I HEART cookbooks. In my humble opinion, good cookbooks not only have “true” recipes, (recipes that really work and taste good), but they also clearly explain how to execute and provide helpful photographs. Below, I’ve compiled a list of cookbooks that I have read and used with successful results. As I read more cookbooks and try new recipes, I will continue to add to this list!

1. Bouchon Bakery

This book has a variety of nostalgic recipes, like Homemade Oreos & Peppermint Patties, but also features the not so familiar, like Lemon Caramels and Dulce de Leche Eclairs.  Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel both share a respect for the baking tradition and perfection. A wonderful collection of photographs, tips and stories, this cookbook is perfect for the home or professional baker.

2. The Complete Photo Guide to Cake Decorating

I love this book because of its lack of words. Ironically, this book is very helpful without the bother of reading chapters and chapters of text. Author, Autumn Carpenter shows a variety of decorating techniques ranging from Fondant figures to buttercream borders with the help of detailed photographs and useful captions. I used this book excessively through my first and second semesters of Pastry School.

3. The Contemporary Cake Decorating Bible

This book is very similar to Autumn Carpenter’s, The Complete Photo Guide to Cake Decorating because of its lack of words. Filled with helpful photos and captions, it won’t disappoint the novice or professional Cake Decorator. This book delves into making cupcakes, cookies, 3-D cakes and a host of decorations. Carving, painting, flowers and embossing cakes are explained in simple terms.

4. Baking: From my Home to Yours

Known for her best-selling book, Baking with Julia, Dorie Greenspan is a master at making complicated recipes more accessible to the common person. Her cookbook chapters are separated into six categories: Breakfast Sweets, A Cache of Cookies, Cakes of All Kinds, Pies & Tarts, Spoon Desserts and Indispensables. Within those chapters, she managed to include more than three hundred recipes. I haven’t tried all three hundred, but I do have some favorites: Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins, Pecan Honey Sticky Buns, Creamiest Lime Cream Meringue Pie and last but not least,  I’m addicted to the Chocolate Crunched Caramel Tart. Try it to see what I’m talking about…

5. Ad Hoc at Home

One thing I love about Thomas Keller is that he covers all the bases.  I can purchase and just read a Thomas Keller cookbook for entertainment, make his recipes at home or if I want–go enjoy a meal at his restaurant Ad Hoc or have a sweet treat at Bouchon Bakery. Ad Hoc is another impressive addition to his cookbook collection because it features a variety of sweet and savory recipes he makes for his family. My favorites: Dinner for Dad which features Barbecued Chicken with mashed potatoes collard greens and strawberry shortcake, Santa Maria Tri-tip and Buttermilk Biscuits. Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc is a well put together cookbook that adds elegance to home cooking.

6. The International School of Sugarcraft: Book One – Beginners

In London, Nicholas Lodge is Cake Decorating royalty. He began studying his craft at ten years old, later went on to study at the National Bakery School in London, and from there worked as Principle Wedding Cake Designer for one of Britain’s most revered commercial cake decorating companies. By the age of  twenty-one, Nicholas Lodge was a well respected teacher, drawing local and overseas students alike, to his classes. Today, he has his own cake decorating school, The International Sugar Arts Collection, with locations in Atlanta, Georgia and Tokoyo, Japan. He continues to teach around the world, the basic and most complicated techniques in Cake Decorating and Sugar Art through his books, DVDs, lectures and demonstrations. This book is an absolute must have for the Pastry professional.

7. How Baking Works

For the Culinary Geek, this book gets into the science of baking. Whether you want to know basic things, like why your cake didn’t rise or more technical things like the properties and functions of different flours–this book will answer most questions that come up in baking. In addition to information, this book provides photos, charts and tables, as well as recipes and experiments to try. Whether you think you need it or not, How Baking Works should be a reference book in every Culinarian’s library.

8. The Professional Pastry Chef

This is a classic cookbook recognized and respected by professionals around the world. Some refer to is as a Culinary encyclopedia because of its inclusion of history, charts, diagrams, photographs and over 500 recipes. Bo Friberg, Certified Master Pastry Chef, covers topics that include Mise en Place, Breads, Breakfast Pastries, Cookies, Tarts, Cakes, Ice Creams, Plated Desserts and Sugar Work. This is an excellent reference cookbook.

9. Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft

The Culinary Institute of America is a well respected institution. Founded in 1946, many prominent chefs around the world are CIA alumni. A partial short list includes: Cat Cora, Charlie Palmer, Todd English, John Besh, Michael Mina and Andrew Zimmerman. The CIA offers an Associate degree, Bachelors degree and Continuing Education classes to food enthusiasts and professionals. Campuses are located in Hyde Park, NY; St. Helena, CA; San Antonio, TX and Singapore. This cookbook is also a textbook used to introduce CIA students to basic and complex baking and pastry techniques.

1o. Vintage Cakes

Whether clothes, plastic, paper or recipes–more people should recycle and reuse. In Vintage Cakes, Julie Richardson of Portland, Oregon’s Baker and Spice does just that by taking old fashioned recipes and putting interesting spins on them. Recipes, supply lists and baker’s vocabulary make this cookbook user friendly, as well as Richardson’s attention to high quality, natural ingredient food trends.  My favorites include: Texas Sheet Cake, Red Velvet Cake with Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting & the Boston Cream Pie-lets.

11. Williams-Sonoma Mastering: Cakes, Frostings & Fillings

 This book is a great beginners guide to baking, decorating and keeping cakes. Some of the recipes, though complex can be executed by following beautiful step by step photographs. Readers with less experience will be happy to see pictures highlighting introductory techniques and recipes. Author Elinor Kilvans is an award winning Pastry Chef trained in France and the United States.

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