Professional Pastry Chef, The (3rd ed.)

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While not the definitive book on baking technique (E.g.: there are only about 10 pages on sourdough breads), there are more than enough wounderfully detailed recipes, techniques, and background information in this book (actually books now that the 4th ed. has been split into two volumes) to keep you busy for years.

If you are really serious about learning to bake, then read the introduction carefully and work on becoming comfortable with making everything in the first two chapters. You will have to hunt through the book looking for the recipes that utilize everything in these chapters, but for me at least that was the fun part.

I have had the book for almost 6 years now and have still not made more than 1/4 of the items in it. And while some of the recipes are not the absolute best version of an item that I have ever had, they almost always rank in the top 3. (Brownies and pound cake come to mind right off as examples of items where the recipes I already knew that I felt were better than the ones in this book.)

I can not recommend any other book(s) more highly for the serious baker or wanna-be pastry chef.