2020 will certainly go down in the books as one annus horribilis, but the silver lining is that home bakers honed their skills, baked a ton of sourdough-everything, and got serious about expanding their skill-set in the pastry game. Riding on this home baking wave, it’s no surprise that the fall season has brought us an abundance of excellent new baking books. To help you decide which ones you just can’t live without, we at Pastry at Home have put together a list of our must-have favorites. So whether you’re a novice baker or a seasoned pro, you’re bound to find something here to inspire you or help you learn a new technique or two. ‘Tis the season for baking, after all.
One Tin Bakes: Sweet and Simple Traybakes, Pies, Bars and Buns
By Edd Kimber
Kyle Books, 2020; $22.00
London-based baker and food writer Edd Kimber, who won the first ever The Great British Bake Off ten years ago, has a new book out, his fourth. The concept is a winner: One Tin Bakes is a collection of 70 recipes for dessert and baked goods, both classic and modern, all of which are made in a standard 9-by-13-inch baking pan. The recipes are varied and versatile, with treats ranging from simple pies, cakes, buns and bars, to impressive showstoppers, and each with a special Edd Kimber twist. Some of the more innovative offerings include Passion Fruit and Lime Tres Leches Cake; Matcha Roll Cake; Malted Chocolate Tiffin; Florentine Grape Focaccia; Tahini Babka Buns; and Mango and Lime Meringue Roulade. So, if you’re looking for a baking book to inspire and get you baking some easy treats in new and exciting flavors, put this one on your wish list.
Dessert Person: Recipes and Guidance for Baking with Confidence
by Claire Saffitz
Clarkson Potter, 2020; $35
If you’ve ever seen pastry chef Claire Saffitz tackle some crazy recipe challenges when she was host of “Gourmet Makes” for Bon Appétit’s YouTube channel, you may question whether this, her first book, is right for you. I suspect Saffitz may have felt that apprehension from home bakers, and she provides a handy rating system at the beginning of the book and labels each page accordingly. Level 1 beginners get Almond Butter Banana Bread for instance, while a level 3 can tackle a St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake and move up to level 5 Spelt Croissants. Being an accurate recipe tester by trade, Saffitz provides volume as well as weighted measurements in ounces and grams, and labels each recipe with total/active time, seasonality, and any dietary considerations such as gluten-free. None of her ingredients, techniques or flavor combinations are overly intimidating. Rather, she asks you to take a journey with her to try a few new things, maybe finally making a fruitcake or adding her twist of earl grey to traditional apricot hamantaschen. Whatever your level of expertise or taste, Saffitz makes it clear that everyone has a dessert person inside of them.
Rose’s Ice Cream Bliss
By Rose Levy Beranbaum
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020; $25
Rose Levy Beranbaum, award-winning author of The Cake Bible, The Pie and Pastry Bible and Rose’s Baking Basics, is known for her baking books, many of which have become classics. Rose’s Ice Cream Bliss is her first dessert book that is not focused on baking, and it does not disappoint. Rose applies the same degree of meticulous testing and detail in this collection of over 100 recipes for ice cream and frozen treats in a spectrum of innovative flavors. There are classics and new twists, along with sauces, toppings and mix-ins, plus extras like homemade waffle cones, brownies, sundaes and ice cream sandwiches. We can’t wait to try ice cream recipes such as Turkish Stretchy; Cordon Rose Cheesecake; Thai Corn and Bust My Bourbon Balls. In addition to Rose’s fine-tuned and creative recipes, tips and information on machines, ingredients and techniques round out this book, an indispensable guide for ice cream lovers everywhere.
The Book on Pie: Everything You Need to Know to Bake Perfect Pies
By Erin Jeanne McDowell
Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020; $35
“Pie has a miraculous ability to be simultaneously comforting and special occasion worthy, both homey and fancy.” So says baker Erin Jeanne McDowell, who has brought her pie skills to kitchens everywhere through her New York Times Cooking and Food52 videos. Her newest book, The Book on Pie, is one-part master class, one-part guidebook, and one-part love letter to pie. Perfect for novice and seasoned bakers alike, the book will open home cooks to a lifetime of delicious creations, both sweet and savory. In this volume she shares her top tricks for making the perfect crust, along with recipes for classics such as Apple Pie and Pumpkin Pie and more innovative pies including her Birthday Cake Pie (yes, please!), Black Forest Pie, and Piña Colada Pie. She also includes lots of decorative techniques that will allow you to transform your humble holiday pie into a show-stopping finale. With this approachable volume at your side, your next holiday dessert is bound to be easy as pie.
A Good Bake: The Art and Science of Making Perfect Pastries, Cakes, Cookies, Pies and Breads at Home
by Melissa Weller and Carolynn Carreño
Alfred A. Knopf, 2020; $40
Before opening Sadelle’s, a bakery in the Soho section of New York City, Melissa Weller worked as the head baker at some of the best restaurants in the country (Babbo, Per Se), and her chocolate babka and sticky buns are legendary. It’s no surprise, then, that her first book is an inspiration for bakers everywhere. In this comprehensive guide to the hows and whys of baking, Weller uses her scientific background as a former chemical engineer to explain a variety of techniques, fine-tuning the process with a detailed approach that allows home bakers to feel confident, whether they’re making a simple muffin or a more challenging pain au chocolat. The book includes a variety of recipe categories, including cakes (i.e., Pumpkin Layer Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream and Brown Sugar Frosting), bakery classics (Milk Chocolate and Raspberry Blondies), Pastries (Croissants and Salted Caramel Sticky Buns), and even savory offerings (Khachapuri with Cheese, Baked Egg and Nigella Seeds). With beautiful photographs throughout, this book is a must-have for any serious baker or pastry pro.
Martha Stewart’s Cake Perfection: 100+ Recipes for the Sweet Classic, from Simple to Stunning
By the Editors of Martha Stewart Living
Clarkson Potter, 2020; $28.99
Happy 97th, Martha! 97th book, that is. The editors of Martha Stewart Living released her newest offering, Cake Perfection, and true to the brand and title, there are some stunners. For those who are avid Martha fans (guilty as charged!) some of the techniques and recipes will be familiar from her magazine and shows, like the Berry Layer Cake. However, like many of her other books, this offers the old and the new to remain consistent and yet continue to push forward with new trends. Sandwiched between the classics like Devil’s Food Cake and Carrot Cake with White Chocolate Frosting, there is a Faux-Stone Cake which is her take on the mirror glaze and a Raspberry and Chocolate-Hazelnut Crepe Cake. Many of the cakes build upon the mix-and-match cake, filling and frosting recipes included to allow the baker a lot of flexibility and creativity with flavor. With volume measurements and straight-forward ingredients, the recipes are easy to follow and will give you the confidence to go forth and bake. Whether you’re looking for a simple snack cake, a tasty bundt or a towering layer cake, Martha gives you plenty of options and inspiration.
Baking with Licker: Home Baking with an Asian Accent
By Jason Licker
Transcontinental Printing, Inc., 2020; $39.99
After the success of his self-published first book, Lickerland, globe-trotting pastry chef Jason Licker has released a follow-up cookbook, this time aimed at home bakers. Baking with Licker is a collection of almost 60 Asian-inspired dessert recipes that, according to Licker, “redefines what is possible when homespun American-style desserts meet Asia’s most iconic ingredients.” Each dish begins with a base recipe then offers an Asian twist, which you can use or not. There are intriguing flavor combinations that can be seen is recipes such as Peanut Butter & Miso Cookies; Black Forest Sesame Cake; Thai Tea Tres Leches; Blueberry & Yuzu Muffins; Lemongrass Cream Puffs; and Chai Tea Flan. Licker’s recipes are measured in grams (no tolerance for imprecise volume measurements here!), and Baking with Licker may be full of offbeat ingredients and flavors, but its spirit is founded on the simplest of goals: to make home baking fun for any skill level and for any level of palate experience, while providing a platform to incorporate Asian ingredients into classic baked goods. Gorgeous photography and fun illustrations throughout make Baking with Licker an ideal addition any dessert lover’s library.
By Jason Schreiber
William Morrow Cookbooks, 2020; $32.50
Jason Schreiber, a long-time contributor to Martha Stewart Living and Weddings, and now a top New York food stylist, has bravely tackled a slightly controversial topic for his first cookbook: fruit cake. It’s the holiday staple that everyone seems to have an opinion on, mostly rooted in outdated images of Christmases long past. In Fruit Cake: Recipes for the Curious Baker, Schreiber shares 75 recipes for cakes that shatter misconceptions of one of the holiday’s most maligned desserts. The recipes in this book are fresh and modern, celebrating fruit and cake in all their festive, flavorful splendor. You’ll find decadent, boozy cakes such as Jamaican Black Cake and Pomegranate Molasses Cake; showstoppers like Guava Crepe Cake and Horchata and Roasted Plum Sorbet Cake; individual cakes such as Raspberry Almond Petits Fours; and every day cakes, like Poached Pear and Quince Crumb Cake and Coconut Apricot Macaroon Cake. The book is written in a charming, conversational tone and accompanied by lavish photographs, making it a winner for the holiday season and throughout the year.
Baking at the 20th Century Café: Iconic European Desserts From Linzer Torte to Honey Cake
By Michelle Polzine
Artisan Books, 2020; $35
Michelle Polzine, the chef-owner of the 20th Century Café, is one of San Francisco’s best pastry chefs, and in this, her first book, she pays homage to the revered tortes and schnitten of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, putting her own stylish, updated stamp on them. Here you’ll find classic cakes such as Sacher Torte and Dobos Torta; fruit desserts such as Rhubarb Tart with Sour Cherry Lekvar and Streuselkuchen; creamy custards such as Coconut Bavarian with Tangerine Granita and Basil Seeds; and cookies such as Black Walnut and Buckwheat Russian Tea Cakes. Polzine deciphers tricky techniques with meticulous instructions and process photos and weaves her charm and humor throughout the text. You will enjoy reading this book as much as you will replicating her beautiful and flavorful desserts.