The year 2000 was a big one for books devoted to all types of baking. During the past several months, I've received no less than 15 baking books to consider for review. Being a baker by trade, I'm particularly interested in this genre of cookbooks and also likely to be critical of those that don't have something worthwhile to offer. I tossed one chocolate cookbook because the author suggested that novice bakers could melt chocolate over direct heat on the stove, a definite faux pas. A couple of others were recipe collections from bakeries in New York and London, respectively, that I didn't consider to be of much local interest. For a baking book to interest me, it has to have recipes that make me want to get in the kitchen and bake, with recipes or ideas I haven't seen before and am eager to try. The book also has to offer sound instruction, good basic information, and some indication of the skill level necessary to complete the recipes. After careful consideration, I've chosen the following nine books as worthwhile additions to my baking library and good gift ideas in the bargain. Bake to your heart's content.