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Dec 8, 2011 08:41 AM

Can anyone recommend a good cookbook for a home baker?

I'd love some recommendations for a cookbook for someone who's recently begun to enjoy pastry baking. I'm looking for a book that incorporates recipes and techniques that may be a little challenging but definitely manageable for an enthusiastic novice baker. Any ideas? Thanks!

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  1. Anything by Maida Haetter. Easily found on used book sites, recipes are perfect and unscrewupable. l own every one of her books even when reducing my cookbooks from several hundred to about 70 kept hers.

    1. In addition to Maida Heatter, I would suggest anything by Nick Malgieri. His recipes are excellent and his most recent book, Bake!, would suit your needs to a tee.

      1. I'd recommend The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard. It is organized into "families" of related desserts, and gives you basic master recipes and then tweaks them for more involved variants of them.

        You get a really good understanding of technique and why things work. And everything I've made from it has been great.

        4 Replies
        1. re: karykat

          My recommendation also. It is a wonderful book that really teaches you technique and recipes at the same time. And she's great!

          1. re: karykat

            That's exactly what I opened the topic to say!. It's an excellent teaching book with do-able top rate recipes that invite experimentation and expansion rather than reliance on repeating the same recipe ad infinitum.

            Her pumpkin financier, meanwhile, is fantastic. I split it open and slather in a layer of lemon curd. And the burned sugar truffles are pretty slammin' as well.

            1. re: rainey

              Mmmmmm. Thanks for these recipe recommendations. I love financiers and I love pumpkin. So I've got to try Sherry's pumpkin financiers.

              And I love burnt sugar and I love truffles. So those burnt sugar truffles are on my to-do list too.

              One thing I like about the Sherry Yard book is that it gives you "families" of baked things. And she gives you master recipes for that family and then variants. So for example, the first chapter is on ganache. And then she divides that "family" of recipes into medium ganache (like truffles, fondue and souffles), soft ganache, (like chocolate mouse and chocolate sauce) and firm ganache (like candy bars and chocolate frosting). So you see how things are related and the principles underlying that category and get some great recipes.

              Some other types of families in the book are caramel, pate a choux, pound cake, financiers pie and tart dough and brioche. And more.

              1. re: karykat

                +99. Received this for my birthday, and even tho' I consider myself an experienced baker, I learned so much. Love the way the book is organized, and the pictures are gorgeous. Instructions are complete and easy to follow. Highly recommended.

          2. There are a lot of threads about this but here goes.

            Professional Baking, College Version with CD Rom, 4th edition by Wayne Gisslen
            736 pages
            This one is my favorite. I bought it used. It has a cd rom with all the recipes. It has detailed explanations as to what is happening. It discusses possible variations in those recipes. It is a textbook and written for a student.

            The Dessert Bible by Christopher Kimball
            416 pages
            This is a very good book, too. Christopher is the same one from America’s Test Kitchen so there are lots of stories where he experimented with ingredients or amounts and what happened.

            The Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham
            640 pages
            This is very good, too. More of a classic cookbook than a textbook.
            I buy all my cookbooks used. I recommend it for you too.

            Oh another wonderful book is "The Art of Perfect Baking" by Flo Braker.

            I suspect goodhealthgourmet will be along soon and post search results for this subject.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Hank Hanover

              I definitely agree with the Wayne Gisslen book, but don't forget Bo Fribergs text.


              The King Arthur baking books are also worth buying. If they are into yeast doughs then I would suggest Peter Reinhart's books.

              1. re: Kelli2006

                I love Bo Friberg's Professional Pastry Chef and use it a lot. However, it is a very advanced book, not very home baker friendly, and makes large volumes.

                A single cake can reference up to 5 or 6 different recipes, each of which makes 4x what you will need to bake that cake. So it takes quite a bit of time to scale recipes (if you want to) and to plan out how to go about making the cake.

                That all said - a great resource for those so inclined.

            2. Baking Illustrated by the editors of Cook's Illustrated, or anything by Rose Levy Beranbaum.