Fall

15 Fall Cookbooks We’re Ready to Devour

From gluten-free baking to Malaysian classics to cooking with the microwave, there’s something for everyone in this season’s lineup of new books.

November 23, 2021
Photo by James Ransom

For those of us who care about food, autumn leaves remind us of the glorious piles of crisp new cookbooks we can’t wait to jump into. Last year, we devoured books that were focused on family and comfort, the literary equivalents of thick sweaters and socks (looking at you, Snacking Cakes, In Bibi’s Kitchen, and Modern Comfort Food). The dishes were warm and made us feel safe—just what we needed when many things we normally turned to for those sensations (big gatherings and bigger hugs) suddenly felt out of reach. But this autumn is all about getting your groove back—at a pace that feels most sensible to the cook you are.

Think of these new books as upgrading that same sweatsuit you wore all last year to a more tailored going-out look. Maybe you’re looking forward to safely hosting a holiday meal, or having people over for a small shindig—no occasion needed. Or even simply trying new recipes at home, to remember that cooking can be a joyful, adventurous act—not just something you have to do every night. Some folks are still looking to cook easy weeknight meals. And it's possible that after all those loaves of lockdown banana bread, some people even unearthed a newfound passion for the pastry arts and are now in search of a different project.

However you choose to jump-start this season, great inspiration is waiting to be found in these 15 new fall cookbooks.

1. Arty Parties: An Entertaining Cookbook, Julia Sherman

Take every idea about what you think a party should be and throw it out the window. In her second cookbook focused on food and art, after Salad for President, Julia Sherman makes a splashing statement on how dwelling on the nitty-gritty—menu, tablescape, guest list—deviates from the true point of a party: getting “family, friends, or utter strangers” together to have a good time. For Sherman and the new guard of artists she profiles, achieving that goal often involves rolling heavily with the punches: posole made with leftover sauce from last night’s lamb tacos, make-your-own-onigiri night, a big bowl of turmeric-poppy kettle corn. As an unapologetic morning person, I found particular delight in the “Off-Peak Hours” section, devoted to casually cool breakfast bakes, just in case a fellow early bird wants to stop by at 7 a.m. on Sunday.

2. Cannelle et Vanille Bakes Simple: A New Way to Bake Gluten-Free, Aran Goyoaga

Just in the past few years, gluten-free baking has undergone a massive renaissance. What used to be lackluster alternatives for the gluten intolerant have streamlined into a wide world of luscious treats we all want to eat. Someone we can thank for that shift is Aran Goyoaga. Two years after the publication of her book Cannelle et Vanille: Nourishing, Gluten-Free Recipes for Every Meal and Mood, Goyoaga returns with a baking-specific book that’s just as thoughtful and approachable. Sections are broken off into breads (yes—tender, chewy, gluten-free bread!), cakes, flaky pastries, cookies, and everything in between. At first glance, some of these categories might seem counterintuitive to simple gluten-free baking (looking at you, sourdough starter); but follow Goyoaga’s clear instructions and you’ll execute them without trouble.

3. Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds & Legumes, Abra Berens

Early on in the pandemic, I found myself bookmarking every bean recipe I could find, and to this day I keep them in heavy rotation. In fact, my bookshelf was jam-packed with so many recipes featuring lentils, black beans, and the like, I was convinced I didn’t need another. So it was nothing short of a miracle when I found space for Grist, chef Abra Berens’ latest tome on cooking with whole grains and plant-based protein—and thank goodness. Through sections marked by larger categories (beans, rice, tiny grains, and wheat), Berens provides exhaustive breakdowns of individual ingredients along with edifying interviews with local farmers who work to grow food amid constraints posed by COVID-19 and a broken system. The recipes in each section are easy, wholesome, and, most importantly, adaptable. They often include things like fritters and porridge. There are even a few different meal plans, like one masked as an unironic response to the question: How do I get a kick out of eating black beans for five days straight? The answer includes, among others, Berens’ black bean pot likker with sweet potato, something I didn't already have in my bean Rolodex.

4. Sambal Shiok: The Malaysian Cookbook, Mandy Yin

“My mission in life is to introduce as many people as possible to Malaysian cuisine,” Mandy Yin declares in Sambal Shiok. Every recipe just sweeps you into the hawker centres, kopi tiams, markets, and home kitchens that have been shaping Malaysian food culture through the centuries. And is there anything better than learning from primary sources? At the end of your flip through the book, you’ll have new dishes in your back pocket suited for simple weekdays and celebratory feasts alike. You’ll learn how to use deeply flavorful ingredients like coconut milk, lemongrass, shrimp paste, and, of course, sambal shiok (which literally translates to “shockingly good chile sauce”) to build big, bold Malaysian flavors.

5. Sugar, I Love You, Ravneet Gill

Name an occasion that sugar isn’t good for—I’ll wait! Gill’s first book, The Pastry Chef’s Guide, served up the most whimsical delights to commemorate life’s sweet moments—and lucky for us, she’s back, this time with delicious contemplations on ways we can celebrate sugar and all its chameleonic charms. And if you read the title and pictured yourself deep in a sugar coma, don’t worry. The recipes are all about how to properly use—not overuse—the sweetener. The professional pastry chef is thrilled to teach you literally all about sugar. Even her self-proclaimed “Lazy Person Cake” is a masterclass in the ingredient.

6. Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking, Cheryl Day

Last year, I did not make a single pie. So this season is all about brushing up on my dough skills, and for this, I’ll be turning to the masters: Erin Jeanne McDowell, Rose Levy Berenbaum, and, of course, Cheryl Day. Pastry chef and co-founder of Back in the Day Bakery, Day uses her personal background and historical context to champion a comprehensive understanding of and appreciation for authentic Southern baking. Day’s latest is a treasury in every sense of the word. She not only pulled from her mother’s recipe book, but dived in to local community archives and consulted other families in the South with a long history of bakers. The interplay of history and modernity is a central theme here: As Day writes, “baking in the South is more exciting than ever. While the undaunted spirit of enslaved cooks and grandmothers lives on in our gathering cakes and mile-high meringue pies, we embrace the new recipes with ingredients and flavors that were unknown to our ancestors.” The 200 recipes are a surefire way for bakers to perfect flaky pie crusts and multilayered biscuits while they learn about the outsize impact Southern baking has had on American culinary history.

7. Claudia Roden's Mediterranean: Treasured Recipes from a Lifetime of Travel, A Cookbook, Claudia Roden

Claudia Roden is an incredible resource for anyone who enjoys Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. Your obsession with whole orange cake? Circassian chicken? Tahini, even? Simply put, Roden had a lot to do with it. Numerous scholarly texts and cookbooks later, she now invites us back for another helping, spooning out a fresh batch of dishes inspired by her escapades throughout the area, including Egypt, Turkey, and France. Expect more cake, chicken, and tahini in the new book, not to mention fluffy plum clafoutis, creamy Catalan fish stew with aioli, unctuous eggplants with soft cheese in a sauce of spicy honey, and so much more. To drink up Roden’s anecdotes and eat her recipes means the bright, radiating flavors of the region are never too far away.

8. The Joy of Pizza: Everything You Need to Know, Dan Richer With Katie Parla

I’m just a Connecticut girl, living in New York, professing her love for New Jersey pizza. Since 2012, Dan Richer and team have been serving up immaculate pies at Razza in Jersey City. Along the way, they’ve garnered praises from some of the tri-state area’s toughest critics. Richer now partners with journalist and food educator Katie Parla to provide a step-by-step instruction manual (conjured up by corresponding images and QR-coded video tutorials) on how to achieve perfection—or at least a close resemblance—to Richer’s famous pies. It's the perfect reference for home cooks and professionals alike. Recipes include some of Razza’s classics (Jersey Margherita, Project Hazelnut, Guancia) plus a few original toppings (Cavallini Brussels sprouts with melted anchovies, winter squash, and maple bacon) dreamed up just for the book.

9. This Must Be the Place: Dispatches & Food from the Home Front, Rachael Ray

“This Must Be the Place” is the name of Rachael Ray’s favorite Talking Heads tune, as well as the title of her 27th (!) cookbook, written as a direct response to her pandemic experience. “It’s a scrapbook in recipes and words, offering a year in the life,” writes Ray. With 250 new comforting dishes cooked from her home kitchen, Ray delivers abundant personal anecdotes in what might be her most vulnerable book to date. “I am a very private person (I know, kinda strange for someone on TV every day),” she jokes. “But after this year I wanted to share.” It’s clear, her intention is to promote cooking as a trusty medium we can use to heal and nourish the cracks—even when all else seems to fail.

10. Mooncakes & Milk Bread, Kristina Cho

What happens when a brilliant food blogger kneads together her professional architect’s background with a knack for storytelling? We get Mooncakes & Milk Bread, the book equivalent of a pink parcel filled up with the most squishy, glossy Chinese bakery offerings imaginable. Kristina Cho’s dreamy cookbook radiates with soft pastel warmth. Lots of love and attention is put toward recounting the bakeshop journey Cho took across the U.S. and China. Her own renditions of Chinese baked goods are thoughtful, too, with many recipes riffing off the book’s foundational bread doughs, cake batters, and pastry fillings. Armed with the guidance to bake up hot dog flower buns and fried sesame balls, your kitchen can become your own Chinese bakery with a crank of the oven.

11. Sandor Katz’s Fermentation Journeys: Recipes, Techniques & Traditions from around the World, Sandor Katz

Part cookbook, part travel journal, and featuring a brilliant cast of chefs, activists, and experts, fermentation revivalist Sandor Katz’s latest book is an all-encompassing celebration of a truly global cooking technique. It’s a fantastic read for anyone—from the fermentation-curious who want to know a little more about the packaged yogurt and kombucha in their fridge, to those who’ve maybe made a batch of pickles at home, to the straight-up zealots who could endlessly nerd out about fermented food.

12. Septime, La Cave, Clamato, D'Une île, Bertrand Grébaut, Théophile Pourriat, Benoit Cohen

Septime, La Cave, Clamato, and D’Une Île make up the restaurant collective that has democratized French fine dining. You’ll easily gauge why these titular eateries, all run by Bertrand Grébaut and Théophile Pourriat, are hubs to rendezvous with old and new friends. But if you can’t make it to France, flip through the book and take in the behind-the-scenes photos of the swell folks who make these spaces so magical: among them line cooks, winemakers, and farmers.

13. Bake, Make & Learn to Cook: Fun & Healthy Recipes for Young Cooks, David Atherton

The daily struggle of getting something nourishing and edible on the table thrice a day is r-o-u-g-h. But to all the parents (and grandparents and babysitters and fun aunts and uncles), feeding the kiddo in your life doesn’t have to be a one-way street: Take it from David Atherton. Though the author (and 2019 Great British Bake-Off winner) doesn’t have kids of his own, he did grow up with a mom who managed to feed her five kids by enlisting them as her team of kitchen cooks. She helped Atherton believe that cooking as a family can “be a time to explore and have fun together.” Now, he’s here to help you. Don your apron (and help the little one tie on one of their own!) and you’re ready to get only a little messy as you make fruity jelly jars, veggie hot dogs, and banana bear pancakes. With the darling illustrations that detail each recipe’s easy-peasy cooking instructions, the sous chef in your life will want to flip through it as much as their favorite picture books.

14. Cooking at Home: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Recipes (And Love My Microwave): A Cookbook, David Chang and Priya Krishna

The concept of “no-recipe recipes” lays out suggestions for ingredients and directions for dishes without strict measurements or timing. This empowers the home chef to cook according to their own needs. This new cookbook—with no recipes—comes from chef David Chang and New York Times food reporter Priya Krishna. Instead of dictating, they point out the beauty of letting go and making kitchen tools and ingredients work hard for you (not the other way around). A microwave doesn’t have to be the last resort—heck, you can cook a whole chicken in one! Day-old supermarket doughnuts lying around? Bring them back to life by submerging in a pan of hot butter for a restaurant-quality brunch dish. Though many of us hesitate to partake in certain kitchen behaviors, like cooking in the microwave or using store-bought frozen vegetables, under the assumption there’s something shameful about taking the easy way out, that’s simply not the case. Prescribing moral value to certain ways of home cooking and eating only adds stress. In this book, Chang and Krishna choose to nix every rule and encourage readers to follow suit.

15. Treasures of the Mexican Table: Classic Recipes, Local Secrets, Pati Jinich

Food-travel diaries in the visual form have, for so long, been documented from the white male point of view. As she guides us through the country, Pati Jinich—raised in Mexico City herself—takes a refreshing approach and allows the regional Mexican recipes to speak for themselves. After all, dishes like chiles rellenos with cheese, baila con tu mujer (“dance with your wife”) migas, and a spread of regionally specific salsas aren’t just mechanisms for telling a vivid story of Mexico’s culinary diaspora—they are the story.

Which of these books are you most excited to cook from? Let us know in the comments!

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  • AntoniaJames
    AntoniaJames
  • Justine Lee
    Justine Lee
Food writer, late-night baker, year-round iced coffee drinker.

2 Comments

AntoniaJames November 24, 2021
"New York Times Cooking: No-Recipe Recipes" by Sam Sifton is a gem of a resource - not fancy (that's the point, I suppose), but full of appealing "no-recipe" ideas. The format works particularly well - a simple description on the page on the left, a photo of the dish, on the right. ;o)
 
Author Comment
Justine L. November 30, 2021
agreed, it's a stellar resource!