5 New Baking Books to Gift This Season: A Chat With Margaret Roach
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
If you are looking for a gift for the baker in your life, good news: you have lots of options this year. You also face a difficult decision: which one to buy??
I recently spoke with my friend Margaret Roach, the master gardener behind A Way to Garden, about five new baking books, all of which are fabulous, all of which provide both volume and metric measurements, all of which promise to fill your kitchen with deliciousness this winter and beyond.
You can listen to our conversation over on A Way to Garden, where you also can enter a five-book giveaway 🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉 Margaret and I are each giving away a copy of the five books we discuss in our chat. Find the giveaway details below.
PS: Margaret Roach’s Garden is Magical
PPS: Margaret’s book, A Way to Garden, is a must for the gardener in your life.
Sarah Kieffer’s 100 Cookies
In 100 Cookies, Sarah Kieffer writes: “In my childhood kitchen, cookies were a foundation, a stepping-stone to baking, a rite of passage.”
I love this sentiment, and as we potentially head into another quarantine, this book would be such a great one to have on hand, especially for budding bakers. There are metric measurements for each recipe, and as Margaret noted in our conversation, paring this book (or any of the others) with a digital scale would make a great gift.
My 9- and 10-year-olds have been weighing out all of the ingredients, and then we’ve been assembling the cookies together. We are loving the brown butter chocolate chip cookies and the brown sugar cookies, but I have no doubt every recipe in this book is a winner.
Sarah is an incredibly reliable recipe writer, and I love her precise instructions, in particular that she gives weights for the actual portioned cookie dough balls — so helpful!
If you are a fan of Sarah’s pan-banging cookies, there are 12 variations of that cookie in the book as well as an extensive troubleshooting section about that cookie alone.
Yossy Arefi’s Snacking Cakes
Yossy Arefi describes a snacking cake as “a single layer cake, probably square, covered with a simple icing — or nothing at all — and it must be truly easy to make. It’s a cake that makes an ideal breakfast to-go, wrapped in a paper napkin, and a perfect little sweet to have alongside coffee in the afternoon.”
I am loving Snacking Cakes for a number of reasons, but namely:
- The recipes are simple: truly, none requires much more than a bowl, a whisk, and a reasonably well-stocked pantry.
- As promised, some of the recipes come together before your oven reaches temperature.
- Because none of the cakes requires creaming butter and sugar (but instead calls for oil or melted butter), most of them come together in a single bowl.
I have made the powdered donut cake several times, and my children devour it every time. I love the lemon-olive oil cake, and I’m dying to make the cocoa yogurt cake, which I heard Yossy say in an interview is maybe her favorite recipe in the book.
Erin Jeanne McDowell’s The Book on Pie
In The Book on Pie, Erin Jeanne McDowell writes: “Pie has a miraculous ability to be simultaneously comforting and special occasion worthy, both homey and fancy. “
The Book on Pie not only celebrates pie but also demystifies the pie-baking process. Throughout the book, you very much get the sense that Erin is trying to remove the fear from pie baking, an intimidating process for many home cooks.
I love that you can feel Erin’s love of teaching in every page of this book. In the introduction, Erin says she “wanted to create a true handbook filled with all the things [she’s] learned.”
I am finding her explanation of parbaking and blind baking — probably my least favorite thing to do in the kitchen — very helpful. She inspired me in fact to parbake the crusts for my Thanksgiving pies this year. (More on this soon!)
The pies in this book vary from classics such as apple, lemon-meringue, chess, and chocolate-pecan but there are so many fun and inspiring ideas, too: cherry clafoutis pie, cheesecake pie, Tres leches slab pie, to name a few. There are savory pies, too.
Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person
In Dessert Person, Claire Saffitz writes: “Rolling out a pie crust or cutting biscuits is my version of doing yoga. Dessert is in my DNA.”
I love this. If you have made any of the dessert recipes in Bon Appetit in recent years, you’ve likely made one of Claire’s. This rhubarb custard cake is one of my favorites, so I loved reading in the introduction that fruit desserts are her preference.
This book is filled with fruit desserts, and unlike the three previously mentioned books, this one is more of a general dessert cookbook. There are recipes for cakes, pies, cookies, bars, and more. There are savory baking recipes as well.
One thing that struck me: Claire believes there’s no such thing as a foolproof recipe, which more and more I am learning to be true — from ovens and pans to humidity and altitude, the many variables affecting how a recipe will turn out in someone else’s kitchen simply cannot be controlled.
Because of this Claire gives lots of indications — visual cues — throughout the recipes to help you along. For instance, she’ll never just say: “bake a cake until a tester comes out clean.” She’ll tell you how it will look, how it will feel, and how it will smell. How nice?
I have yet to bake anything, but these three recipes are calling my name:
- Blood Orange and Olive Oil Upside-Down Cake
- Goat Cheese Cake with Honey and Figs
- Minty Lime Bars
Melissa Weller’s A Good Bake
In A Good Bake, Melissa Weller writes about an aha moment she had upon thinking about the cookbooks she learned from early on in her career: “If those recipes had just given a little hint about this or that, a little more detail here or there, my baked goods would have turned out looking like those in the pictures that inspired me to want to make them to begin with. I knew then that I wanted to write a cookbook.”
A Good Bake is a compilation of 15 years of training, working, and note-taking — it’s the book Melissa Weller wishes she had when she was starting out.
Melissa trained at the French Culinary Institute in New York City and worked at Babbo, Jim Lahey’s restaurants, Thomas Keller’s restaurants, and Roberta’s. But before she was a baker, she was a chemical engineer.
If you are someone who appreciates a scientific approach to baking, you will love this book. In the introduction, Melissa writes: “Asking questions — lots of them — is integral to being an engineer: a chemical engineer or an engineer of dough.” Melissa attributes her love of science and baking as well as her curiosity for shaping her career in pastry and bread.
Like Dessert Person, A Good Bake is an overall dessert cookbook, with recipes for breads, pastries, pies, tarts, cakes, quick breads, cookies, bars, and more.
If you want to learn how to make laminated pastry, from croissants to kouign amann, this is a great resource. If you want to learn how to make flaky buttermilk biscuits or tender, buttery pie dough, Melissa will show you how. If you want to learn how to build a sourdough starter from scratch, there’s a tutorial for that, too.
I have yet to bake anything, but these three recipes are calling my name:
- Black Sesame Kouign Amann
- Cinnamon Swirl Sour Cream Bundt Cake
- Flourless Chocolate Olive Oil Cake
To Enter the Giveaway
A Way to Garden and I are each giving away five cookbooks. To enter, answer this question in the comment box at the bottom of the page (then copy and paste it into the comment box over at Margaret’s website):
Tell us what your favorite new cookbook is and what recipe you are loving from it.
We’ll each select 5 winners on December 13th and notify you then. UPDATE: The Giveaway is closed. The winners — Thao, Jenn S., Xenia, Urszula, and Samota — have been emailed.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
511 Comments on “5 New Baking Books to Gift This Season: A Chat With Margaret Roach”
I don’t have a favorite new cook book. Am revisiting old ones in my collection. I think Vegetarian Soup Cuisine by Jay Solomon may be out of print but it’s full of delicious recipes. Triple pepper chili is perfect for the colder season ahead.
A new to me cookbook is Extra Helping by Janet Reich Elsbach. Chapter 7 is called Food For Lunch boxes and Care Packages and I love making the one called A Hell of A Cookie, All Things Considered 😋
Ali, its so hard to choose a favorite. My library is closed so I rely on Amazon and on-line resources these days. Make your bread every week and will try this cookie recipe now that Thanksgiving is over. I love you and Margaret and eagerly read your posts.
Thankful for both of you. Those books look delicious.
I confess that I haven’t bought a new cookbook recently, but am told that I must buy Bread, Toast, Crumbs. I am looking forward to baking the famous Peasant Bread “in a buttered bowl”. What could be better? After listening to A Way To Garden today, I am also planning to give 100 Cookies as a gift. And in my true gift giving style, purchase a copy of The Book On Pie while I’m at it!
The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison has this recipe for black bean smoked chile dip, and so far I’ve made use of it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and hangry moments otherwise.
The instructions on A Way to Garden are different than your instructions for entering the contest and I entered that one first so this is the copy and paste. “Happy Holidays, Food Enthusiasts! I enjoyed your podcast, but what’s not to like when you are talking about baking! I am currently just trying to perfect my scone technique and incorporating unusual combinations with grains and flavors and trying to keep them light and flavorful while also not getting as wide as a house. The sacrifices we make for our art! These new titles sound very intriguing and I’m looking forward to adding them to my library. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.”
To follow with your instructions, I was planning on purchasing Snacking Cakes but a family member hinted that I would be receiving it soon for a gift, so that is my choice and I look forward to preparing many of the recipes as soon as I receive the gift, to give to my pandemic isolated neighbors.They are all excellent choices. Mabe Santa will be generous!
My favourite new (to me) cookbook is Stir Frying to the Sky’s Edge by Grace Young. I just bought it yesterday, and so haven’t made anything from it yet. My first one to try might be the ginger beef recipe.
David Leite’s The New Portuguese Table–modern takes on classic Portuguese dishes–they take me back to my childhood. Love them all.
Favorite new cookbook was Snacking Cakes but now is Eating Out Loud!
Oops, just made the Salted Halvah Chocolate Chip Cookies from Eating Out Loud and they are insane!!! From Yossy’s book I’ve made the Pumpkin Olive Oil Cake with Maple Olive Oil Glaze (Rye flour variation) and the All the Spices Cake with Vanilla Bean Glaze (next time I’ll do the Chai Masala Spice variation).
I really enjoyed making Maque Choux from Jubilee! Also the spicy shrimp! And the mango quick bread! My book club cooked from it one month this year (usually we read novels), and all of the recipes we tried were tasty and came out well.
I love cookbooks, so narrowing down to a favorite seems almost impossible. But there are several that I’ve really been enjoying lately. The Perfect Cookie by America’s Test Kitchen is amazing. Every cookie I’ve made from it has been fantastic. I have a long-term goal of baking my way all the way through it. I’ve also been enjoying Extra Helping by Janet Elsbach. Her Forsaking All Others Tomato Soup was just delicious.
My last cookbook purchase was Ina’s Comfort Food, and I have tweaked my baked fish recipe based on the one she shares in her book.
I bought Paul Hollywood’s “How to Bake” for my mom recently (she’s more than a little in love with Ol’ Blue Eyes), and owns so taken with so many recipes that I had to get a copy for myself.
I’ve already baked his Teacakes, and this year folks are getting mini Christmas Cakes from it as well.
The Flavor Equation by Nik Sharma
I loved his Coffee Kulfi dessert. Easy and no gluten!
The no knead bread in the Super Simple cookbook by Tieghan Gerard never fails to get many compliments and disappears fast!
I still use the Silver Palate cookbooks. Probably need new cookbooks.
It’s hard to find one book to call my favorite, but the one I go to often is The Barefoot Contessas cookbook.
Bryant Terry’s Vegetable Kingdom is one of his best. I love the baked farro and kale balls among many others.
I do have an all-time favorite cookbook, The Joy of Cooking. It proves to be a good reference cookbook and meets my needs for tried and true classic recipes. For example, brownies and French Toast.
I have an instant pot cookbook by Megan Gilmore (her blog is Detoxinista) that I use almost weekly! Her recipes are so reliable! Thanks for the giveaway!
Please don’t judge me – I just bought Kim-Joy’s Christmas book. I needed a little whimsy in my life, and I wanted to make iced Christmas cookies for my neighbors – and I am having a wonderful time with my cookie cutters and my edible-ink pens. By the way, I love the “blog crossover” – I have learned so much from you and Margaret over the years.
The donut cake from the Snacking Cakes cookbook – clearly a new family favorite!
I bought Dinner in French by Melissa Clark in hopes that I would pretend I’m traveling again, but you’ve spoiled me with Bread, Toast, Crumbs and your website. I turn back to them every time. Thank you! And love that you and Margaret are so close by to each other. What more does one need than cooking and gardening (well…maybe books and yarn)?
The brown sugar cookies! So good!
My newest cook book is one for Crohn’s disease and I am loving all the recipes for roasted veggies, I sometimes crave roasted veggie with garlic! Yum! G.K.
I’ve been revisiting my old favorite cookbooks, which include “Sweeter Off the Vine”, so I’m sure I would enjoy Yossi Arefi’s latest book. From her previous book, I often make her Pistachio Loaf Cake, which I have made also with almond flour or hazelnut flour – either way, it is delicious and versatile.
I’ve just discovered the Blue Zone Cookbook and am loving not only the recipes (in particular the Sardinian minestrone soup) but the stories and culture that come with it. Thanks for the opportunity to win baking books!
Carla Lalli Music’s “Where cooking begins” has her wonderful recipe for Pasta e fagioli. I make it all the time now. I also love your book, Ali, and your website is my go to for so many recipes from breads to enchiladas!
My new favorite cookbook is Bread, Toast, Crumbs, that I bought from my local independent bookstore in Lawrence, KS. I own about 100 cookbooks and use them all constantly and easily. I subscribe to Eat My Books which indexes 100s of them and can be searched by ingredient!
Love your book and website!
Being a nurse, I’d love a good scientific bake, therefore I’d love A Good Bake! Not just desserts but bread too. And I’ll learn what kouign amann is. How awesome is it to come home starving and sink your teeth into some carbs! Xoxo
I haven’t had a new cookbook in so long that I don’t even remember what it was! So much is online now. I would love a new cookbook