Cook’s Library: What’s Baking on the Shelves

It’s a tough life opening the door for the UPS guy who drops off a review copy of a new cookbook on a nearly daily basis. Hey, somebody’s gotta do it. On the floor by my desk is a tower of new titles that I’m snacking on, bit by bit. Today’s sampler is a trio of baking books all worth a looksee.

The stand-up easel functionality of Mollie's Katzen's "Desserts." (Kim O'Donnel)

Kneadlessly Simple: Fabulous, Fuss-Free, No-Knead Breads by Nancy Baggett
Post Food section contributor Nancy Baggett, who’s got a dozen other books under her belt, has dreamed up a collection of 75 recipes for no-knead bread. I must admit, I’ve been slow to warm up to this idea that seems counterintuitive, but Baggett seems to have it all down to a science. She even includes a section on making over your traditional yeast recipes to the Kneadless method. Stay tuned in coming days for a kitchen report on her white sandwich bread. Just released this week.

Betty Crocker Baking Basics: Recipes and Tips to Bake with Confidence
I tend to give away my BC books to folks who really need the tutorials, but I’m not letting go of this baking primer anytime soon. Score! Loaded with pictorial how-tos and “What Went Wrong?” troubleshooting tips, this book is a keeper for bakers of all levels. The collection of 360 recipes includes cookies, cakes, pies and bread, and yes, I’ll be testing the Classic White Bread to compare it with Baggett’s no-knead version! Details to come. Release date: Feb. 16.

Oh, and did I mention the kitchen-friendly spiral format?

Mollie Katzen’s Recipes: Desserts
The venerable Mollie Katzen, of Moosebook Cookbook (now 30 years old) and Enchanted Broccoli Forest Fame, has repackaged 50 of her dessert recipes into this stand-alone, stand-up mini volume. That’s right Desserts has been cleverly designed as a spiral, stand-up easel, no page-turning required (pictured, above). What a great gift idea. More importantly, why aren’t more cookbooks designed this way? Release date: March.

What cookbooks are you currently devouring? Share your finds, both new and old, in the comments area.

By Kim ODonnel |  February 5, 2009; 7:00 AM ET Baking , Cook's Library
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Kim, how appropriate this topic! Sunday my father-in-law gave me a huge shopping bag filled with "old" cookbooks. The newest book was published in the 70s and many date back to the 40s and 50s. I plan to hold the more "vintage" books, but need to rehome some of the more "modern." Perhaps the neighbors on the blog and weekly chat can recommend some worthy non-profits that would give these books a new life.

Thanks for the wonderful sharing ways of the chat and blog. It is true that one person can make a difference, as you do each day.

Posted by: pyrmom | February 5, 2009 7:18 AM

My copy (pre-WWI, I think) of the Swedish French American Cookbook talks about how women need to make more soup so their children are healthy and how they need to give their husbands time to wind down before they serve dinner. Most of the poultry recipes start with "Singe the feathers."
I don't do alot of cooking from it, but it cracks me up.

Most commonly open these days is Dorie Greenspan's "Baking" which i picked up new at a Tuesday Morning for $12. Beats the $48 sticker price!

I'm having a grand time reading it, but some of the recipes are rather complex and I haven't had time or cause to dive in yet. That is what late Feb will be for! I can't wait to get started!

Posted by: capecodner424 | February 5, 2009 9:11 AM

One of my favorite old cookbooks is Ida Baily Allen's pressure cooker cookbook from around 1950. The pressure cooker is presented as the microwave of that time and there's a picture of Ida May standing at a stove on an airplane with several pressure cookers building up a head of steam in the galley.

Posted by: davemarks | February 5, 2009 9:52 AM

my new favorite cookbook is the Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri. The directions are very clear and he has simplified some traditional recipes. It includes breads/cakes/cookes/pies (sweet and savory). The results have been excellent (note that I have substituted Earth Balance buttery stick in all recipes with great results - even the pecan sticky buns).

Posted by: daconrad | February 5, 2009 10:23 AM

I got the 10 year anniversary updated edition of Deborah Madison's Vegetarian cookbook for Christmas. Thanks Dad!

Posted by: chiquita2 | February 5, 2009 1:18 PM

I'm in an Italian phase. There's one book entitled Trattoria Cooking by Biba Caggiano and I've also been working my way through Lidia's Family Table. I finally made gnocchi successfully (failed a few times in the past) and paired them with a gorgonzola sauce. Yumm!


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | February 5, 2009 2:24 PM

I recently relocated to Australia and am experiencing my first summer here. And it's been HOT. So I'm getting re-acquainted with the 50+ cookbooks I shipped down here by trying to find recipes that involve turning on the stove/oven as little as possible, but will still appeal to my hungry husband and small daughter. Last night I made pasta with 'raw' tomato sauce: minimal cooking and definitely a hit!

Posted by: njdmarston | February 5, 2009 3:00 PM

I scored my grandmother's 1942 Joy of Cooking when she moved to a retirement center. She loved baking cookies, so those pages are smudged, and by one recipe, she wrote "delicious." It has a recipe for rhubarb pie (which most new cookbooks don't have).

It also has recipes/directions for things modern cooks don't use very often, like sweetbreads and other assorted "parts." And of course, nothing involves opening a can of soup. Also, the "ethnic" section is pretty much spaghetti and meatballs, and I think maybe Swedish meatballs. But certainly no Asian, Mexican, Thai, Indian, etc.

It has very tiny type, and the book may be set up in 3 columns per page, (but might be 2, I've not looked in a while.) It also has that famous Joy way of burying the ingredients in the copy rather than a list at the top, as is more usual today. I like it because it was my grandmother's, but it's not a go-to cookbook for me.

I love to just read cookbooks. There's actually a cookbook reading group in my town, hosted by a locally owned bookstore. I've not been, but it's intriguing to me. They potluck recipes from the month's featured cookbook. Great idea, no?

I got the America's Test Kitchen cookbook for Christmas. It's not a book I would have picked up for myself, but I am surprisingly happy with it, and would recommend as a good basic cookbook, esp. for less-experienced cooks. It can be a little too nit-picky about "the best way," in that special Chris Kimball way, but I'm kind of fascinated by their whole food as science approach to things. Also, it's very specific about process, so if you can learn a lot. I also like the ring-binder thing, but some reviewers on Amazon have dissed that.

Popular cookbooks in my neck of the woods are the whole Colorado Cache series put out by the Junior League of Denver. I enjoy using mine. I think there are 4 in the series and a 5th is in press. KOD you should do something (mebbe you have) on Junior League/Church cookbook compilations or on family cookbooks. I think they are usually hit or miss, but once in a while, you pick up a gem. And you can see the trends if you look at books from various eras.

Great topic.

Posted by: khachiya1 | February 6, 2009 1:16 PM

khachiya1 - Nice post. I'm a fan of the Cooks Illustrated magazine from whence the test kitchen came. My two irritations: (1) there's only one way to cook some recipe. My view is that there are many ways to skin a, errm, potato. (2) Recipes are far too often introduced with a gratuitous slap at how one might find it at a restaurant or home. Some of us did learn to cook before CI came along. That much having been said, I've learned a lot and it's a great starting point. I've learned how to make a to die for mac&cheese, which is worth a lot to my kids.

Incidentally, if you liked America's Test Kitchen, it's worth checking out some of their compilation cookbooks. The Quick Recipe is a go-to book for me.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | February 8, 2009 6:48 PM

To: njdmarston

I hope hope hope you are not affected by these horrific fires in Australia. It's beyond comprehension. Be safe.

And BB: I am a big fan of Cook's Illustrated and I agree they often go overboard on the "our way or the highway" approach. But I, too, have learned from them and I kind of like their understated illustrations.

Chris Kimball reminds me of that old sketch on Saturday Night Live that featured the "Anal Retentive Cook." So funny. And so true as we all have our little quirky issues.

Posted by: khachiya1 | February 9, 2009 11:37 AM

I agree on Junior League cookbooks. It would be fantastic to see Kim do something on these. She could even start with Seattle's 2 fantastic books-Simply Classic & Celebrate the Rain (yes, I am a member of the Junior League of Seattle). That said, I am also a fan of Louisville's "Splendor in the Bluegrass" and San Francisco's "Flavors".

Posted by: harreljs | February 9, 2009 3:58 PM

This Saturday, I'll be getting out my "Back to the Table" by Art Smith (an Oprah chef). This was published around 2001, and it never fails to deliver great tasting recipes that are not difficult.

I'll make the Red Velvet Cake with Chocolate Frosting for my son's birthday party. Since Valentine's Day was the only good day to get the family together, I'll be hosting a Valentine themed party. He won't be two until later this month, but this is probably my only chance to host a Cupid-themed birthday party!

Posted by: mdephillips | February 12, 2009 3:33 PM

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