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A tasty batch — 10 of the year’s best cookbooks

BY TOM WITOM | FOR THE SUN-TIMES

The new cookbook titles that rolled out in 2014 aimed at feeding the hunger of food lovers of all stripes: armchair chefs, experienced cooks and newcomers to the kitchen.

Topics run the gamut from culinary essentials like baking, food preservation and scratch-made pasta, to ethnic specialties, chocolate, comfort food and gluten-free menus.

While building a cookbook library is a matter of personal taste, here are some noteworthy titles that merit a second look and gift consideration for the foodie in your life.

The Baking Bible (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

How to deal with a pie crust that shrinks during baking or a cake that cracks are a few of the problem-solving techniques addressed by Rose Levy Beranbaum in her most recent cookbook. The meticulously researched 560-page volume covers every baking category. Beranbaum has an easy-to-follow style, making her recipes within the reach of amateur bakers.

Done: A Cook’s Guide to Knowing When Food is Perfectly Cooked (Chronicle)

Determining “doneness” ranks as the Achilles’ heel of many otherwise confident cooks, notes food writer/cooking instructor James Peterson. Using sound, smell, appearance and feel, the author details how to ensure 85 of the most challenging-to-cook foods are done to perfection.

Downtown Italian (Andrews McMeel)

Many restaurateur-written cookbooks are more geared towards the coffee table than the home cook’s reference shelf. This one, however, is the exception. The food, drink and pastry recipes are drawn from principals involved with popular Manhattan eateries dell’anima, L’Artusi, L’Apicio and Anfora.

Bar Tartine Techniques & Recipes (Chronicle)

Nick Bella and Courtney Burns, co-chefs at this hotspot San Francisco restaurant, are dedicated locavores whose cooking backgrounds draw from cuisines of Central Europe, Japan and Scandinavia. The first half of their book deals with time-honored processes for stocking the larder: fermentation, curing and pickling. The second showcases recipes using those staples (i.e., Black Garlic and Lentil Soup).

Chocolate (Sterling Epicure)

Pastry chef, food stylist and cookbook author Elisabeth Johansson shares 90 recipes with chocoholics in mind — from spicy Aztec Pralines and Chocolate Souffle with Whiskey Ice Cream to Vegan Chocolate Mousse and Rye Bread with Cacao. Johansson, who lives in her native Sweden, also describes the steps involved in tempering and working with chocolate.

Flour + Water (Ten Speed Press)

During a sojourn in Bologna, Thomas McNaughton learned the time-tested secrets of making delectable, eye-popping artisan pasta from scratch. He took that knowledge back to San Francisco where he has served as chef-partner of the popular restaurant Flour + Water since its opening in 2009. His first cookbook impresses with its clear-cut approach to pasta: from making of the dough to its final shaping and cooking. The Tagliatelle Bolognese recipe is a keeper.

Cafe Kitchen (Ryland Peters & Small)

Dedicated chef and food blogger Shelagh Ryan draws inspiration from her native Australia for what goes on the table at the thriving Kitchen Café she established in London in 2008. Ryan’s debut cookbook has chapters that go from breakfast and brunch to small bites, larger plates and cakes.

French Comfort Food (Gibbs Smith)

The comfort food recipes Hillary Davis gathered while living in France encompass the country’s longstanding love affair with all things culinary. Among them are Alsatian two-crusted meat pie, a Nicoise onion, black olive and anchovy quiche; and Poulet Grand-Mere — appealing dishes that a novice or veteran cook could recreate again and again.

Mexican Flavors (Andrews McMeel)

Recipes inspired by Hugh Carpenter’s cooking school in San Miguel de Allende near Mexico City give American dishes a contemporary Mexican twist. Readers will find recipes for Banana Salsa, Coconut-Ancho Soup with Mushrooms and Mexican Chili with Lamb and Black Beans.

Caribbean Potluck (Kyle Books)

Cooks with adventurous palates will find much to like in this revelatory volume that underscores the diversity of the Caribbean islands. Sisters Suzanne and Michelle Rousseau include more than 100 recipes: classic and regional standards, family favorites and original creations.

Tom Witom is a local freelance writer.