“Good Housekeeping’s The Baker’s Book of Essential Recipes: Good Food Guaranteed.” By the Editors of Good Housekeeping. Sterling Publishing. $35

The first thing you notice about “Good Housekeeping’s The Baker’s Book of Essential Recipes: Good Food Guaranteed” is that it’s massive – all 372 pages of it. I’m guessing it weighs a good 5 pounds. (And who knows what you’ll weigh after you start baking the 385 selections.) Those range from cornbread to puddings, shortcakes to shortbreads, brownies to cupcakes, and of course, pies and tarts.

The book also includes helpful, thorough sections that cover baking equipment, ingredients and equivalents. Many recipes have additional notes that explain the background and history of the item to be baked or offer tips or suggestions to make it a healthier option.

With so many choices, I had a tough time deciding what to bake first. Eventually, I opted for the chocolate pretzel cookies. They tasted great – on the crispy side, which I gathered was supposed to be part of the pretzel aesthetic.

Unfortunately, mine barely resembled the photo of perfectly shaped cookies. I tried a second batch, shaping them as regular “disk” cookies, and that worked better for me. My husband and I gave a few away and had no trouble at all eating the rest ourselves – from both batches. (At his request, I made a third batch for his office, which were apparently a hit there, too. This is more cookies than I have made in 40 years!)

Next, I tested the Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake, which came out beautifully, a little lighter than a traditional pound cake and lemony but not overpoweringly so. It looked beautiful, too. I plan to make the cake again for my family Christmas party.

All the recipes are triple-tested – as you’d expect from Good Housekeeping – which I found reassuring before investing in the ingredients. The photos are also really nice and accompany most recipes.

Some techniques – how to make a lattice pie crust, how to make a checkerboard cake, how to press in a crumb crust, for instance – have step-by-step photos, too.

“The Baker’s Book of Essential Recipes” costs $35, which if you ask me, is a bargain for such a complete and classic cookbook. Even the index is impressive. All in all, this is a first-rate cookbook that would suit both the novice or experienced cook. You still have (barely) two days until Christmas, if you need a gift for the baker on your list.

– JUDY HILL

LEMON POPPY SEED POUND CAKE

Makes 16 servings

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large lemons

3/4 cup margarine or butter, softened

11/2 cups plus 1/3 cup sugar

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9- by 5-inch metal loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda and salt. From lemons, grate 1 tablespoon zest and squeeze 3 tablespoons juice.

In a large bowl, with a mixer on low speed, beat the butter with 1½ cups sugar until blended. Increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture is light, about 5 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in the lemon zest and vanilla. At a low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and the sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake 1 hour 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan.

Mix the lemon juice and the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and brush over top and sides of warm cake. Cool completely.

Each serving: About 265 calories, 4g protein, 36g carbohydrate, 12g total flat (3g saturated), 0g fiber, 56mg cholesterol, 200mg sodium