My baking cookbook faves

A couple of you have asked for cookbook recommendations (ha! I just spelled that word right, which is an accomplishment. Double letters are my one spelling downfall.), so I thought for today’s baking post, I’d share my favorite baking cookbooks.

Better Homes and Gardens Homemade Bread Cookbook

My very first bread baking cookbook is this one, published in 1973. I baked recipe after recipe from my mom’s copy of this book when I lived at home, so it’s like an old friend to me! It’s obviously not in publication anymore, but I got my copy on Ebay, and I know I’ve seen them on as well, so you might be able to snag one for yourself.

The whole wheat roll recipe I posted recently is from this book and so is my buttermilk biscuit recipe.

Fleischmann’s Bread Cookbooks

I dearly love my two Fleischmann’s cookbooks. They’re both freebies…my mom got one when she was a new homemaker, and I sent in for mine when I was a teenager. I’m quite sure neither of these books is available anymore, but given that I love both of them, I think I can recommend any bread cookbook from Fleischmann’s…those people know bread!

The list of recipes I’ve shared from these two books is pretty long…Apricot Coffeecake, Overnight Cinnamon Twists, Hamburger Buns, Braided Cheese Bread, and Challah all are from these books.

Baking Illustrated

My most recent baking acquisition is this enormous book from Cook’s Illustrated. My husband got it for me as a birthday present a few years back, and unlike my other baking books, this one is definitely still available for purchase.

This book is comprehensive in scope and in detail (the authors tell you exactly how they came up with each recipe and why they tweaked this or that), and though I’ve only scratched its surface, I’ve found several winners. The Deep Dish Pizza recipe came from this book and so did my Whole Wheat Bread recipe. In addition to bread recipes, this book also covers cakes, pies, tarts, and cookies, among other things (I made the Key Lime Pie recently, and it was delicious).

Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

Though it’s not specifically a baking book, I do often use baking recipes from my basic Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. The recipes contained in this series of books are not gourmet and cutting edge, but in my experience, they’re reliable and uncomplicated. My basic dinner roll recipe and my cornbread recipe are both from the baking section in this book.

For the most part, I’ve found the recipes in most bread baking books to be fairly good, so I don’t really have an “Avoid This Cookbook” list. I did own a really big James Beard book on bread, but I found it to be overwhelming in length, and the fact that it had exactly zero pictures didn’t help either. I eventually got rid of it and haven’t missed it all. I know some people swear by his books, though, so this is probably a personal preference kind of thing.


Do you have a favorite baking book? If you do, please share. And if you happen to love James Beard’s bread book, please don’t hate me. ;)


  1. Theresa says

    Kristen, I never realized that “Beard” and “Bread” are exactly the same combination of letters. I think your fingers were thinking “bread” when you wanted them to think “Beard” (first mention of James Beard’s name). The hand is quicker than the eye!

      • priskil says

        Maybe you meant James Bread’s Beard Book, the go-to for goatee grooming? ;) Seriously, I have almost never baked bread, save for one unfortunate incident in my teens involving mealy-infested flour discovered after the fact — the scars go pretty deep! But your baking how-tos have really inspired me — i BOUGHT yeast recently and am contemplating baking something from your series. . . very scary!
        Does anyone else like Joy of Cooking (the older editions?) I love it because even someone with my lame skills can follow the directions and create something decent. But no pictures — LOVE your pictures and friendly direrctions!

        • EngineerMom says

          I like the Joy of Cooking, but more as a reference guide than for anything specific (although their pancakes won a taste test against the Better Homes and Gardens recipe when I and my friend had a pancake cook-off in college!)

        • WilliamB says

          I learned to cook from the 1970’s edition of JOY and will never get rid of it, but I don’t use it much for recipes any more. It’s still one of my go-to references for information about anything food related or for techniques (my current question is how best to cook chard – it’s not tough enough to cook like collards and cooking like spinach hasn’t worked well to date).

          My favorite bread books are from Bernard Clayton. I can’t say how much I adore his recipes, and him for including descriptions of every end product. This means I don’t waste 6 hours and a lb of flour only to discover the end result isn’t suitable for the intended use.

  2. HeatherS says

    I often refer to my red and white check cookbook! My mom still uses hers that she has had for many years. The giblet gravy recipe page is very stained and dog eared from using it every Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember!

    I find that many of the great out of print cookbooks and baking books can be found at library book sales. Our library takes donations from patrons for their sales and always has a ton of cookbooks.

  3. says

    In addition to BH&G and Betty Crocker, I love, love, love my Fannie Farmer book for all things cooking and basic baking. A newer book that might interest some is Low Fat Living that has a large recipe section in the back. Though it’s all low-fat, the breads and baked goods I’ve tried (and I’ve tried a good many) have been amazingly wonderful. . .and have surprised several people who didn’t know they were low-fat.

  4. says

    The BHG New Cook Book is my all time favorite. I often give it to newlywed friends for Christmas. Just an all around good book that simple enough for new cooks, yet has recipes you’ll use for life. My mom still uses hers and gave me my copy. She also gave me her really old copy of the Good Housekeeping Illustrated cookbook. I love it because it has great pictures on tricky techniques and wonderful Christmas candy recipes.

  5. Jaclyn says

    I also love the Cooks’ Illustrated stuff! Sometimes when I have a few moments, I just open up Cooks’ and read! Do you have any of their other books? Baking Illustrated is on my list, but I’m worried a lot of the recipes will overlap from their New Best Recipe. Do you know if that’s true?

  6. Erika says

    A few Christmases ago my mom got me a Good Housekeeping cookbook (I couldn’t find a link to it – but it’s really thick and yellow!). I love it so much. It has recipes for almost anything you could want, and it’s broken down into sections like poultry, pork, beef, eggs, etc. At the beginning of each section it tells you all about different cuts of meat, or how to cook with them, etc. It’s GREAT.

    I’d rather have one huge cookbook like that than a bunch of smaller cookbooks, personally. If I’m ever in the mood for a specific recipe I usually just look it up on the intranet.

  7. says

    Just to let you know, you can still get the old Fleishmann’s bread book. I just ordered one for myself (after reading your features on this blog numerous times) and received it after Christmas. I have been using it straight since then. I find that I have to modify a few things like sugar portions and oven temperature but otherwise, I LOVE it. I am in Canada and it is not free as it is at breadworld in the U.S. but at $6.00, it is a steal in any case. I actually bought one for my best friend the other day for her bday next month.

  8. Ashley says

    The Better Homes and Gardens book is the one I grew up with! There is a brownie recipe in there that we turned to so much that the page in the book (covered in years worth of flour!) came out from the binding! There is also a sugar cookie recipe that will come out from the binding probably this year! So many memories using that book!

  9. says

    I just found the Better Homes and Gardens Homemade Bread Cookbook on PBSwap ~ I snagged a copy and I can’t wait to check it out. I usually make our bread in the bread machine, but you have inspired me to try using my Kitchenaid mixer and my own hands :)

  10. Rebecca says

    My fav is also from Cooks Illustrated it is their Best of 30 minute recipies. All the meals can be made from scratch in about 30 min with very few or no premade stuff, and if they do use a premade item, like piecrust, they tell you which brand is best. I have to adapt some to a gluten free life for me, but still great, easy, basic, fast food that is nutritious.

    I also have several cookbooks owned by my grandma and her mother, covered in notes. I love it and treasure it.

  11. says

    Glad to hear your cookbook recommendations! I was just thinking about doing a post on my favorite (general) cookbooks. I own Beard on Bread and I like it pretty well, but I must admit–it’s just not my favorite. I’m not sure why.

    I really love the Joy of Cooking for cookie recipes–I haven’t had one fail yet.

  12. Pamela says

    I have found many good recipes in my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbooks. I have three different editions but I have to say my favorite is my 1989 edition. I probably own over 60 cookbooks but I find myself grabbing my 1989 edition all the time.

  13. Sara says

    I have to agree on three staples – BH&G, Betty Crocker, and Fannie Farmer. All three are GREAT basic resources. You aren’t going to find the latest sexy salad or dessert recipe, but the basic baking and cooking information is priceless. I refer to them for things as simple as target times for cooking meats (especially things I don’t cook regularly), etc. I think my Mom got me those three when I moved into my first apartment. Betty Crocker also published a “Cookie Book” that is quite helpful as well. My Mom has a copy (probably from the early 70s) that is literally falling apart!

  14. Pam says

    I do like the Cook’s for general cooking but found I was borrowing the Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book so often from the library that I broke down and bought it. I made bread for many years when I had small kids and was home more. I started again this winter and I credit your blog. I’ve also used some of the bread recipes from Panini Express (by the baker/owner of Bread Alone) and Crescent Dragonwagon’s books (Bread & Soup, Passionate Vegetarian).

    • says

      Laurel’s Kitchen and Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book are two favorites of mine as well. I also haven’t baked bread in a long while, and am saving now for a new stand mixer so I can start baking again, with many thanks also to Kristin for the inspiration. I think my favorite bread recipe of all came from Sunset magazine: Coffee Can Bread. It was whole wheat dough that was placed into a well-greased metal coffee can with a lid, no kneading required. When the lid popped off after rising, it was ready to go in the oven for baking. Made a funny mushroom-shaped loaf, and round slices for sandwiches, but it was light, easy and delicious.

      I don’t have a favorite cookbook, but mainly use the recipes I have cut from magazines, the newspaper, or have been sent by friends these days. I’ve glued them on paper, like a scrapbook, and then stuck them in a plastic page protector and filed in a notebook. I do like many of the recipes from the Barefoot Contessa. I am always on the lookout for one of her cookbooks at thrift stores or yard sales, but haven’t found one yet so I still borrow them from the library.

      • Ellen says

        I have been craving that Sunset coffee can bread for years! I found this comment when I was doing a search for it; I didn’t remember where it came from. Do you have the recipe or know where I can get it? I can’t find it anywhere. Thanks!

  15. says

    I don’t use my BHG book very often. Just for Eggs Benedict mostly now.
    For breads I love the books by Father Dominic, who has a PBS show on making breads. They have the recipe for bread machines, too, for every recipe. I don’t like it out of a machine, so I hand knead all my breads.
    I also have the Ultimate Bread book by DK publishing, but I don’t use it often, though it has GREAT pictures and instructions.

    My most used cookbooks are church made ones, though.

  16. Emily says

    The one I use the most is my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (red & white check). I have two different editions, and I usually refer back to the older one because they changed the recipes in the newer one. I also use a couple of church/company cookbooks–the fundraising kind that everyone contributes to. The church one I like because it has some of my mom’s recipes, as well as a couple of other recipes I remember from women in the church. The company one is from my sister’s company, and there are recipes from people all over the world, as their company has locations all over the world.

  17. says

    i adore my america’s test kitchen cookbooks (i have some TV season ones, and the make ahead one). however, for baking, my go-to cook book is The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion. fantastic. great scone recipe. great banana bread recipe. great molasses cookie recipe. great waffle and pancake recipes. great basic muffin recipe that the batter can sit in the fridge for a week so if you only want to bake a few muffins at a time, you can.

    i sub to their blog too, and have gotten many good recipes there as well (the deep dish pizza? nom nom nom nom!!!):

  18. EngineerMom says

    My two favorites: Better Homes and Gardens and Weight Watchers’ Dining for Two (which is perfect if you need a cookbook that gives you ideas on how to scale things down for the newly-married or single among us!).

    My husband’s all-time favorite: Bittersweet – it’s a cookbook all about chocolate, with some truly excellent brownie, cake, and pie recipes, plus some rather unusual uses for chocolate (like chocolate nibs in a savory sauce for chicken!). We use this one regularly for work treats, desserts for potlucks, family birthday cakes, etc.

  19. Linda says

    As I began reading your post and saw that you were going to talk about your favorite bread books my mind Immediately went to my favorite and it didn’t take long to see that you also treasure the Fleischmann’s books.
    However my all time favorite bread recipe came from a flyer included in my electric bill in 1982. Sunshine Harvest Bread is moist and chewy, the way I like my bread. It’s a way to use up ubiquitous zucchini. It calls for wheat germ and I substitute w/w for half of the all purpose flour. Giving it more fiber. I’ll send you the recipe, I suggest you try it too.

      • Linda says

        Here is the recipe in its original state at the bottom are notes about my personal changes.
        “Milk” made from pureed zucchini, adds moisture to this delicious and nutritious bread.
        8-9 Cups all-purpose flour
        2 pkg. active dry yeast
        3/4 C sugar
        1 Tablespoon salt
        3/4 cup wheat germ
        1 1/2 cups zucchini milk*
        1/2 Cup water
        3/4 cups butter
        4 eggs
        In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups flour, yeast, sugar, salt, & wheat germ, mix well. In a saucepan heat the zucchini milk, water, and butter just until warm. Add with eggs to the flour mixture, blend at low speed, beat at medium speed. By hand, gradually stir in enough flour to make firm dough. Knead on floured surface until smooth, 5-8 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turn grease to top. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, 1 1/2 hours. Punch dough down Divide into 3 parts. Shape into 3 loaves. Place in greased 8×4″ pans. Cover, let rise in warm place until double, 45 minutes. Bake 375 degrees, 25-03 minutes until golden brown. Remove from pans, cool Yield 3 loaves.
        * Zucchini milk: In blender or food processor, puree 2-3 peeled zucchini until smooth. May be frozen.
        My adaptations:
        I don’t peel the zucchini, but that does mean I have little green specks in my bread.
        I replace half of the AP flour with whole-wheat flour.
        I use brown sugar.

  20. Kristin says

    I am a cookbook fanatic (is reading cookbooks a hobby?) I recently found my all time favorite Family Feasts for $75 a Week by Mary Ostyn. I know this is suppose to be more of a baking/bread suggestion, but this cookbook fits in with the frugal blog, stretch your dollar and still make healthy, good, home cooked, affordable meals. Not only does it have 77 pages great frugal tips, dried bean cooking charts and other great ideas it has 200 recipes in it including biscuits, muffins and other goodies and an entire section on how to make your own cream soup versus canned; spices, rubs, seasonings etc. But the absolute BEST part about this book is the recipe’s. I have been rating them with a star system as I tried them and so far my family has given them all 5 stars…what do I suggest you try first…the Claim-Chowder, Hearty Beef Dumpling Stew or Shepherds Pie (great to use up LO mashed potatoes), three best recipes I have ever found. Other good ones Pizza Pinwheels, Broccoli-Pasta Frittata, Mexican Tortilla Skillet (use up dry flour tortillas), Sesame Chicken and Veggie Stir-Fry (my husband actually accused me of buying this at a restaurant and trying to pass it off as my own it was that good:) or Mexican Bow Tie Pasta. As you can see I have only scratched the surface of the 200 recipes, but this book never leaves my cookbook holder on my counter.

    • says

      I own the Family Feasts for $75 a Week too. It definitely is worth the investment.
      And Kristin, don’t feel bad as you aren’t the only one that is a cookbook fanatic. I read them like they are novels!

        • says

          Kristin –
          I’ve liked everything I’ve tried with the exception of the 6-week bran muffins. Successes have included Asian Ginger Dressing (also used in a stir-fry), Butt ery Garlic Cheese Biscuits, and the Slow Cooker White Chili. I’ve got lots more to try.

  21. Jenessa says

    I make most of my sandwich type bread in the breadmaker since I work full time. I have The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and it has a lot of really good recipes in it, although I have to adjust the liquids because I live at a high elevation.
    When I am making bread by hand though, I will usually check here for a recipe first. I have had consistently awesome results with your recipes.

  22. Lisa says

    Good Housekeeping was my first and one of my favorites.
    Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” has a number of yeast and quick bread recipes that haven’t failed me yet.

  23. says

    Kristin, have you ever thought of trying one of the no-knead artisan bread recipes that are out there now? As a regular baker, I would love to know what you thought of the recipe, the preparation and how it tastes.

  24. says

    We have always used the Purity and Five Roses cookbooks in our family and had excellent results. I still use the basic white bread recipe from the Purity book, which I transcribed over the phone from my mother onto an index card. I also enjoy Better Homes, I have written about my fave book of theirs in my blog, or in a comment somewhere… Maybe I should do a review, lol. The book is called Low Cost Cooking, and I purchased it in a thrift store. This book got me through my years as a starving student and is my go to when the pantry is low. All the recipes are simple and use sparse amounts of ingredients so you can still have a pleasing result on a frugal recipe. I love it.

  25. says

    Lovely recommendations! I was surprised, because I picked up a copy of the BHG Homemade Bread Book for free while in England, but hadn’t really looked at it too much, but now I will have to!

  26. Jeanine says

    My favorite cookbook is Belle’s Best, it is a compliled book of recipes from all over the South. It was actually put out by what used to be AT&T as a fundraiser, and it did so well that there is actually a 2nd and 3rd version.

    I prefer the orginal, as you can certainly tell the recipes are from the old school when they call for “oleo” and “lard” as opposed to “butter” and “Crisco”!!!!!!!!

  27. Suzette says

    I use several of the books you mentioned. Two additional books are: Judy Gorman’s Breads of New England and Secrets of a Jewish Baker. They are older books,but you can still get them.

  28. Lola says

    Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day byJeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois changed my life. Seriously. The best baking book I ever bought because I use it constantly. The breads are delicious–the European Peasant bread recipe is my staple bread now. But there are other great recipes too; the pizza exceeds anything I have ever purchased at a pizzaria and the the sticky pecan caramel rolls are to die for. I have also tried the brioche filled with chocolate ganache, almond brioche, ciabatta, vermont cheddar bread, pita bread, italian semolina bread, and several others. The authors recently came out with a Healthy Bread book I am looking forward to buying.

  29. Julia says

    Thanks everyone for the great suggestions—I’ve already put several on hold at my library. My newest favorite baking book is “Vegan Brunch” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. There’s a coffee cake recipe which is easy, adaptable, and DELICIOUS. My son calls it “magical crumb cake”. Vegan cooking uses no eggs (or butter or other animal products of course) so it can be quite inexpensive.

  30. Sarah D says

    Thanks for the baking cookbook recommendations. I had two credits at and, lo and behold, they had the Better Home’s and Garden’s Bread book you have pictured above. I ordered it. If you’ve never checked out paperbackswap, its another really great frugal resource.

  31. Amie says

    My favorites are my 1996 BHG, More-With-Less-Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre, and Cooking for your Dragon which has the cutest art done by Randal Spangler …all the recipes have chocolate :)

  32. Heather B says

    I’m super late to this conversation, but I just have to add one or two of my favorites. You’re not going to believe this – I didn’t want to believe it – but both of my favorites are from Trisha Yearwood. The country super star! I saw her first one in the bookstore and thought to myself, “Good GRIEF why does every celebrity think they can come up with a cookbook and can pawn it off on us and we’ll just buy it simply because”? But my curiosity got the better of me, because quite honestly, I do love Trisha Yearwood. And I can always use some picture perusing of her and how nice her house must look. Just a peek is all I told myself. I bought it. I ran to the counter. The book is filled with family recipes, good tried and true recipes, and I have made at least half of the foods in there and couldn’t be happier. I was thrilled to find she just came out with a second one, with more recipes! It’s really my favorite find EVER.

  33. Trudy Whitfield says

    You mentioned that you have made the sunshine harvest bread: a recipe I am trying to find for my sister-in-law and was wondering if you would share this recipe with us. She is also looking for Jim’s Rolls which is suppose to come from the same cookbook.
    Thank you very much

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