As often as I find myself cooking and baking from family recipes and other bloggers, I really enjoy cookbooks. When I was a girl, I loved to flip through my mother’s and grandmother’s cookbooks to imagine what I might make. Now, there are few gifts that make me happier than a new cookbook. There are many favorites that I am sure that I am leaving out. Here are six cookbooks that I go to again and again (or soon will), in no particular order.

1. Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients by Ina Garten

This cookbook was a gift a few Christmases ago. Like all of Ina Garten’s cookbooks, the photography is lovely. The recipes are relatively straightforward and yet elegant. Her recipe for roasted butternut squash soup is one that I make many times over the winter.

2. Slow Cooker Revolution by The Editors at America’s Test Kitchen

Late last winter I bought I a slow cooker, hoping that it would help me to make batches of things to keep my freezer stocked. This cookbook has a range of recipes that, like all recipes from America’s Test Kitchen, are engineered to consistently come out delicious. These recipes are not like those you remember from the earlier era of the crock pot. There are new (tequila and lime turkey chili) and old (Sloppy Joes) favorites.

3. The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: The Essential Cookie Cookbook

King Arthur Flour is my go-to when I have a baking question or problem. Not surprisingly, this cookbook is like the Joy of Cooking for cookies. You learn many basic techniques and find a broad range of recipes. What I like best are the variations on a theme. For example, do you like your gingersnaps crisp or soft? You will find both recipes here. I still have not made my way through the entire book, but I have had success with every recipe I have tried.

4. Rosie’s All-Butter Fresh Cream Sugar-Packed Baking Book by Judy Rosenberg

Rosie’s is a great bakery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. When I was in college I came to know it and to be introduced to this cookbook. I won’t lie, I found this one challenging when I started to make the leap to more complicated baking. This one required special equipment and ingredients for some recipes! Now it feels like an old friend. There is an updated version, but I still love my tattered copy.

5. Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe by Joanne Chang and Christie Matheson

Flour is another fabulous bakery in Cambridge (and Boston). It is dangerous working within walking distance of this place. (Thankfully, I don’t often have time to leave my desk for lunch!) I was fortunate enough to attend the “All Things Chocolate” cooking class at Flour last year. For those who are not able to take a class, this cookbook allows you to try to recreate their fabulous treats at home. It has replaced Rosie’s cookbook as the one that challenges me, but I am loving every opportunity to try something new.

6. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

I was so excited for this book to come out that I could not wait to see if Santa would leave it under my tree. I had to preorder it. Given the rush of the holiday season, I have yet to make a single recipe out of it, but I know that I soon will. What I can tell you from paging through it is that Deb Perelman designed a beautiful book. If these recipes are anything like those on her blog, I know they will be easy to follow and hard to improve upon–in other words, instant classics.

I hope you find one of these wrapped and waiting for you to explore.

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