Look what happens in a year of few trends, whether about cake balls, pies, artisan bread or cupcakes: We end up with a nice batch of general-interest baking books.
"Pure Vanilla," by Shauna Sever (Quirk, $22.95), seems a rather unexpected entry in the single-topic realm, but the value is clear after a glance at its 80 recipes, including vanilla-bean Dutch baby pancake or lemon-vanilla dream bars. It's also a vanilla primer and goes beyond baking with recipes for custards, cocktails, even vanilla coffee creamer. Finally, three words: Twinkie Bundt Cake.
"Simply Sensational Cookies," by Nancy Baggett (Wiley, $29.99), offers more than 200 recipes for people who believe there always are new ones. Fruited Stilton-walnut cocktail cookies or chocolate, grapefruit and tarragon wafers may fill that void. The index sorts by cookie type, as well as by ingredient, a nice touch. Herbal and floral ingredients set this book apart.
"Nick Malgieri's Bread," by Nick Malgieri (Kyle Books, $29.95). Malgieri's 10th cookbook delves deeply into bread, with step-by-step tutorials for beginning bakers, but also walks through building a sourdough starter. More than 60 photo-rich recipes range from cinnamon-swirl bread to Swiss sourdough rye, but there also are recipes for using bread, from stratas to ice cream.
"The Seasonal Baker," by John Barricelli (Clarkson Potter, $35). Why do some books rise above others? Sure, this one has the trends: desserts in jars, sweet corn ice cream, savories as well as sweets. It's in the details, such as Barricelli's reminder to zest citrus fruit before cutting and juicing it. For bakers who've ever gotten ahead of themselves, it's a small gem of wisdom that speaks to carefulness throughout its 135 recipes.
"Tart It Up!" by Eric Lanlard (Mitchell Beazley, $$19.99). Lanlard may be French, but he's lived in the United Kingdom for 22 years, so there's a European vibe here -- even a charming note about discovering pumpkin pie at a friend's home, never imagining pumpkin as a savory ingredient. Some inventive tart combos, such as figs and bacon, shrimp and chorizo, or matcha and yuzu make book this worth consideration.
Follow Kim Ode on Twitter: @odewrites.