Whether you call it isolation baking, homebound baking, or comfort cooking, these days people from all walks of life are heading to the kitchen to relieve stress and learn a new skill. Turning flour, butter, and sugar into tasty treats from cake to bread to croissants is a much-needed distraction from the anxiety-inducing news cycle. Besides, couldn’t we all use a cookie right now? If you can’t leave your house to pick up a dozen of your favorite pastries, might as well make them yourself.
Books from some of the best bakeries in the United States are as good a place as any to start if you’re ready to pick up that whisk and dive into your own baking journey. There’s inspiration for everyone out there — especially if you’re feeling the effects of cabin fever. These 11 cookbooks will take you on a pastry-fueled road trip without ever leaving your kitchen.
1. Boston: Flour Bakery + Cafe
Flour Bakery + Cafe in Boston sells over 220,000 sticky buns a year — that’s 600 a day. Not for the faint of heart, these oversized carb bombs are baked in a butter and sugar concoction that chef and co-owner Joanne Chang lovingly calls “goo.” Chang’s first cookbook, Flour, contains the OG sticky bun recipe. Chang’s newest cookbook, Pastry Love, should be your bible for the upgraded apple cider sticky buns, as well as sticky buns in the kouign-amann style from the Brittany region of France, chocolate caramel oreos, cherry crumb pie, and nutella babka. In this compendium of both Chang and Flour’s go-to recipes, you’ll eat up Chang’s passion for technique, from toasting nuts to whipping eggs, and her true love of all things pastry.
2. San Francisco: Tartine
Most mornings you’ll find a line down San Francisco’s Guerrero Street for Tartine, where regulars and tourists eagerly wait for first dibs on boulangerie-worthy croissants that shatter on contact and sugar-crusted morning buns that make your mouth sing. Not to mention fancy fruit galettes, unbelievable brioche bread pudding, buttermilk scones, and banana-cream pie.
Everything at Tartine is tasty and has been since 2002 when husband-and-wife team Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt first opened the Mission District bakery. The same can be said for Tartine: A Classic Revisited, an updated and expanded volume of their 2006 cookbook that includes 68 new recipes, including gluten-free substitutions, plus mouth-watering photography that do the eye-catching confections justice.
3. Detroit: Sister Pie
If you think you know pie, think again. Sister Pie, both the bursting-with-personality cookbook and bakeshop, turn pie upside down. The corner pie shop with its pink neon sign has a list of regulars as long as its pie menu. Speaking of the pie menu, this is not your ordinary apple kinda place. Nostalgia mixes with novel recipes for mind-blowing mashups like sour cherry bourbon, strawberry pistachio, sweet corn nectarine, and coffee chess pie. And let’s not forget the peanut butter paprika cookies. Even better, pie comes with a side of kindness thanks to Pie it Forward, the bakery’s program that lets you purchase a slice for a stranger.
4. Maine: Standard Baking Co.
Standard Baking Co. in Portland, Maine, is not your average hipster bakeshop or trendy café. Opened in 1995 by Alison Pray and her husband Matt James in an old brick warehouse across from Portland Harbor, it’s a neighborhood bakery that’s been churning out top-notch breads and unparalleled pastries for 25 years. So it’s no surprise the bakery’s cookbook, Standard Baking Co. Pastries, brings to mind cookbooks of a simpler time. In this cozy-up companion for the home baker, you’ll find more than 60 recipes for Standard Baking Co.’s coveted croissants, morning buns, wild blueberry oat scones, pecan financiers and almond macaroons, bringing that same simple sophistication to your kitchen.
5. New York City: Dominique Ansel Bakery
Everyone can bake. It’s true. Not only is that the title of Dominique Ansel’s fresh off the presses cookbook, but with the classically trained James Beard award-winning pastry chef by your side — and, yes, the creator of the cronut — this elevated how-to manual can boost your baking game. Fundamentals rule here. Ansel decodes his go-tos, from buttercream and pound cake to cookie base and chocolate brownies, and builds from there, so you’re not jumping straight into an impossibly glossy chocolate glazed cake, but layering skills as you go. And like his bakeries in New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, London, and Los Angeles, the book is immaculate. It’s a design-forward gem of clean lines, white space, and technically perfect pastries that look both sculptural and scrumptious.
6. Los Angeles: République
The baking begins well before sunrise at République. Co-owner Margarita Manzke and her team of pastry chefs proof, laminate, bake, fill, glaze and ice a dizzying array of delights, so by 8:00 AM, the almost 15-foot long pastry case is brimming with caneles, brioche, and cakes. Once it’s gone, it’s gone — and the raspberry-pistachio kouign amanns, s’mores bomboloni, and croissants are usually the first to go. That same dedication to craft and flavor comes through in Baking at République, a photographic feast for the eyes, which not only includes recipes for République’s pastry case sell-outs but also traditional Filipino desserts like bibingka and halo halo that Manzke grew up eating.
7. Virginia: Red Truck Bakery
Let’s start with Red Truck Bakery’s sweet potato pecan pie: Impossibly flaky dough is layered first with sweet potato filling and then bourbon-spiked pecans to make a creamy, crunchy dessert loved by both Obama and Oprah. Baker and owner Brian Noyes started selling baked goods out of the back of his old red truck (which he purchased from fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger). He’s since expanded his bakery operation into two Main Street stores in rural Virginia. That same small-town charm is brought to the Red Truck Bakery Cookbook, a page-turner of crowd-pleasers, from the famous granola and holler doughnuts to the double-chocolate moonshine cake and watermelon pie that’s guaranteed to make you drool.
8. Los Angeles: Sweet Laurel
Sweet Laurel’s debut cookbook is just as photogenic as its dainty digs on Sunset in Los Angeles, an Instagram dream bathed in Millennial pink with pastries almost too pretty to eat. But these aren’t your ordinary baked goods. Owners Laurel Gallucci and Claire Thomas’s creations are free of grain, gluten, refined sugar and dairy, yet just as delightful and sought-after as their sugar-encrusted counterparts. Make like Mandy Moore and Lauren Conrad, both fans, and whip up pretty layer cakes, coconut whipped cream, peach cobbler, currant scones and olive oil citrus cupcakes made of almond flour, coconut oil, maple syrup, organic eggs, and dates — and get ready for plenty of “likes!”
9. Ann Arbor: Zingerman’s Bakehouse
Zingerman’s Bakehouse, the cookbook, and Zingerman’s Bakehouse, the bakery in Ann Arbor, Michigan, have a lot in common. Both are full of personality, from the staff smiles in person to the colorful advice and anecdotes from bakery co-owners Amy Emberling and Frank Carollo put down on paper. Both are tried, tested, and true; the artisanal bakery has been going strong since 1992. And both feel like a warm hug, whether you’re buying up their famous sour cream coffee cake, spicy ginger cookies, or black magic brownies in-store or whipping them up at home. Either way, a trip to Zingerman’s next time you’re in Ann Arbor is a must.
10. Santa Monica: Huckleberry Café
Huckleberry Café, owned by husband-and-wife duo Josh Loeb and chef Zoe Nathan (who trained at Tartine) in Santa Monica is a scrumptious scene of people-watching and pastry eyeing that inevitably ends in a sugar high. Hey, even if you go with a savory smashed avocado toast or one of the famed fried egg sandwiches, you still have to cap it with, say, powdered sugar beignets, a chocolate hazelnut scone, or a slice of lemon pistachio cake. Or better yet, go sweet and savory in one with the bakery’s maple bacon biscuits. Take that high home with the Huckleberry cookbook, a friendly guide through cakes, crostadas, and cobblers that makes even brioche seem doable.
11. New York City: Milk Bar
Not all cookbooks need to be practical. Case in point: Momofuku Milk Bar: A Cookbook. Like its original East Village outpost (it has since expanded to Los Angeles, Toronto, and more), this is a Willy Wonka wonderland of nostalgia, sprinkles, and cereal milk packed with personality and playful photos. Yes, it serves up recipes for owner and mastermind Christina Tosi’s epic compost cookies, birthday layer cake and Milk Bar pie, but these are not one-bowl creations made of pantry staples; they’re multi-step recipes that call for tough-to-get ingredients like glucose and corn powder. That said, it’s not always the destination, it’s the journey — and this ride is rollercoaster of fun.
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