If you like playing with flour, or putting frosting on whatever you can get your hands on, you're most definitely an avid baker and probably a fan of baking cookbooks. As any baker knows, having a good recipe is crucial to baking a successful cake, bread or cookie; and having a baking cookbook you can trust is essential.
But, there are hundreds of thousands of cookbooks out there. Dozens cover niche culinary interests (such as macarons) and there are even more for every major topic (such as cakes). And while having options to choose from is a great thing, the amount of choices can be overwhelming.
While some of us are swayed by well-styled food photographs and others by the sheer volume of recipes, you really can't know how good a cookbook is until you get it dirty in the kitchen. Unfortunately, you can't really test out a cookbook before buying it. But lucky for you, we've walked around the block (a few times) with many recipe books; and we've got quite a few we love. Click through the slideshow below to see which baking cookbooks we turn to again and again.
Before I began to cook, I was an avid cookbook reader. I could flip through the same cookbook literally hundreds of times without getting bored. Family knew of my obsession and so for a birthday I was given "Artisan Baking." It's this book that got me from just looking at recipes to actually using them in the kitchen. The photos were amazing and the stories of the bakers inspiring -- so much so that you can't help but get your hands dusty with flour. To this day, I still use their pizza dough recipe. It's the best I've ever had. - Julie R. Thomson <strong><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Artisan-Baking-Maggie-Glezer/dp/1579652913/&tag=aolfood-20" target="_hplink">Artisan Baking</a> at Amazon, $15.45 </strong>
I learned about this book while helping out in a professional bakery kitchen. My friend, the owner, is a perfectionist in every right -- so the fact that she trusted these recipes said a lot. The day I tasted this book's heavenly cream filling, which is jammed between two layers of melting moments cookies, I went straight home and ordered the book (and then proceeded to put the cream filling on <em>everything</em>). These recipes are "basics," but because Donna Hay is Australian they'll still introduce you to new ideas that you may not find in a typical American kitchen. - Kristen Aiken <b><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Modern-Classics-Book-Biscuits-Cookbooks/dp/0060525894/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335365837&sr=1-6/&tag=aolfood-20" target="_blank">Modern Classics Book 2</a> at Amazon, $16.41</b>
I grew up watching Julia Child's many cooking shows on PBS during the 90s, so it was inevitable that one day I'd end up using her books. The companion book to the series "Baking with Julia" is one of my favorites. It's chock full of some of the most amazing and impressive baked goods, desserts and confections you will ever see. It's edited by baking doyenne Dorie Greenspan and the recipes are from some of the best bakers and pastry chefs around. Even when I'm not baking a recipe from the book, I'm always referring to it just for the great tips and tricks. - Joseph Erdos <strong><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Baking-Julia-Savor-Americas-Bakers/dp/0688146570/&tag=aolfood-20" target="_hplink">Baking with Julia</a> at Amazon, $23.58</strong>
Leaving aside the precious title, my entire bread making experience has been dictated by the signature no-knead technique captured in this book. The resulting breads are incredibly gratifying and easily replicable. I'd like to try traditional knead-intensive bread making at some point, but with this book I'm not really sure I need to. - Colin Sterling <a href="http://www.amazon.com/My-Bread-Revolutionary-No-Work-No-Knead/dp/0393066304/&tag=aolfood-20" target="_hplink">My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method</a> at Amazon, $17.66
I love baking with whole wheat and whole grains; and the book takes a rustic no fuss approach to baking with whole grains. Gorgeous photos don't hurt either! - Amanda Heckert <strong><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Good-Grain-Baking-Whole-Grain-Flours/dp/1584798300/&tag=aolfood-20" target="_hplink">Good to the Grain</a> at Amazon, $19.77</strong>
The term "handbook" is a little misleading. Sure, this book breaks down the basics of baking, offering helpful step-by-step instructions that can ease even the most timid baker. But it's also got more advanced and complex recipes like Banana Caramel Cake with Mascarpone Frosting (which has gotten me through more than a few bad days) and a gorgeous Nectarine Tart that's designed to look like flower petals. -Kristen Aiken <b><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Martha-Stewarts-Baking-Handbook-Stewart/dp/0307236722" target="_blank">Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook</a>at Amazon, $25.86</b>
If you're a fan of baking, you've definitely made your fair share of just plain ol' unhealthy treats. This cookbook lets you indulge in your love of mixing butter and sugar, but gives you the ability to call it healthy. Every recipe comes out amazing, but the Pain aux Noix is out of this world. - Julie R. Thomson <strong><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Arthur-Flour-Whole-Grain-Baking/dp/0881507199/&tag=aolfood-20" target="_hplink">King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking</a> at Amazon, $20.21 </strong>
I wrote an entire <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/03/dorie-greenspan_n_1253820.html" target="_blank">ode to this book</a> on Valentine's Day, proclaiming my love for Dorie's perfectly reliable recipes, her drool-inducing photography and her contagious love for all things baked. This book isn't just a great standby -- it's also inspiring enough to get you excited about getting elbow-deep in flour. <b><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Baking-From-My-Home-Yours/dp/0618443363" target="_blank">Baking: From My Home To Yours</a> at Amazon, $26.40</b>
Their pancake recipe is one of my favorites! - Amanda Heckert <strong><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Clinton-St-Baking-Company-Cookbook/dp/B0062GJNGI/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335376283&sr=1-1/&tag=aolfood-20" target="_hplink">Clinton Street Baking Company</a> at Amazon, $10.22</strong>
While I'm a strong defender of keeping to traditions, this book makes good bread easily accessible... in just five minutes time. It's true, the results aren't exactly as you'd get with a slowly risen dough, but they're pretty close -- and when you take a freshly baked loaf out of the oven, people won't notice the difference. The trick here is to amp up the yeast; it truly works. - Julie R. Thomson <strong><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Artisan-Bread-Five-Minutes-Revolutionizes/dp/0312362919/&tag=aolfood-20" target="_hplink">Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day</a> at Amazon, $15.99</strong>
Martha is always an old standby in my house. I received this as a gift from a family member nine years ago. I make 25 varieties of cookies each year for Christmas and then pass out large trays to family and friends. I use quite a few recipes from this book in addition to family recipes. - Amanda Heckert <strong><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Martha-Stewart-Living-Christmas-Cookbook/dp/1400050375/&tag=aolfood-20" target="_hplink">The Martha Stewart Living Christmas Cookbook</a> at Amazon, $35.40</strong>