Michelle Lopez is the über creative baking force behind the food blog Hummingbird High (inspired by the high altitude baking she did after moving to Colorado) and debut author of Weeknight Baking: Recipes To Fit Your Schedule (Simon & Schuster, $35). A self-proclaimed food science fan, world traveler, and photographer, Lopez worked a tech job for many years before realizing that baking was her true calling. She has channeled her well-practiced pastry skills into a joyful recipe book that will have people whipping up apple pie on a Wednesday night! Her straightforward instructions clearly outline active prep, baking, and decorating times as well as suggesting alternatives for ingredients you may not have on hand. Beautifully curated photographs of classic yellow cake with creamy chocolate frosting and chunky black-and-white shortbread inspired by Oreo cookies will have your Great British Baking Show fantasies feeling within reach.
I have rifled through every bread book we carry, and many, many more besides. Many are informative, many have eminent authors, many are utterly daunting, and Sarah Owens’ Sourdough has my heart. Her previous day job as rose gardener of the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens assures 1) an amateur-friendly approach absolutely compatible with real life schedules and 2) gardening is crucial to her approach. Recipes include, yes, stunning breads, but also sourdough pastries, and cakes that circle the seasons with uncanny herb pairings, seasonal fruit, and a stunning array of savory options.
Nothing conjures up sweet memories of childhood quite like our favorite treats. Crunchy and creamy Oreos with a tall glass of cold milk; a warm, flaky Pop Tart in the morning; or mom’s perfectly baked, gooey chocolate chip cookies straight from the oven. Little Debbie, Hostess, and Mars Bar take us back to the simplicity of the school cafeteria and remind us of afternoon homework snacks. Hungry yet? Lucky for us, one of America’s Best Pastry Chefs, Stella Parks gives us Bravetart: Iconic American Desserts (W.W. Norton, $35) so that we can recreate our favorite juvenile munchies in grown-up fashion. We begin with ways to mix up baking staples: fun and creative twists on snickerdoodles and yellow cake and an easy way to make s’mores one hundred percent from scratch. Parks leads us on with easy-to-follow recipes for, of course, cookies and pies, but also doughnuts, ice cream, and breakfast bakes. And one must not forget the beloved brands that we can finally recreate! Fig Newtons, Fudge Stripes, Animal Crackers, and even Magic Shell and Girl Scout Cookies. Full-color finished product photographs and pages of trouble-shooting tips make this unique cookbook a dream to use, while stories, articles, and vintage advertisements make it a perfect gift that the sweet tooth in your family will refer to over and over again.