Photo: Randy Mayor
The old chestnut—that cooking is an art and baking is a science—is true: There is less tolerance in baking for sloppy measurement or rough technique, not if the end goal is cream and crumb and flake and crunch. You can be content leafing through many cookbooks for inspiration; a baking book, however, has not done its job until a batch of crisp-gooey cookies or a flaky pastry is cooling on the rack. Cooks who fear baking more than other aspects of kitchen craft will find these books helpful. Baking veterans will also find treasures here. We judged not only for focus, clarity, and inspiration, but also for how the recipes worked.