There are savory recipes to tempt as well. Some to try are Venezuelan chocolate chile chicken made with orange, cilantro, ancho chile, and chocolate; chocolate water biscuits; and chocolate vinegar, which is delicious over aged Italian cheese or salads, or with fish or ice cream. Packaged in a beautiful glass container, it would also make a lovely hostess gift.
One Sweet Cookie by Tracey Zabar (Rizzoli, $30)
Tracey Zabar, jewelry designer, stylist, and a member of the famous family behind NYC food emporium Zabar's, is a self-proclaimed cookie addict. Her new book, One Sweet Cookie, feeds her craving with a collection of favorite cookie recipes from chefs across the country. The idea behind the book came from the tradition of the old-fashioned cookie swap and wanting to share favorite recipes. She also happens to be a trained pastry chef, so she has some street cred.
There are fig squares and raspberry granola bars from Karen DeMasco of Locanda Verde, and monster cookies laced with oats and M&Ms from Nancy Olson of Gramercy Tavern, Jacques Torres' chocolate chip cookies, a flourless chocolate version from Francois Payard, and sugar-topped molasses spice cookies from Laurent Tourondel of Brasserie Ruhlmann. It's enough to make any cookie lover and baker swoon.
Mix up one of the 80-plus recipes of cookies to give along with the book. Even Santa will be impressed.
Sugar Sugar: Every Recipe Has a Story by Kimberly Reiner and Jenna Sanz-Agero (Andrews McMeel, $29.99)
The mission of the "Sugar Mommas," as the authors call themselves, is to bring readers vintage treats and the stories behind them. The result is a book filled with tempting cakes, pies, cookies, and candies.
These ladies don't always follow the rules, and it's refreshing to see that their approach to baking comes with a sense of humor. I loved reading the "Sugar Mommaisms." You get a real feel of the authors' personalities, and technique differences. Reiner prefers cooking sprays and does not sift, while Sanz-Agero uses butter and flour for her pans and rarely sifts. One likes only butter in her treats, the other, shortening. And both say skip a double boiler.
Lucinda Bell's $100 pecan pie tells the tale of the talented Ms. Bell, a descendant of slaves and sharecroppers in Mississippi, who made the pie for her employer, the Parker family. It was so beloved, as the story goes, that Mr. Parker often said, "Cookies for guests so you don't have to share your pie."
After giving these recipes a try, you might not want to give them away either . . .