HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


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!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  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.

              1. Most of the books of James Peterson are excellent and his book "Baking" is no exception. Highly recommended.

                2 Replies
                1. re: honkman

                  Baking with Julia is a great book.

                  1. re: foodie06

                    I agree- it's my go-to baking book.

                2. If it's pastry you want to bake, a great cookbook is Rose Levy Beranbaum's "The Pie and Pastry Bible". (Beranbaum's "The Cake Bible" is also terrific, though mostly cakes.) It runs the gamut from pies, tarts and tartlets (including savory) through biscuits and scones, phyllo and strudel, puff pastry and croissants, danish pastry, brioche and cream puff pastry, through techniques, ingredients and equipment.

                  I really like the way Beranbaum has organized her books. Her recipes are detailed, include ingredient quantities in volume measures and by weight (ounces and grams), all recipes provide storage times and methods, and most all recipes include an end note of what she calls Pointers for Success.

                  There may be newer baking books out there, but this one is a real winner.

                  1. If you are interested in the science of baking, as well as recipes, check out Bake Wise by Shirley Corriher. My well-used and tattered tome by Bernard Clayton is also a favorite.

                    5 Replies
                      1. re: rainey

                        Agreed I have and enjoy both of these myself. I did find though that I didn't really begin to "appreciate" them until I was further along into my baking. I think Shirley's book is a little too detailed and . . . . academic . . . for someone getting into baking but a great book once you know more about baking and are starting to want to figure out "why" something happened or "when" to try a different technique - etc. Just my 2-cents on that one.

                        1. re: thimes

                          I think just the opposite. A novice baker is bound to have failures, which can be discouraging and puzzling. Shirley O. Corriher explains the why, and how to prevent a recurrence. I have Corriher's "Cookwise", which preceded "Bakewise". Some of the reviews of the latter that I have read say its information is a rehash of that in Cookwise but I imagine Bakewise has more recipes. If I were starting to bake, I would start with Corriher, and perhaps Ruhlman's "Ratio". They will help you master the basic principles of baking and from there, you can progress to the more elaborate recipes.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            Yes, that's how I feel. Plus when you have an understanding of the principle it stays with you and also frees you to experiment with the odds on your side.

                            I can't tell you how many years I made cookies knowing that I liked some and didn't prefer others before I discovered that the type of fat and sugar made a huge difference that I could manipulate.

                            Shirley is a cooking god to me if, for no other reason, her contribution that you can thicken gravy with stuffing instead of flour.

                            1. re: rainey

                              She is as genial as she is wise! I figured out the stuffing-as-thickener all on my own but no need for you to convert! ;-D

                              Do you have any opinions about whether or not Bakewise covers more ground than Cookwise, other than the number of recipes?

                    1. Well, I'm not sure now it's purely pastry... but when I see "baking" I immediately think of Dan Lepard. man's a genius. And he's just got a new book out!

                      1. As you can see from these posts, there are at least 25 very good books on baking.

                        I can assure you that you won’t settle for just 1 book.

                        I have some suggestions:
                        Buy used books in good to very good condition. You will save a ton of money.
                        Look on Amazon and check how many stars the book has and how many reviewers.
                        Read some of the reviews and the book description on Amazon.
                        Determine the style of cookbook you like. A book of recipes; recipes with tips on getting it done; recipes with tips and the science behind it and what is happening.

                        Become a premium member at Baking911.com. It has recipes, tutorials, articles, forums and you can ask questions directly to the main people at the site.

                        Oh, I have another suggestion for you. Become a premium member at baking911.com. For about $18 a year, you have access to tested recipes, forums similar to chowhounds and can ask all the questions you want and the main lady will answer you and so will a lot of the other members. There are tutorials and picture and a lot of articles on baking.
                        Here are the authors to look for:
                        Rose Levy Beranbaum
                        Shirley O. Corriher
                        Julia Child
                        Maida Haetter
                        Nick Malgieri
                        Sherry Yard
                        Wayne Gisslen
                        Christopher Kimball or America’s Test Kitchen
                        Flo Braker
                        Marion Cunningham (Fannie Farmer fame)
                        James Peterson

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: Hank Hanover

                          Oh, I have another suggestion. Become a premium member at Baking911.com. It has recipes, articles, tutorials, forums and you can ask questions directly to the main people at the site.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            Agree on buying used from Amazon, as long as you're careful and look at the ratings of the sellers. Mr. Pine and I have sold over 300 items there, and we give excellent customer service, along with really accurate descriptions (i.e., any underlining or slightly frayed cover, etc).

                          2. re: Hank Hanover

                            In addition to buying books used to save money, I recommend checking them out from the library and living with them for a few weeks first to see if they work for you.

                            1. re: weem

                              Great idea. I've had recommendations of "best cookbook ever," only to check it from the library and not find it at all what I want.

                              1. re: pine time

                                Among my baking friends we swap baking cookbooks and created our own lending library. recipes we like we copy or scan. We've saved tons of $ and shelf space.

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  i bet that's really fun. do you all do a "book club" thing and meet regularly, and share thoughts on the recipes? cool idea,

                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                    Actually not really a book club. We started out emailing our cookbook lists. We contact each other on what we'd like to swap. We leave each other books in the mailbox or in my case the front porch basket. Borrow it for about 3 months or so, copy what we need and move on to another. We talk about recipes all the time! But the swap thing just made sense to us gals. Tomorrow I'm taking a book over to a gals house on my way to work and I am expecting a book on baked appetizers on Fri to be on my front stoop. Simple swap.

                            2. re: Hank Hanover

                              In this case, I'm going to TRY to limit myself to just one book. If it were for myself, I'd likely get a couple, used. But this is a for a gift, so I'll limit my purchase.

                            3. Another good one is Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.

                              1. Thanks to all! There are some great suggestions here, several of which I've reserved at my local library so I can look them over before making a purchase.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: CindyJ

                                  wise choice. experience has taught me that if it's at all possible, at the very least i need to leaf through a cookbook before buying it to be sure it's what i want. every time i know i'll be passing by/through a large bookstore like B&N, i bring along a copy of my *extremely* long wish list and try to track down a bunch of them so i can either confirm their place on the list or scratch them off.

                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                    I like to "road test" cookbooks before buying them, whenever possible. There have been some books that I've borrowed from the library and loved them at first glance, but somehow didn't find the inspiration to try a single recipe during the three weeks (sometimes even six weeks, with a renewal) I had them on loan. To me, that's telling.