Mouth-watering recipes and succulent images share the pages in today’s extravagant food books. Wendy Smith samples six of the tastiest.

Historic Heston
by Heston Blumenthal
In an oversized, one-of-a-kind volume, Heston Blumenthal presents 28 recipes that inspired him to recapture the ancient splendours of British cuisine at his acclaimed restaurants, Dinner and The Fat Duck. He reproduces the originals, dating back as far as 1390; provides fascinating background on period ingredients and techniques; explains how he transformed them into contemporary dishes; and closes with detailed recipes for his versions. They include two jaw-dropping masterpieces of culinary trompe l’oeil, Meat Fruit and Eggs in Verjuice, and all are captured in luscious colour photographs. 
Bloomsbury USA, $200

The Photography of Modernist Cuisine 
by Nathan Myhrvold
A spectacular follow-up to Modernist Cuisine, this unique book prints 399 photos, most not used in the original five-volume reference work, all seen for the first time without text on large-format pages. Shots taken under a microscope reveal the molecular beauty of food in compositions that recall abstract paintings. Astonishing cutaways show carrots boiling in a pot or a frying pan simmering over gas – yes, they really did cut a Viking stove in half. Captions in the back explain how these extraordinary images were created.
The Cooking Lab, $120

Gusto: The Very Best of Italian Food and Cuisine 
foreword by Cesare Casella
Plump figs and earthy truffles, creamy gelato and crusty focaccia, marbled beef and glistening fish – you are not human if you are not hungry after perusing the 4,000-plus full-colour photos in this comprehensive guide. The focus is on ingredients – and Italian cuisine is all about ingredients. Organised by types of food, lovingly detailed entries delve into each item’s history and explain how to recognise quality and freshness. An opening section profiles Italy’s distinctive regions and their gastronomic specialties; recipes throughout are accompanied by step-by-step photos.
Abbeville, $75

The New Pâtissiers
by Olivier Dupon
Pastry chefs are the rock stars of contemporary cuisine, and 38 of the hottest strut their stuff in this cutting-edge survey complete with biographies. Modern classicists reinvent traditional sweets with unconventional textures and combinations, while the experimenters give their desserts names like “Loneliness Transformed from Anxiety into Calm” (praline cashew sponge, bitter cocoa yogurt, cream bubbles and mango petals). From “Art on a Plate” to “Wonderland Confections,” even the most out-there creations look scrumptious in the full-page photos.
Thames & Hudson, $60

Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine 
edited by Judith A. Barter
This thoughtful companion volume to an Art Institute of Chicago exhibition (now at Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum through 18 May) investigates the attitudes towards food and dining displayed in American paintings, cartoons and cookbooks. John Singleton Copley, William Merritt Chase and Stuart Davis are among the featured artists; iconic images include Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s soup can and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. Each of the curatorial essays concludes with a deliciously evocative selection of vintage recipes.
Yale University Press, $50  

Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition 
by David Sterling
The founder of a cooking school devoted to Yucatecan cuisine offers a comprehensive collection of recipes that is also an enticing travel guide and delicious history lesson. On Sterling’s journeys into the Yucatán’s Maya heartland, along its 1,100-mile coastline, within its vibrant cities and tranquil villages, local residents share favourite dishes, from pit-smoked pork to bean and squash-seed tamales. These culinary delights express the rich diversity of a cosmopolitan food culture shaped by Spanish, Arab, French and Cuban influences, as well as its native heritage.
University of Texas, $60

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