5 New Baking Books to Gift This Season: A Chat With Margaret Roach
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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”
My husband is the baker; I’m the gardener;).
Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem is our newest cookbook, a gift from my father. Barley risotto with marinated feta is a new fav!
I have been working my way through Julia Turshen’s Small Victories lately, and have really enjoyed it.
Mark Bittman’s ‘How to Bake Everything,’ and the pita bread recipe is my challenge and my pleasure to bake in a wood-fired oven.
The coconut pecan cake in Frank Stitt’s Highlands cookbook is top top top notch. A labor of love and an annual must
I just got Eating Out Loud and love so many of the recipes in there! I’ve loved the dips, different types of shakshukas (need to make them all), and the roasted broccoli is delicious. I also just made the tahini sheet cake and loved it!
Haven’t had a new cookbook in long time! But luckily I discovered your instagram profile and then your website and have been coming back here all year! My favorite recipe is your sourdough pizza ( and the technique I learnt from you). I did my first successful homemade pizza follow your recipe and guidance, and its now become a weekly must have! Thank you!
I finally purchased the first Smitten Kitchen cookbook and adore the apple cake. I’ve already made it 3 times!
I have The Gift of Southern Cooking by Miss Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock.
Their recipe for Very Good Chocolate Cake is delicious and the understatement of the century. Patty K.
I haven’t bought a new cookbook in awhile (lack of shelf space) but find I am always reaching for Power Plates by Gena Hamshaw – the vegan pesto is to die for but everything in that book is spot on! I have both of Deb’s Smitten Kitchen cookbooks but mostly cook from the blog even a recipe that is in the cookbook because I love reading the comments and getting tips from everyone and even Deb. And your blog – the visual on Peasant bread gave me the courage to make homemade bread during the first lockdown. And you’re responsiveness to emails and questions on the blog. I’ve tried “fussier” breads as well with good results but always come back to the peasant bread. Oh and let’s not forget that your peasant bread pizza dough has been our go to. The dough is fussy but so worth it!
I just borrowed the 100 Cookies ebook from my library. I am waiting for the Thanksgiving pies to disappear before making the Marshmallow Peanut Butter Brownies. I can’t wait.
Just looking at the covers of these 5 cookbooks you are giving away is making me SO excited. They look and sound great!
Hi Ali! So I wandered back to the kitchen to look at our cookbooks. I think our newest cookbook, a gift, is My Pizza by Jim Lahey. I executed a fatal recipe faux pas when I went to make the pizza dough from the book. I didn’t read the recipe through and discovered, after putting it together, that the dough must rest for 18 hours. It was not the best pizza I had ever made. Last night we made turkey mornay using Julia Child’s Sauce Mornay. It was delicious.
I love new to me My Mexico City Kitchen by Gabriela Camara. I went to her restaurant Contramar a few years ago and it was such a memorable meal. Every recipe in this book looks delicious, but so far I’m loving all the salsas. The salsa verde cruda is so so so good!
Thank you for the book recommendations!
Start Simple by Lukas Volger – White Bean and Carrot Burgers amazing.
I’ve been baking Smitten Kitchens pumpkin loaf, but ruhigen it into muffins and adding cream cheese to the center.
I had treated myself to the Zingerman’s Bakehouse cookbook, and just made the pecan pie recipe from it for our Thanksgiving dinner. Easy to make, and it turned out so scrumptious!
I am really enjoying Bryan Fords New World Sourdough. Sourdough has been an exciting quarantine activity that has become a part of my week. Really enjoying his reliable recipes!
I have ‘Living Bread’ by Daniel Leader and it is a good read but alas I have not baked any bread yet! I do love Bread Alone’s Fruit and Nut Bread, it is the best.
All of the books look and sound amazing. I love to cook and bake and, since I lost my cookbooks to flooding, I have been slowly rebuilding my selection. All five would make an amazing addition to my cookbook shelf. I’d have to say the one I find most interesting is Melissa Weller, A Good Bake. This is because I love to bake bread and I have been trying to actually accomplish pies and pastries. Maybe one day I will lol. The recipe that caught my attention is Black Pepper Fantails With Salted Honey Butter. The addition of black pepper sounds interesting. My youngest daughter recently made a Black Pepper Pumpkin Pie that was delicious, so why not? Thank you for the opportunity to win.
I have been baking snacking cakes all my life. I would love to add a few new ones to my repertoire.
I recently got All About Dinner by Molly Stevens. So far everything we’ve made has been good, by the tortilla soups is a new family favorite.
I also admit to being a food blog baker and cook! So many excellent bakers and cooks out there willingly sharing their “hits and misses”. These cookbooks would be a great help to a 25 year old granddaughter develope her baking skills.
My favorite new cookbook is Drinking French. by David Lebovitz and I’ve been making the Last Word.
I have used baking to distract and find some joy in 2020. I would love some new recipes to build up the repertoire.
I love Alexandra’s book Bread Toast Crumbs. I loved her Peasant Bread and then started making sourdough breads. Her bread recipes are so easy to follow. I’d love to win the books since I’ve an avid baker. I taught baking at the high school level and continue teaching my friends to bake no-knead sourdough breads (after sharing my starter with them).
I LOVE “Bread Toast Crumbs” By Ali Stafford!!! I have been making bread for years and have fond memories of making bread with my grandma and my mother and often felt the dread of taking up a whole day making bread the “traditional” way. This cookbook has brought back my passion of bread making with its easy, quick and tasty recipes. By far my go to recipe is the basic Peasant Bread, I even took a stab at the gluten free bread for my friend who is gluten intolerant and she said the bread was fantastic. THANK YOU!!!!
So nice to hear this, Kim 🙂 🙂 🙂
My favorite new cookbook is Yossy Arefi’s Snacking Cakes. Picking a favorite seems to be the mist recent recipe made. The last recipe I’ve tried (I’ve made four (4) so far), was the Brown Butter, Pecan and White Chocolate Cake. This book has well written recipes that are easy to make and with fantastic results. Yossy also provides alternate ingredients and equipment ideas. I appreciate the weights and measures included in the ingredients list. Haha,nand the photos help me select which came to try next.
My husband bought me the Tartine Classics cookbook for my birthday. My first bake was their biscotti recipe. Simple and delicious with so many possibilities for variation.
I’m all about crock-pot and slow cooking these days so while not a new cookbook, I’ve been going back to my The Best Slow & Easy Recipes by America’s Test Kitchen. Their pasta bolognese is one of the best out there.
Actually, my newest cookbook is Ali’s Bread, Toast, Crumbs in ebook. I use it so much, I asked for a hardcover copy for Christmas. My current favorite recipe is the french toast. The proportions of egg, milk and sweetness is perfection.
I’m the baker in our family; my husband is the cook 🙂 Our most recent cookbook is Ottolenghi Simple. The lamb and feta meatballs are divine, and for dessert, the fig and thyme clafoutis is out of this world. Also made the roasted asparagus with almonds, capers and dill — so so good! The recipes really are fairly straightforward and simple!