By Valerie Gordon
Artisan Books, $35
Valerie Gordon, owner of the insanely popular L.A. bake shop Valerie Confections, serves up superb recipes for sweets that are as delicious as they are beautiful. A self-taught baker, Gordon has a sense of adventure and eye for detail that permeate the lavishly photographed book. But it's the care with which she writes her recipes that makes this book a real standout. Whether you're making a quick batch of her Durango Cookies (named for the smoked sea salt that's paired with almond and milk chocolate in these addictive treats) or tackling something more ambitious, she wants you to be thrilled with the results. The book itself is so pretty, you won't want to muss up its pages by baking from it, but it's such a joy to use that you definitely will.
Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (page 253) These big, buttery, lacy oatmeal cookies are crisp-edged yet chewy. Everyone who tasted mine asked for two things: more and the recipe.
Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream (page 79) Whoa! Rich, moist, and deeply flavorful, this very grown-up dessert is actually quite easy to make.
Photos by Peden + Munk