10 Best Baking Cookbooks of 2021
These are the sweetest titles of the year.
Baking is one of those cooking crafts that elicit a mixture of nostalgia, delight, and mystery (and sometimes bafflement). And while baking might be an exact science, the best baking cookbooks prove that it can also be easily broken down — and that there’s always room for creative riffing. Several of the year’s titles lean into the baking traditions of different cultures and put a modern spin on it, from the celebration-worthy pies central to Southern baking’s recipe cannon to the fragrant meal-ending sweets of the Middle East. As with cooking, baking with the seasons is a tenet that holds fast, but new flavor twists and unexpected ingredients elevate the classics with a dose of whimsy that’ll breathe new life into your baking repertoire. Whether you’re playing with flour for the first time or a three-time holiday cookie swap champ, these baking books will deliver delicious results and sweet success in equal measure.
With her series Vallery Bakes Your Questions, Food Network digital host Vallery Lomas has captured the minds of home bakers. Now, with this beautiful baking book, she’s also captured our hearts. Yes, the book delivers baking savvy with more than 100 recipes, including crave-worthy numbers that we can’t wait to add to our list of go-to goodies, like Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Brownies and One-Bowl Blueberry Buckle. But the words within the pages also chronicle Lomas’ personal journey and success story through baking. Pick a recipe to make, then once it’s in the oven or cooling, curl up in a chair and dig into the stories and memories behind the dishes. This book is one that’s bound to sate your sweet tooth and satisfy your soul.
Middle Eastern Sweets is the kind of cookbook that’s equal parts recipes, travelogue and personal history. In the recipes contained within, author Salma Hage pays homage to her Lebanese family’s fragrant sweet treats, as well as the diverse Middle Eastern desserts, cooks and stories she’s encountered in her travels. The recipes include categories such as cookies, pancakes, ice cream, cakes, and sweet breads, but also signatures of Middle Eastern confectionery, including Filo & Dough and Sweets, Syrups & Confectionery. The recipes are smartly coded with symbols so you can easily navigate those that are vegan (hello, Vegan Baklava) or dairy-, nut-, or gluten-free. Some of our favorite recipes include Tahini Cheesecake, a sophisticated yet simple no-bake cheesecake drizzled with date syrup, and Moroccan Snake Cake (M’hannacha), a show-stopping, celebration-worthy filo-and-almond pastry redolent of cinnamon, cardamom and orange blossom water.
Just when you thought the world didn’t really need another chocolate chunk cookie recipe, baking empresario and prolific cookbook author Dorie Greenspan delivers a genius riff by baking hers in a muffin pan. Her Caramel Crunch–Chocolate Chunklet Cookies offer chocolatey morsels and a tender cookie crumb with the buttery-crisp appeal of shortbread. All the recipes bear Greenspan’s warm encouragement, well-honed methodology and a generous sprinkling of baking tips, but we’re particularly fond of her walk on the salty side. There are tried-and-true combos, like Fig and Goat Cheese Tart and Tomato Pie, plus unexpected ones that dispatch savory ingredients to usher classic confections into unchartered territory, as with a Miso-Maple Loaf. The book lives up to its title comprising sweet, salty and simple, but it also calls to mind another adjective: stunning.
If you’re looking to level-up your cookie game, this is the book for you. Instead of organizing the book’s chapters by the usual suspects, author and master baker Jesse Szewczyk divides the recipes into flavors and characteristics such as Chocolaty, Boozy, Fruity, Smoky, and Savory. The recipes have a knack for conjuring the familiar but with a genius twist, thanks to the addition of unexpected ingredients and techniques. Sure, you’ve had biscotti, but you haven’t really until you’ve had a Malted Brownie Biscotti. Browning butter is a sure-fire way to add a depth of flavor to baked goods, but by using smoked butter, Jesse sends chocolate chunk cookies in a rocket ship hurtling to a new flavor universe. These treats aren’t just a sweet way to end a meal — they’re destined to steal the show. Holiday cookie swaps, look out — we’re coming for you with Chewy Blueberry Muffin Sugar Cookies and Pretzels & Stout Cookie Bars.
The genius of baker and cookbook author Cheryl Day isn’t that she simply collects and perfects heritage Southern baking recipes, she turns them over in her flour-dusted hands and infuses them with new life. Part of that philosophy manifests itself in recipes that showcase her well-honed craft and deft touch balancing flavor and texture, including Heavenly Angel Biscuits, Chocolate Church Cake, and Cornmeal Cheese Waffles. But the recipes Cheryl shares in this book also trace her Southern roots and legacy as a Southern baker by honoring the contributions, life experience and history of enslaved Black laborers, including her great-great-great grandmother Hannah Queen Grubbs whom she names in the book’s dedication. Equal parts storytelling, baking craft and visual masterpiece, Day’s latest book is indeed a treasure.
We know we’re biased, but the collection of recipes in this bright, colorful tome delivers fool-proof results and mouthwatering treats, all geared toward young bakers. Each of the 110-plus recipes are triple tested by Food Network Kitchen, and because we eat with our eyes, too, the book includes a visual recipe index with photos of every recipe. Kids will delight in whipping up their own classic crowd-pleasers like Red Velvet Brownies and Mini PB & Chocolate Cupcakes, as well as embarking on choose-your-own adventure recipes such as design-your-own Whoopie Pies. The book is also chockful of food trivia, cool food crafts such as cookie puzzle pieces and DIY sprinkles, and bonus food-themed activity pages.
Martha Stewart needs no introduction, but her latest baking tome is proof of her staying power and uncanny knack to deliver recipes that marry the simple with the stunning. With over 100 tried-and-true recipes, Stewart’s latest baking book will teach you how to make peak-season fruit the star of your baking creations, from cozy autumn apple fritters to a summer-ready juicy peach slab pie. You can also use the book to bake by mood or occasion, whipping up, say, a caramel-apple bread pudding that makes for a comforting weekday treat but is impressive enough to serve guests, or a stone fruit galette that begs to be toted to an alfresco get-together.
If Ravneet Gill’s first book, the best-selling The Pastry Chef’s Guide, was a technique on tome, her follow-up, Sugar, I Love You, is an epic ode to her love of all things sweet. The recipes are just as detailed and fool-proof, though they’re also shot through with personal anecdotes that make her voice shine right into your kitchen. With Gill as your guide, you’ll feel confident enough to take on souffles, multi-layered cakes, and a global treasure trove of cheesecake recipes (hello, Japanese Cheesecake). If you’re new to baking or simply not sure where to begin, the Lazy Person’s Chocolate Cake is always a winner.
With a blog name like Butter and Brioche, you’d expect its creator to have the baking prowess to back up the goods. Indeed, award-winning food blogger turned author Thalia Ho delivers all the buttery, flaky, jammy, tender results one could hope for with her gorgeous baking book, Wild Sweetness. She offers a creative and whimsical take on seasonal baking by drawing inspiration from classic confections and filtering them through the lens of six seasons and their accompanying flavors. Highlights among the 95 recipes include Rose Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies, Lemon Curd Streusel Cake, and Plum and Hazelnut Financiers. Oh, and S’mores Pie — because what’s summer without it?
Author and baker Kristin Hoffman, aka Baker Bettie, may be a trained chef, but she hasn’t forgotten her days as a baking novice. Her baking book lives up to the ‘Better’ part of the title by smartly breaking down techniques and baking science in a fun, approachable manner for newbies and cake aficionados alike. Recipes you’ll want to bookmark and bake from stat include Buttermilk Biscuits, Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies, and the No-Knead Lean Dough Master Recipe, which not only yields a no-fuss approach to baking bread (sourdough starters need not apply!), but a base dough for turning out pizza crust and effortless focaccia. There’s also a superb section on substitutions to help you navigate baking dairy-, egg-, or gluten-free.