If there is a silver lining to 2020, it’s that families are cooking together. We’re stepping away from the screens and into the kitchen to make sourdough starters, banana bread, and old family recipes that had been ignored in the pre-pandemic hustle. So the timing couldn’t be better for these new cookbooks, all of which encourage new home cooks and set the foundation for a lifetime of kitchen competency. Whether you’re supporting a new hobby, or simply keeping the kids occupied for an easy (and delicious) hour, these books are for you and yours.
‘The Complete DIY Cookbook for Young Chefs: 100+ Simple Recipes for Making Absolutely Everything from Scratch' (Young Chefs Series), (America’s Test Kitchen Kids, October 2020, $19.99)
Did you know you can make toaster pastries from scratch? Fruit leather, cheddar fish-shaped crackers, and ice cream sprinkles too? The third book in the America’s Test Kitchen Kids series teaches kids (and parents!) how to make their favorite store-bought foods at home. There’s even a section on making mixes (pancake mix, macaroni and cheese mix, sugar cookie mix) if your people prefer to cook from a box. Like other America’s Test Kitchen books, the recipes are meticulously written and the steps are precisely photographed. Buy this for: anyone who is stuck at home with wee ones.
‘Cook Anime: Eat Like Your Favorite Character — From Bento to Yakisoba' by Diana Ault (Tiller Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, September 2020, $19.99)
“The food in anime can act as a window onto Japanese culture and history …,” so begins “Cook Anime,” which re-creates dishes found in popular anime series like Sailor Moon, Kill la Kill, and Dragon Ball. Each recipe is paired with history, culture, and cooking tips, along with the episode’s backstory and other series in which the food appears. If this is your first foray into Japanese cooking, you’ll appreciate the glossary of common Japanese ingredients, and where to find them (hint: online). Buy this for: anime enthusiasts and Japanese culture aficionados of all ages.
‘How to Cook: Building Blocks and 100 Simple Recipes for a Lifetime of Meals’ by Hugh Acheson (Clarkson Potter, October 2020, $19.99)
Inspired by Hugh Acheson’s teenage daughters, “How to Cook” offers a master class on nourishing yourself. Acheson, known for restaurants such as Atlanta’s Empire State South and Athens' Five & Ten, makes no assumptions about cooking ability or knowledge (it starts with “wash your hands often”), and teaches the fundamentals of cooking through 25 “building block” recipes. Readers graduate to 100 additional recipes, making everything from polenta to pot roast. Chatty recipe notes explain thrifty ingredient swaps and suggest flavor pairings. All of which means readers aren’t just following a recipe, they are actually learning how to cook. Buy this for: college students in their first apartment.
‘Kid in the Kitchen: 100 Recipes and Tips for Young Home Cooks’ by Melissa Clark (Clarkson Potter, November 2020, $24)
This isn’t a regular kids cookbook, it’s a cool kids cookbook. “Kid in the Kitchen” is written in the vernacular unique to middle schoolers, and includes a tutorial on social media food photography called “Insta your dish.” It also happens to be full of legit recipes that stretch toward sophisticated palates. Parmesan Crisps could make an appearance during movie night. The kids have Sunday dinner covered thanks to the Epic Whole Roast Chicken recipe (complete with carving instructions). And when sleepovers can happen again, the party section provides advance planning timelines. Throughout, ingredient amounts are listed by both cups and weight, so kids learn to cook like the pros. Buy this for: foodie tweens and teens.
‘Milk Bar: Kids Only’ by Christina Tosi (Clarkson Potter, October 2020, $22.99)
Christina Tosi, founder of the Milk Bar restaurant chain and “MasterChef Junior” judge, encourages young bakers to be curious, creative and confident. “Milk Bar” teaches the basics of baking (tie your hair back, measure dry ingredients with the scoop and scrape method) without being patronizing. Then she encourages kids to throw the rules out the window and make the recipes their own. “Milk Bar” sweetly covers all things sweet, from the restaurant’s bestsellers to Tosi’s family favorites.
Recipes are organized according to the calendar, so it’s easy to find a seasonally appropriate dessert when the mood — or winter weather — strikes. Baking may be a science, but the mad scientist approach of “Milk Bar” is pure art. Buy this for: the enthusiastic mess maker, Milk Bar lover, or cooking competition watcher in your life.
‘100 Cookies: The Baking Book for Every Kitchen, with Classic Cookies, Novel Treats, Brownies, Bars, and More,’ by Sarah Kieffer (Chronicle Books, August 2020, $27.50)
Written by the author of The Vanilla Bean Blog, this intensive baking book celebrates everyone’s favorite food group. It offers multiple variations on a theme, so you can taste the difference each ingredient tweak makes. It starts with the classic cookies (including three different chocolate chip recipes), explores (14!) recipes for brownies, and ends with next-level recipes, like Palmiers with Apricot and Cardamom. Buy this for: baking-obsessed loved ones of all ages.
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