It's been a relatively quiet year for books about baking.
The best news may be the revised edition of "The Italian Baker," by Carol Field (Ten Speed Press, $35). A favorite staple since its 1985 publication, it had fallen out of print. When it landed last year on the James Beard Foundation's list of 13 indispensable baking books, someone finally got it back on the presses. Field converted some recipes for the food processor, updated info on equipment and added directions for sourdough starter. Once again, indispensable.
The gluten-free category exploded, with more refined recipes that we hope will continue to improve as bakers experiment. Among the more successful books was "Simply ... Gluten-free Desserts" by Carol Kicinski (St. Martin's Press, $26.99). Kicinski, blogging as "Simply Gluten-Free," developed a flour with sweet rice flour that she says smooths out some of white rice flour's grittiness. She also has tips for dealing with the often hard-to-handle dough, such as rolling it between parchment.
In "Cooking Light Way to Bake" (Oxmoor House, $29.95), Cooking Light magazine takes on the challenge of baking with fat-free yogurt, skim milk, light cream cheese and other low-cal ingredients and still serve something delicious. Loaded with 600 step-by-step photos, this is a great book for a new baker wanting to start on a healthful foot.
Then there is "The Rosie's Bakery All-Butter, Cream-Filled, Sugar-Packed Baking Book" by Judy Rosenberg (Workman, $15.95), which -- well, what more is there to say? This book is for those who bake with abandon. Her famous brownies pack two sticks of butter into a 8-inch pan. Her cheesecake calls for 3 pounds of cream cheese. This award-winning baker is unapologetic -- and knows her stuff.
For the classically minded, there's "The Art of French Baking" by Ginette Mathiot (Phaidon, $45). Mathiot, who died in 1998, was a pâtisserie legend -- her first book was published in 1932 and sold millions. These are her recipes for classic French baked goods such as Paris-Brest, floating island, madeleines and babas. Her methods speak to the more experienced baker, her detailed instructions for afternoon to the more experienced hostess.
Among the roughly bazillion cookie cookbooks published each year, "Fine Cooking Cookies" (Taunton, $19.95) stands out by virtue of the Fine Cooking credentials. Rigorously tested recipes, tons of photos and more than 200 selections make this a winner.
Scandinavian cuisine is hot and Pat Sinclair's "Scandinavian Classic Baking" (Pelican, $16.95) taps into that with more than 40 recipes that are the foundation of baking traditions in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.
Two quick notes on previous publications: "Taste of Home Baking" (Reader's Digest, $29.95), published four years ago, is back with more than 700 new recipes, including a whole chapter on cupcakes. And "Heirloom Baking With the Brass Sisters" (Black Dog, $19.95), published in 2006, now is in paperback with its century's worth of comfort food baking.