Holiday Gifts Part 1 - Holiday Books

Whether you’re an avid baker, or only crank up the oven once a year, the holidays are prime season for baked treats. With the cold weather moving in, we’re all searching for something to keep us warm, and there’s nothing better than a handful of cookies straight from the oven. Well, maybe enjoying those warm gooey cookies with a hot mug of cocoa in front of a crackling fire and snuggled in a warm fuzzy blanket, but really—the cookies are the best part. Baking is part of the tradition of the holidays, whether we’re baking a batch to leave for Santa, or several dozen to take to a cookie exchange, or mailing off a box halfway across the globe. And we can’t forget the gingerbread houses, the Yule logs, and the breads, cakes, and pies to accompany or finish up for our festive meals. No time during the year are we more apt to bake than the holidays, and there’s no part of the year that more cookbooks are dedicated.

Cookie Craft Christmas
By Valerie Peterson
ISBN: 9781603424400
List Price: $12.95
Format: Hardcover
Published by Workman Publishing Company in Oct 2009

Decoration is first and foremost here. All the cookies featured are sugar cookies, chocolate cookies, or gingerbread, and these are the only three recipes featured in the book. The rest of the book is full of ideas and designs made with royal icing, all of which are absolutely adorable. Most designs within the book have those with piping experience in mind, but those that are easy enough for once a year bakers are marked throughout.

Flour Pot Christmas
By Margie and Abbey Greenberg
ISBN: 9780762435548
List Price: $16.95
Format: Hardcover
Published by Running Press Book Publishing in Oct 2009

Much like Cookie Craft Christmas, Flour Pot Christmas is all about the design, and the designs are absolutely beautiful. Featuring 4 recipes, the rest of the book is dedicated to the art of decoration. However, unlike Cookie Craft, Flour Pot uses very little royal icing. The majority of the designs are made with fondant, so it is easier for those bakers who don’t have piping experience.

The Great Christmas Cookie Swap Cookbook
By Good Housekeeping
ISBN: 9781588167576
List Price: $12.95
Format: Hardcover
Published by Hearst Books in Oct 2009

One of the great traditions of the holidays is cookie exchange parties. Instead of baking dozens of different cookies on your own, you bake several dozen of one, and take it to a party to exchange with friends and family who have each baked another kind of cookie. So simple! Bake once, and eat tons! Good Housekeeping gives you everything you need to start your own cookie exchange party tradition. From great recipes to helpful hints, you’ll have a great gathering in no time! There are even 16 recipe cards in the back to share your creation with your guests! But beware; these recipes make over a hundred cookies in most cases. Be prepared to do some math to scale them down for a smaller gathering.

Cookie Swap
By Julia Usher
ISBN: 9781423603788
List Price: $19.99
Format: Paperback
Published by Smith, Gibbs Publishing in Aug 2009

With not only delicious recipes and beautiful designs, Cookie Swap offers amazing decoration ideas and invitation designs for your cookie swap, whether it’s this holiday season or any other time throughout the year. From springtime to Halloween, bridal showers to Christmastime, there’s such a beautiful theme for every season that you’ll want to have a cookie exchange party once a month!

Cookies for Christmas
By Disney’s FamilyFun, edited by Deanna Cook
ISBN: 9781402763564
List Price: $9.95
Format: Hardcover
Published by Sterling Publishing in Oct 2009

Designed for the whole family, Cookies for Christmas is a kid-friendly cookbook filled with recipes and ideas for decorating your holiday treats. Using common candy and pretzels, kids and adults alike will enjoy creating fun and tasty goodies. Looking for family friendly ideas to decorate the house for the holidays? Check out FamilyFun’s Homemade Holidays too!

By Jennifer Lindner McGlinn
ISBN: 9780811861915
List Price: $19.95
Format: Paperback
Published by Chronicle Books in Sept 2009

Winter brings the warm flavors of nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and of course, ginger—the key spice in the festive staple, gingerbread. While most of us make the traditional cookies and houses, McGlinn takes gingerbread to a whole new level. With recipes for everything from cakes to cookies, ice cream to doughnuts, you’ll have something spice up your holidays through the entire season, and maybe even the rest of the year! And you can bet I’ll be whipping up some Gingerbread Pancakes on Christmas morning.

Christmas Cookies from the Whimsical Bakehouse
By Liv and Kaye Hansen
ISBN: 9781400080588
List Price: $16.95
Format: Hardcover
Published by Crown Publishing Group in Nov 2005

While not new for this season, Christmas Cookies from the Whimsical Bakehouse is a beautiful display of decorated holiday treats. True to Whimsical Bakehouse tradition, a lot of the designs in the book are made with piped chocolate as well as royal icing. The recipes and designs are rated for difficulty, but most will use some kind of piping skill, so previous experience will be helpful. Especially since there’s no real instructions on recreating a lot of the piped designs. But even if you don’t end up making anything from the book, the designs themselves are beautiful to look at. There’s even a gingerbread fireplace, complete with chocolate stockings!

A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking
By Marcy Goldman
ISBN: 9781770500037
List Price: $26.95
Format: Paperback
Published by Whitecap Books in Sept 2009

I’ll be completely honest. I don’t know a lot about Jewish holidays, and even less about traditional Jewish baking and cuisine. But picking up this book and reading through the introduction, I learned so much about the Laws of Kashruth, which is how ingredients are used and prepared in the Jewish culture. From delicious oil fried Chanukah treats such as latkes (potato pancakes) and doughnuts, to every kind of Challah you could possibly think of, Marcy Goldman brings you recipes for every holiday on the Jewish calendar. Not a frequent baker? Don’t worry. There’s even a list of recipes for the “baking challenged”!

Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook
By Joan Nathan
ISBN: 9780805242171
List Price: $29.95
Format: Hardcover
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group in Aug 2004

While not new for the season, this is a great addition to any collection. Each holiday has its own chapter, featuring the history of the holiday and its traditions. With recipes from Jewish cultures around the world, from American to Russian, German, Sephardic, Hungarian, Moroccan, and Eastern European, Nathan creates diverse menus for each holiday, from main course through dessert, sharing the history and tradition behind each recipe as well.

Jewish Holiday Cooking
by Jayne Cohen
ISBN: 9781770500037
List Price: $32.50
Format: Hardcover
Published by John Wiley, and Sons Inc. in Feb 2008

Much like Joan Nathan and Marcy Goldman’s collections, Cohen shares not only her menus for each holiday, but also her own family’s traditions and stories behind the recipes, as well as tips for planning your holiday meal. While it may not be quite as complete as Nathan’s, I liked the look and lay out of Cohen’s the best of the three I looked through.
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