I didn’t come by my fabulous talent for baking naturally. (Okay, so maybe I’m just an average baker who’s just the teensiest bit obsessed with her own work.) True, I started baking when I was very young but I honestly think it was my love of reading absolutely anything and everything I could get my hands on that made me a better baker. My mother, an actually fabulous baker (no exaggeration), had a secret mission to collect every recipe that was ever written so our kitchen boasted an expansive cookbook collection, and its shelves sagged with even more recipes clipped from magazines and newspapers, waiting to be filed.
Now that I’m an adult (so they tell me) I’ve got my own sizeable recipe collection, although admittedly it’s a little bit more organized. I’ve tried to cut down on a lot of the paper in my life by storing many of my recipes electronically but I still have quite a few cookbooks hidden here and there on my shelves.
In some ways, owning cookbooks is way more fun than having just a collection of typed recipes. Recipes suddenly come into their own being in real technicolor. Photographs, illustrations, text and graphics interplay to create a mouthwatering reading experience. Cookbooks are designed to be pored over and loved, to inspire and entice.
Here’s some that I can’t get enough of:
1) I was so in love with the photography and design of the beautiful Martha Stewart Living Magazine that I was a subscriber for many, many years. During this time I acquired Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook and still remains an old favorite. Some may knock this homemaking guru for the unrealistic expectations that her elaborate work may set for housewives everywhere, but personally think she’s kind of great. Let her make her crazy cakes. They look gorgeous.
2) and 3) might be familiar to any Canadians in the crowd. Jean Paré got a similar start to Martha Stewart, catering brunches and party foods to small crowds out of her home kitchen until things got busy and Paré turned into a business. Her Company’s Coming line of cookbooks were published to meet her customers’ demands for recipes and the series boasts virtually hundreds of titles. You used to be able to find them in grocery stores everywhere and I still happen to have three of them: Most Loved Brunches (because it’s the best meal of the day), 150 Delicious Squares and Gifts from the Kitchen (not pictured here).
4) My mom is from Sweden so when I think of Sweden I think of baking, and I think of one of my most treasured cookbooks appropriately and succinctly titled Swedish Cakes and Cookies. It’s my absolute go-to guide for all of my Swedish baking traditions. (For example: did you know Swedes make seven different types of cookies at Christmas time? Check out mine from last year here, here, here, here, here, here and here.)
5) So many people would grab 500 Chocolate Delights off of my shelf to read that I eventually just stuck it out in the open so that my guests could peruse it any time they wished. It’s so small and pretty and filled with so many delicious chocolate things that from time to time I find myself gazing at it as well.
6) Jamie Oliver’s cookbook, Jamie at Home, may seem a little out of place in the midst of so many sweet, pretty baking manuals, but I just love this English chef’s conversational tone and this cookbook’s emphasis on good, fresh food (and how to grow it yourself!) It’s been a great resource for growing and cooking with a few herbs and vegetables of my own, so I had to include it here for those who may get their kicks from cooking more than baking.
I’m not one to work my way through a cookbook religiously- I’ll probably never make all of the recipes found in these pages, and the ones I do try will probably not be half as good. Hey, they may not even turn out to be my taste! But just because cookbooks weren’t necessarily meant to be read from cover-to-cover doesn’t make them any less valuable to my book collection, or any less enjoyable.
And the result of reading cookbooks? Delicious food- and that’s often the best part.
If you liked books and baking, you’ve come to the right place. (Also, can I be your best friend?) For those of you who are new, here’s where you can find all the books I’ve been reading lately and here’s where you can see what’s been keeping me busy in the kitchen.
Recognize any of the titles on my shelf? What are some of your favorites? I’d love to hear your suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org or spread the love (and the good cooking) by commenting below.