Best Cookbooks for November 2015

Cookbook Store

We get it. We all find ourselves with precious little spare time come late November. And as much as we long to linger for hours at local bookstores and sit an;d sort through the stacks to find the best cookbooks, that just ain’t happening. We understand. So we went ahead and spent the requisite time selecting some cookbooks for you. And since it’s that time of year, we kept an eye toward those cookbooks that either instruct you on how to make what could be construed as the consummate gift or cookbooks that actually function as the consummate gift themselves. Without further blah blah blah, behold! The best cookbooks.—Renee Schettler Rossi


Food Gift Love CookbookHear that? It’s the collective sigh of relief from my friends and family upon reading this and knowing they won’t be getting the same old food gifts I’ve been bestowing on them the past I-don’t-know-how-many years. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great gifts. It’s just that I suspect monotony has set in. [Editor’s Note: We’ve never received one of David’s made-from-scratch gifts, so we can’t fact-check whether they’ve grown monotonous or not. You’ll just have to take his word at it.] Thanks to Maggie Battista, founder and director of Eat Boutique and author of Food Gift Love: More Than 100 Recipes to Make, Wrap, and Share, I have a bevy of new gifts to make, wrap, and give. Maggie breaks the book into six sections: Fresh Gifts, Pantry Gifts, Candied Gifts, Baked Gifts, Preserved Gifts, and Spirited Gifts. I’m all about the oven, so I dove headfirst into the Baked Gifts chapter. Some of the items on this Fatty Daddy Santa’s list are roasted banana bread, molasses cookies, and savory cheese-plate quick bread. I do have a few friends who love to get shnockered, so I’m also keen on the Spirited Gifts chapter and, in particular, the vin d’orange recipe. And to ensure the packaging is as lovely as what’s inside, Maggie has all manner of ideas for packaging, wrapping, and presenting. Oh, and while most of us think of giving food gifts as something done during the holidays, the recipes in this book span the entire year and are appropriate for any occasion big, medium, or small.—David Leite, Publisher


Bien Cuit CookbookI think Zachary Golper should be a household name. To some, this may seem like the gushing of a giddy school girl. And maybe it is. But the moment I opened his baking book, Bien Cuit: The Art of Bread written with Peter Kaminsky, it was obvious that these pages held not just bread recipes but great bread recipes, bread recipes born from a quest not to bake everyday loaves but to create masterpieces. Golper’s bake shop is named Bien Cuit, a French term for “well done” or “well baked.” It refers to the Maillard reaction, essentially a chemical reaction that imparts flavor to browned food. Chef Golper’s breads present with a defined caramelization which to the uninitiated may seem burnt but, as science and this fat man’s taste buds will assure you, is at the very least near perfection. The methods he relies on are a combination of ancient and modern and are discussed and photographed extensively and thoughtfully. The book comprises a plethora of well-constructed recipes, each as different from the other as can possibly be. I immediately fell head over heals for the lard bread, a whole wheat and buckwheat loaf loaded with pork belly, salami, and hard Italian cheese. It’s a brilliant and fat-laden bread which has most certainly been touched by the hand of God. After that were the wonderful baguette-like loaves of pane francese with a nice crunchy crust and an almost velvety crumb. For a man in his early 30s to have an arsenal that runs this deep seems nothing short of amazing to me. I tend to refer to Bien Cuit as a bread book because bread is my true obsession, but it is so much more. Recipes for scones, biscuits, rolls, and most anything you can create with flour are here. It’s a stunning journey from the explanation of grains, techniques, and equipment to the creation of your own starters to the exploration and shaping and baking of truly great artisan breads.Larry Noak, LC Recipe Tester


Sally's Candy Addiction CookbookRare is the treatise on candy making that’s geared toward us underachievers—you know, those of us novice candy makers and home bakers with nary a candy mold to our name who simply wish to indulge an occasional whim and make something sweet and pretty that ain’t brownies. But this book is just that. Sally’s Candy Addiction: Tasty Truffles, Fudges and Treats for Your Sweet-Tooth Fix is written by Sally McKenney, the charming blogger behind Sally’s Baking Addiction who’s earned a cult following for her easy and oft whimsical baking and candy creations that lack pretension and unfailingly earn accolades. Her recipes work ridiculously and unfailingly well. We’re talking Pumpkin Spice Toffee and Shortcut Chocolate Fudge and Candy Cane Bark and dozens of other recipes that prompt comments along the lines of “easiest recipe ever” and “not only is it easy to make, but everyone who tried it liked it.” As for all you type-A types, who cares if potato chips dipped in chocolate and showered with sprinkles aren’t exactly sophisticated so long as they’re disappear amid laughter and requests for the recipe before the first round of drinks at each cocktail party and football game? That’s ample incentive for this underachiever.Renee Schettler Rossi, Editor in Chief


Foster's Market Favorites CookbookThis year marks the 25th anniversary of Sara Foster’s celebrated market and cafe in Durham, NC. A cookbook seems a fitting tribute to such an accomplishment, don’t you think? Thankfully for us, Foster thought so, too. The 157 recipes in Foster’s Market Favorites capture the evolution of Foster’s career, including ones she developed as the chef at Martha Stewart’s catering company, classics from when the market first opened, and current best-sellers. The recipes also pay tribute to the people who’ve helped Foster keep the market going for a quarter century, including her sister, Judy, who contributes her recipes for lasagna and berry trifle; her mother, Say, who shares her gloriously boozy bread pudding recipe (yes, bourbon in the batter and glaze); and longtime Foster’s Market baker Chano, whose tres leches cake you’ll want as your birthday cake, wedding cake, and no-occasion-at-all cake. The book is divvied up into nine chapters: Snacks, Breakfast, Soups and Stews, Family Favorites, One-Pot Meals, Casseroles (Think that sounds dated? Try the lamb shank shepherd’s pie and get back to us), Salads, Sides, and Sweets. Foster provides tricks for putting menus together, which has always been a challenge for me when it comes to entertaining. She also groups her recipes in unexpected ways and presents variations up the wazoo, so chances are whatever you’ve got in your pantry or fridge, you can make it work.—Frances Kim, Associate Editor


The Nordic CookbookAnyone else stumbled into a state of ennui about the glut of Nordic and, in particular, Scandinavian cookbooks as of late? Don’t get me wrong. There are some inspirational, informational, aspirational, fantastical tomes out there. But as seen from the perspective of someone primarily concerned with putting dinner on the table night after night, these cookbooks trend toward the eccentric and the unapproachable. Enter The Nordic Cookbook with 700 mostly everyday recipes that are each as spare and straightforward as the book’s title—a fact that’s more than a touch surprising given the author is Swedish chef Magnuss Nilsson. (Yes, the very same Magnus Nilsson who apprenticed under classically trained Michelin-starred French chefs and currently applies his trade to local ingredients that he subjects to all manner of alchemy in the Fäviken kitchen.) But here he has swapped the chimerical for the practical with an array of reliable recipes including steamed whole cauliflower and meatballs and pickled cucumbers and, yes, lingonberry jam. The book also possesses, for those who are so inclined, essays and spectacular photos explaining regional ingredients and culinary traditions from Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Greenland, Finland, and the Faroe Islands. These are far from requisite reading, though once you start, I daresay you won’t be able to stop.Renee Schettler Rossi, Editor in Chief


Salt Sugar Smoke CookbookVinegars. Spice pastes. Jams. Cordials. Pickles. Smoked meats. Cured fish. That’s what you’ll find in the collection of far-flung recipes for all things preserved known as Salt Sugar Smoke: How to Preserve Fruit, Vegetables, Meat, and Fish by British food writer and cookbook maven Diana Henry. In her characteristic lovely manner, Henry presents a pleasing miscellany of carefully chosen recipes varying from the everyday to the relative exotic. Day-After-Thanksgiving Cranberry ChutneyPickled GrapesAdobo. And not only does she tell you how to create these pastes and preserves and pickles, but she coaches you on manners in which to use them. The book isn’t necessarily designed for those who seek an encyclopedic explanation behind smoking meat or proper canning methods, though it should be noted it contains ample advice for even a beginner to achieve these projects with ease. It’s simply a repertoire of recipes, newly in paperback, that offers ample inspiration to those who wish to save and savor seasonal ingredients with gusto.—Renee Schettler, Editor in Chief

Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

  1. Stu B. says:

    I enjoy baking bread and make either rye bread or bagels or challah weekly. So, I read with interest your suggestion for “Bien Cuit”. Then I read reviews. The “book” is not a book. It is an accumulation of sheets of paper without a book spine binding them together. People who bought the item found it to be a mess, at lest 33% of them did, and returned the item. I will stick with my “Bread Baker’s Apprentice,” “Artisian Bread in 5 Minutes a Day,” and “Inside the Jewish Bakery” for now. These are all excellent tomes. If it ever gets put together differently, I’ll buy it.

    • David Leite says:

      Stu B., thanks. Our choices aren’t based upon presentation, but content. I can see how the format might not work for some, while it works for others.

  2. Larry Noak says:

    I have the book, it is a GORGEOUS book. I admit that I will NEVER take this masterpiece into my kitchen. I have MANY books that I would not take into the kitchen while baking.

  3. Anne Smith says:

    Is the cookbook by Sara Foster new or a reprint? I love her books and think I have them all, so far.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      It’s new, Anne. I have all her other books, too, and, like you, rely on them tremendously.

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