Nothing conjures up sweet memories of childhood quite like our favorite treats. Crunchy and creamy Oreos with a tall glass of cold milk; a warm, flaky Pop Tart in the morning; or mom’s perfectly baked, gooey chocolate chip cookies straight from the oven. Little Debbie, Hostess, and Mars Bar take us back to the simplicity of the school cafeteria and remind us of afternoon homework snacks. Hungry yet? Lucky for us, one of America’s Best Pastry Chefs, Stella Parks gives us Bravetart: Iconic American Desserts (W.W. Norton, $35) so that we can recreate our favorite juvenile munchies in grown-up fashion. We begin with ways to mix up baking staples: fun and creative twists on snickerdoodles and yellow cake and an easy way to make s’mores one hundred percent from scratch. Parks leads us on with easy-to-follow recipes for, of course, cookies and pies, but also doughnuts, ice cream, and breakfast bakes. And one must not forget the beloved brands that we can finally recreate! Fig Newtons, Fudge Stripes, Animal Crackers, and even Magic Shell and Girl Scout Cookies. Full-color finished product photographs and pages of trouble-shooting tips make this unique cookbook a dream to use, while stories, articles, and vintage advertisements make it a perfect gift that the sweet tooth in your family will refer to over and over again.
The most anticipated cookbook of the year had its U.S. publishing date in October and, rightfully so, became an instant hit. Yotam Ottolenghi, known for the savory and vegetarian dishes we loved in Jerusalem and Plenty, actually started as a pastry chef. Together with his long-time collaborator Helen Goh he has created nothing short of a love letter to desserts, with the name so fitting and inviting that you can’t help but pick up this book the minute you see it. Sweet (Ten Speed, $35) is a celebration of everything sweet, from cookies and biscuits to cakes and pies, there’s something here for everyone’s taste. The recipes are clear and guide you through the whole process with helpful tips and tricks. Special attention was given to ensuring that all the ingredients can easily be found and used. But make no mistake: everything is Ottolenghi-fied – there’s a boldness to it, some unpredictable ingredient, like a rose petal, star anise or orange blossom—and the results are just marvelous. And the photos, oh my, just look at the Frozen Espresso Parfait! When I got my copy of the book I spent an hour just looking at the photos, they are the feast for the eyes!
Jim Lahey is known for his revolutionary “no-knead” breads—slow-rising with natural leavening, baked in a very hot oven in a covered pot—which result in crackling, crusty loaves with a tender, airy interior. They are at the center of his recipes in The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook (W.W. Norton, $35), written with his wife, Maya Joseph. At the Bakery, he complements the breads with breakfast and lunch dishes, “Italian-ish,” with one or two ingredients being the stars. There are chapters on the masterful breads, pizzas, morning pastries; slow-cooking and roasting; and delicious sandwiches and condiments (quick pickles, and fermented “original mustard” and hot pepper sauce). The sequential, how-to photos are very helpful—you will never get lost in the mixing, rising, folding, and assembling. And basic recipes can make a variety of breads. For example, the brioche can turn into buns, a chocolate-swirl loaf, or bomboloni (doughnuts). Finally, in the dolci section, bake a beautiful panetonne (did you know you hang a freshly-baked one upside down to keep it from collapsing?). I’ve already made the olive-oil cake with orange zest (delicious!); I’m already feeding my starters—in short, I’ve never been so excited to begin baking!