With the holiday baking – and giving – season coming up, a great baking book can help. Then again, if you ask for a great baking book, you can use it for years to come. This year’s books have some doozies to consider. Pick your style and take a look.
“Zingerman’s Bakehouse,” by Amy Emberling and Frank Carollo (Chronicle, $29.95). Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor, Mich., has developed a passionate national following. Now it’s sharing 65 of its best recipes, such as sour-cream coffee cake, Jewish rye bread and pecan sandies with bacon. If you wince at a lengthy recipe, consider yourself warned. But all those words provide an extraordinary level of detail, enabling even a novice baker to tackle the Hunka Burnin' Love Cake.
“The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook,” by Jim Lahey (Norton, $35). For great bread recipes, the nod has to go to Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City. Lahey’s no-knead method changed the baking world. His second book takes a broader view, adding cakes, cookies, pizzas, even roasted foods. This is directed toward serious bakers, but with step-by-step photos, these recipes are well within reach of aspirational bakers.
The big names
“A Baker’s Life: 100 Fantastic Recipes, From Childhood Bakes to Five-Star Excellence,” by Paul Hollywood (Bloomsbury, $36). Fans of “The Great British Baking Show” trust that Hollywood is a great baker. Now we can know for sure. The recipes tilt toward Britain, with crumpets, baps, biscuits, a beef and ale pie, and with spellings like “mould.” A Greek vibe reflects a love of that cuisine, but mostly consider this collection an Anglophile’s dream – or a fan favorite.
“Sweet,” by Yotam Ottolenghi (Ten Speed, $35). Ottolenghi already has five bestselling cookbooks that carry his flavorful, inventive mark. But fans have been waiting for this, with pastry chef Helen Goh. In a word: Wow. Coffee and walnut financiers in mini-popover pans. Pineapple and star anise chiffon cake. Chocolate tart with hazelnut, rosemary and orange. You get the picture – and the highly detailed recipes. There also are simple pound cakes and cookies.
The home baker
“The Fearless Baker: Simple Secrets for Baking Like a Pro,” by Erin McDowell (Houghton Mifflin, $30). McDowell is one of Food52’s most popular baking contributors, and the name of her book says it all. She advocates flexibility, showing how you can tweak recipes, add your own touches and gain confidence. The book is full of practical tips: how to perfectly soften butter, frost a cake, avoid air pockets. Plus, she’s fun. Her Any-Fruit or -Nut Scones provide rock-solid instruction with the freedom to follow your own flavors. A great guidebook.
“Modernist Bread: The Art and Science” by Nathan Myhrvold (The Cooking Lab, $625). Talk about aspirational: Myhrvold’s long-awaited baking book comprises five volumes, 2,000 pages, 3,000 photographs and 1,200 recipes. Just about bread.Yes, it costs $625. Sure, roll your eyes at such indulgence, but just knowing such passion exists is kind of fun.
Chocolate Coconut Macaroons
From “Zingerman’s Bakehouse,” by Amy Emberling and Frank Carollo.
1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons (115 g) chopped chocolate, (56 percent cacao or higher)
3 egg whites (90 g)
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (25 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons (160 g) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (340 g) sweetened flaked coconut
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place the chocolate in a double boiler (or in a metal bowl that fits in the top of a saucepan). Fill the pan about one-third full of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and place the metal bowl with the chocolate on top. Stir the chocolate until melted. Set it aside to cool.
In a mixing bowl, by hand or with the whisk attachment on a stand mixer, stir together the egg whites, cocoa powder, sugar, salt and vanilla. Add the melted chocolate and stir until well blended. Add the coconut and mix until evenly incorporated.
Using a 3/4-ounce portioner, form mounds of the mixture and place on parchment-lined pans. You can also use a spoon to roll the mixture into balls, using about 1 1/2 tablespoons for each. They should be the size of a walnut in the shell. Leave some space between the macaroons for even baking. They will not spread.
Bake for 25 minutes until the cookies are slightly crispy on the outside and still soft on the inside. If you are unsure whether they’re done, squeeze one. Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely. These cookies stay very moist in a sealed container or bag for up to a week. They can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
Per cookie: 130 calories, 7 g fat, 95 mg sodium, 17 g carbohydrates, 6 g saturated fat, 15 g total sugars, 1 g protein, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g dietary fiber
Yield: 2 dozen.
From “The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook,” by Jim Lahey. This is a bit like a classic pound cake, but baked with milk and oil rather than butter, and scented with sambuca.
3/4 cup (170 g) neutral-flavored oil, such as grapeseed or canola, plus oil for the pan
3 cups (435 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons (7 g) baking powder
3/4 teaspoon (4 g) fine sea salt
1 cup (242 g) whole milk at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (250 g) sugar
2 tablespoons (24 g) sambuca
1 teaspoon (4 g) vanilla extract
3 eggs at room temperature
Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Oil a 9- or 10-inch ring pan, or angel food cake pan.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt into a small mixing bowl and set aside. Whisk the milk, sugar, sambuca, oil and vanilla together in a large mixing bowl until the sugar dissolves. Then vigorously whisk in all 3 eggs.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Stir together as quickly as possible with a flexible spatula until a wet batter forms; do not overmix. Pour the batter into the ring pan and place on a sheet pan. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes. Run a knife along the inner and outer edges of the cake and turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
Variation: Replace the sambuca with 2 tablespoons limoncello. Add the zest of 1 whole lemon to the dry ingredients.
Per serving (based on 16 slices): 280 calories, 12 g fat, 160 mg sodium, 38 g carbohydrates, 2 g saturated fat, 17 g total sugars, 4 g protein, 35 mg cholesterol, 1 g dietary fiber
Yield: 1 9- to 10-inch ring cake (12 to 16 slices).