Favourite Cookbooks
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I love collecting cookbooks - especially bread, world-food, and dessert cookbooks. I already have thousands of recipes in my MasterCook database, so, for me, a cookbook has to add something more. The books I've reviewed are my favourites, because of the beautiful illustrations, additional commentary about the recipes, and/or the excellent instructions.

Many of these books I've bought through Amazon. Amazon is by far my favourite bookstore (online or locally) so I have no hesitation in linking directly to their site to allow you to find out more information about each book.

Bread

 

Flatbreads and Flavors : A Baker's Atlas
by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

This is my favourite cookbook - I have never had a failure from any of the recipes. The book is part travelogue, part cookbook - the authors travelled through the Americas, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, collecting authentic flatbread recipes plus delicious dishes to eat with them.  Many of the recipes are amazingly simple and involve the most basic of ingredients (e.g., flour and water), but the flavours and textures that result are scrumptious.

Examples include: Chinese hot and sour soup with scallion and sichuan pepper bread, layered chicken and yoghurt casserole on pita bread, caramelised onions and tomatoes with foccacia, and five-lentil dal and naan.

 

World Sourdoughs from Antiquity
by Ed Wood

Ed Wood's classic sourdough cookbook gives the best method, in my opinion, for growing and maintaining a sourdough starter with the minimum of fuss. His basic bread recipe is now my starting point for most of my bread making. Ed also runs Sourdough International - an online shop for buying dried starters from all around the world - highly recommended if you want a specific style of starter.

 

Nancy Silverton's Breads from the LA Brea Bakery :
Recipes for the Connoisseur
by Nancy Silverton, Laurie Ochoa, Ruth Reichl

Nancy Silverton's sourdough cookbook has been more than a little controversial. She adds bakers yeast to many recipes and she gives a strange method for growing and maintaining a starter, which can be quite wasteful. That aside, the recipes are delicious, and I've had success with most of them. I recommend adapting her recipes for Ed Wood's method (above) to get the best of both worlds. Her bagel recipe is particularly delicious.

 

Breads of the Southwest :
Recipes in the Native American, Spanish, and Mexican Traditions
by Beth Hensperger, Laurie Smith (Photographer)

This is a beautiful cookbook - the photos of azure skies, golden adobe, orange pumpkins, blue corn, and red and green peppers are sumptuous. Worth it for the pictures alone, but the recipes are excellent as well.

 

The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book
by Laurel Robertson

If you want to learn how to make wholegrain bread, this is the book for you. Laurel's Loaf for Learning taught me so much about how to make good bread.

 

Dessert   

 

Death by Chocolate :
The Last Word on a Consuming Passion
by Marcel Desaulniers, Michael Grand (Photographer)

The first of Marcel Desaulnier's books on desserts. This book has the most amazing desserts I've ever seen - the photos seem to drip chocolate. But what makes this book more than just another chocolate cookbook is the excellent instructions. Some of the recipes are beyond the ability of mere mortals, but many are relatively straight forward.  This book makes an excellent gift.

To thumb my nose at virtuous New Year's resolutions, I typically make a DBC recipe to share with friends on New Year's Eve.

 

Desserts to Die for
by Marcel Desaulniers, Michael Grand (Photographer)

Using the same formula for Death by Chocolate, Desaulnier's branches out into other desserts that don't necessarily use chocolate. Again, another sumptuous book that makes for much drooling.

 

Death by Chocolate Cookies
by Marcel Desaulniers

The third book using the DBC formula, this time Desaulnier's looks at biscuits - some quite simple and others (like the cover illustration) are works of art.

 

An Alphabet of Sweets
by Marcel Desaulniers, Nancy Gardner Thomas (Illustrator)

This is a sweet book (literally and figuratively) with each recipe beautifully illustrated by folk artist Nancy Gardner Thomas. The recipes are a bit simpler than Marcel's other dessert cookbooks. Would make a beautiful gift.

 

World Food

 

Flatbreads and Flavors : A Baker's Atlas
by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

I've included this book again here (see Breads above) because it really belongs in both categories. It is also so good that it is worth mentioning twice!

I recently held a successful dinner party where I served Afghan Snowshoe Naan, Aziz's Apricot Noodle Soup (without the noodles), Chicken Street Kebabs (marinated in mint, saffron, and yoghurt), and Mint & Yoghurt Sauce, along with a large mesclun salad.

Another favourite meal is Sichuan Pepper Bread with Sichuan Eggplant. And there are so many more wonderful recipes still to try.

 

Seductions of Rice : A Cookbook
by Jeffrey Alford, Naomi Duguid

Another gorgeous book from the authors of Flatbread and Flavors. I'm still in the middle of reading it; I have to read it bit by bit so I don't drool on the pages!

 

Hot Sour Salty Sweet
by Jeffrey Alford, Naomi Duguid

The most well known book in the Alford/Duguid stable. A culinary travelogue through south-east Asia. Lovely large format book works equally well on the coffee table as it does in the kitchen.

 

Home Baking:
the artful mix of flour and tradition around the world
by Jeffrey Alford, Naomi Duguid

I simply can't get enough of these two cooks! This book may not be quite up to par with their other efforts, but it is still one of the best cookbooks on baking out there. This is about real home-style baking from all around the world. So far I've tried out the Moroccan biscotti - I chocolate-dipped some and that wasn't a mistake :-) The papaya-almond wholemeal bread is currently in the oven and is smelling divine. Note that the lemon pound cake has a typo in the ingredients: there should also be 1.75 C pastry or cake flour.

Other

 

The Man Who Ate Everything
by Jeffrey Steingarten

Not really a cookbook (although there are recipes) but the adventures of a gourmand. Extremely funny, interesting, and well researched articles about salad, oelestra, french fries, restaurant etiquette, and more. I recommend this book to anyone interested in food - in fact it would make an excellent gift.

 

It Must've Been Something I Ate
by Jeffrey Steingarten

More adventures from this fascinating gourmand. If you enjoyed "The Man Who Ate Everything", this book is a must!

 

 

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Judi Lapsley Miller
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