  Different strokes - so true. With all of the wonderful cookbooks out there, there's bound to be something for everyone. And I've already tagged those recipes in Tour.

                                                  1. re: flourgirl

                                                    Yay! there really are tooo many great books, especially these days.

                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                      Isn't that the truth? The quality of so many cookbooks out there is so amazing, it seriously makes my head spin. I often think to myself that I was born at just the right time - for a cookbook lover it's like living in paradise. :)

                                                      1. re: flourgirl

                                                        It is amazing - we're spoiled for choice. The only drawback is that you usually don't get as comfy cosy with an individual book as you used to when there were far fewer out there. It's rather like music - so many new things out there, quite unlike when I was growing up, when I only got MAYBE 10 albums in a year and knew those inside out.

                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                          This is so true - I think I would really need at least two lifetimes to get to know all my books that well. You know, because I can't spend 24/7 playing with them. ;)

                                                          1. re: flourgirl

                                                            Yup, darn it all anyway!

                                            2. re: flourgirl

                                              I love CW Coffee Cake book too. The sour cream pecan coffee cake recipe is better than Nick's IMO (sorry bt), but her recipes tend to be a little obsessive -- I always wonder if I've done something wrong, lol!

                                              1. re: roxlet

                                                Is this the recipe, by any chance, roxlet?

                                                http://www.cookthink.com/recipe/10561...

                                                1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                  I just checked it against the book, and it is the exact recipe. The difference between her's and Nick's is that she adds vanilla and salt to the batter, and Nick doesn't. Also, her topping has brown sugar, which I prefer. It is also a slightly larger recipe.

                                                  1. re: roxlet

                                                    I always add salt to baked goods, even if it's not in the recipe. It may have been an oversight or typo.

                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                      Well, that's what I thought, and I added a half teaspoon. I didn't add vanilla though, and maybe that's why CW's recipe tasted better. Also, Nick doesn't have you toast the nuts, and I really do think that makes a HUGE difference. I toasted the nuts anyway when I made Nick's recipe...

                                                      1. re: roxlet

                                                        Vanilla and toasting would really help.

                                                    2. re: roxlet

                                                      Thank you for checking. I am gathering up ideas for breakfast/brunch-y kinds of things as we're having three sets of houseguests in the next few months, and I'm not much of a breakfast cook. This looks like a winner.

                                                      1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                        It's truly delicious and your house guests will love it I'm sure!

                                                  2. re: roxlet

                                                    LOL - it's true about CW's recipes. I really have to pay very close attention the first time I make one of her recipes so that I don't miss anything. But I've always felt like it's exactly those little extra steps she adds etc. that put many of her recipes over the top for me and make the difference between something that's just OK and something really great.

                                                2. re: buttertart

                                                  I think you mean Ready for Dessert, by Lebovitz

                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                    Yes I do, thanks.

                                                  2. re: buttertart

                                                    I realized why I love Paris Sweets so much. No cinnamon or peanuts (or at least very very little) and very few raisins. Baking from My Home to Yours is a very good book but those three ingredients are in an awful lot of the recipes.

                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                      You don't like cinnamon? I adore it. Totally with you on the raisins, though. But I'd forgive Dorie Greenspan anything if only for her recipe for Pecan Honey Sticky Buns. No raisins, and only one tablespoon of cinnamon. Best ever. And you start by making her brioche dough which is nothing to sneeze at either. And then you make the Bostock. (No raisins, no cinnamon, no peanuts.) Try it. You'll like it.

                                                      1. re: JoanN

                                                        I will! Don't like cinnamon due to a traumatic summer job between high school and university at a McCormick's factory - stuffing cinnamon sticks into those little boxes they used to come in. Woke up the following day with eyes swollen shut and welts everywhere I had touched. Job lasted one glorious day. Antipathy since (I do eat it, just not in quantity).

                                                3. Some of my favorite pastry books are the following:

                                                  • Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermè (also my wife’s favorite)
                                                  • The Classic and Contemporary Recipes of Yves Thuriès, Modern French Pastry (actually the 3 book set from Thuriès is great! Some of my best recipes are from the 3 book set, somewhat old school in technique and flavour)
                                                  • Nick Malgieri's Perfect Pastry
                                                  The next two books are full of great recipes and techniques, when I was in school I would always refer to these books.
                                                  • Patisserie by L.J. Hanneman
                                                  • The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg

                                                  • Pairs Boulangerie-Patisserie by Linda Dannenberg has some recipes with little if any techniques. What I do like is all the info on the different Paris Patisserie, ah to live and work on Boulevard St Honoré!

                                                  11 Replies
                                                  1. re: Pastryrocks

                                                    I'd say my very favorite (for the past year) has been Breakfast Lunch Tea from the Rose Bakery in Paris. Although there are a few recipes for dishes other than dessert, mostly it's dessert.

                                                    I don't know any other book...well except for Medrich's Pure Dessert which comes in a close second to Rose Bakery.

                                                    Where else can one find, in the same book, a flourless orange almond cake, a ground pistachio cake, a rice flour cake, Eccles cakes (small, turnover-type filled cookies, a broccoli cake, gingerbread that is not very sweet, and an orange polenta cake.

                                                    This is seriously fantastic. Everything I've made from it has been stellar.

                                                    1. re: oakjoan

                                                      Thanks oakjoan for the tip. Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery looks like a great cook book. Reading the Product Description from amazon.com, the book looks like a winner. It is now on my list of books to get.

                                                      Well I believe Paris-Boulangerie Patisserie, Recipes from 13 Outstanding French Bakeries by Linda Dannenberg comes close, thought I doubt it has as many recipes. Some of the recipes include Pistachio Macaroons, Galette a l’Orange, Cake aux Olives et Jambon, Coulibiac de la Mer, Tart aux Pignons and also Quiche aux Courgettes et Tomates, and many, many more. Also there is some great info on many of the great Boulangerie and Patisserie in Paris. When I win the lottery my wife and I are going to eat at every one!

                                                      1. re: Pastryrocks

                                                        Pastryrocks - It's been several years since you posted the above. Despite oakjoan's post, I thought you were comparing two widely differing levels of bakery goods. I'm wondering if you ever got both books and compared them?

                                                        1. re: yayadave

                                                          Butting in to say the Dannenberg book is much better, in my opinion. Nothing in the Rose bakery book piqued my attention enough to make.

                                                          1. re: buttertart

                                                            Certainly nothing approaching the Paris-Brest cake or even the Kugelhopf of the Dannenberg book. I just didn't want to say that, exactly. (appropriate emoticon here)

                                                            Come to think of it, the restaurant was uninspiring, too. What the heck - it's Paris!

                                                          2. re: yayadave

                                                            Sadly I had stop baking due to some health issues. Because I stopped baking, I no longer purchase cook books, there is little need I have so many and my wife would kill me anyway. I have however, started baking bread again using a biga or poolish, working with dough helps me to deal with some stress.

                                                        2. re: oakjoan

                                                          oakjoan, I may spring for Breakfast Lunch Tea. That recommendation is just aglow! I can't get my hands on it via the library.... maybe I'll peek at a B&N or something, and then order it online. It's been a while since I purchased a cookbook online and I know people on chow suggest certain vendors. Idea?

                                                          1. re: peppermint_sky

                                                            peppermint_sky, you might want to look through the threads from when Breakfast, Lunch, Tea was Cookbook of the Month a few years ago to read more about the recipes: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/608726

                                                            1. re: peppermint_sky

                                                              After initial excitement, I quickly grew disillusioned with Breakfast Lunch Tea. I thought what I made from it was not up to expectations, and after I visited the restaurant in Paris, I realized that at the end of the day, the food was just not that interesting.

                                                              1. re: roxlet

                                                                I wasn't thrilled upon perusal of the COTM threads. Thank you. Not on the list to buy.

                                                          2. re: Pastryrocks

                                                            Thanks for the mention of the Linda Dannenberg book. I'm always looking for recipes to add to my repertoire and that looks very promising.

                                                            You have to be a good baker to recommend the Friberg and Yves Thuriès books, so if you ever want to open a bakery give me a call. I baked for 3 years in college and afterward, and I still do cakes for friends as well as baking for a free meal program.

                                                            Many people may not understand the drive to bake, but there is a certain feeling of accomplishment when you walk home in the morning after looking at a full case and a steam of smiling customers.

                                                          3. Celebrate with Chocolate by Marcel Desaulniers
                                                            The Sweet Spot by Pichet Ong and Genevieve Ko
                                                            The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard

                                                            1. Peter -- What have you made from the Sweet Life that you recommend.

                                                              So many things in this book are very tempting. Everything has just a little different twist.

                                                              Books I like are The Last Course by Claudia Fleming and, as HillJ mentions below, The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard. That one has some basic recipes and then variations on them. So you really learn the basics -- and ways to tweak them.

                                                              Another book I have and would like to use more is Desserts by the Yard. There is a picture of a Banana Brulee on page 107 of the book. It looks so good I could almost eat the picture. Looks like a carmelly, gooey, creamy, banana masterpiece. If you have this book on your shelf, look at this picture. As soon as it's cooler here, it's on my to do list.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: karykat

                                                                I love The Last Course too. This is like trying to choose among your children. I like Baking with Julia and anything Alice Medrich.

                                                              2. Chez Pannise Desserts by Lindsey Shere.

                                                                1. I just picked up my copy of The Sweet Life by Kate Zuckerman after not looking at it for a good while. This is a great book.

                                                                  She has lots of basics that have little twists that make them interesting. Say an unusual or special ingredient added to a basic.

                                                                  And in reading through it, I was seeing lots of little tricks and tips I hadn't seen anywhere else.

                                                                  So I need to spend more time with this book.

                                                                  Picked out a maple creme caramel for a superbowl party.

                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                  1. re: karykat

                                                                    I need to do the same. It was very instructive and the recipes looked great on first reading. MUCH better than Desserts by the Yard.

                                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                                      I agree entirely. Although I really do like that Secrets of Baking by the Yard.

                                                                      I thought I had sold my copy of Desserts by the Yard and was looking for a particular recipe. A banana creamy caramelly thing that looks unbelievabley good. So I was glad to see I still had the book. But just for that recipe and a couple others.

                                                                      Zuckermann is a winner. Truly.

                                                                    2. re: karykat

                                                                      I have a bit of an unfair advantage here because Kate Zuckerman is my best friend's neice and I've had the extraordinary pleasure of tasting many things from the book that she herself had made. But even the few things I've made have been wonderful and in some instances--like her Meyer Lemon Curd--the best ever.

                                                                      1. re: JoanN

                                                                        In which book is the Meyer Lemon Curd recipe, JoanN? Thanks.

                                                                        1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                          In Kate Zuckerman's "The Sweet Life." She has a recipe for a Meyer Lemon Curd Tart decorated with candied lemon zest that is just sublime.

                                                                          1. re: JoanN

                                                                            Thank you!

                                                                      2. re: karykat

                                                                        Love love Zuckerman's book. Do try the spiced apple cake and the date cake with toffee sauce (aka sticky toffee pudding). I've never been able to get her almond caramels to work for me, though...

                                                                      3. Any comments on the (relatively) new Bon Appetit Desserts book? I am not looking to purchase it but someone I know is.

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: chefathome

                                                                          I have it and made a smashing mixed nut tart from it - it has some interesting recipes but suffers rather from the Bon Appétit trendy ingredient overkill. I wouldn't partuicularly recommend it.

                                                                          1. re: buttertart

                                                                            I have it too. Received it as a holiday gift from a family member who knows I like to bake. I pretended to be thrilled. I did see a tapioca pudding thing I wanted to try (think it was there) that was reviewed well on epi. I'll look at that nut tart.

                                                                            Meanwhile, I was lusting after the Essential New York Times cookbook this family member gave a sister-in-law. I may have to borrow that one.

                                                                            1. re: karykat

                                                                              Maybe offer a trade??

                                                                            2. re: buttertart

                                                                              That has been the one and only thing I've made from it (BA Desserts), still. The recipes are too busy (although the tart was fantastic).

                                                                          2. dessert fourplay by johnny iuzzini
                                                                            http://teenchefteddy.blogspot.com/

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: tldmatrix

                                                                              Oh, totally!

                                                                            2. My fave that was not mentioned: Country Desserts by Lee Bailey.

                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                              1. re: uwsister

                                                                                I used to check this book out from the library when I was a kid and look longingly at the desserts. I should have bought a copy while it was still in print!

                                                                                1. re: emily

                                                                                  http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/Searc...
                                                                                  Go for it!

                                                                                  1. re: emily

                                                                                    Lee Bailey's books are still abundantly available @ Amazon -- and affordable.
                                                                                    The man's taste was SOLID, IMO.

                                                                                    1. re: emily

                                                                                      I used to have all the Lee Bailey books, but I no longer have them and I think that they must have been given away in a book purge before we had our kitchen and sun room bookcases. I regret that I no longer have them!

                                                                                      1. re: roxlet

                                                                                        Well then it might just be time for a rebuy. Cheap on abebooks!

                                                                                        1. re: roxlet

                                                                                          Me too, roxlet. I now have only one--and it was always my least favorite (LB's New Orleans). I used to lose myself in the fantasy of his "country weekends."

                                                                                          1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                            I had, and loved, COUNTRY WEEKENDS. Except for GLORIOUS FOOD, it was my favorite post-ENTERTAINING photo-array-slash-cookbook.

                                                                                            I have no idea where it is now.

                                                                                    2. If you REALLY love ice cream and other frozen treats, do yourself a favor and pick up "Frozen Desserts" by Francisco Migoya. It is phenomenal.

                                                                                      1. Wow!

                                                                                        I just went to Amazon to find out about the book "Room For Dessert : 110 Recipes for Cakes, Custards, Souffles, Tarts, Pies, Cobblers, Sorbets, Sherbets, Ice Creams, Cookies, Candies, and Cordials " by David Lebovitz

                                                                                        http://www.amazon.com/Room-Dessert-Cu...

                                                                                        It is $78.99 new and $58.96 used and it was published in 1999. It has only 240 pages and contains 110 recipes.

                                                                                        Obviously, it is very highly thought of which reflects the pricing 13 years after publication.

                                                                                        Well, this tightwad's jaw dropped when I saw the price.

                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                          I am feeling fortunate I have a copy!

                                                                                          1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                            Check out Ready for Dessert.

                                                                                            http://www.amazon.com/Ready-Dessert-M...

                                                                                            It’s much more affordable and includes many of the recipes from Room for Dessert, revised and updated.

                                                                                            http://www.davidlebovitz.com/books/

                                                                                            1. re: JoanN

                                                                                              Yeah, that sounds a lot better.

                                                                                          2. I would nominate Sherry Yard's "The Secrets of Baking: Simple Techniques for Sophisticated Desserts" because it's organized as a teaching tool to get you conversant with the basics of pastry from which you can develop skills, combine and experiment.

                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: rainey

                                                                                              I agree entirely. She includes basics and then twists on those. WIth lots of explanation of why things work and tips. Her caramel recipe is the only one I've been able to make work with ease.

                                                                                              1. re: rainey

                                                                                                Sounds great... uhh, that's just Amazon's asking price right? They don't really get that much for a book do they?

                                                                                                1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                                  ecookbooks.com has it for $23.72

                                                                                                  1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                    Ah thank you. Had never heard of that sight.

                                                                                                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                                      You're welcome. It's great, I buy quite a few books there.

                                                                                                  2. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                                    I love my copy Secrets of Baking -- very successful, elegant desserts.

                                                                                                    I got mine off of the used section of Amazon for $15.00.

                                                                                                2. I'm not even sure if my favorite dessert cookbook is still in print.

                                                                                                  Gooey Desserts by Elaine Corn. I've never made anything from there that wasn't wonderful.

                                                                                                  I had a Maida Heatter cookbook and ended up giving it away. I really wasn't that impressed.

                                                                                                  I have Baking with Julia, and I have made a few good recipe from there, but I sometimes find it a bit overwhelming with the complexity of some of the recipes.

                                                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: Avalondaughter

                                                                                                    Really? Can you talk about some of the recipes? Because that book is available used very cheaply (as little as $.01 + $3.99 shipping!). I just found $4.00 in change buried in the couch pillows.

                                                                                                    1. re: Avalondaughter

                                                                                                      That's very interesting that you 'really weren't that impressed' by the Maida Heatter cookbook. I find her passion for baking and precision and clear instructions instructions impressive in and of itself, and the fabulous results speak for themselves. Many bakeries use her recipes ... I believe the (very good) brownies sold at Baker Bros. are her recipe.

                                                                                                      1. re: foiegras

                                                                                                        Plus 1000%, MH is a true doyenne. I've made dozens of her recipes and only one didn't turn out - I think it was my oven.

                                                                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                          I love her too. I have almost everyone of her books - and my very first foray into baking (when I was about 15) was a recipe in "Book of Great Desserts", the black and white pound cake and it came out awesome. :)

                                                                                                          1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                            That's such a wonderful book. I have my 95 cent paperback copy of it, busted up with a rubber band around it now.

                                                                                                          2. re: buttertart

                                                                                                            I love her too. When we first started doing our New Year's Day party many years ago, all the cookies I made were from her books.

                                                                                                      2. I vote for In The Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley: http://www.amazon.com/Sweet-Kitchen-D...

                                                                                                        The first few chapters are an encyclopedia of equipment and ingredients, including massive charts of flavour pairings. The rest is actual recipes covering pretty much every type of dessert.

                                                                                                        I used to work in a bakery and the pastry chef swore by this book.

                                                                                                        10 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: piccola

                                                                                                          Thankfully I already have this! This thread is getting expensive. I figured out is is cheaper to buy some of these than make a trek to the library.

                                                                                                          1. re: wekick

                                                                                                            I live in a fairly small community but I went to the library today to see if I could find a modern cookbook. They had things like "Grok burns the wooly mamoth" and "How to grill your Oscar Mayer Weiners".

                                                                                                            Anyway, I'll just have to continue to buy my cookbooks.

                                                                                                            1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                                              Reading posts like yours remind me to remember how fortunate I am. We have a very large, very extensive library system here that regularly buys wonderful new books, including tons of cookbooks. I LOVE my library!!!

                                                                                                              1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                                It doesn't help me! If I take a cookbook out of the library, I usually end up buying it.

                                                                                                                1. re: yayadave

                                                                                                                  LOL! I know, I often do the same thing, But on the other hand, there have been many times that I took a book out of the library that I thought I couldn't possibly live without and it turned out that the love wasn't really there after all.

                                                                                                            2. re: wekick

                                                                                                              It's the only dessert book I own, because it covers so much of the basics. Otherwise, I get most of my recipes from the Interwebs.

                                                                                                              1. re: wekick

                                                                                                                ahahahaha!! wekick, these kinds of threads are ALWAYS dangerous for me! But I have found some incredible books that I might have otherwise overlooked, thanks to CH posters and, what the heck, it's books, not crack, right?

                                                                                                                (I spent part of yesterday wandering around our small house trying to find someplace I could put just one more bookcase. So far no luck. We DO plan on installing built-ins around the fireplace, but it won't be happening for a while. Until than I have stacks of unshelvable books piling up on my side of the bed...)

                                                                                                                1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                                  Nothing gives a home character like books--no matter where they are.

                                                                                                                  1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                    Thanks. I needed that. :)

                                                                                                              2. re: piccola

                                                                                                                Yes, this is a great book. I hope I still have it. There was a massive book purge a while back.

                                                                                                                The encyclopedia part is neat. I always found obscure things there I wasn't expecting. So it was fresh. And all the recipes have some little twist that makes them a little different.

                                                                                                              3. 1) Sherry Yard's "Desserts by the Yard". A personal, autobiographical collection, one could say--but interesting recipes, that in my experience, all work.

                                                                                                                2) Francois Payard's "Chocolate Epiphany". Challenging, French, and irresistible.

                                                                                                                3) Michel Roux's "Desserts", photography by Martin Brigdale. Out-of-print, but if you find a copy from Amazon Marketplace or in a used book store, grab it!

                                                                                                                15 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: MmePatissiere

                                                                                                                  I have Michel Roux's "Finest Desserts" and i haven't made anything out of it yet. (This is one of the problems with having hundreds of cookbooks...) I have to pull it off the shelf and get busy. Is there anything in particular you recommend? BTW, I can't believe how expensive this book got. I bought a second hand hard copy in almost like new condtion just a couple of years ago for four dollars!!!

                                                                                                                  1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                                    Just checked Amazon, and my jaw dropped at the price also....jeez!! Yes, sorry, "Finest Desserts" appears to be the American edition of the same book called "Desserts" in the UK. In my first pastry job, the chapter on creams, mousses, & bavarois and the one on ice creams & sorbets were my particular life savers (I vaguely recall carrying that book in my work backpack for a solid year), and were the building blocks to the desserts my exec asked me to come up with. That, in my experience, is what makes the book great: the building blocks and ideas you can borrow and use to make your own creations. The photo of all the layers of different bavarois flavors always intrigued me; there's a dessert there waiting to be developed, like three layers of tropical fruit bavarois on...a macadamia nut tuile or nougatine base? Macadamia sbricciolona, maybe? Wait a minute, a layer of mango bav, one of ginger, one of lime, each separated by a macadamia nut tuile?.......anyway, see what I mean about the ideas it inspires? There's a gratin with redcurrants which is absolutely delicious--also, caraway ice cream paired with pecan pie is a revelation. So it's not so much the set recipes, though they're worth making for sure, as the key recipes that build them and increase your own inventive repertoire that I would recommend.

                                                                                                                    1. re: MmePatissiere

                                                                                                                      What a fantastic post - thanks so much. I can't wait to dig into it now!

                                                                                                                      1. re: MmePatissiere

                                                                                                                        An Amazon search yielded a new book by Michel Roux called "Desserts" that will be coming out this October. Could it be a new edition of this obviously well-loved work? In any case, we should all be pretty excited!

                                                                                                                        Here's the link:
                                                                                                                        http://www.amazon.com/Desserts-Michel...

                                                                                                                        1. re: manofthehoff

                                                                                                                          I checked that link and if you use the search inside feature it appears that it's a re-issue of an earlier book called "Desserts. Ten Recipes" which was published in 2004.

                                                                                                                          It doesn't appear to be the same book as "Finest Desserts" which was published in 2001.

                                                                                                                          1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                                            I think the "look inside" feature links to the wrong book! Here's the product description for this new one:
                                                                                                                            "In Desserts, the author of the widely acclaimed cookbooks Eggs and Pastry returns with an exhaustive collection of sweet delights, from simple mousses and biscuits to advanced petit fours and homemade chocolates. Three-star Michelin chef Michel Roux is one of the world's most respected chefs and in Desserts he focuses his ability and flare on everyone's favorite course."

                                                                                                                            An "exhaustive" collection is hopefully more that 10 recipes! The description also states that there will be 150 pictures. I think the scope is much wider than the 10 recipes book. I'm hoping this is a new-and-improved "Finest Desserts."

                                                                                                                            1. re: manofthehoff

                                                                                                                              If you look at the product description for the October 1994 edition of "desserts" it also contains 150 recipes. I am just about positive that this is a re-issue of "desserts", not
                                                                                                                              a new version of "finest desserts."

                                                                                                                    2. re: MmePatissiere

                                                                                                                      MmePatissiere -- What do you like in Desserts by the Yard? I thought I had sold my copy but see I still have it. I saved it for one recipe in particular -- the Banana Brulee on pp 106-07,

                                                                                                                      It does have an autobiographical tone. Some baking hounds on our list have not like that aspect of it.

                                                                                                                      But if there are some good things you'd recommend in the book, I'd need to take a look at them.

                                                                                                                      The Secrets of Baking book by Yard does not suffer from the autobiographical aspect and is a great book I think.

                                                                                                                      1. re: karykat

                                                                                                                        Hi, Karykat--the Banana Brulee does look scrummy, doesn't it?! I haven't made that one, so cannot comment on it. But starting from the front--the ladyfingers WORK!!! So do the Chocolate Souffles; her technique is impeccable. Love Chocolate Hot-and-Cold, though I skip the caramelization step as I feel it's gilding the lily. The fresh raspberries work just fine. The London chapter I love as I spent 15 years in the UK. I'd argue with the Devonshire Cream that it doesn't need sugar--real clotted cream is not sweet--but that's just me. Twix Cookies (aka Millionaire's Shortbread in the UK) recipe makes wonderful treats, and please make the effort to find the Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup, as it's worth it. The scone recipe is SPOT ON, and makes true English scones. The Trifle and Treacle Tart are not exactly traditional, but so what? Her idea of using creme baumaniere is absolutely sound--I use that now in my own trifles. The Campton Shortcuts I haven't tried, but it's on the hit list with the Nectarine Cobbler. The Cheesecake Flan is unbelievable. Sacher Torte--her cake is now the basis for my version of ST and other gateaux traditionally calling for genoise. Ditto Quintessential Chocolate Chip Cookies. Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake--again, SPOT ON. Lemon Tart = Simple, Unadorned Magic--I don't bother with the confectioner's sugar dusting, but that's personal choice. The entire Special Events chapter is on the hit list too. Her Basics chapter is also solid--Creamy Caramel Sauce sets beautifully and is trustworthy as a cake filling. Ganache is correct. If there were only one recipe I could save from the book, though, it's the Ring of Saturn Peach Doughnuts. Serve an uncomplicated salad as a main course, then this dessert. You will be worshiped.

                                                                                                                        Ms. Yard shows such talent and professional integrity in DBtY, that I'm sure the Secrets of Baking is equally superb.

                                                                                                                        Ok, end of rhapsody!

                                                                                                                        1. re: MmePatissiere

                                                                                                                          Thanks Mme! I'm going to sit down with the book and your recommendations.

                                                                                                                          I did take a look at the Ring of Saturn recipe to start. And see it calls for a lemon verbena or lemon zest syrup. It just so happens that my sweetheart grows lemon verbena in spades. None at the moment -- his herb garden is under a couple feet of snow. But that will be a good use for it once it's growing again.

                                                                                                                          1. re: karykat

                                                                                                                            LOVE it!! :-) What else does he grow?

                                                                                                                            1. re: MmePatissiere

                                                                                                                              All the usual herbs. Plus lovage, anise hyssop and chervil. Also a thing with red leaves that is great. Can't remember the name.

                                                                                                                              It's fun to experiment with some of these.

                                                                                                                          2. re: MmePatissiere

                                                                                                                            Thanks for that rundown, MmePatissiere! I have the book but have never baked from it. I think I bought it for the recipe for Charlotte Russe, my sister's favorite childhood treat. Now I am inspired to make something from this for Valentine's Day tomorrow. Maybe a lemon tart, always a favorite here at my house. Or perhaps chocolate souffles. Going to look the recipes over now...

                                                                                                                            1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                                              Go for it!

                                                                                                                        2. re: MmePatissiere

                                                                                                                          I received the Payard book for Christmas and just sat down to finally have a really good look at it. It's so beautiful. So many recipes that I want to try! I think the chocolate brioche will be first. I have a chocolate lover and a homemade bread lover in my house. I hope it's as good as it looks.

                                                                                                                        3. http://www.jamesbeard.org/files/Essen...

                                                                                                                          For your reference. Marion Cunningham's book is wonderful.

                                                                                                                          1. Gotta toss in a mention of Joanne Chang's Flour. I love that book. Great recipes and extremely clear directions. Plus, she gives weights for ingredients.

                                                                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: soccermom13

                                                                                                                              Fwiw, I agree with SM about Flour. I don't much like Carole Walters, though admittedly I haven't made anything from her coffeecake book. I did like her pecan tassies, but found her technique to be overly fussy. Love love love Maida, Malgieri's recipes work, love Sherry Yard, village baker's wife (Gayle Ortiz) is a fabulous baking book, and many more. I use Cook's illustrated baking recipes and find many of the older ones to be really good.

                                                                                                                              1. re: petitgateau

                                                                                                                                Oh and David Lebovitz chocolate and also perfect scoop. Great ice cream recipes in the latter

                                                                                                                                1. re: petitgateau

                                                                                                                                  Yes, Carole Walter's recipes are extremely fussy, but the do yield good results. I have made several recipes from the coffecake book, and all have been excellent.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                                                    I love Carole Walter's coffeecake book. I always get great results with those recipes. Her banana chocolate chip cake is fantastic - I make it all the time to rave reviews. If she's fussy, I think the results speak for themselves.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                                                      She seems to carp on brown sugar being "very fresh." I guess people bake with stale brown sugar? It's one of those really fussy things of hers.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                                                        I've never really noticed the carping. I guess I just filter it out.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                                                          I only made one of her recipes, the zucchini loaf with apricots and dates. It was a nice change from other zucchini recipes I have tried. However, it was labor-intensive for a quick bread. The people I served it to liked it and one person asked for the recipe.

                                                                                                                              2. Any of the cookbooks by Anna Olsen.

                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                1. re: Ruthie789

                                                                                                                                  I meant Anna Olson. Her new book is based on her very informative and instructive show, Baked by Anna Olson.

                                                                                                                                2. I like Pure Dessert not so much for specific desserts as for the way it pushes your thinking about broad categories of desserts and Pamela Azquith's Fruit Tarts or anything by Alice Waters for their respect for ingredients.