One of my favorite books of 2011 was NYC-based author Susan Hochbaum’s PastryParis: In Paris Everything Looks like Dessert. This great book explores, through beautiful images, the connection between the pastries of Paris and Parisian industrial designs. A perfect gift for any pastry connoisseur or industrial design student. $19.95. See A Passion for Food for an in-depth review with page shots.
Another great gift book is One Sweet Cookie by Tracey Zabar (also from New York City). A great collection of cookie recipes from top pastry chefs–many from New York City, including Lidia Bastianich, Daniel Boulud, Terrance Brennan, Dorie Greenspan, Thomas Keller, Jacques Torres, and Laurent Tourondel. Available at Zabars online or in the store. $24.95
Finally, the mac-daddy, the bling-bling king of dessert and pastry books: Cooking With Chocolate by Frederic Bau.
This comprehensive reference book (by Mr Valrhona himself) offers tons of recipes for working with chocolate in the home kitchen. The book features over 100 step-by-step techniques: chocolate basics (tempering, ganaches, pralines), candy fillings, decorations, doughs, creams and mousses, ice cream and sorbet and sauces. There is even a ninety-minute DVD included!
Organized into nine sections, 100 recipes are simplified for the home cook: classics (Sachertorte, pro fiteroles, molten chocolate cake), tarts (chocolate-pear, nut-caramel), snacks (macaroons, waffles, brownies, choco-ginger churros), frozen desserts, special occasions (dark chocolate fondue, hazelnut-praline Yule log), and candy (truffles, lollipops, coconut bars). A freaking steal at $31.95.