Beth Reinker, MSLS, Manager, Collection Development Curation
With the holidays approaching, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Yes, I mean it’s baking season! I’ve always enjoyed baking, but since I found myself at home much more than usual this year, I have embraced my inner baker. I’ve expanded beyond cookies into a variety of breads and other treats. In my spare time, I find myself watching The Great British Bake Off and flipping through cookbooks, looking at fancy recipes that I’m just starting to feel confident that I can actually make at home.
This holiday season, I’ve decided to try new recipes and stretch my skills. Consider this your official round-up of some of the best new baking books of 2020. Unfortunately, samples of baked goods are not included.
Baking bread was one of the biggest trends of 2020, with sourdough taking a starring role. I kept my sourdough starter Beatrice alive for several months, which allowed me to experiment in the new-to-me world of sourdough. (For many more titles, check out our All About Sourdough list in ipage.) During that time, I found Bryan Ford on Instagram, so I was delighted to get his new book New World Sourdough: Artisan Techniques for Creative Homemade Fermented Breads. (For an unusual treat, try his Sourdough Chocolate Chip Cookies. They’re less sweet than most chocolate chip cookie recipes, and they have wonderful, addictive depth of flavor.) Another title that allows you to learn from an artisan is Mastering Bread: The Art and Practice of Handmade Sourdough, Yeast Bread, and Pastry. If you’re not up for that challenge, you could try Bread Making for Dummies to learn the basics.
If you’re new to baking and all of this overwhelms you, I recommend starting with a good overview of baking. Dominique Ansel, inventor of the Cronut, brings readers the essentials in Everyone Can Bake: Simple Recipes to Master and Mix. These bakery-worthy recipes can be mixed and matched to produce impressive and creative combinations. A Good Bake: The Art and Science of Making Perfect Pastries, Cakes, Cookies, Pies, and Breads at Home is the equivalent of months of baking lessons taught by James Beard-nominated chef Melissa Weller in book form. In addition to recipes, it has tutorials, tips, and instructions to coach you to baking success. This book is at the top of my wish list.
While my baking horizons have expanded over the last few years, pies still intimidate me. My colleague Ann assures me they are not as complicated as I think, but I’m still not ready to branch out. If you are braver than I am, you won’t want to miss the standout new pie books this year, including Pie Camp: The Skills You Need to Make Any Pie You Want, Pie Academy: Master the Perfect Crust and 255 Amazing Fillings, with Fruits, Nuts, Creams, Custards, Ice Cream, and More, The Book on Pie: Everything You Need to Know to Bake Perfect Pies, or Pieometry: Modern Tart Art and Pie Design for the Eye and the Palate.
Since I mentioned The Great British Bake Off, A.K.A the most relaxing contest show on television, I’ll end with two new books from bakers who competed on the show. Fan favorite Helena Garcia brings us edgy treats in The Wicked Baker: Cakes and Treats to Die for. Our team loves Halloween, and these treats are tricky enough for even our most hardcore Halloween fanatics. Her Monster Fortune Cookies are adorable and sure to be a hit at any party. If cute treats are more your style, you can’t miss Christmas with Kim-Joy: A Festive Collection of Edible Cuteness. Fans fell in love with Kim-Joy’s whimsical creations on the show, and she teaches you the techniques to bring these charming creations to life.