2014 was a pretty fantastic year for baking books, with bakers and pastry chefs publishing books that are both pretty to look at and surprisingly user-friendly.
Baker extraordinaire Zoe Nathan (Huckleberry, Milo & Olive, Rustic Canyon) came out with her first book, written with husband and business partner Josh Loeb and fellow baker Laurel Almerinda. Huckleberry (Chronicle Books) is a beautiful book (the photography is by Long Beach-based Matt Armendariz), with photographs not only of Nathan’s artful yet homey recipes (blueberry nectarine crisp, apple cinnamon hand pies) but also instructional steps.
Thus we get visuals on how to line cake pans, and how to form galettes — visual aids that are not only gorgeous, but also worth pages of text. The text itself is fun, with little stories from Nathan’s restaurants, out-takes from her bakery and pastry kitchen, as well as from her own life, raising children and baking breads. It’s a lovely, cozy book, one that not only teaches you how to make scones but leaves you really, really wanting to both bake and eat them.
Bread Revolution (Ten Speed Press) is baker, baking instructor and pizza guru Peter Reinhart’s latest book, in which he delves (further) into the world of whole grains and heirloom flours. Reinhart has long been one of our foremost bakers, and he championed sourdough and whole grain baking long before others did.
This book moves between basic instruction (how to properly scoop flour, how to make a sourdough starter) and advanced technique (using grape skin flour, making starter with peach water), while keeping Reinhart’s down-to-earth narrative and tone. With great photography by Paige Green and lots of sidebars and introductions on everything from whole grain milling, why it’s worth bothering with an egg wash, shaping pizza dough and forming whole grain croissants, it’s a fun book for both novices and advanced bakers.
Nick Malgieri, who directs the baking programme at New York’s Institute of Culinary Education, writes lots of books (12 so far), the most recent of which is Nick Malgieri’s Pastry (Kyle Books). This one covers the pastry spectrum, from tarts to pies to laminated dough and pate a choux.
Malgieri’s book is highly accessible, with many great instructional, step-by-step shots (by Romulo Yanes). This, coupled with the many sidebars on techniques, ingredients and tips, makes this a very good book for beginners.
There’s also plenty for the would-be pastry chef, and Malgieri includes a terrific section on Turkish pastry, with recipes for baklava, yufka and borek, as well as recipes for the pastries of other cultures (strudel, empanadas, pithiviers).
Another veteran baking author who came out with a book this year is Rose Levy Beranbaum, whose The Baking Bible (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is as impressive as it sounds. Beranbaum, whose previous excellent books include The Cake Bible and The Bread Bible, takes — as you would expect from the title — a happily comprehensive approach.
This is perhaps not the book for the beginner, but rather the encyclopedist baker, one who appreciates Beranbaum’s thorough information: baking times and oven temperatures; recipes that include measurements given in volume and weight, both ounces and grams; and the extensive notes on equipment and technique. That said, sometimes a thorough approach is really fun, as with Beranbaum’s recipe for her chocolate chip cookies, which calls for clarified brown butter and toasted walnuts.
If you, like most of the rest of the world, lost your mind a bit when New York pastry chef Dominique Ansel invented his cronuts, then maybe you need to own his new book, The Secret Recipes (Simon and Schuster). This is Ansel’s first book, thus it tells a bit of his back story, as well as documenting plenty of recipes other than the famous croissant-doughnut hybrid. But yes, it’s there: on page 201. Knock yourself out.
But there are many reasons to get the book other than that famous pastry. Before he invented the cronut, Ansel ran a bakery and before that he was the pastry chef at Daniel Boulud’s flagship restaurant. Thus you’ll find lessons on tempering chocolate, laminating dough, making and piping pate a choux, plus recipes for a black and blue pavlova (blackberries, violet food colouring), even S’mores and tiny egg sandwiches.
And then of course, there’s Dorie Greenspan’s latest book, Baking Chez Moi (Houghton Mifflin), which is the prolific baker’s ode to French baking (Greenspan has had a home in Paris for many years). Having written not only many of her own books but also books with Parisian pastry chef Pierre Herme, you can guess how much and how well she writes about this subject.
There’s much here for both the relative novice and the experienced baker, with recipes for Nutella buttons (mini cupcakes), “the rugelach that won over France”, bubble eclairs, pithiviers, profiteroles, “les Whoopies” — even the humble chocolate chip cookie, this one via a Parisian bistro owner. As always, Greenspan’s books are fantastically readable, with notes and sidebars on things such as silicone spatulas and coulis, which are here, charmingly, called “bonne idees”.
Los Angeles Times