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For foodies on your list, palatable ideas

Staff Writer
Austin 360

We've been telling you about the best cookbooks and food books of 2011 throughout the year in these food pages instead of holding out until the end of the year, but with so many good books, we've saved a few of our favorites for a holiday gift-giving guide.

— Addie Broyles, Emma Janzen

For the overachiever

Before Julia Child broke down French cooking techniques for American audiences, there was Ginette Mathoit, whose Je Sais Cuisiner sold more than 6 million copies since it was first published in 1932. Last year, Parisian food blogger extraordinaire Clotilde Dusoulier translated Mathoit's classic book into "I Know How to Cook," and this year, Dusoulier is breathing new life into another Mathoit best-seller with "The Art of French Baking" (Phaidon, $45), the first English translation of Mathoit's "Je Sais Faire la Patisserie." Simple, elegant photos accompany almost every recipe, which will take you from puff pastries through puddings, custards, tarts, cookies and brioche.

For the past five years, no one in New York has been able to stop talking about David Chang and his Momofuku restaurants. The outspoken restaurateur has published his own cookbook and now has a new food magazine called Lucky Peach ($12, mcsweeneys.net/luckypeach), which would make a great stocking stuffer. For something a little more substantial under the tree, check out "Momofuku Milk Bar" (Clarkson Potter, $35) a book from Chang's pastry chef, Christina Tosi, whose cereal milk creations — ice cream, panna cotta, pie and more made with milk sweetened to taste like the milk left in your bowl after eating cereal — have thrust her into the media spotlight. In this book, her first, she gives you all the recipes for her now-trademarked goodies, including Crack Pie.

I've never seen more meticulously decorated cookies than the ones that appear in Julia M. Usher's new book, "Ultimate Cookies" (Gibbs Smith, $24.99). She uses hand-made stencils, paintbrushes and X-acto knives to make eye-popping peacocks, miniature wedding cakes, jewel boxes and holiday-themed projects, including cookies decorated to look like snow globes and a wreath made entirely from cookies, ganache, macarons and icing.

British TV cooking show star and comedian Stefan Gates takes entertaining and turns it up a notch. In his new book, "The Extraordinary Cookbook: How to Make Meals Your Friends Will Never Forget" (Kyle Books, $29.95), Gates shows how to make vodka-infused Bloody Mary tomatoes, bread baked in flower pots, gold-crusted roasted chicken and Thai pumpkin soup served in a pumpkin. Not all of the recipes are difficult, but they all carry his sense of humor: Consider his legendary bum sandwich of cream cheese, thyme, arugula and lemon squished — literally, because you wrap the sandwich in several layers of plastic wrap and then sit on it to meld the flavors — between two pieces of bread.

For the gender-bender

Men and women are breaking stereotypes all over the food world, including in a number of food books this year.

In 2009, David Arrick decided he'd had enough with the cutesy cupcake trend and started ButchBakery.com, an online cupcake delivery company in New York City that specialized in masculine (or at least gender-neutral) themes and flavors such as the Driller, maple cake topped with crumbled bacon, and the Beer Run, made with stout-infused buttercream and cake. Many of the cupcakes in his first book, "The Butch Bakery Cookbook" (Wiley, $19.99) are based on cocktails, but not all of them contain alcohol.

British pastry chef Eric Lanlard goes far beyond cupcakes in his book, "Cake Boy" (Mitchell Beazley, $19.99), which covers everything from cheesecakes to sponge cakes and a few traditional English favorites in between, like the chocolate and orange Christmas cakes.

Like many classically trained chefs, Georgia Pellegrini wanted to get to know more about where her food comes from, so she set out to learn how to hunt, dress and prepare just about animal that is hunted in America. In her second book, "Girl Hunter" (Da Capo Press, $24), Pellegrini writes about these experiences, including a jaunt across the pond for a bird hunt in the English countryside. Although the book is mostly her narrative of each hunting trip, Pellegrini, who moved to Austin from New York City earlier this year, includes recipes for what to do with the quail/javelina/elk, once you've bagged it.

Nadia Giosia has a much bigger audience for her new book, "Bitchin Kitchen Cookin' For Trouble" (Ballantine Books, $22), than she did when she was simply an ambitious cook in Montreal spinning out a wickedly funny Web series and a 2008 cookbook that had as much charisma as her alter ego, Nadia G. In the past few years, her show got picked up on Food Network Canada and now appears on The Cooking Channel in the U.S., which means a slew of new fans will be flocking to buy the photo-filled cookbook that is as entertaining to flip through as to cook from.

For the homebrewer

Erica Shea and Stephen Valand invite you to brew your way through next year with the "Brookyln Brew Shop's Beer Making Book" (Crown Publishing, $19.99). After learning the trade through trial and error and eventually opening their own homebrew store, the duo compiled this concise treatise on making small batch beers at home. The cookbook-like guide outlines required ingredients, necessary equipment and recommended brewing practices, and showcases 52 of their favorite recipes arranged by season. Though it is a beginner's guide, the recipes stray from standard IPAs and porters, opting instead for more culinary concoctions like Peach Cobbler Ale, Jalapeno Saison, Lady Lavender and Tea & Toast Spring Lager. Continuing with the culinary theme, each section includes suggested food pairings for each brew and beer-based snack recipes like beer-brined pickles and barbecue sauce.

For the cocktail enthusiast

Perfect for those who dabble in the world of mixed drinks, seasoned home cooks and the hipster cocktail drinkers who shoot Angostura like it's vodka, "Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes and Formulas," (Ten Speed Press, $24.99) presents an unprecedented comprehensive guide to all things cocktail bitters. In this visually appealing and logically organized handbook, Brad Thomas Parsons lays out a brief history of bitters, outlines how to make your own at home, and provides cocktail recipes that showcase an amalgamation of different bitters brands. Parsons goes the extra mile by incorporating food recipes that use a dash of bitters as well, a trend that will continue as the bitters explosion infiltrates cocktail taverns and home bars.

For the craft beer nerd

After writing about beer for The New York Times, Imbibe Magazine, Gourmet.com and more, Joshua M. Bernstein penned "Brewed Awakening: Behind the Beers and Brewers Leading the World's Craft Brewing Revolution" (Sterling Epicure, $24.95). The quirky and colloquial chronicle is ideal reading material for the intense craft beer buff on your list who gets inappropriately excited about things like barrel-aging, resurrecting ancient recipes and the various pros and cons of different types of packaging. The notebook-like read is chock-full of insightful explorations of major trends, told through personal anecdotes and case studies from many national breweries (including Austin's Real Ale). Bernstein also offers up more than 150 craft beer reviews among the chapters, and a secret map of craft brews hidden inside the book jacket, proving that he has his fingers on the pulse of the current craft beer boom.

If you like to eat pig

Jennifer McLagan captures the culinary zeitgeist of the current nose-to-tail movement in her new book "Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal" (Ten Speed Press, $35). In Bones (2005) and Fat (2007), both winners of IACP and James Beard awards, McLagan challenges the home cook to explore various organs that were once widely utilized but subsequently fell out of collective popular taste with the convenience of pre-packaged meats. "Odd Bits" continues this conversation by presenting guidelines for sourcing, choosing and cooking exotic and familiar offal at home. Recipes work to normalize otherwise intimidating cuts and range from the mouth-watering Veal Shank with Saffron to the slightly more unfamiliar Headcheese for the Unconvinced and Chocolate Blood Ice Cream.

For the family cook

So many cookbooks this year have been about cooking at home with well-known chefs. John Besh's family takes center stage in "My Family Table: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking" (Andrews McMeel, $35), and in "Cooking My Way Back Home" (Ten Speed Press, $35), San Francisco restaurateur Mitchell Rosenthal shows how he turns West Coasters on to Southern food.

Every Sunday morning, Lynne Rossetto Kasper's voice floats into homes across the country as she talks food on "The Splendid Table," which airs on many NPR stations including KUT, and she and longtime producer Sally Swift came out with the engaging "The Splendid Table's How To Cook Weekends" (Clarkson Potter, $35) this year. Instead of just giving recipes, they pack dozens of tips, reminders and encouragement to help readers enjoy the time they spend cooking with them on the weekends.