10 best baking books
From chai brûlée tarts to orange and cardamom opera cake, get inspired in the kitchen
Whether you're just trying to get your a simple victoria sponge to rise or you're au fait with the fiddliest of macarons and choux creations, even the best bakers require a little help and inspiration.
These are the kind of baking books that are covered in a rough sheen of flour and whose pages are stuck together with unidentified sugary stickiness from years of use.
They cover everything from ornate layer cakes and time consuming pastries to crowd-pleasing biscuits and cupcakes, all with clear instructions that are a pleasure to read as well as follow.
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'John Whaite Bakes at Home', John Whaite, published by Headline Home: £7.99, Amazon
We've raved about this book here before, but five years on and it’s still a firm favourite. From series three (Bake Off’s pinnacle, in our opinion) winner John Whaite, this book covers both humble, homely food, such as Marmite and cheddar loaf, and the more complex – try the orange and cardamom opera cake – with a sense of humour and warmth that makes it all feel achievable.
'Sweet', Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh, published by Ebury Press: £18.90, WHSmith
From Yotam Ottolenghi and pastry chef Helen Goh, Sweet is full of beautiful sugar artistry and long, detailed recipes. It’s the perfect companion for the ambitious baker, with picture perfect servings of baked ricotta and hazelnut cheesecake, chai brûlée tarts and pistachio roulade with raspberries and white chocolate, among others.
'The Violet Bakery Cookbook', Claire Ptak, published by Square Peg: £19.49, Amazon
From the baker behind the East London bakery Violet, and the maker of Harry and Meghan’s wedding cake, the recipes in this book are unusually divided into five time periods: morning, midday, afternoon, evening and "party party". Start with the day with the chocolate croissant bread pudding and finish with chocolate prune and whiskey cake, making a few stops along the way. There’s also a brilliant "pantry" chapter, with basics you’ll use again and again, including homemade vanilla extract, candied citrus peel and frangipane.
'Baking School: The Bread Ahead Cookbook', Matthew Jones, Justin Piers Gellatly and Louise Gellatly, published by Fig Tree: £17.61, Blackwell's
Bread Ahead is best known for it’s fat, doughy donuts, but its Borough Market location is also home to its Bakery School. Learn from the comfort of your own kitchen with the Bread Ahead book, with recipes including sourdough loaves and, of course, the legendary salted honeycomb donuts, in a conversational tone with plenty of clever, personal tips.
'How To Bake by Paul Hollywood', Paul Hollywood, published by Bloomsbury Publishing: £17.41, Amazon
We remain reluctant to include Paul Hollywood in light of the whole Channel 4 debacle (we’re still not over it), but the male judge’s How to Bake is an always reliable book we come back to again and again. From focaccia to croissants, there is not a dud recipe in here, and those that once seemed out-of-reach-complicated are made simple with straight talking, easy to follow steps.
'Suqar', Greg and Lucy Malouf. published Hardie Grant Books: £16.61, Wordery
This the eighth book from Middle Eastern masterchef Greg and his wife Lucy, and it’s packed with sweet delights inspired by Greg’s Lebanese heritage and their travels around the Middle East. It’s a creative, evocative collection featuring ingredients such as cardamom, saffron, flower waters, honey and tahini. Try the blood orange steamed puddings and arabic apricot doughnuts, served with lemon syrup.
'Primrose Bakery Everyday', Martha Swift, published by Square Peg: £17.53, Amazon
The fifth book from the ever-popular London bakery, you can rely on Primrose for quality cupcake recipes with unusual icing variations (try the spiced cream cheese one), creative combos such as the Aperol spritz cake and classic crowd-pleasers, such as Nutella cookies. The book is arranged seasonally, with fruitier recipes for summer – try the passionfruit melting moment biscuits – and comforting recipes for winter (cinamon loaf). We’ve not found a dud recipe yet.
'Mary Berry’s Baking Bible', Mary Berry, published by BBC Books: £18.20, WHSmith
HRH Mary Berry has brought out so many books over the years it’s hard to know which to start with, but this is worth buying simply for the "very best chocolate fudge cake" recipe. It’s best for the classics, such as sultana malt loaves and swiss roll, and for trying your hand at former Bake Off technicals, including mokatines.
'The Nordic Baking Book', Magnus Nilsson, published by Phaidon Press: £20.28, Amazon
The Nordic countries are well placed to be baked goods experts, with their emphasis on cosyness and fika, and top Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson's book is hugely comprehensive, with more than 450 recipes, so you get plenty for your money. These are rustic, earthy recipes that focus on texture and flavour rather than fancy details, with classics such as rye bread and cinnamon buns. Our only niggle is the lack of pictures for each recipe.
'The Cook and Baker', Cherie Bevan and Tass Tauroa, published by Murdoch Books: £14.62, Blackwell's
Cherie (the cook) and Tass (the baker) combine their foodie experience in this collection of modern yet nostalgic recipes. The hummingbird cake, made with banana and pineapple, is beautiful adorned with ribbons of mango, is a simple, unusual and popular cake for a crowd, closely followed by the ‘Brookies’, fudgy, brownie-like chocolate cookies. We particularly like how short, clear and to-the-point the intros and recipes are.
The verdict: Baking books
Five years on from its publication and seven years on from his Bake Off win, John Whaite Bakes At Home remains one of our favourites for its flavours and charm, while Paul Hollywood's How To Bake is a reliable walk through the basics for those who want to try their hand with breads and pastry.
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