A couple of days ago I posted my 2012 easy Christmas buying guide, full of lovely little gifts and stocking stuffers for the cook (or baker!) in your life. Many of those ideas were under $10 or $20, which didn’t really allow me to link to cookbooks; so today I’m featuring some of my favorites from this year, in hopes that I inspire you to give more cookbooks as holiday gifts.
Cookbooks are lovely gifts. They’re gorgeous, educational, inspirational, and timeless. A well-loved cookbook can bring comfort for decades, especially with a warm sentiment written inside the cover. There are few things that I love unwrapping more – even though I have over 1,000 cookbooks in my collection, I still squeal like a little girl when I open a gift to find a new one. I know. I’m silly like that.
It seems like every year the publishing industry releases more and more cookbooks. (Next year, mine will be one of them!) Through the myriad cookbooks that appear on bookstore shelves every year, there are a few shining examples of true contributions to the art; they elevate cookbooks to a new level, raising the bar for everything that comes after. Below are a few of these ascenders.
Here are my picks for the best cookbooks of 2012 . Every one of these books is a treasure, deserving of a space on your kitchen shelf. I hope you and yours enjoy them as much as I have.
The Very Best Cookbooks of 2012
(in no particular order)
- Small Plates and Sweet Treats: My Family’s Journey to Gluten-Free Cooking, from the Creator of Cannelle et Vanille by Aran Goyoaga: A lushly photographed cookbook, Small Plates and Sweet Treats is a joyous ride through the world of gluten-free cooking. Aran’s sweet and savory recipes are filled with love and light, all perfectly choreographed into a ballet of flavor. Highly recommended even for those not of the gluten-free persuasion.
- Roots: The Definitive Compendium with more than 225 Recipes by Diane Morgan: This is the perfect book for anyone who is at all interested in exploring the topic of root vegetables with any level of creativity. Diane Morgan has managed to elevate our most taken for granted class of produce to a level of intrigue, and that is no easy feat. You can see my complete review here.
- Simply Sensational Cookies by Nancy Baggett: Packed with recipes developed by one of the baking world’s most learned mavens and photographed by Todd and Diane of White on Rice Couple, this book is both useful and gorgeous – a combination that is hard to find these days. If there are any cookie-obsessed bakers on your Christmas list, this book is the tome to end all cookie tomes.
- SprinkleBakes: Dessert Recipes to Inspire Your Inner Artist by Heather Baird: This is not your average cake and cookie decorating book, by any stretch of the imagination. Full of incredibly artful and intriguing baking projects, SprinkleBakes takes the reader on a creative tour of what can be done with fondant, a piping bag, and a handful of everyday ingredients: think of glass-like sugar bowls inspired by Dale Chihuly, cookies that look like garden-fresh mushrooms, and a cake fashioned to resemble an anatomically correct human heart. This is one of the few cookbooks I read cover to cover just for fun.
- It’s Not You, It’s Brie: Unwrapping America’s Unique Culture of Cheese by Kirstin Jackson: Besides being a comprehensive cheese text, Kirstin’s first book is a delightful narrative tour through the world of American cheese. Complete with recipes and advice on how to enjoy cheese, this is one of the few guidebooks that I have living on my nightstand, just out of sheer enjoyment.
- Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller & Sebastien Rouxel: Perhaps the most artful baking book ever, Rouxel’s oode to baking is nothing less than breathtaking. Between the gorgeous imagery and the [pretty advanced] baking projects, this book is ideal for the serious pastry buff (or anyone who just wants a pastry-related coffee table book with luscious photos to drool over). If you’re at all a fan of Thomas Keller’s cooking style, you will likely adore this book.
- Asian Tofu: Discover the Best, Make Your Own, and Cook It at Home by Andrea Nguyen: Andrea takes this oft-maligned Asian staple and makes it accessible to anyone. I’ve shown recalcitrant tofu haters the light with some of these recipes – so imagine how much a tofu-lover will enjoy them? This book may very well make tofu your new go-to staple.
- Ripe: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables by Cheryl Sternman Rule & Paulette Phlipot: A collaboration between a food writer and a food photographer, this is one of the most beautifully designed books I’ve seen in a long time. Concentrating on produce, this book would make a great gift for anyone who loves fruits and vegetables, or perhaps that person on your list who wants to incorporate more fresh foods into their diet. This book is nothing if not inspirational, and flipping through these pages, I dare you to not get excited about fruits and vegetables. Go ahead. Try it.
- Canal House Cooks Every Day by Christopher Hirsheimer & Melissa Hamilton: When I want something to inspire me right out of my chair and into the kitchen, I pick up Canal House Cooks Every Day. A celebration of simple, incredible food, this collection of recipes will garner mountains of praise for even the most humble home cook. I cannot recommend this book enough for every single person on your shopping list that is capable of lifting a pot or pan.
- And, the OTHER Ripe cookbook released in 2012, Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard by Nigel Slater: This is one of my very favorite books, ever. Besides being a wonderful cook, Nigel Slater also happens to be the bastion of British culinary wit, and every one of his books is more than a valuable addition to the cooking world – they’re also a joy to read. A spritely jaunt through the world of cooking with fruit, Ripe leads the reader along Slater’s path as he cooks his way through countless sweet and savory fruit-based dishes. This book is enjoyment embodied, both from a reading and cooking standpoint. (I also highly recommend Slater’s Real Food, from 2009.)