Call it “our babkas, ourselves”: this season’s baking books reflect societal priorities made evident over the past several years. Some titles draw a connection between baking, community, and social justice; others offer welcome reassurance from familiar names; still others focus on process and practice—rather than perfection and product—with guides to creating desserts that feed the mind as well as the body.

Butter days

Maya-Camille Broussard, a star of Netflix’s Bake Squad, is among those who use baking as an agent for good. In Justice of the Pies (Clarkson Potter, Oct.), named for her Chicago bakery, she shares her recipes for strawberry-basil key lime pie, blue cheese praline pear pie, and other sweet and savory goods, and also discusses the ongoing inspirations behind her work. Broussard started Justice of the Pies in 2014 in memory of her father, who was a criminal defense attorney and an avid pie maker, and has always had an eye toward social justice and equality in hospitality. Her eatery is registered as a social enterprise and runs a number of programs for the surrounding community, such as a workshop in basic kitchen skills for children facing food insecurity.

In the book, she profiles other activists whose missions align with her own—Jordan Marie Brings Three White Horses Daniel, who raises awareness of missing Indigenous women, and Christopher LeMark, who aims to destigmatize therapy in communities of color, to name two—and pairs them with unconventional pies. Fry bread and bison tarts are a nod to Daniel’s Lakota heritage, while the lemon espresso pie is an homage to LeMark and his Coffee, Hip-Hop & Mental Health charitable organization. “Because I lead with a social mission and from a philanthropy point of view, I wanted to highlight other people who use their work to positively impact the lives of others,” Broussard says. “And I wanted to use this opportunity to let their stories inspire me.”

Esteban Castillo’s blog, Chicano Eats, won the 2017 Saveur Best New Voice Readers’ Choice Award and inspired a 2020 cookbook of the same name. In Chicano Bakes (Harper Design, Nov.), Castillo speaks to home bakers who feel that their cultural tastes and traditions are overlooked by typical baking books.

“When lockdown happened, when everyone turned toward baking, people in my community realized the resources for the things that they wanted to bake were not there,” he says. “For people in my community, cooking out of a cookbook and following a recipe is still a foreign concept; we learn by listening to our elders and watching them.”

In his new book, Castillo draws on his experience in his family’s Mexican American panadería, where he had access to fresh pan dulce daily. “These places serve as a cultural oasis,” he says. “They make the most of what they have, including aqua fresca and savory things like pambazos and tortas—we stretch and reuse. I wanted to mirror that in this cookbook.”

Smart cookies

Avid food-media consumers will find a bevy of familiar names on baking book covers this fall. The King Arthur Baking School (Countryman, Oct.), the first full-color cookbook from the products behemoth, compiles 100 fundamental recipes for yeasted breads, laminated pastries, cookies, cakes, and more. Clarkson Potter’s offerings include All About Cookies (Nov.), by TV personality and Milk Bar founder Christina Tosi; What’s for Dessert (Nov.), by Bon Appétit test kitchen alum Claire Saffitz (2020’s Dessert Person, 215,000 print copies sold); and Nadiya’s Everyday Baking (Sept.), the latest cookbook by Great British Baking Show season six winner Nadiya Hussain.

The long-running GBBS has launched the careers of numerous bakers, several of whom have forthcoming books. Edd Kimber was a 24-year-old bank employee when he won the show’s first season in 2010; today, he has more than 400,000 Instagram followers and a bustling career as a food writer. He follows One Tin Bakes and One Tin Bakes Easy with Small Batch Bakes (Kyle, Oct.), a collection of recipes for singles, small households, and students. Inventive ideas include rhubarb and raspberry tarts (for four, with tips for storage) and the Emergency Chocolate Chip Cookie for one.

Season five GBBS semifinalist Chetna Makan (202,000 Instagram followers), whose previous books include Chetna’s Healthy Indian: Vegetarian and Chetna’s 30 Minute Indian, shares more Indian-influenced recipes in Chetna’s Easy Baking (Hamlyn, Sept.). PW’s review said her dishes “perfectly combine the promise of familiarity and adventurousness.”

The most recent season of GBBS featured its youngest contestant to date and its first vegan competitor: Freya Cox, then 19. In Simply Vegan Baking (Harper Design, Sept.), she helps vegans sweeten up their repertoires with scones, stollen, and Swiss rolls using ingredients or substitutes available in most well-stocked supermarkets. Cox’s chocolate orange Battenburg cake employs store-bought vegan marzipan; the royal icing on her gingerbread biscuits is made with aquafaba.

The Great British Baking Show is about the only credit not on Erin Jeanne McDowell’s mile-long food media résumé, which includes current gigs as a New York Times Cooking contributor and Food52’s baking consultant at large (plus her 240,000 Instagram followers). Her third cookbook, Savory Baking (Harvest, Oct.), builds on 2020’s The Book on Pie (55,000 print copies sold), which, she notes, had one chapter on savory bakes. The new book covers breakfast (chicken and waffles, Dutch baby), lunch (seeded burger buns, pizza), and dinner (meat ’n’ potatoes pie), and offers customizations for many recipes.

“An entire chapter is about ‘things that feel like dough,’ like dumplings, crepes, waffles,” McDowell says. “Savory baking is global: it has a large role in places where baking isn’t a dessert thing.” Throughout, she provides essential baking education, illustrating basic techniques and providing make-ahead and storage tips. “I work baking into every element of my life, not just desserts. It’s the most accurate representation of how I bake in my everyday life and for my family and friends.”

Two birds, one scone

A number of titles lean into the joys of baking: mental health, balance, connectedness. In Mind Over Batter (Chronicle, Mar. 2023), Jack Hazan, a therapist and the proprietor of Brooklyn’s Jack Bakes, organizes 75 recipes into themed chapters based on common mental health needs: pistachio rosewater chews to help with mindfulness, peanut butter pretzel pie as self care, and pesto pull-apart bread to help foster connection with others.

Steph Blackwell, a GBBS season 10 finalist, has been candid with her 141,000 Instagram followers about her mental health and the importance of self-care. “Baking is a source of meditation for me,” she says. “I immerse myself in the science and creativity; I find myself so absorbed in the process. The outcome is just a bonus: if it doesn’t work, I’ve still managed to silence the negativity in my head.”

With Bake Yourself Happy (Mobius, Sept.), Blackwell hopes to spark joy through 50 recipes that soothe a bad mood (savory granola), aid relaxation (leek, mushroom, and cavolo nero tart), pump up one’s confidence (comté and nutmeg puffs), and more. “So many people struggle with their mental health,” she explains. “Baking may not be a magic cure, but it’s certainly a wonderful activity that I urge anyone to try.”

In Comfort Baking (Herald, Oct.), Stephanie Wise, who blogs at Girl vs. Dough, honors the kitchen as a space for solace, worship, relief, and relaxation. Her 100 recipes include sweets (iced cherry almond loaf cake) and savories (green chili pulled pork enchiladas), and celebrate the happiness inherent in cooking for others.

Becca Rea-Tucker, aka the Sweet Feminist (250,000 Instagram followers), recommends identifying and processing emotions in the kitchen in Baking by Feel (Harper Wave, Aug.); working with one’s hands, she writes, can be deeply therapeutic. She pairs each of her 65 recipes with an emotion and an affirmation; triple chocolate cake is suggested for someone who’s been insulted (“You are beautiful and you and your uniqueness and impact on the world can’t be replaced”), while cardamom caramel poke cake is a dessert for the optimistic (“It takes courage to trust that things are going to turn out like they should!”)

Baking is a source of meditation for me.... The outcome is just a bonus.
—Steph Blackwell, author of 'Bake Yourself Happy'

Of course, in baking, things don’t always work out the way they should. Lottie Bedlow (of GBBS season 11 fame) embraces this reality in Baking Imperfect (Thunder Bay, Nov.), with forgiving recipes including a gingerbread shed (“They never look like houses anyway,” she writes) and no-skill soda bread, plus tips gleaned from her enthusiastic experimentation. For instance, in her orange and passionfruit mousse cake jars, she advises readers to blitz the fruit in a food processor to make the most out of their pulp. “It’s easy to be put off by what we see on Instagram,” she says. “There’s been a shift towards anti-perfectionism and I want to lead the way.”

Bedlow encourages her 228,000 followers, and her readers, to be less precious about their baking—even to trash the book. (Her own copy, she says, is stained and well-worn.) “It’s a movement away from detail, delicateness, and finesse, and towards relatability and reality,” she explains. “I want people to laugh at their journey. And anyway, who cares as long as it tastes good?”

Pooja Makhijani is a writer and editor in New Jersey.

All print unit sales per NPD BookScan except where noted.

Read more from our Cookbooks 2022 feature:

American Pie: PW talks with Rossi Anastopoulo
In 'Sweet Land of Liberty' (Abrams, Oct.), the IACP award–winning writer dishes the stories behind 11 noteworthy pies.

Wake and Bake: Cookbooks 2022
Pot brownies are out; cannabis-infused trifles, doughnuts, and meringues are in.

All You Knead Is Loaf: Cookbooks 2022
New books cater to those for whom lockdown sourdough starter was just the beginning.