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I consult a lot of books when I’m developing recipes for this blog and for clients too, but there are a couple of books that I find especially useful if you want to get creative in the kitchen. These books are invaluable references that will help you bake better and also provide you guidance on how to deviate from a base recipe. I think this list is a good complement to my top 5 science of baking books, which I recommended earlier. A little warning: if you are looking for a coffee table baking book with pretty pictures, walk away. This list is not for you. There’s hardly a picture in any of these, and if there are pictures, they are few and printed in black and white. These are baking reference books that you will probably consult over and over again as you grow as a a baker.
The Baker’s Appendix by Jessica Reed
The Baker’s Appendix is a new addition on my book shelf, and I’m in love. I pre-ordered The Baker’s Appendix book because I was THAT eager to get my hands on it. When it came, I was shocked at how tiny the dimensions of this book are. The book is small, and yet it is packed full of useful information. A large part of this book is dedicated to baking conversions and equivalents, and that’s my favourite part. This book is so handy because even though I started my own baking conversions list for my blog and recipes, my list is by no means exhaustive or complete. The Baker’s Appendix covers most commonly used ingredients in metric and volume measurements, so grams and cups. There’s even a table for adjusting recipes at higher altitude, tables for baking pan volume conversions, and much more. And though this book is quite new, I now consider it indispensable for bakers. Why do I bake in grams and convert all my recipes? I try to calculate some of the key ratios behind the recipes so that I can better understand what’s going on and I think this works best if I work in grams. Remember when I wrote about the Québécois “pouding chômeur” recipe scandal? I showed you my spreadsheet of pudding cake recipes. My recipe spreadsheets are a huge part of my work. I make these spreadsheets for a lot of recipes I’m working on, and I actually have an ongoing mega spreadsheet with all the chocolate chip cookie recipes I come across. I’m building it up to eventually create the ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipe, and that spreadsheet will help me do that because I’ve broken down each recipe into key ratios. You can find Jessica Reed’s The Baker’s Appendix on Amazon. Get it!
How To Bake Everything by Mark Bittman
How To Bake Everything is Mark Bitman’s latest book and an important followup to How to Cook Everything. I think the title of the book is pretty self-explanatory. How To Bake Everything is a huge book, as one would expect if we are going to learn how to bake everything, and quite the opposite of The Baker’s Appendix in size. The book covers everything, from the basic vanilla cake to a tall croquembouche. There’s even a Japanese mochi recipe in this book! The description of the book claims there are over 2,000 recipes and variations in How To Bake Everything, and I believe it. Most of the recipes come with a set of variations and applications. Actually, this book reminds me a lot of the Joy Of Cooking (Amazon), but for baking, because How To Bake Everything includes lots of diagrams and tables so that you can better understand the techniques behind the recipes and how to take the recipes further. How To Bake Everything is available on Amazon.
The Flavor Bible or The Flavor Thesaurus
I find that with experience (and a lot of eating), most of us have an idea of what flavours play well together. But whenever I have a doubt, or I’m looking for flavour inspiration so that I can try something new, I turn to The Flavor Thesaurus, which shows flavour pairings for commonly used ingredients. I have to admit though, lately, I’ve been a little frustrated with The Flavor Thesaurus because it doesn’t have some of the ingredients I want to bake with, like passion fruit and matcha tea, so I’ve been considering upgrading to The Flavor Bible, which I gather features a more extensive list of ingredients and flavours. You can buy The Flavor Thesaurus here on Amazon, and The Flavor Bible is also available on Amazon.
Other books I’ve recommended before
These three books are a great start to help you get more serious about your baking and recipes. Combined with my top 5 science of baking books, there’s a lot of information to help you better understand the science of baking and flavours, with loads of recipes and ratios to get you started. Since it’s hard to stick to just three titles, I’d like to mention two more books. These two last books are ones that I’ve recommended before, but I think they round out today’s list of key baking reference books really nicely:
- The Baker’s Appendix because I want you to weigh your ingredients and this book will help you get started converting your recipes to grams (buy it on Amazon)
- How to Bake Everything because it’s packed with the basic recipes to get you started and we’ve all got to start somewhere (buy it on Amazon)
- The Flavor Bible or The Flavor Thesaurus to help you better understand how to pair flavours and create new recipes (buy The Flavor Bible on Amazon and The Flavor Thesaurus on Amazon)
- Ratio by Michael Ruhlman because it’s a great reference that includes most of the basic baking ratios and how to use/modify them (buy it on Amazon).
- How Baking Works because this is my go-to reference to understand the science of baking and I think it is clearly written so that the average reader can understand what happens when we bake (buy it on Amazon)
Now with all these books on our shelves, I think we are better equipped to bake something awesome.
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