Bakers Journal

Back to school: inspiring recipe books for bakers

August 28, 2023
By Karen Barr

Five new publications feature creative baking inspiration and exacting details

In The Artful Pie Project the black forest ham pithivier is beautifully presented with a decoratively knife-engraved crust of handcrafted puff pastry. PHOTO: DEB GARLICK/WHITECAP BOOKS

Keeping customers happy is about maintaining a menu of favourites while introducing new products. Here we highlight new baking cookbooks that can inspire bakers to discover and create new favourites.

First up is Delectable: Sweet & Savory Baking by American pastry chef Claudia Fleming. Bakers and pastry chefs have waited years for Fleming to write something new. Her first book, The Last Course, based on her work at the renowned New York restaurant Gramercy Tavern, was published more than two decades ago. Delectable: Sweet & Savory Baking comes on the heels of closing North Fork Table and Inn owned by Fleming and her late husband Gerry Hayden.

In the first chapter, all about breakfast and breads, she shares her tricks for baking perfect scones. “Building layers to create flakiness, I create separate layers by cutting the dough into quarters and stacking them. I then roll out the layered dough, cut it and bake it.”

Her delectable Blackberry Shortcake recipe contains hard-boiled egg yolks, an old trick for making a rich and tender biscuit. It’s added to the food processor with the flour. Blackberry Shortcake is served with a blackberry reduction and Greek yogurt cream.


Fleming combines Italian prune plums into sumptuous desserts. Plum and Almond Cake’s sweet almond paste is balanced with the slightly acidic fruit. Meanwhile, White Cake and Plum Filling is a three-layer stack frosted with Italian meringue torched to a golden brown. Italian Plum and Hazelnut Torte features a hazelnut dough, hazelnut filling and plums, surprisingly topped with Pecorino shavings and black pepper.

Savoury recipes include Squash Blossom Tart and Chickpea Crackers. Her pretzels with a savoury seed combination include sesame, caraway and poppy. Fleming developed the recipe in the traditional Bavarian method but replaces lye with baked baking soda added to the pretzel’s pre-bake water bath.

The Artful Pie Project: A Sweet and Savoury Book of Recipes by Canadian baker and writer Denise Marchessault, with artwork and photography by Deb Garlick, is a book to contemplate. “A pie is only as good as its crust, and there are plenty of options for fail-proof pastry made by hand or machine,” pens the British Columbia-based Marchessault.

The book begins with a variety of dough recipes from classic flakey pastry dough and sweet tart dough to chocolate walnut or roasted almond doughs, along with handcrafted puff pastry.

In the cherries and berries section, you’ll find recipes for sweet Bing pie with a lattice crust and a variety of galettes such as strawberry and raspberry or blueberry and blackberry. 

As for vegetables, there is a hearty deep-dish vegetable pie with roasted zucchini, smoked tofu, kale and portobello mushrooms. The savoury ratatouille tart blends ricotta, feta and Parmesan spread over a baked crust topped with cooked Mediterranean vegetables and fresh vine-ripe tomatoes.

The deep-dish chicken pot pie is presented in a rectangular dish. The roux-based cream sauce is combined with cooked vegetables, thawed peas, fresh herbs, and roasted or poached chicken.

Rose Levy Beranbaum, award-winning author of must-have guides including The Pie and Pastry Bible and The Cake Bible has just released The Cookie Bible. The joy of reading these books is in the exacting details.

With My Dream Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe, she sets the tone using high-quality ingredients along with her brand preferences. Think pure vanilla, Valrhona, or Guittard dark chocolate chips. “Use A. A butter,” she advises, “as a lower quality would result in a lesser amount of brown butter. It’s also fine to use butter that is softened, not browned, but it will result in a less flavourful and puffier cookie.”

The Double Ginger Molasses Cookies call for ample amounts of crystallized ginger. Cinnamon, ground ginger and cloves give the cookies extra zing. Levy Beranbaum prefers a light molasses, most preferably the Grandma’s brand.

The gingersnap cookie recipe is scientifically adapted. Taking an original United Kingdom recipe gifted to her by a friend, Levy Beranbaum adds extra egg whites, along with additional leavening and salt. This allows for baking the same quality of cookies using flour processed in North America.

Choose your favourite shortbread cookies. Scottish Shortbread Cookies are traditionally baked in a round tart pan with removable bottom, then cut into triangles. With her Muscovado Shortbread Cookies, Levy Beranbaum adds extra butter, so the sugar does not override the classic buttery flavour.

Holiday Cookies is the most beautiful chapter in The Cookie Bible. You’ll find Holiday Cookie Cutouts, Gingerbread Folks, Christmas Wreaths, Bourbon Balls and European classics such as Spritz Cookies, Swiss Lebkuchen and Pizzelle.

Speaking of Christmas, every bakery can offer playfully creative Christmas products with inspiration from pastry chef Guillaume Marinette’s book Christmas Treats: 50 recipes to enchant your holiday meals. Vibrant red, star-tip-produced Santa’s Meringue Hats are edged with desiccated coconut. Delicious Christmas Stars are made with brown sugar and allspice. Rolled and cut, these cookies are decorated with red and white royal icing.

Comical Melted Snowmen are made from broken shards of white chocolate. With large, edible sugar eyes and pretzel stick arms thrown upward, each looks aware of their impending demise.

This book is rich with Christmas logs. The Chocolate Raspberry Log is made from a chocolate sponge, liberally dosed with vanilla-soaking syrup. It wraps around whipped vanilla white chocolate ganache and fresh raspberries. For a more avant-garde take on a classic, try the Mango and Coconut Log. Assembled with coconut mousse, mango mousse and coconut dacquoise it’s laden with white chocolate glaze and sprinkled with more coconut.

Finally, check out Sweet Deliveries: Over 60 Cakes, Cookies and Other Treats to Send by Mail by Lucy Burton. It features over 60 recipes for products you can sell by mail. It’s perfect for those looking to bump sales through e-commerce. Barton already had an established side business as a wedding cake designer. As COVID hit she writes, “I needed to pivot my business and realized that if people couldn’t go out to eat cake, I needed to get the cake to them.”

In Sweet Deliveries you’ll find a multitude of brownies including Salted Caramel Brownies, Stem Ginger and Sour Cherry Brownies, and Rose and Raspberry Brownies. Creative Dark Chocolate and Almond Butter Cookie Slabs require only enthusiastic eaters to add ice cream to share. Homestyle scrummy cakes like Apple Blackberry Crumble Cake, Vegan Dark Chocolate Coconut Cake and Gin Lemon Drizzle Cake helped Barton quickly maximize her business.

That’s a wrap on baking inspirations. Happy Baking!

Karen Barr writes about arts, culture and cuisine. She is a graduate of George Brown College and a Red Seal pastry chef.

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