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Four books to help amp up your holiday baking

Traditional Whipped Shortbread from Karlynn Johnston’s book Flapper Pie and Blue Prairie Sky: A Modern Baker's Guide to Old-Fashioned Desserts.

Butter and sugar are back – this season brings new books by Canadian pastry chefs and home cooks that will inspire your annual cookie blitz and up your holiday baking game. Here are a few worthy of a spot on your shelf.

Bake with Anna Olson: More than 125 Simple, Scrumptious and Sensational Recipes to Make You a Better Baker

Perhaps Canada's best-known baker, Olson has always been about the process. She explains the how and why of each step in easily understood terms to get you where you want to go, whether it's stirring up a simple zucchini loaf or attempting puff pastry from scratch. Her latest book starts by walking you through kitchen tools and outlining "foundation recipes," basics from which other recipes grow. The rest runs the gamut from drop cookies to restaurant-style caramelized sugar springs, demonstrating that while completely approachable, she's still a pastry pro.

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Appetite by Random House, $35

Bobbette & Belle: Classic Recipes from the Celebrated Pastry Shop

By Allyson Bobbitt and Sarah Bell

Anyone who eats with their eyes will dig this collection of recipes from Bobbitt and Bell's French-inspired Toronto pastry shops. Their stylish book is geared toward bakers honing their craft, with Pinterest-worthy cakes, pull-apart breads, skillet cobblers, madeleines and a rainbow of macarons. For those seeking tall-cake nirvana, they provide step-by-steps of the assembly, frosting and decorating, with finishes reflective of their own signature creations. Modern yet familiar, even domestic desserts are polished and put on a pedestal – literally and figuratively – a who-wore-it-best for the butter-and-sugar set.

Viking, $35

Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky: A Modern Baker's Guide to Old-Fashioned Desserts

By Karlynn Johnston

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In her first cookbook, Edmonton food blogger Karlynn Johnston serves up her most prized Prairie desserts, interspersed with stories of her family and tales from her blog, all set against an extensive vintage Pyrex backdrop. There are all manner of dainties, plus whipped shortbread, chocolate vinegar cake, no-bake bars and a buttercream formula she says skyrocketed her to Google fame. The techniques aren't intimidating, and recipes for Saskatoon butter tarts and flapper pie – vanilla custard in a graham crumb crust topped with meringue that was once a staple of Western Canadian diners and potluck dinners – deliver a dose of nostalgia to those who remember squinting at handwritten recipe cards and gathering around oilcloth-covered tables.

Appetite by Random House, $32.95

The Baker in Me

By Daphna Rabinovitch

Although she has worked as a pastry chef in hotel restaurants, the baker in Daphna Rabinovitch is most at home baking for family and friends. Reflective of her years in the Canadian Living test kitchen, the 400-plus page book takes beginning bakers by the hand, guiding them through ingredient basics and techniques before venturing into cookies and bars, layer cakes and cupcakes, quick and yeast breads, pies and pastries. Loaded with staples, the book also ventures beyond the expected with upgraded classics such as roasted pineapple cake and apple tarte tatin with quick puff pastry.

Whitecap, $45

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