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Fall 2015's Best Cookbooks: Sweet and Savory Baking

Don't worry if you can't live on bread alone. There's also pie.

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Cold weather means it’s finally oven season. Get ready to make the best bread of your life with guides from Hot Bread Kitchen (whose cookbook showcases the global styles of breads created by its staff of immigrant women from around the world) or the technique-driven brilliance of Brooklyn’s Bien Cuit Bakery, whose deep-hued, crusty loaves have become a sensation. Sweets get their due, too: chocolate from Seattle’s Theo Chocolate, macarons from Pierre Hermé, pie from Philadelphia bakeshop Magpie, and more.


Check out our whole Fall 2015 cookbook preview: the best culinary pros' take on home cooking, the season's top crop of books on regional and local cuisines, and essential restaurant-inspired cookbooks. Or see the entire thing on the main page.

Bien Cuit: The Art of Bread

Zachary Golper and Peter Kaminsky
Regan Arts, November 2015
For anyone who has never set foot inside Brooklyn’s Bien Cuit bakery, its new book is a lovely two-dimensional recreation of the experience. Photographer Thomas Schauer managed somehow to capture the warm, fragrant interior, the way the sunlight catches the small particles of flour that float through the air, and the endless trays and baskets of loaves. But beyond its visual beauty, baker Zachary Golper (who runs Bien Cuit with his wife and business partner, Kate Wheatcroft) and writer Peter Kaminsky have delivered a luscious guide to the craftsmanship of European bread baking. Golper takes a scholarly approach, and it’s clear by page 10 that this is the most serious book written about bread this year. The first recipe will take a baker about three days to complete, inexperienced or professional, but for anyone serious about their craft, this book is a faithful manual.

The breads at Bien Cuit are known for their mahogany-hued crust, but hidden behind their dark exterior is a mystery of biology and chemistry

The breads at Bien Cuit are known for their mahogany-hued crust, but hidden behind their dark exterior is a mystery of biology and chemistry: Golper’s dough starter secrets — as well as his instructions for a long, slow fermentation in which the flavors of grain and yeast transform into more than the sum of their parts — can be found within the pages of his book. Like many bakers before him, some of Golper’s recipes involve the use of a dutch oven, as a kind of introduction to the intense heat and blinding steam needed for great bread, but the dedicated baker will graduate to a baking stone and peel. No fewer than 33 pages are devoted to technique.

Bien cuit is a phrase the French use to describe well-baked, deeply crusty, darkly hued loaves of bread. The color of a loaf of bread that is bien cuit looks burnt to most Americans, but Golper explains how achieving that burnished crust is key to taking a bread’s flavors as far as they can go. The layers of caramelization and the density of the resulting breads’ crumb are a marker, a baker’s badge, a sign of a well-baked loaf. After mastering the technique for a basic bien cuit loaf, Golper shares variations that include caramelized onions, apricots, black pepper, olives, carrots, port, and a dozen different grains, including corn. There is a section on Jewish loaves including rye, bagels, and bialys, and a final section for quick breads like biscuits and scones. Those looking for Bien Cuit’s many-layered croissants or shortbread cookies will have to wait; this is a book exclusively about bread. —Daniela Galarza

Order: Amazon / Powell's

The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook

Jessamyn Rodriguez
Clarkson Potter, October 2015
Jessamyn Rodriguez’s New York City-based Hot Bread Kitchen — a business that hires and trains immigrant bakers from all walks of life — is first an exercise in social justice and the greater good. But it’s also a damn fine bakery, and its eponymous book reaches deep into the company’s coffers of authentic, hand-me-down recipes and delivers a collection impressive in both breadth and detail.

Though Rodriguez could have ordered the recipes in any number of ways, she makes the appealing decision to list them in historical order

Though Rodriguez could have ordered the recipes in any number of ways, she makes the appealing decision to list them in historical order. What she calls "primordial breads" — flatbreads that originated before humans understood yeast — fill the first chapter, followed by chapters like Slightly Elevated and Masa y Mas; later on, recipes for dark, crusty loaves appear. Just as great is all the insider knowledge throughout, which comes from a woman who runs a bread bakery staffed with women and men who have baked their whole lives, in kitchens across the globe. A recipe for corn tortillas offers secrets only a tortillera would know, like how to achieve an even thickness even without a tortilla press, and the best ways to reheat an already cooked tortilla. There are also gentle instructions for how to shape challah, Chinese dumplings, and Moroccan m’smen. If there’s a weak link to the book, it’s the sweets section, which feels a bit like an afterthought but does contain a smart recipe for monkey bread that uses leftover scraps of dough from the dozens and dozens of loaves of challah the bakery makes each week. Not to miss: The wisdom of efficiency Rodriguez knowingly relays, thoughtfully weaved into headnotes and endnotes throughout. —Daniela Galarza

Order: Amazon / Powell's

Notable Books

The Violet Bakery Cookbook

Claire Ptak
Ten Speed

London's tiny Violet Bakery specializes in California-infused baking with organic flours, seasonal fruits, and natural sweeteners. Alice Waters writes the forward for the book, with over 100 recipes for breakfast goods, snacks, and showstopper desserts.

Order: Amazon / Powell's

Social Sweets

Jason Atherton
Absolute Press

English chef Jason Atherton follows up his book Social Suppers with Social Sweets, focused on desserts from his Michelin-starred restaurants and home kitchen. Bonus: there is an entire section dedicated to cheese.

Order: Amazon / Powell's

Theo Chocolate

Debra Music, Joe Whinney, and Leora Bloom
Sasquatch

Seattle's fair trade chocolate maker weaves the story behind their company with both sweet and savory chocolate recipes. Chocolate farmers and key players in the largest bean-to-bar factory in the company are profiled as well.

Order: Amazon / Powell's

Sweet Middle East: Classic Recipes, from Baklava to Fig Ice Cream

Anissa Helou
Chronicle

Expert in Middle Eastern cuisine Anissa Helou turns her sights on the classic desserts of the region. Honey, dates, nuts, and spices form the cornerstones of her recipes designed to introduce these regional delights to a wider audience.

Order: Amazon / Powell's

Food52 Baking

Food52 Editors
Ten Speed

Food52's cookbook series continues with a collection of baking recipes from the site, focused on accessible techniques and unique variations on classic favorites. The book's mission is return baking from special occasion to everyday treat.

Order: Amazon / Powell's

Magpie

Holly Ricciardi
Running Press

Beautiful pies (and a lot of gorgeous atmosphere) from an iconic Philadelphia pie shop make this a book that will appeal to crust-making pros and amateurs alike.

Order: Amazon / Powell's

Pierre Hermé Macaron: The Ultimate Recipes from the Master Pâtissier

Pierre Hermé
Stewart, Tabori & Chang

The master of the modern macaron puts all his secrets in one place. Macarons are famously difficult to make, but if you follow these instructions to the letter, you'll never need to spend $2 for a one-inch cookie at a frilly bakery again.

Order: Amazon / Powell's

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