You know how some people are obsessed with stamp collections or fantasy football teams? Well, we're obsessed with cookbooks. Here, in Books We Love, we'll talk about our favorites.
Today: A whole slew of cookbooks we're excited about this fall. BONUS: We're giving away cookbook packages to two lucky readers.
In case you hadn’t noticed, we’ve started talking -- and writing -- about cookbooks a little differently recently. We’ve been reviewing them, more or less, writing about the books we love and why we love them.
We hope that this will serve you -- home cooks, buyers of cookbooks, lovers of words and pictures and stories and recipes -- better. We want Food52 to be a place where you will come to find out about the latest titles, to share stories of your favorites, and to fill us in on what you love about cookbooks. If nothing else, this column -- Books We Love -- is a scrappy but enthusiastic start.
October is a huge month for cookbooks. Try to keep track of them all and you’ll find yourself with a full-time job and a calendar that’s more ink than paper. So we’ve been trying to fill you in on the ones we’ve clutched most tightly to our chests, the ones that brim with the most post-its. Today, we've compiled a list of of titles that we’re particularly interested in this fall -- so you can take a look yourself, or let us know what we missed, or just straight-up disagree with us completely.
So, herewith, a list of a few of the books we think are most deserving of your shelf space and brain space. (As is our policy, we’ve linked to Amazon for each book here, but we encourage you to swing by your local bookstore, if only for the human interaction and the new book smell.)
- Baking Chez Moi: How do we love Dorie? Let us count the ways. It’s not just because she’s such a lovely human, so easy to crush on. She’s also a fastidious recipe writer, a gifted storyteller, and a joy to read. And she makes really great food. Her latest book -- which she’s been working on for 5 YEARS! -- is a summation of the things that she serves in her kitchen in France, but that we all can make in our decidedly non-French kitchens, without much fuss.
- The Baking Bible: As with Dorie, we would trust Rose Levy Beranbaum with our most important cake occasions, if not with our lives. This comprehensive follow-up to her Cake Bible includes definitive guidance like the "Golden Rules of Caking Baking," as well as tips and recipes for everything from cakes to pies to cookies to pastries and yeasted breads.
- Death & Co.: Do you love booze? So do we. And so do the people behind Death & Co., one of New York's most influential cocktail bars. Their big, heavy, dark book (it looks ready for Halloween, and it is, if you like getting drunk on Halloween) will walk you through the life of a bar and how to build a cocktail -- starting with some of their favorite recipes, ending with those you'll soon be creating yourself. Read our review here.
- Sherry: Talia Baiocchi, the lovely Editor-in-Chief of PUNCH, has written a history of the much-maligned Spanish fortified wine, to reclaim it from your grandmother’s cabinet. Baiocchi turns the drink and its history -- a topic that’s often difficult to digest for those not well-versed in wine and spirits -- into the subject of an engaging, interesting story, with plenty of cocktails to put your new bottles to good use.
- Brooks Headley’s Fancy Desserts: Brooks Headley, the pastry chef at Manhattan's Del Posto (and James Beard Award winner), has created his ideal cookbook, which includes: irreverent but also very Italian, not-too-cheffy desserts; stark, kinda-weird photos; essays on the things he's eaten while touring with punk bands; essays written by writers and artists Headley admires (Robert Sietsema, Sloane Crosley); "Profiles in Courage" of other chefs (Christina Tosi, Claudia Fleming); and so on. His cookbook trailer pretty much says it all.
- Ovenly: Okay! Okay. There are a lot of dessert cookbooks that we’re excited about right now. But the Ovenly book, as much a story of a small Brooklyn business as a compendium of sweet-salty baked goods, deserves your time, if only for the scones. And the cookies. And the Brooklyn Blackout Cake. Read our review here.
- Peter Reinhart’s Bread Revolution: If you've never watched Peter Reinhart's TED talk, wherein he talks about yeast "burping and sweating" (like a human while eating), you've missed out. Reinhart, an expert on baking, has now tackled sprouted and whole grains and heirloom flours; if you want to get serious about baking your own whole-wheat and whole-grain loaves, he'll start you with a starter and walk you through every detail of the process.
- Flavor Flours: If you're more into dessert than toast but you still want to experiment with flours other than all-purpose and whole-wheat, this new title from Alice Medrich -- our resident rogue baker and tireless investigator of all things dessert -- is for you.
- Heritage: Sean Brock, chef at Charleston's Husk restaurant, has redefined southern cooking -- his first book does much the same, with beautiful photos and stories to boot.
- Sweet & Southern: Also in the southern corner is Ben Mims' first book, full of pies and cakes that have been modernized -- a cup of sugar removed, a pinch of salt added -- without straying from their southern roots. Read why we love it here.
- Saveur: To celebrate 20 years in print, Saveur has turned to their archives and come out with over 1,000 “new classics” from around the world. Like the magazine, it's a combination of things you'd find when you travel, things you'd learn from a chef, and lessons you might happen upon in your own kitchen.
- The Kitchn: Recipes are just one part of this book from the editorial team behind one of our favorite home cooking sites. You also get glimpses into the kitchens of other home cooks, a bit of harmless voyeurism that will help make your kitchen a more efficient and peaceful place. Also, whereas notes on ingredients and sourcing and cleaning and prep tips feel like an obligation in some books, the supporting cast in this book feel like a thorough and valuable resource for home cooks of all experience levels.
- A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse: If you’ve ever read Mimi Thorisson’s blog, Manger, you know what it is to envy her life, full of long walks through the French countryside with her children and seeming endless brigade of dogs, which end at home with bushels full of produce that she effortlessly turns into feasts, all cassoulets and tarts and roasts and good wine to wash it all down. But if you’re going to buy one aspirational cookbook this fall, it’s Mimi’s -- because you’ll actually take on many of her recipes, and absorb a bit of her style of entertaining in the process.
- Plenty More: The answer to your inevtiable question is: Yes, it's as good as you hope it will be, and yes, it will still feel new and exciting and inspiring even if you've already spent the last two years poring over Jerusalem and Plenty. (In fact: Ottolenghi should start hosting launch parties at midnight the way that bookstores did for each new Harry Potter book back in the day. Instead of dressing up as Ron and Hermione, we can dress up as pomegranate molasses, eggplants, figs, and rice salads!)
- A Boat, A Whale, and A Walrus: We're smitten with this collection of French-inspired dishes from Renee Erickson’s lovely Seattle restaurants, arranged as a set of dinner parties. Read our review here.
- Bitter: Jennifer McLagan, a cookbook author who has also penned single-subject books Bones and Fat, is now here to defend what has, historically, been the least popular flavor around. Our brilliant columnist Nicholas Day is a fan of this book -- check out his review here.
- Mexico: The Cookbook: Given its CALIENTE-pink cover, this book is an excellent choice if you’re looking to diversify your color-coded book shelves. But it’s also a thorough primer on Mexican food, from a native Mexican chef, with bright, beautiful photos of everything from tamales to pozole to Donuts from the Convent of Santa Rosa. It will serve you well both on your coffee table and on taco night. There are no headnotes to be found, though; if you’re looking for a deep dive into basics rather than a visually stunning survey course, turn back to Roberto Santibañez’s Truly Mexican.
- Prune: It's here! It's here! The Prune cookbook! Gabrielle Hamilton, who put radishes with butter and salt back on the map and continues to serve assertive, unfussy, exciting food after 15 years of running Prune, has given us a book. (Also: She is the only person who can get away with writing radishes with butter and salt into a cookbook.) It is unabashedly pink and full of her smart, bold writing.
- The Kitchen Ecosystem: Eugenia Bone’s latest book is all about increasing your kitchen’s DIY capacity without, say, expecting yourself to make 30 pints of jam in one sitting. Her plan: Figure out what you buy a lot of; make as much of it as possible; and use up all the bits of your ingredients in ways that will add flavor to your meals. Read our review here.
- Bar Tartine: Techniques and Recipes: Take Eugenia Bone’s enthusiasm for preserving and making-from-scratch and put it in the hands of a couple of San Francisco chefs who have a thing for fermenting -- the result is bright and colorful and a look behind the curtain of one of San Francisco’s most popular places to get a vegetable plate. This isn’t a first step after buying your first set of ball jars; it’s a trip down the rabbit hole of what can happen when you become obsessed with making every possible pickle and condiment under the sun. There are also helpful tips on nut butters, kefir, and sour cream, if you’re not planning on investing the time to make Sunchoke Custard with Sunflower Greens.
- Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: It should come as no surprise that we love everything that Cathy Barrow does -- she’s a longtime Food52er, and the brains behind Seven Day Sweet Pickles and Sweet Potato Chana Masala.
- Homemade Decadence: In her second cookbooks, Joy Wilson -- a.k.a. Joy the Baker -- continues her tradition of dialed-to-11, achievable-but-also-a-little-crazy cakes, pies, and cookies, all related in her friendly, whimsical, encouraging voice. If you're a fan of her blog, you'll love it.
More: Start your bread-ucation with these easy and delicious dinner rolls.
- One Pot: For all the nights this winter when you won't want to think about more than one pot, one dish, and maybe one large glass of wine to go along with it, the editors of Martha Stewart Living have your back. Their recipes, as always, are trustworthy and appealing, and will probably pair nicely with the other Martha books on your shelves. They're still around for a reason, people.
- How to Cook Everything Fast: Also in the category of reliable utility, Bittman's latest builds on his How to Cook Everything empire with an emphasis on speed. As with Martha, we trust Mark's recipes; this book is encyclopedic in its coverage of all the things you can make in less time than it took you to read this article, and it would make a really excellent gift for a first kitchen, or someone with an extremely short attention span.
Hey, readers! We're giving away two cookbook packages, to share some of our favorite new books and get you cooking this fall. To enter, tell us in the comments: What's the cookbook you use the most? We'll choose winners this Friday, October 17th; unfortunately, we can't ship internationally.