Books about baking rise to the occasion.
Good things come to those who bake. After a ho-hum 2009, this season's baking books make gift-giving -- or your own list-making -- a joy. Here are some of our favorites:
• "Rose's Heavenly Cakes" by Rose Levy Berenbaum (Wiley, 498 pages, $39.95). Berenbaum has a reputation for meticulous recipes of daunting length, and this 512-page book is no exception. But, oh, you've rarely seen such cakes: White Gold Passion Genoise with passion fruit curd, Apple Caramel Charlotte that looks like a pale peony, Chocolate Banana Stud Cake with inventively employed chocolate chips. The more than 100 recipes run the gamut of cakedom, each with exquisite photographs and, for the faint of heart, crystal-clear instructions.
• "Petite Sweets: Bite-Size Desserts to Satisfy Every Sweet Tooth" by Beatrice Ojakangas (Sellers, 136 pages, $18.95). Duluth's Ojakangas makes downsizing a good thing in what may be the year's cutest cookbook. She's miniaturized classic desserts such as Fresh Lime Pie, Fresh Ginger Carrot Cake, Bread Pudding and dozens more, lending them a new identity while leading the charge against overindulgence. The 144-page book's photos provide presentation tips; most recipes hold to a page. She will teach classes Friday (6 p.m.) and Saturday (noon) at Byerly's St. Louis Park, with book signings after. Cost is $15 (www.lundsandbyerlys.com).
• "Sweet and Savory Swedish Baking" by Leila Lindholm (Skyhorse, 223 pages, $29.95). Once Sweden's female chef of the year, Lindholm presents more than 200 recipes for pies, cakes, flans, yeast breads, crackers, Scandinavian specialties and much, much more. There's a helpful troubleshooting section, two indexes (by recipe and by ingredient) and tons of photos. It's an impressive collection by a voice that may be new to many on this side of the pond.
• "The Flour Pot Christmas Cookie Book" by Margie & Abbey Greenberg (Running, 136 pages, $16.95). This book isn't for beginners, but it's inspiring in an "über-Martha" kind of way. Fondant, royal icing and all manner of pastry bags and tips are employed in these breathtaking yet time-thieving cookies.
• "Artisan Breads Every Day," by Peter Reinhart (Ten Speed Press, 218 pages, $30). Avid bread bakers are always waiting for Reinhart's latest book. This one is his response to the quickie artisan bread bandwagon with 50 recipes built on time-saving tips. And a first: Reinhart does pastries. As always, there are baker's percentages, stories and wisdom from the best.
• "My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method" by Jim Lahey (Norton, $29.95). This is Lahey's response to all the books that came in the wake of his no-knead bread recipe being published in 2006. It's bread and more, as he ventures into sandwiches, with recipes for making many filling ingredients from scratch, and a chapter on what to do with stale bread.
• "Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day" by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë Francois (St. Martin's Press, 324 pages, $27.99). Minnesota's five-minute bread duo are back with variations on their original theme, getting whole grains, fruits and vegetables into their master recipe, plus a whole chapter on gluten-free breads. Lots of tips and the answers to FAQs from the first book.
Kim Ode • 612-673-7185