I have a cookbook obsession.
I used to have a blog called 131 Cookbooks (which is now offline), aptly named after my cookbook collection. Since pulling that blog, I’ve culled it somewhat – thanks to this book on tidying* – but it nevertheless has remained fairly remarkable. [Note that this post contains affiliate links]
I’m really particular about the cookbooks I’m willing to both buy and use. Aesthetics are important to me, as is layout, emphasis on quality ingredients, and recipe type. Images are a toss-up – I love America’s Test Kitchen and the like, despite the fact that such cookbooks are seriously lacking in the inspiring photographs department. And, while I love a good back story behind a recipe, I get really excited when the author gets a wee bit romantic about the culture of the people from where the recipe was sourced. Finally, if the cookbook teaches me something about technique – something valuable I can add to my culinary repertoire – it usually qualifies in my head as being pretty damn good.
I was tempted to title this post “My Favorite Cookbooks”, but aside from being uninspiring, I knew that you probably didn’t want to sift through a list 50+ lines deep. So, know that these 10 cookbooks are truly something spectacular.*
The 10 cookbooks I can’t live without:
- Baking with Julia: Savor the Joys of Baking with America’s Best Bakers
- 50 Great Curries of India
- The New Best Recipe
- Mastering the Art of French Cooking
- Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes
- Jamie’s Italy
- Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate (currently out of print)
- Local Breads: Sourdough and Whole-Grain Recipes from Europe’s Best Artisan Bakers
- Joy of Cooking
- Fundamental Techniques of Classic Cuisine
And the reasons why I can’t live without them:
- Baking with Julia: Savor the Joys of Baking with America’s Best Bakers I love to bake, and this book has inspired countless recipes on my end. Plus, it’s a gorgeous book jam-packed with techniques. And, did someone say Julia Child?!
- 50 Great Curries of India I spent years learning how to cook Indian food, and I must say that this cookbook is brilliant. Full disclaimer: it’s actually not my favorite Indian cookbook (it’s meat-heavy and less focused on technique than others I own), but it’s my go-to one because of how accessible the recipes are. Plus, each dish comes with a beautiful photograph. You simply must try the egg curry, which has got to be my favorite!
- The New Best Recipe America’s Test Kitchen relentlessly seeks to perfect each recipe it publishes, and it explains the hell out of the techniques it employs. At times we have diverging opinions about what the “best” recipe actually is, but the education provided in the text makes it easy to successfully adapt the recipes.
- Mastering the Art of French Cooking Julia Child. JULIA CHILD. JULIA CHILD. No other commentary required.
- Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes For the serious artisan baker, Hamelman’s book is ridiculously rich in technique. Seriously, it’s like THE bible for artisan bread baking.
- Jamie’s Italy For some inexplicable reason, I avoided The Naked Chef for a long time. It turns out that I was simply being an idiot. He really takes you behind the scenes with his powerful and stunning images and poignant commentary. He’s a food activist, which makes me love him all the more. This is the perfect book to cozy up with, provided you have a delicious but humble Pinot on hand.
- Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate (currently out of print) Alice Medrich is arguably the individual most responsible for bringing chocolate truffles to the USA. Her passion for chocolate is unrivaled, and she thoroughly explains how to master simple but difficult techniques such as tempering. I highly recommend this book!
- Local Breads: Sourdough and Whole-Grain Recipes from Europe’s Best Artisan Bakers It took me countless tries, a meeting with the master baker of a local artisan bakery in Montana, and subsequent follow-up reading to get the holes just right in both my ciabatta loaves and baguettes. I could have saved myself a lot of time had I employed the techniques outlined in this great book – a book that romanticizes European hearth breads – from the start.
- Joy of Cooking This cookbook has every recipe imaginable, and is my go-to whenever I need to make a very specific dish. Recent editions have been overhauled by reputable chefs, and – wouldn’t you know it – Alice Medrich (see #7) was tasked with revamping two sections. That ought to tell you something.
- Fundamental Techniques of Classic Cuisine Remember the book-turned-movie Julie & Julia? You know, where Julie Powell taught herself how to cook by working (and blogging) her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking (see #4)? Well, my preferred method is to cook my way through adaptations of culinary school textbooks…and this particular text is one of the most complete yet approachable options I’ve encountered. It’s not cheap, but it’s a lot cheaper than the tuition to get hands-on training!
Are any of these cookbooks in your library? Do you have any favorites that you think I ought to check out? What makes a cookbook awesome in your opinion? I’m always looking for some great reads (yes, I read these babies like they are novels!). Please share below!
*Note that the above links are affiliate links, meaning that if you decide to go on a wild shopping spree at Amazon after clicking a link (whether or not you actually buy the book to which I’ve linked), I’ll earn a small percentage of the total sale.