Friday, October 08, 2010

Cookbooks: A Trio of Baking Books Set Our Sights on the Holidays

As the temperature drops, families -- especially those with young children -- start to think about baking. After all, what says “holidays” quite like something you made with your own hands? And if small children can participate at some level, so much the better.

Three recently published books seem sure to be favorites with kids and adults alike. All three are brightly illustrated and include clear instructions for projects seemingly meant to delight a child’s heart.

Cake Pops (Chronicle Books) by Bakerella is all about a new-to-me artform: essentially tiny decorated cakes on a stick. The book takes you all through this new cakeform developed by Bakerella and discussed on her blog of the same name. All of the knowledge is here for hundreds of creative, delicious projects with your children. The book is both thorough and esoteric. Have fun!

No Bake Gingerbread Houses for Kids (Gibbs-Smith) describes a more traditional form of edible craft art that children will enjoy. This book, too, takes readers through every step of author Lisa Turner Anderson’s no-bake recipe for fun. But don’t feel you have to wait for the holidays for this one: Turner Anderson includes instructions of Dracula’s Castle, a Silly Polka-Dot House, a Pink Castle in the Clouds, a Haunted Mansion and others that would be great for birthdays, Halloween and other holidays where tiny, edible houses are desirable.

Where the previous two titles struck me as being very child-focused and appropriate, Very Merry Cookie Party (Chronicle Books) will appeal to all types and age of bakers, provided they enjoy thinking about and making seasonal treats. The subtitle promises to show you “How to Plan and Host a Christmas Cookie Exchange” and it actually does do that but, for me -- and I suspect most readers -- that will not be the central pull towards this book. I have, in my time, seen a great many cookbooks featuring cookies but it seems to me that this one is the best, in several ways. First of all, the cookies all look delicious. That might sound self-evident -- who creates a cookie book with unappetizing photos, after all? But you might be surprised! So the photos are great, but also the instructions are straight-forward, even for complicated confections. Also, contemporary interpretations of classics are right on the money. Malted Milk Chocolate Cookies, for instance, are a very good innovation. The Stain-Glass Ornament cookies are beautiful and brilliant and the Father Christmas S’Mores are a dead-simple rendition of the campfire classic.

I liked all three of these books very much. With so little overlap between them, and with the holidays zooming at us full speed, there seems no reason not to get all three!

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