Newest Review: ... and patissiere baked meals holiday and celebrations Basic recipes and techniques Yes, there are plenty of sweet things there, but t... more
Rachel Allen goes baking
Bake - Rachel Allen
Member Name: cerys82
Bake - Rachel Allen
Advantages: Great recipes, well presented
Disadvantages: Nothing major
'Bake' is as you might expect Rachel Allen's book specialising in baked meals. There is an accompanying series which is sporadically shown on the GoodFood digital channel.
The book is in hardback with a matt finish cover. The paper inside is of good quality but also matt meaning that you do have to be careful to protect it from splashes. The spine is very flexible but as you get further through the book it needs a bit more encouragement for the pages not to close in on themselves. A fabric bookmark is also woven in to help you keep your place.
After an short introduction by Allen we get into the recipes good and proper. Typically each recipe has a short introduction and occasionally also extra variations and tips on the standard recipe. Most recipes also have a beautifully shot photograph which illustrates the finished dish on the facing page.
In comparison this book almost works exactly backwards to conventional cookbooks starting with a number of sweet chapters and moving into savoury towards the end.
The first chapter is for sweet mouthfuls. Example recipes are as follows: oatmeal and raisin cookies, ginger and honey snaps (light and perfect for dipping in tea), bakewell bars, scones, Eccles cakes, lemon cupcakes, fairy cakes, Viennese biscuits.
Next up is cakes : butter-free sponge cake, iced orange cake, upside down cranberry cake (a great alternative to other Christmas desserts, really fruity and moist.), Dutch apple cake (also with a raspberry and pear variation - my favourite of all of the ones I have tried in this book), cherry crumble cake, red velvet cake, swiss roll, carrot cake (the best recipe for this cake that I have ever tried), banana bread (on a par with the one in Nigella's How To Be A Domestic Goddess), zucchini bread and sweet potato and pecan bread.
The next chapter is on puddings featuring the following amongst others: baked cheesecake with blueberries, date bread and butter pudding with boozy toffee sauce (there are no words!), baked brown sugar custards, baked Alaska, chocolate lava cakes, creamy vanilla rice pudding, raspberry jam steamed pudding.
Following this we have breads and savoury bites eg: cardamom bread, easy foccacia (with a gorgeous red onion, olive and rosemary, bacon and cheddar bread (stunning both on its own and with soup), naan bread, various soda breads, Cornish saffron bread, crispbread, spicy bacon and gruyere scones, pretzels
Then we come to tarts and pies which include: a wonderful spinach, potato and goats cheese tart, cheese and leek pie, calzone puttanesca (with a stunning Italian sausage variation), pork chorizo and spinach pie (firmly on my evergrowing 'to cook' list), tarte tatin, date, orange and cardamom tart, Seville orange meringue pie, lemon and passion fruit tart,
Next we have the Breakfast and patisserie - Breakfast English muffins, 30 day muffin recipe (the batter keeps for 30 days in the fridge and a lot of ideas for variations on flavours, bagels, brioche, waffles, croissants, crumpets, baklava, éclairs.
Next up is baked meals, including: easy empanadillas with blue cheese and bacon, baked cheese fondue in a squash -(has to be seen to be believed - would be impressive at a dinner party), baked red lentil dahl, baked potato,onion and rosemary gratin (now firmly in my regular recipe rotation), baked butternut squash risotto with sage and toasted pumpkin seeds, simple sausage and bean bake, pork spinach and mushroom lasagne, pizzas (and many different variations)
Then we come to holiday and celebration: eg Easter chocolate tart, hot cross buns, simnel cake, pink meringues with raspberry cream or blue meringues with blueberry cream (!), doughnuts, croquet en bouche (ie a French wedding cake made up of 40 profiteroles), Christmas pudding and cake, mince pies, Gingerbread house and people (with detailed measurements on how to construct it.)
Next Allen details 'basic recipes and techniques'. First up Allen spends some time discussing basic baking equipment eg bakeware, everyday essentials, and extras such s piping bags and food mixers. Next up is a section on pastry, specifically how to make shortcrust, choux, hot water, puff , flaky pastry and detailed photographs on the method. Then a short section on how to make bread, cakes and meringue. She then moves on to discussing decorating and filling cakes where she lists a number of icings and fillings such as cream cheese, butter, glace, American frosting, crème Chantilly, crystallised flowers, easy chocolate curls. Next up she describes sauces - béchamel, toffee sauce, raspberry sauce, apple sauce. Finally, she gives some simple jams and preserves such as strawberry jam and a sweet onion jam (which I heartily recommend).
Finally there is a two page glossary helpfully describing a number of useful techniques.
I really like this book. It is really beautifully presented with lots of really attractive pastel shades and clear photography throughout. However, this does not detract from the fact that it is all really clear and easy to read. The recipes are very well explained and easy to follow, and whilst Allen may not have a distinctive food writer's voice yet, she is gentle and encouraging.
As you can see from my descriptions above, there is a wide variety of recipes available from the British traditional to European classics which whilst not overly complex to make are unusual enough to seem adventurous and for you to have lots of fun making and impressing people with! Quite aside from the obviously fantastic sweet baked goods that are Allen's speciality, she has also put together some solid and really great savoury recipes that are hearty and highly reusable.
Although not an everyday cookbook, there really is enough here to experiment with over time. It is really lovely to flick through and I think would be a good gift if not to yourself, somebody who really enjoys implementing their baking skills
Summary: a great addition to any cookbook collection
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