Holidays 2023: Three new cookbooks to inspire your perfect holiday cookie platter

Looking for ways to boost your cookie-baking skills this holiday season? We paged through three hot new baking cookbooks to help and the results — Scandinavian honey cookies with chocolate, gingerbread and coconut almond slice-and-bake butter cookies — are sure to impress at your next holiday party or cookie exchange.

But there’s more where these recipes came from. Here’s what to expect from the pages of these new baking-centric volumes.

‘Scandinavian from Scratch’ by Nichole Accettola

Scandinavian from Scratch is a cookbook by Nichole Accettola, the chef and owner behind Kantine, a Scandinavian cafe and bakery in San Francisco. (Courtesy Anders Schønnemann/Ten Speed Press) 

For guidance on what to bake when it’s cold out, why not seek guidance from the folks who weather some of the gnarliest winters out there, the Scandinavians?

Nichole Accettola, the chef-owner behind San Francisco’s Kantine, a Scandinavian bakery and cafe, offers more than 60 recipes in her new cookbook, which was inspired by the years she lived in Denmark. Accettola grew up in Ohio and made her first trip to Denmark after her family hosted a foreign exchange student from there. After returning to the U.S. to attend the Culinary Institute of America and working in fine dining in Boston for about a decade, she moved to Copenhagen.

She and her previously long-distance partner soon married. Three kids and 16 years later, she and her family returned to the U.S., this time to San Francisco.

Missing the Scandinavian-style rye bread she’d come to love in Denmark, Accettola started baking her own and selling it at the Ferry Building. She opened Kantine — the Danish word for canteen — in 2018.

The new cookbook starts with a selection of cookie recipes – because priorities! – before segueing into cake, desserts and bites that are perfect for the Swedish tradition of fika. The charming ritual of coffee, cake and conversation with friends or colleagues is part of daily life across that Scandinavian country. Swedish workplaces usually observe the tradition at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. And sweet treats – known as fikabröd – are a critical part of the ritual, Accettola explains.

The cookbook also offers recipes and ideas for breakfast bites, rye bread and smørre­brød — Danish open-face sandwiches — plus a selection of sweets labeled “winter therapy.” Many recipes contain cardamom, a warming spice popular in Scandinavian baking.

Quote: “In baking, as in all things, try to set perfectionism aside. Any baked good made from scratch and with love is bound to taste better than anything you can buy, and if it’s not perfect, no one will mind! Also, it gives you the opportunity to try again at some point.”

Details: “Scandinavian From Scratch: A Love Letter to the Baking of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden” by Nichole Accettola (Ten Speed Press, $29.99) can be found in local bookstores and online.

‘The Cookie That Changed My Life’ by Nancy Silverton with Carolyn Carreño

The Cookie That Changed My Life, by Nancy Silverton with Carolynn Carreño, is a cookbook that offers Silverton’s take on how to prepare the perfect version of many traditional American favorite baked goods. (Courtesy Alfred A. Knopf) 

While many home bakers were getting into sourdough during the COVID lockdowns, Nancy Silverton – the award-winning Los Angeles chef and restaurateur behind La Brea Bakery and Michelin-starred Osteria Mozza – turned her attention toward classic American baked goods.

Inspired by an experience with a peanut butter cookie from the Los Angeles bakery Friends & Family, Silverton put her baking skills to the test, homing in on recipes to make “the absolute best version of the familiar baked goods that we all know and love,” she writes in the introduction to her new cookbook. Chapters include breakfast fare, cookies, casual and dressed-up cakes and cupcakes, pies and tarts, seasonal fruit desserts and, of course, breads.

Note: Some of her recipes do require a few extra steps, but the results are worth it, she says.

Quote: “Maybe it is my age setting in, but more and more I find myself asking: Do we really need matcha in our pound cake? Lavender in shortbread? Pie on a stick? Cake in a jar? Or bacon in any dessert? The answer, for me, is a definite ‘No.’ Creative, yes. But for me, these creations aren’t craveable, and that was the ultimate criterion for a recipe to make it into this book… Nothing excites me more than when I bite into one of these familiar treats only to discover that it has been done to perfection.”

Details: “The Cookie That Changed My Life and More Than 100 Other Classic Cakes, Cookies, Muffins, and Pies That Will Change Yours” by Nancy Silverton with Carolynn Carreño  (Alfred A. Knopf, $40) can be found at local independent bookstores and online.

‘Bake Your Heart Out’ by Dan Langan

“Bake Your Heat Out: Foolproof Recipes to Level Up Your Home Baking” by Dan Langan shares a collection of recipes including cookies, breakfast foods and cakes. (Courtesy Rikki Snyder/Union Square & Co.) 

Dan Langan, a baker, blogger and the host of Food Network’s “Dan Can Bake It,” has a new cookbook out.  You’ll find recipes for treats like My Big Fat Fudge Brownies and Best-in-Class Cinnamon Rolls in its pages, as well as glazed honey ricotta biscuits and a simple yet elegant Darn Good Chocolate Cake.

Langan’s recipes are clear and approachable, with notes that explain the whys behind certain steps, as well as guidance on how to get great results without tons of kitchen gear. He notes which recipes can be mixed by hand rather than with a mixer, and gives tips on how to measure the most consistent cup of flour without a scale: Use a large spoon to stir the flour in its container, then fill the measuring cup and sweep the top with a straight edge. Don’t tap the cup down because it compacts the flour, he explains.

Quote: “If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that brownies (or cake or pie) make everything better, and time spent baking can be a joyful distraction from the world around us.The kitchen is both a refuge and a laboratory for creative self-expression, and in good times and bad, there is nothing more satisfying than getting out the measuring spoons and mixing bowls, unwrapping some butter or chocolate, and baking your heart out.”

Details: “Bake Your Heart Out: Foolproof Recipes to Level Up Your Home Baking” by Dan Langan (Union Square & Co., $29.99) is available at local indie bookshops and online.

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Author: Kate Bradshaw