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Baking Made Easy...ish
Baking Made Easy - Lorraine Pascale
Member Name: Holland1
Baking Made Easy - Lorraine Pascale
Advantages: Good range of skills covered, savoury and sweet recipes, engaging instructions, great results
Disadvantages: Would prefer photos to be more practical, some recipes a bit fancy
==Who is Lorraine Pascale?==
I was a bit late catching Lorraine's series on TV, so she had been around for a bit longer than I realised. Lorraine is a former model, who retrained to become a chef, specialising in patisserie. She has had three TV series, three books published, and has opened The Cupcake Bakehouse in Covent Garden. All this has happened in the space of a couple of years, so if nothing else she is excellent inspiration and a role model for achieving your dreams with a bit of hard work and perseverance (although being incredibly attractive probably helps!). Having watched all three series, I find Lorraine to be a very down-to-earth celebrity chef, who focuses on making cooking and baking easy and accessible to all, minimising the time and effort involved but maximising flavours at the same time. To find out more about Lorraine, visit her website www.lorrainepascale.com.
The title of the book suggests that we can expect to see recipes which make baking accessible to all. Indeed, Lorraine is a big fan of letting gadgets do the work in the kitchen, and a lot of recipes rely on the use of electric mixers and beaters rather than spending hours painstakingly adopting the more traditional methods such as creaming butter and sugar. In a way this is appealing to anyone trying to save time, but I must admit I quite like getting my hands dirty in the kitchen, and although I am happy to let gadgets do the work for me sometimes, I do like traditional cooking methods as I think you can apply the techniques more frequently once you have mastered them from scratch. That said, everyone is short on time these days, and this book delivers what it promises.....easy baking. This is quite refreshing when so many cookery books promise great things but fail to actually deliver (30 minute meals? Yes, I'm looking at you Jamie Oliver).
==Design and Layout==
The recipes in this book are organised into the following chapters:
· Lorraine's Baking Tips
· Savoury Baking
· Desserts & Patisserie
· Dinner Party
· Sweet Treats
The introduction is written by Lorraine, and tells us a bit more about her background and inspiration for wanting to work with food. As someone who loves cooking and is passionate about baking, I found this a lovely read and it inspired me to pursue my dream which is starting a cake decorating business. The baking tips section is worth a read, because although a lot of it may be obvious to the experienced baker, you might just pick up a tip or two to help you improve. For example, Lorraine gives away the secret to the perfect crust on a loaf here, which is to throw some ice cubes into a tray at the bottom of the oven when you put the bread on the shelf. This creates a steamy environment and gives the perfect crust. I know this is true because I tried it after seeing it on her TV series, and my bread making skills haven't looked back since.
The chapters are logically thought out, and make it relatively easy to find what you're looking for. If you're flicking through the book looking for general ideas, you can see which section you're in by glancing at the bottom of the page where it is identified...however you'll probably have a big clue by the recipe you're looking at. There is also an index at the back if you're looking for a particular recipe but you're not sure which chapter it falls under.
Lorraine covers a fair bit of ground with this book. Rather than being based mainly around cakes, which is what you might expect had you not seen the TV series, she gives a broad range of recipes which will enhance your skills in a few different areas such as bread making, cakes, and savoury tarts and pies. Whether you're looking for a stodgy cake to munch over the weekend, or a special dessert to impress your in-laws when they come to dinner, this book has what you need. Although I'm not sure there is ever a place for an omlette recipe in any cook book, unless it is aimed at students or imbeciles. This is a mix of down-to-earth recipes (carrot cake, scones, toad in the hole), and slightly poncy named dishes such as "feta, pomegranate and mint vol-au-vents", "gorgonzola and pear soufflé", or "whisky and chilli tiger prawns". Lets be honest, however easy these last three are to make, they're not things most people will rustle up on a weeknight after a busy day in work.
The pages of this book are glossy, and although I am always careful to keep my cook books away from the ingredients I'm using, I am notoriously clumsy so on the odd occasion I have splashed the book, the damage has been minimised.
==Instructions and Ingredients==
I've made a fair few recipes from this book, although admittedly I tend to favour the sweet rather than savoury recipes. I think this is because the savoury ones don't appeal to me as much, and I have many other books I can get ideas for pies, tarts and so on. In my mind I tend to associate baking with sweet things, so I don't really think to look at this book when looking for savoury recipes, and each time I do I find myself thinking "I must try that sometime". I find the instructions easy to follow, and they are written in a laid back style, so it's almost like Lorraine is talking to you as you're making the dish. For example, in the Battenberg recipes, she comments that you only need a drop of food colouring, "otherwise you'll end up with a psychedelic battenburg!". This is true of most of the recipes, and I like the informal style as it engages me more than reading boring step by step instructions. The only thing I would change about the instructions, however, is that they aren't numbered. This isn't a huge problem as they are split into separate steps, however sometimes I find if I turn away from the book to carry out a step of the recipe, when I return to it I lose my place as I would usually make a mental note of which number I was up to.
The ingredients and equipment required for each recipe are clearly set out on the left hand side of the page. Although I would expect this of ingredients, it isn't always the case that books state the equipment needed, so this is a nice addition in this book because it ensures you're not going to get halway through a recipe and have a nasty shock because you need three cake tins and you've only got two. Many cookbooks tend to assume you have an inventory equipment similar to a celebrity chef or restaurant.
For the most part, the ingredients are easily sourced, and quite often I will be able to use my stock of baking ingredients to produce something I don't need to buy a huge list of ingredients for, although some recipes rely on more expensive ingredients such as rum or whisky.
I must admit, I am a big fan of photographs in cookbooks. My brain works in a logical and linear manner so my ideal cookbook would have each recipe laid out in the same way, with a picture of each one. A photo isn't always necessary, for example if you're baking a Victoria sponge you'd have to have lived under a rock to not know what the finished result should look like. However, if I was to follow the recipes for Kugelhopf, tangerine Financier cakes, or vanilla tuiles in Lorraine's book, I have to be honest and say I have absolutely no idea what these things are, nor what they should look like. This is a bit of a hindrance to me, because not only does it mean I'm baking "blind", I also don't know on flicking through the book whether it's something I actually want to eat or not, and so far I've not been bothered to google the dishes to see what they are. This seems quite odd to me when you consider she (or her publishers) have chosen to include photographs of carrot cake (I know what that looks like, thanks), and pork pies (oh, that's what a pork pie looks like. I've got to the grand old age of 32 without seeing one). It seems the publishers have decided to play on Lorraine's former career of modelling by including some lovely photos of her sifting flour and giggling to herself as she places a slice of quiche onto a plate. Attractive as she is, I am much more interested in what the hell a Doris Grant loaf should look like.
==In a Nutshell==
Don't get me wrong, I do like this book and it is one I use relatively frequently. This is quite a compliment to Lorraine when you consider I must have in excess of 100 cookery books, and am a bit of a cookbook addict. However, I think this book would have benefited from focussing on sweet rather than savoury dishes, and including more practical rather than flowery (floury?! Sorry, bad pun) photographs. It seems odd that they have marketed the book this way, yet I suppose they want to make the most of Lorraine's looks and the fact she is very photogenic.
The results I have had from this book have been very pleasing, and I must admit it's nice to see a recipe for cake which involves sticking the ingredients in a mixer and allowing the mixer to do its work instead of spending ages creaming and folding. The recipes will appeal to all skill levels, as there are some which are suitable for beginners, and some which require a little bit of prior baking experience. Some of the recipes are a bit fancy for me, and some of them are a little heavy on ingredients, however Lorraine promised to make baking easy, not necessarily cheap. I do like this book and overall I feel four stars is fair.
The "I just don't give a damn" chocolate cake (yes, that's its real name) - this is so easy to make but always turns out perfectly and is ideal if you struggle to achieve a moist sponge
Chorizo and thyme fougasse - easy to make and great for tearing and sharing
Sticky glazed Asian Ham - I tried this at Christmas as a change from the usual honey and mustard topping, and it went down a storm
==Price and Availability==
I bought this from The Works for £6.99, but it is available on Amazon for £4.85 which is a bargain. The RRP is £18.99 which, as with most of these celebrity cook books, is a little ridiculous. It's worthy of adding to any respectable cookery book collection.
(Review also appears on Ciao under the username Gingerkitty)
Summary: A good addition to any cookery book collection
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