For many of us, cooking has taken on a different role in our lives over the past six months. As restaurants closed, cooking — and cooking well — became essential even for those who previously spent little time in the kitchen. It also became a chore. At this point, six months into the pandemic, I’m impressed by anyone who still considers cooking a creative, joyful pastime, not just a means to food.
But here to change that is a stellar lineup of fall cookbooks, bringing with them new inspiration and new comforts, and, at last, a reason to enter the kitchen with excitement. There are anticipated titles from beloved culinary figures, whose time-saving guidance and easy meal upgrades feel especially welcome now. There are books from some of the restaurants we miss the most, offering recreations of their dishes and insights that make us nostalgic for the time before shutdowns. There are primers on international cuisines; books for the adept home cook that take a studied, even scientific approach to flavor; and books that reflect the trends of the moment, including baking books for the person who has spent hours perfecting their bread game as well as the one who feels the occasional urge to bake a cake to be eaten immediately.
I’m confident that even the most reluctant cook is sure to find at least one new cookbook among these 17 to dip a fork into. And for those for whom cooking never lost its luster, it’s a feast. — Monica Burton
One Tin Bakes: Sweet and simple traybakes, pies, bars and buns
Kyle Books, out now
The philosophy of Edd Kimber’s One Tin Bakes is pleasingly minimalist: Invest in one good 9-by-13-inch aluminum pan — or “tin,” in British parlance — and bake everything in it. Kimber has published three other books since winning the inaugural season of The Great British Bake Off in 2010, but this is the first that’s themed around a specific piece of equipment, and by focusing on the versatility of a single pan, One Tin Bakes prioritizes simplicity for both novice bakers and those who already know their way around a stand mixer.
For the most part, these are not show-stopper, highly technical bakes — though some, like the “Giant Portuguese Custard Tart,” are impressive by nature. The recipes are unfussy, undemanding, and a pleasure to cook. They’re all sweet, with chapters spanning cakes, pies, breads, bars, cookies, and some no-bake desserts too. And while 9-by-13-inch sheets and slabs of baked goods are the stars of the book, Kimber’s collection also includes non-rectangular treats: rolled cakes, ice cream sandwiches, and babka buns, among others. Six months ago I might have described this book as a party baking companion — most of the recipes feed eight to 12 people — but parties are in short supply for the foreseeable future. That said, even without feeding my coworkers or friends, there is something so joyful (surface area, perhaps?) about pulling a magnificent rectangular pan of streusel-topped coffee cake or gigantic British scone from the oven. — Adam Moussa
Parwana: Recipes and Stories from an Afghan Kitchen
Durkhanai Ayubi with recipes by Farida Ayubi
Interlink, out now
The story of Parwana, the popular Afghan restaurant in South Adelaide, Australia, has always been intertwined with history. Owners Zelmai and Farida Ayubi fled Afghanistan for Australia in 1987, during the Cold War, itself the result of hundreds of years of conflict. So it’s no surprise that the restaurant’s cookbook, written by Zelmai and Farida’s daughter Durkhanai Ayubi, would double as a history lesson. Interspersed between recipes are stories of the Silk Road, the Mughal empire, and the Great Game, which illustrate how because of trade, plunder, and cultural exchange, Afghan cuisine is both beloved and recognizable.
The book walks through classics like kabuli palaw, shaami kebab, and falooda (all of which, unlike so many restaurant dishes adapted to cookbooks, are incredibly achievable for the home cook) and demonstrate how Afghan cuisine both influenced and was influenced by nearly all of Asia. No matter what cuisine you’re most used to cooking, you’ll find a recipe, or even just a flavor, that feels familiar here. — Jaya Saxena
The Sourdough School: Sweet Baking: Nourishing the Gut & the Mind
Kyle Books, out now
The first thing to know about the sweets-focused follow-up to 2018’s The Sourdough School cookbook, the groundbreaking gut-health baking book by food writer and BBC radio host Vanessa Kimbell, is this: “It is not a book about baking,” she writes. “This is a book about understanding.” She’s right, sort of. It is not just a book about baking. It is, like its predecessor, a manifesto on the gut-brain connection — a guide to caring for the magical ecosystem within our own bodies, a fragile environment that, she says, our modern way of eating has ravaged, grimly affecting both our physical and mental health. It’s a book about science and bacteria and flour milling and fermenting and strategies for adjusting our lives in such a way to allow for four-day cupcake-making.
But then... it is also very much a book about baking. There are loads of delicious (if unabashedly healthy-looking) recipes with ingredients that prioritize your gut’s microbiome, everything from chocolate chip “biscuits” and Bangladeshi jalebis to swirly miso-prune danishes and a pudgy lemon-poppyseed cake with a hit of saffron. Nothing about these multi-day recipes is what anyone might call simple (I’ve never been so tempted to whip up my own couture flour blends), but Kimbell is as lovely a hand-holder as she is a writer, giving out lifelines like detailed schedules for each recipe, including the crucial pre-bake starter feedings so many other sourdough books leave out. She also is not above compromise, allowing for store-bought flours and dolling out assurances like, “if you are not into the scientific details, feel free to skip this entire section. I totally get just wanting to get on and bake.” A thorough reader, though, will be rewarded with a whole new way of thinking about the human body, along with a whole bunch of yummy new ways to indulge it. — Lesley Suter
The Mexican Home Kitchen: Traditional Home-Style Recipes That Capture the Flavors and Memories of Mexico
Rock Point, September 15
Mely Martínez comes to publishing by way of the old-school world of recipe blogging on her website, Mexico in My Kitchen. Martínez was born in Mexico and traveled throughout different regions as a teacher and again later in her life, learning from local women along the way, before eventually settling in the United States. After bouncing around recipe forums, she established the site in 2008 as a way to record family recipes for her teenage son. Through the internet, she reached a far wider audience of Mexican immigrants craving their abuela’s recipes. Now, her debut cookbook, The Mexican Home Kitchen, reflects that well-traveled savvy, but it’s forgiving, too, providing helpful tips on variations of recipes and alternative methods of food preparation or ingredients.
Martínez’s book is about the basics of Mexican home cooking; recipes include comfort foods like caldo de pollo dressed up with slices of avocado and diced jalapeño and special occasion meals like mole poblano. The recipes are simple enough for people just getting into Mexican cooking, but also have a nostalgic quality that will appeal to those who grew up with homemade arroz con leche or chicharrón en salsa verde. Flipping through The Mexican Home Kitchen, I remembered my own childhood visits with my stepmother’s family, where I would sit around the table with the many other grandkids swirling Ritz crackers in steaming bowls of atole. I turned to Martínez’s atole blanco recipe on page 178, and headed to the store for some masa harina, newly inspired. — Brenna Houck
Pie for Everyone: Recipes and Stories from Petee’s Pie, New York’s Best Pie Shop
Petra “Petee” Paredez
Abrams, September 22
If you’re not a pie person, then clearly you’ve never had a slice of Petra Paredez’s black-bottom almond chess pie. Growing up in a baking and farming family (her parents started northern Virginia treasure Mom’s Apple Pie Company in 1981), Paredez has considerable pie-making expertise. In 2014, she and her husband, Robert Paredez, opened their Lower East Side shop Petee’s Pie Company on a shoestring budget, and today, the sweet, sunny cafe on Delancey Street is considered one of the best pie shops in New York City.
At the heart of Petee’s Pie, the goal is simple: a flavorful, flaky, tender crust and perfectly balanced ﬁlling. Pie for Everyone teaches readers how to achieve this at home. The book begins with foundational information (how to source ingredients, the tools to buy to make pie-making easier and more efficient) followed by chapters on crusts and crumbs and pie fillings. And while there are hundreds of ways to make pie, Paredez believes in the merits of a super-buttery crust. “If you only use one of my pastry dough recipes,” she writes, “I hope it’s my butter pastry dough.”
With recipes that are both sweet and savory (including quiches), Pie for Everyone covers the shop’s year-round signature pies, like maple whiskey walnut and chocolate cream, as well as seasonal favorites, like strawberry rhubarb and nesselrode, a New York specialty consisting of chestnut custard with black rum-soaked cherries. But whether you’re a fan of Petee’s Pie or you’ve never been, bakers and pie lovers will appreciate learning from Paredez, a baker for whom pie-making is a ribbon-worthy feat every single time. — Esra Erol
Modern Comfort Food: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
Random House, October 6
There are many cookbooks that you want to read more than cook from, but Modern Comfort Food: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook is not one of them. In her 12th cookbook, Ina Garten, the queen of timeless, expertly tested dishes, shares 85 recipes for the kinds of comfort foods we’re craving more than ever. Dedicated home cooks may already know most of these unfussy foods by heart, but with Garten’s thoughtful techniques and guidance on how to find the best ingredients, dishes like chicken pot pie soup, baked rigatoni with lamb ragu, and skillet-roasted chicken with potatoes feel new and exciting. The skillet-roasted chicken and potatoes, for example, calls for a buttermilk marinade to make the bird juicy and moist, while potatoes are cooked with the chicken jus under the chicken, on the bottom of a hot skillet, to absorb extra chicken flavor, turning two humble ingredients into a fabulous dinner.
This being a Barefoot Contessa cookbook, it also comes with all the stories and aspirational photos (including many heart-melting pictures of Garten and husband Jeffrey) that have long inspired fans to want to live, cook, and eat like Ina. But, compared to Garten’s other books, Modern Comfort Food depicts the culinary star more as a loving neighbor who will bring you chocolate chip cookies on Sundays than the imposing queen of East Hampton. In the intro to this book, Garten admits that these days, she’s a little grumpier than usual (just like the rest of us), says it’s okay if we reach for a cold martini and a tub of ice cream for dinner, and reminds us once again how she managed to capture so many hearts over more than two decades as the Barefoot Contessa. — James Park
Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You’re Not Drinking for Whatever Reason
Ten Speed Press, October 6
A lot of people feel weird about drinking nowadays. Our spending habits show it, through products like low-ABV hard seltzers, chic nonalcoholic aperitifs, or just the ongoing popularity of sober months like Dry January. Author Julia Bainbridge understands the fluid nature of this type of sobriety, which is why she subtitled her book of spirit-free drinks as “for When You’re Not Drinking for Whatever Reason.” After all, you don’t need to eschew alcohol forever in order to enjoy a thoughtfully blended drink that isn’t trying to get you sloshed.
The drinks in Good Drinks are structured by the time of day you might enjoy them (brunch accompaniment, happy hour treat, aperitif), and are as complex and innovative (and labor-intensive) as anything at a fancy cocktail bar. They call for ingredients like black cardamom-cinnamon syrup, buckwheat tea, and tomato-watermelon juice, each of which get their own recipes. There’s even a whole recipe for a dupe of nonalcoholic Pimm’s (involving citus, rooibos tea, raspberry vinegar, and gentian root). The results are festive, celebratory drinks for any occasion, so the nondrinkers need not be stuck with cranberry juice and seltzer anymore. — JS
Ottolenghi Flavor: A Cookbook
Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage
Ten Speed Press, October 13
It’s probably a good thing Yotam Ottolenghi’s new cookbook isn’t called Plenty 3 or More Plenty More, veering the chef’s cookbook oeuvre into Fast & Furious territory. But by the London chef’s own admission, that’s a good way to understand Flavor, his newest book, which like its Plenty predecessors focuses on vegetables and all the creative ways to prepare and combine them.
Co-written with Ixta Belfrage, a recipe developer in the Ottolenghi test kitchen, Flavor presents recipes from three perspectives. The “process” chapter explores specific techniques to transform vegetables, such as charring and fermenting. “Pairing” takes an angle that will sound familiar to Samin Nosrat fans, with recipes rooted in the perfect balance of fat, acid, “chile heat,” and sweetness. And “produce” focuses on the ingredients with such complex tastes, usages, and sub-categories that they deserve examination on their own: mushrooms, onions (and their allium cousins), nuts and seeds, and sugar in fruit and booze form.
The result, in typical Ottolenghi fashion, is multi-step, multi-ingredient, and multi-hued recipes whose promised flavors leap from the page — from cabbage “tacos” with celery root and date barbecue sauce to saffron tagliatelle with ricotta and crispy chipotle shallots. Chipotles and other chiles are actually in abundance here (as well as “a lime or two in places where lemons would appear in previous Ottolenghi books,” as the intro notes) thanks to Belfrage’s roots in Mexico City. Those flavors, as well as those from Brazilian, Italian, and multiple Asian cuisines (spy the shiitake congee and noodles with peanut laab), unite with the usual Ottolenghi suspects — za’atar, star anise, harissa, labneh — to make Flavor worth the look, even for the home chef who already has Plenty and Plenty More on the shelf. — Ellie Krupnick
Xi’an Famous Foods: The Cuisine of Western China, from New York’s Favorite Noodle Shop
Jason Wang with Jessica K. Chou
Abrams, October 13
The debut cookbook from the New York City restaurant chain Xi’an Famous Foods is worth picking up whether or not you have slurped the restaurant’s hand-pulled noodles. This is a book on how to operate a food business — CEO Jason Wang outlines five lessons to know before diving into the business and strips away the glamor of running a restaurant empire. It’s also a food history of the flavors of Xi’an, China. With so many layers to appreciate, Xi’an Famous Foods is a prime example of what a restaurant cookbook can be.
Much of the book reads like a TV series. It’s broken into episodes covering Wang’s challenges, failures, and successes, from his life-changing move from Xi’an to a rural town in Michigan, to his nights out in New York City’s Koreatown, to taking over his father’s business, Xi’an Famous Foods. Interspersed with these anecdotes, there are recipes for the restaurant’s fiery, mouth-tingling dishes, including Xi’an Famous Foods’ famous noodle sauce (accented with salty and spicy flavors from black vinegar, oyster sauce, fennel seeds, and Sichuan peppercorns), along with techniques for making hand-pulled noodles paired with helpful illustrations and visual references. For avid home cooks who want a challenge, Xi’an Famous Foods also provides tips on putting together the best hot pot at home, and for those who are confused at Asian groceries, there’s a list of basic pantry items with flavor notes and how they are used in cooking. And whether it’s Wang’s personal connection to a dish or its wider history that draws you in, each recipe will broaden your knowledge and appreciation of Xi’an cooking. — JP
Coconut & Sambal: Recipes from my Indonesian Kitchen
Bloomsbury, October 13
In the introduction of her debut cookbook, Lara Lee writes that an overflowing generosity is central to Indonesian culture; meals are shared freely between neighbors and friends. This generosity fills the pages of Coconut & Sambal, each recipe heightening the sense that as a reader, you’ve been let in on something special.
Lee, who was born in Australia, didn’t spend time in Indonesia until later in life, so early memories of Indonesian cooking come from the trips her grandmother Margaret Thali — whom Lee lovingly refers to as Popo throughout the book — would take to Australia. Each of the cookbook’s chapter introductions is deeply researched: Some recount stories of Lee’s grandmother, and others focus on the Indonesia that Lee fell in love with as she traveled across the archipelago collecting stories and recipes for this book.
The recipes that fill Coconut & Sambal demonstrate that Indonesian cuisine cannot be painted with one brush. The food of the nation — made up of more than 15,000 islands — incorporates the sharp heat of chiles, the mellow hit of fermented shrimp, the sweetness of coconut in nearly every form, and always enough rice to go around. You’ll find curries fragrant with makrut lime leaf, ginger, and turmeric, and bright ceviches adorned with thinly sliced chiles, banana shallot, and palm sugar; I was particularly drawn to a fried chicken dish (page 142), its crisp shell smashed and laced with fiery sambal. Lee explains that recipes are typically passed down orally in Indonesian culture, which makes me even more grateful for these written ones. What Lee has given readers is a gorgeous document that sets in stone food traditions passed down through generations, as well as some she’s created herself. You’ll want to dedicate an evening to turning the pages of this book, planning out feasts of green chile braised duck, Balinese roasted pork belly, and perhaps some sticky ginger toffee pudding to top it all off. — Elazar Sontag
In Bibi’s Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries that Touch the Indian Ocean
Hawa Hassan with Julia Turshen
Ten Speed Press, October 13
Recipes are almost always the main attraction in a cookbook. But In Bibi’s Kitchen, written by first-time author Hawa Hassan in collaboration with veteran cookbook writer Julia Turshen, there’s so much to enjoy before you even get to the first recipe. The book focuses on dishes from eight African countries, linked by their shared proximity to the Indian Ocean and involvement in the region’s spice trade.
Each chapter, divided by country, starts with a brief history of the region and question-and-answer-style interviews with one of the bibis, or grandmothers, who call these places home. The answers to these questions find the grandmothers speaking about the meaning of home, the gender roles in their communities, and the importance of passing on food traditions. Each interview is as beautiful and varied as the recipes that follow: kadaka akondro (green plantains and braised beef) from the home of Ma Baomaka in Ambohidratrimo, Madagascar; digaag qumbe, a Somalian chicken stew rich with yogurt and coconut milk, served with sweet banana; kaimati, crisp coconut dumplings in an ambrosial cardamom syrup, this batch cooked in Ma Shara’s kitchen in Zanzibar, but popular all along the Swahili coast. A practical advantage of collecting recipes from home cooks is that these recipes are all approachable, most calling for fewer than 10 ingredients.
In many ways, In Bibi’s Kitchen breaks ground. It pays tribute to a part of the world that has been criminally overlooked by American publishers, sharing the stories of these African countries from the perspectives of home cooks who actually live there. The book is full of intimate portraits of the grandmothers in their kitchens, captured by Kenyan photographer Khadija M. Farah, who joined these women in their homes. The result of this collaborative and ambitious effort is a collection of heartwarming photos, tidbits of history, and, of course, plenty of mouthwatering meals. — ES
This Will Make It Taste Good: A New Path to Simple Cooking
Voracious, October 20
Reading through Vivian Howard’s This Will Make It Taste Good is like reading a cookbook by your real or imagined North Carolinian best friend. The design itself is cheerful, full of 1970s serif fonts and colorful badges that are reminiscent of a children’s workbook. Dishes are photographed from above, in the same style as Alison Roman’s Dining In and Nothing Fancy, often showing Howard’s hands as they work away chopping herbs or spooning chowder. The A Chef’s Life host’s goal is simple: to teach home cooks that easy meals can be exciting rather than bland.
Howard’s intended audience is the time-crunched kitchen novice, though a more experienced cook will surely find some useful tips, as well. Each section is based around a recipe that can be prepped in advance and then used throughout the week in a multitude of dishes: Among the most promising are the “Little Green Dress,” a dressing with flexible ingredients that can gussy up anything from mussels to crackers to soft-boiled eggs; the “R-Rated Onions,” which you can keep in an ice cube tray in the freezer to use at your convenience; and the “Citrus Shrine,” i.e., preserved citrus that promises to elevate dishes like shrimp cocktail and rice pilaf — you can even use it in margaritas! In any time, This Will Make It Taste Good would be a great help to those of us who prefer recipes that look and taste more complex than they are to prepare. That it happens to arrive at a moment when we’re likely all sick of the contents of our fridges and our own culinary limitations is just a bonus. — Madeleine Davies
The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food
Marcus Samuelsson with Osayi Endolyn
Voracious, October 27
“Black food is not just one thing,” chef Marcus Samuelsson writes in the introduction to The Rise. “It’s not a rigidly defined geography or a static set of tastes. It is an energy. A force. An engine.” The cookbook that follows is an invigorating, joyous, and deeply nuanced illustration of the complexity of Black foodways, one that weaves together conversations about history, artistry, authorship, race, class, and culture with 150 recipes that incorporate ingredients and techniques from around the globe.
Each of the book’s recipes was created in honor of “someone who is illuminating the space we share,” as Samuelsson writes: chefs, artists, activists, authors, and historians, all of whom are profiled by the book’s coauthor, Eater contributor Osayi Endolyn. The recipes are organized to demonstrate how culinary rituals and traditions evolve according to time, place, and cook. In the first chapter, “Next,” for example, you’ll find food that speaks of forward-thinking innovation, such as baked sweet potatoes with garlic-fermented shrimp butter, created in honor of David Zilber, the former director of fermentation at Noma. (That butter, pureed with avocado, sweet soy sauce, and fresh thyme, is not only easy to make, but so good that you can be forgiven for eating it straight from the food processor.) “Migration,” the third chapter, speaks of the American South, with recipes like spiced lemon chess pie, broken rice peanut seafood stew, and Papa Ed’s shrimp and grits, named for Ed Brumfield, the executive chef at Samuelsson’s Harlem restaurant the Red Rooster.
The Rise doesn’t claim to be an encyclopedic compendium of Black cooking; instead, it’s a celebration, one that honors the past while looking ahead, challenging assumptions even as it feeds you well. — Rebecca Flint Marx
The Flavor Equation: The Science of Great Cooking Explained in More Than 100 Essential Recipes
Chronicle Books, October 27
Nik Sharma begins his second cookbook by explaining that we rely on a variety of senses and feelings when we eat: sight, sound, mouthfeel or texture, aroma, taste, and even our emotions and memories. These components make up what he refers to as the “Flavor Equation,” and this concept and the role it plays in everyday cooking is the guiding principle of his book of the same name.
Following a thorough and captivating science lesson on the equation, Sharma lays out seven chapters dedicated to basic tastes and flavor boosters — brightness, bitterness, saltiness, sweetness, savoriness, fieriness, and richness — each with its own set of recipes: pomegranate and poppy seed wings exemplify brightness, roasted figs with coffee miso tahini or hazelnut flan highlight bitterness, “pizza” toast for saltiness, masala cheddar cornbread in the sweetness section, and more. Through these achievable recipes, many of which rely mostly on pantry essentials, Sharma helps readers better understand how flavor works and how to use that to their advantage to become more confident home cooks. Whatever your skill level in the kitchen, with its more than 100 recipes, illustrated diagrams, and Sharma’s own evocative photography, The Flavor Equation is an engrossing guide to elevating simple dishes into holistic experiences. — EE
Time to Eat: Delicious Meals for Busy Lives
Clarkson Potter, November 10 (originally published June 27, 2019)
Nadiya Hussain is just like you and me. That’s the guiding principle behind her public persona, her BBC Two cooking show Time to Eat (now on Netflix), and her cookbook Time to Eat: Delicious Meals for Busy Lives. “I know what it’s like to have just one head and one pair of hands,” the Great British Bake Off winner writes in the introduction of Time to Eat, a new stateside version of her U.K. cookbook of the same title. Her book, she promises, will help you become a smarter home cook in between chores and kids, thanks to heavy use of the freezer and other time savers.
On the page, that looks like tips for prepping and freezing, recipes that leave you with enough leftovers to make a second dish, and ideas for remixes and variations. There are more than 100 recipes, divided into breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and basics. Many of these dishes may be unfamiliar to American audiences — hello, kedgeree and fish pie burgers! — but the instructions are as approachable as Hussain’s on-camera demonstrations. With enough variety to keep it interesting, balanced with dishes easy enough to work into your weekly rotation of meals, e.g., eggs rolled onto tortillas, Time to Eat offers something for any home cook looking for new ideas and time-tested, time-saving methods. — Jenny G. Zhang
Fäviken: 4015 Days, Beginning to End
Phaidon, November 11
Last December, after more than a decade of acclaim, accolades, and meals rooted in seasonality and locally produced ingredients, Magnus Nilsson closed his restaurant Fäviken in Jämtland, Sweden. In the lead-up to the closing, he told the LA Times that he wanted to focus on the restaurant, not elegies or explanations. Now, the explanation has arrived in the form of Fäviken: 4015 Days, Beginning to End, Nilsson’s latest monograph with publisher Phaidon.
Although the book covers the lifespan of Fäviken, including lookbacks at the first title Nilsson published about the restaurant, it is not an elegy. There are no laments here, but rather a thorough catalogue of all the dishes that Fäviken served, ruminations about craft and haute cuisine and sustainability, and a long-awaited account of “Why Fäviken had to close, really.” The book contains recipes for many of the restaurant’s dishes — ranging from the simple berry ice to the more demanding “Scallop I skalet ur elden cooked over burning juniper branches,” with extensive headnotes — but its purpose is not as a cookbook. It is a tome (beautifully put together, as is typical for Phaidon) that is made for fans of Fäviken’s, of Nilsson’s, and more importantly, of the way of life he espouses, one that is passionate but measured.
That is best expressed in one of the book’s final essays, one dated May 12, 2020, in which Nilsson articulates gratitude that he was able to close his restaurant on his own terms, for Fäviken would not have survived the pandemic. “If one day some years from now I wake up in the morning and feel the same burning desire to run a restaurant that I felt for many years at Fäviken, I won’t think twice about it,” Nilsson writes. “But if that doesn’t happen, that’s okay too. There are many other things to do in life.” — JGZ
A Good Bake: The Art and Science of Making Perfect Pastries, Cakes, Cookies, Pies, and Breads at Home
Melissa Weller with Carolynn Carreño
Knopf, November 17
There are people who treat baking like a hobby and there are people who treat baking as a raison d’etre, a life’s purpose. Melissa Weller’s A Good Bake is for the latter, which shouldn’t surprise anyone considering Weller’s resume, which includes creating pastry for some of New York City’s most revered restaurants, such as Per Se, Roberta’s, and her acclaimed SoHo bagel shop, Sadelle’s. Before she became an expert baker, Weller was a chemical engineer, and as such, she tackles recipes with a scientific approach, getting the fermentation, proofing, and pH balance of her dough down to, well, a science.
If you’re a quarantine baker who’s mastered sourdough and is ready for the next challenge, consider Weller’s takes on NYC classics like chocolate babka, spelt scones with raspberry jam, and even traditional hot dog buns. A Good Bake will thrill bakers who rejoice in doing things the difficult way (but note that there are beautiful and detailed photos of her process to help guide ambitious bakers through the recipe). Of course, this means that failing will hurt all the more, considering the hours (or days, even!) of work that you’ve put into your bake, but success? It will taste all the sweeter... or more savory. It depends on your tastes, and Weller expertly caters to both. — MD