The lovely fluid thing about blogging, is being able to have conversations with people who read your witterings. It’s not set in stone forevermore after the publish button is clicked; there’s plenty of opportunity to get conversations going with like-minded folk who love food too. I love it when people send me messages or leave comments, and one thing I get asked a lot are which are My Favourite Baking Books?
I have a pretty big collection of cookery books in general, most of which are baking related but there are only a few which I go back to time and time again or have really shaped my baking. I’ve rounded them all up here in one place so there’s an easy point of reference for the future. The book links which follow are affiliate which helps me fund the blog and keep bringing you new recipes (if you buy through Amazon, I get a few pence commission – I know, this time next year Rodney, I’ll be a millionaire ;) …)
Anyway, on to the books!
Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard
Oh, how I love this book. My copy is faded so much you can’t tell what the colours are on the spine from being in the sun on my coffee table so long as I was constantly referring to it and re-reading its sage advice. It is structured into chapters on types of bake and the first part talks you through the science behind the bakes and it really gives the sense of empowering the reader to go forth and create recipes as it gives so much background, you understand why reducing flour, adding a new liquid or changing the raising agents have the actions that they do.
I’m a huge fan of Dan Lepard (have you read how I waxed lyrical over his utterly incredible Orange & Pistachio Carrot Cake with the most perfect Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting?) and this is his magnum opus, in my opinion. It covers bread, cake, pastry, patisserie, biscuits, cookies and so much more. It’s imaginative but solidly grounded in the classics and you can see how Dan develops his recipes as you read through the book.
An absolute must for the home baker looking to branch out from Victoria Sponge into flavours from around the world, using ingredients you may be surprised by but you can take confidence in knowing that each and every recipe is thoroughly tested and utterly delicious to eat. The bread chapter will change your baking alone. Buy it, immediately!
How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson
Nigella is such a part of my cooking, it’s hard to know where her recipes start and mine begin. I simply adore her writing in and of itself and like many, read her books like works of fiction, curled up in the big chair in my book nook. The wonderful thing about How To Be A Domestic Goddess is Nigella was not a natural baker – she went away, read about it, practised and became the goddess-like home baker that she is today.
I must have made almost everything in this book at one point or another and it is a true baking bible. Where Short & Sweet innovates, HTBADG delivers classic recipes for the novice home baker to develop their confidence with. If you want a classic fruitcake, a lemon drizzle or a perfect pavlova, then this is the book to look in first. I love Nigella’s no-nonsense recipes, although I do rework some of them to streamline them further, she has generally taken the path of least resistance to a quality home baker result.
It’s also beautifully photographed and the charming bakes rather patisserie-window perfect complicated creations are exactly how home baking should be.
Baking From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Now, us Brits can be starchily resistant to baking in anything less accurate than grams or, for the fiercely traditional, pounds and ounces but Dorie Greenspan’s book is so delicious, surely the most cup-hating Englishman can be turned! Yes, yes cups are hugely subjective measures and if you don’t have a metal set like these KitchenCraft ones and you’re not yet a well practised a home baker, then you’re asking for trouble but can I encourage you to give this one title a try?
It is a huge hardback book filled with beautiful photography and clear instructions. If I see an American recipe I fancy online but am not sure about whether it will work, I head to Dorie’s book and look for her version. This is the place to find an all American apple pie, skyscraper layer cakes, chocolate chunk filled and oatmeal cookies plus much more. As Dorie is a classically trained pastry chef, there is a strong French theme through the book which just adds finesse whilst staying true to the down-home American classics. It should inspire confidence but please don’t think this is a fancy or complicated bake book.
It’s very much home baking, just with a chic twist here and there. How can that be a bad thing?
Biscuit by Miranda Gore Browne
I recommend this book a lot! Miranda was in the final of the very first Great British Bake Off but whilst she was eliminated in the final round, it wasn’t until several hours of arguing between the judges was completed! I think Mary Berry desperately wanted to keep her in but Paul Hollywood won that particular standoff.
Anyway, Miranda’s talent particularly shone through her exquisitely decorated biscuits and I was absolutely thrilled when she released this, her first book, all about biscuits and even more thrilled to see it wasn’t a cookie decorating book (I will come on to that) but it was a jam packed guide to how to make good old fashioned British biscuits! Her bourbons are to die for (they are my most favourite biscuit in the world, I consider myself a bit of a bourbon connoisseur lol) but this little book is chockablock full of fantastic recipes.
You have to give her lemon drizzlers a try – they really do melt in the mouth. If you have ever dreamed of being able to create the mass-produced packets of British biscuits yourself, then this is the book for you. Cookies are a wonderful, wonderful sweet treat in and of themselves but there is something about a British biccie, with its comparative simplicity and austerity even that deserves devoting a whole book to them. And Miranda does it perfectly.
Brilliant Biscuits by Pamela Giles
Not quite two years ago, we lost our beautiful friend Pam after a very short illness. She was a foodie friend of mine for years and years and she is deeply missed by our little community. She was a hugely creative woman and it was no surprise when she started creating hand decorated biscuits at home, that they would become beautiful works of art. She was so passionate about biscuits that I remember the very first time I met her (after years of an online friendship) that she brought a little tiny tin with the very first biscuits she ever made, wrapped into tissue paper as a memory of where it all began.
Her husband helped her photograph and produce her book Brilliant Biscuits and it provides even the novice baker with solid recipes, clear instructions and so much inspiration that you will rush to the cookie cutter drawer and start baking as soon as you’ve finished reading the book! She gives all the tips and tricks you need to create her beautiful biscuits and I may be biased, but of all the books on how to do it, I think Pam’s will always be the very best.
The Bero Book
How could I possibly write about my essential baking books without the Be-Ro book? It’s occupied the kitchen drawers of home bakers for several generations and it is quite simply the font from which all home baking knowledge spills! It’s the cheapest book at around £1-2 depending which edition and where you get it from but it worth very much more than that.
You’ll find it quite austere in today’s culture of absurdly decadent cronuts and the like but it doesn’t take much to scale up if that’s what you want. It has all the basics – shortcrust pastry, rough puff, choux pastry, the ever-present Victoria sponge, chocolate cake for birthdays, scones, rock cakes, pies, tarts and all the directions are simple and no-nonsense.
There are only two things I bear in mind – the instructions may be a bit too sparse if you’ve never baked before, so do some Googling or refer to the other texts in this list if you need more direction initially. The second thing is it recommends using margarine in almost all of the recipes, being a post-war, frugal period when the recipes were originally written. We now know it’s not that healthy although some of the most modern dairy free spreads out there are surprisingly good on the health front, you can just substitute in soft butter and that’s what I always do. And did you know it is called Be-Ro as it is short for “Bell’s Royal” which was the original name of the company that produced it, but when King Edward VII died it became illegal to use the word “Royal” so the shortened version was adopted.
A worthy title on any home baker’s shelf.
The Violet Bakery Book
The final title on my list is also the newest one. The Violet Bakery Book is another baking book worth purchasing for the photography alone. Claire Ptak came to my attention when she was writing and baking for the Leon group and I really love her work – one day, I want to visit the actual Violet Bakery in London. She is a Californian who has relocated to the UK and her recipes are well grounded in sound methods but offer interesting flour combinations you may not have thought about before, which use less common ingredients like buckwheat and spelt flours.
She has one eye on health and moderation and the other on beautifully crafted sweet treats which don’t leave you feeling like you need three of to feel like you’ve been indulged! I think it’s a fresh take on baking and pushes the reader to utilise different ingredients than they may have before but you’re baking arsenal will be so much the better for it. Raspberry and star anise crumble muffin anyone? Oh yes me, please! Whilst I haven’t had time to bake lots from this title yet, I do plan on doing so.
If you love Short & Sweet, I am quite sure this one needs to be on your shelf too as they have similar levels of innovation backed up by trustworthy, well thought out recipes.
There you have it – My Favourite Baking Books. I’d love to hear what you think – have I missed your favourite off the list? Are there groundbreaking baking titles I need to know about and add to my overflowing library? Do leave a comment, it makes blogging worth it being able to talk to your readers. If you can’t see the images in this post, it will be because you are using an ad-blocker so turn it off for this page.
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