Mrs. Santa's Book Bag

Mrs. Santa's Book Bag

Baking books were a hot commodity in the publishing world in 2012, with over 20 titles covering everything from pies and doughnuts to gluten-free vegan pastries. I'll have to admit I'm not the audience for the large number of gluten-free recipe collections, and I was pretty choosy about the other titles I kept throughout the year. I'm still using Gesine Bullock-Prado's Pie It Forward that I reviewed in the summer reading issue (June 1), and Baked Elements (reviewed Sept. 14) was my favorite of the late summer. These four books are definitely keepers and also worthy of gifting, each for a distinctly different reason.

Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel (Artisan, $50, 399pp.) In keeping with the style of renowned chef Keller's other books inspired by the restaurants in his famous stable, the Bouchon Bakery cookbook is over-sized, weighty, and so elegant and sophisticated in appearance that it would seem to be the last thing anyone would want in a kitchen where things might get messy. It could easily be an expensive coffee table book for a friend who is enamored of Keller's restaurants. However, I suggest this book for the professional baker on your list or the passionate amateur who will find a spot to prop it up and read it through before ever baking a thing, and taking the thorough instructions, measurements, and techniques into serious consideration. Keller and his professional team of pastry chef, baker, and recipe testers provide all the information necessary to execute their recipes successfully and many of the recipes here are simple and straightforward. While many of the cookies and doughnuts have an American retro provenance, most of the pastries and breads are European in inspiration.

The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook – Sweetness in Seattle by Tom Douglas and Shelley Lance (Wm Morrow, $35, 389pp.) Seattle chef Tom Douglas, his slew of restaurants, and his multiple cookbooks are all award winners. His Dahlia bakery is one of the reasons Seattle has the reputation as a town with great pastries to serve with all the big name coffees. Many of the bakery menu items are nationally famous, such as their cinnamon-sugar doughnuts, the triple coconut cream pie, and the peanut butter sandwich cookies beloved of the late Nora Ephron. Those recipes are all here, and each is worth the price of the cookbook on its own. The English muffins are appealing and the jam and preserve recipes will make you wish for access to the fruits and berries of the Northwest.

The Seasonal Baker - Easy Recipes from My Home Kitchen to Make Year-Round by John Barricelli (Clarkson/Potter, $35, 288pp.) Barricelli is a Martha Stewart Omnimedia alum who operates the SoNoBaking Company & Cafés in South Norwalk and Westport, Connecticut, and is the host of Everyday Baking on PBS. His book made the keeper list because we share an affinity for citrus flavors and there are plenty of lemon, lime, and orange-flavored delights included here. The citrus-glazed sables and French lemon tart are particularly wonderful.

Baking Out Loud – Fun Desserts with Big Flavors by Hedy Goldsmith with Abigail Johnson Dodge (Clarkson/Potter, $27.50, 223pp.) Though I've never met Florida pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith, I immediately recognized her as a woman after my own heart when she disclosed that she, too, found early inspiration in the baking books of the famed Seventies dessert maker and cookbook author Maida Heatter. Goldsmith's rendition of such retro treats as Pop-Tarts, Whoopie Pies, and cinnamon graham crackers are marvelous, and her ice creams and sorbets are remarkable, too.

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