"The hardest part is narrowing down the list," Kathleen Purvis, chair of the James Beard Foundation Book Awards Committee, told Slashfood."
"We [committee members] all picked five or ten books and then compared lists. Some of them were on everybody's list like Flo Braker, Carol Field and Maida Heatter. Those books immediately made the cut and then we started narrowing down. We had all baked from these books and could name our favorite recipes."
The culinary posse also wanted to ensure that the books selected encompassed not just baking cakes and cookies but savories and breads. "We realized how important it is that the baking books be reliable. You invest so much in time and ingredients when baking. You really need to be able to rely on them," says Purvis.
Purvis notes that the one unifying factor in all the tomes is an enthusiasm for the subject.
"Personal passion comes through in all these books."
The James Beard Book Awards Committee Essential Book List, in alphabetical order: The Baker's Dozen
1. "Baking: From My Home to Yours," by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006).
2. "Beard on Bread," by James Beard (originally published 1973; reprinted by Knopf, 1995).
3. "The Book of Great Desserts," by Maida Heatter (Andrews McMeel, 1999).
4. "The Bread Baker's Apprentice," by Peter Reinhart (Ten Speed, 2001).
5. "The Cake Bible," by Rose Levy Beranbaum (William Morrow, 1988).
6. "Classic Home Desserts," by Richard Sax (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000).
7. "Cocolat," by Alice Medrich (Warner Books, 1990).
8. "The Fannie Farmer Baking Book," by Marion Cunningham (Gramercy, 1996).
9. "Great Pies and Tarts," by Carole Walter (Clarkson Potter, 1998).
10. "The Italian Baker," by Carol Field (William Morrow, 1985).
11. "Martha Stewart's Cookies," by Martha Stewart (Clarkson Potter, 2008).
12. "My Bread," by Jim Lahey (W.W. Norton, 2009).
13. "The Simple Art of Perfect Baking," by Flo Braker (Chronicle, 2003).