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A Baker's Half Dozen

The best new books on pastry, chocolate, and more

By Virginia B. Wood, Fri., Dec. 8, 2006

A Baker's Half Dozen
A Baker's Half Dozen

After all my years as a baker, I consider it a very good sign when a recipe grabs my attention and demands to be made. Here are some new books that have inspired me in the kitchen this fall. – V.B.W.

A Baker's Half Dozen

Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts by Maida Heatter (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $24.95): The divine Maida was one of my early baking inspirations, and her recipes were among the popular standards of my dessert business. This wonderful collection of chocolate delights was a big hit when it was first published in 1980, and I'm thrilled to see a new edition on the shelves. I hope a whole new generation of bakers will be introduced to Maida and come to love her as I do.

A Baker's Half Dozen

Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton-Mifflin, $40): Greenspan is both the baker and author behind such award-winning books as Baking With Julia and Desserts by Pierre Hermé. This time out, she's writing and baking as herself, serving up a delectable selection of recipes designed for home bakers. All the recipes are clear and concise with tips for serving and storage, plus occasional suggestions for variations. A worthwhile addition to any home baker's library.

A Baker's Half Dozen

The Essence of Chocolate by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg with Ann Spivack and Susie Heller (Hyperion, $35): The founders of one of America's premier boutique chocolate operations have put together this elegant homage to the revered "food of the gods." The beautifully illustrated book offers everything from fascinating information on the history and cultivation of cacao to insights into the development of a unique chocolate business to a distinctive collection of both sweet and savory recipes designed as a showcase of their fine chocolate. A must-have for serious chocolate aficionados.

A Baker's Half Dozen

One Cake, One Hundred Desserts by Greg Case and Keri Fisher (Morrow, $29.95): Have you ever stared at a bountiful array of desserts on an elegant hotel buffet and wondered how they create so many different desserts every day? Pastry chef Greg Case discloses one of the secrets of his profession and shares a basic cake recipe that can be used as the building block for 100 different sweets. It's a good book idea that makes for a functional resource.

The New York Times Dessert Cookbook edited by Florence Fabricant (St. Martin's, $29.95): Times food writer Fabricant researched 10 years' worth of the paper's culinary archives and delivered an enormous selection of recipes for every kind of sweet to make at home. She has chosen well: This book could replace a drawer full of fading newspaper clippings. There's everything here from comforting home-style cobblers, crisps, and crumbles to the elegant dessert stylings of NYC's top bakers and pastry artists.

The Sweet Life: Desserts From Chanterelle by Kate Zuckerman (Bulfinch Press, $35): The longtime pastry chef of the acclaimed NYC eatery Chanterelle, Zuckerman shares recipes for her highly touted, flavor-inspired desserts. Many of the recipes are simple and approachable for the home cook, and there are informational sidebars with explanations for more complicated procedures "beyond the basics." There are plenty of good ideas here.

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