"The All-American Dessert Book" by Nancy Baggett (Houghton Mifflin, $35):
Did you know that the Snickers bar was named for a horse? Did you know that Martha Washington made cheesecake, but it didn't contain any cheese? Baking expert Nancy Baggett loves these nuggets of dessert history almost as much as she loves hunting down the perfect dessert recipe.
The author of 2001's "The All-American Cookie Book" canvassed bakeries and bakers across the country and dug into historical documents to come up with 150 updated recipes. The beautifully photographed book includes forgotten favorites that deserve a new look, such as butterscotch custard pie, and traditional treats with a new twist, such as gingered pear and apple cobbler. Baggett, who has written for the Food section, has a reputation for dependable recipes, but don't expect any shortcuts.
-- Candy Sagon
"Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America," by Jose Andres with Richard Wolffe (Clarkson Potter, $35):
Jose Andres' infectious enthusiasm for combining fresh, local ingredients with his beloved Spanish olive oils, peppers, cheeses, serrano ham and pimenton (sweet, smoky paprika) comes through in 16 short chapters.
The chef, with co-author Wolffe, explains much about the origins and appeal of the small dishes he's perfected in 12 years of cooking in the United States. Most of the recipes are simple, calling for no more than a handful of ingredients, and most of them can be doubled to entree-size.
Patrons of Andres' restaurants will be grateful for the chance to re-create his cold mussel escabeche with vinegar and pimenton; its accompanying tip about scalding mussels to avoid overcooking them is akin to a "with-purchase" gift.
Not to be missed are his take on a potato chip omelet -- a boon for cooks at any level -- and just about any of the 10 recipes listed in Garlic and Onions.
-- Bonnie S. Benwick
"The New American Cooking," by Joan Nathan (Knopf, $35):
Like the European immigrants who came to this country in the early 1900s, Asian, Latino and African immigrants over the past 40 years have helped transform the nation's palate. Under their influence, American cooking today is more varied and vibrant than it ever has been, author Joan Nathan says in her newest cookbook.
Nathan, best known for "Jewish Cooking in America," crisscrossed the country for five years, collecting stories and recipes for this eclectic and engaging volume. The stories are fun to read and there are recipes to please everyone. Among them: fiery African rice with peanuts (from Washington chef Morou Ouattara of Signatures), California's famous "Maternity Salad" (reputed to induce labor in women past their due date) and a Pacific Rim turkey from Hawaii (Thanksgiving, anyone?).
-- Candy Sagon
"Chocolate Chocolate" by Lisa Yockelson (Wiley, $45):
Some people might find sunsets inspiring; for Lisa Yockelson, all it takes is a bag of chocolate chips. The veteran cookbook author and frequent Food section contributor has a long career creating chocolatey desserts aimed at the home cook.
Fancy, time-consuming desserts are not her thing. But ask her to come up with a superlative brownie recipe or a killer bar cookie or the quintessential sheet cake, and you won't be disappointed.
Her new book, with its mouthwatering photographs, has recipes that use every kind of chocolate, including Midnight Milky Way bars and imported cocoa. Love brownies? There's every permutation -- layered, blond, dark, chunky, fudgy, frosted. And don't overlook Yockelson's knockout rendition of the humble Coca-Cola cake: Moist and tender with a terrific icing, it will draw raves.
-- Candy Sagon