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~~ Chocolate and Baking ~~
I own a huge selection of cookery books; many of which have been stored on the bookshelf and never been used, particularly as I find the basic sketch illustrations a little dull and uninspiring. Whenever I visit Cardiff I cannot resist popping into The Works where they stock a vast choice of cookery books at very reasonable prices. During the course of last year I purchased a number of books written and edited by Gina Steer with each of them providing recipes for a range of different foods and this review discusses Chocolate and Baking.
It was the word "chocolate" that caught my eager eye as I absolutely adore the delicious taste of the luxurious and extremely comforting food. The book measures 17 cm in width, 16 cm in length and 2½ cm in depth, which is an easy to handle size, particularly as I cannot bear large and heavy books. I have a few must haves when choosing new cookery books where they need to display full cover images of the dishes together with quick and easy recipes. The 352 page book offers a fairly sturdy glossy cover and the pages are of a good quality and are easily wiped clean with a damp cloth. This is a necessity for me as I've been informed that I am an extremely messy cook, as I manage to get covered in flour and margarine as does my cookbooks, worktops, floor and wall tiles! I would describe myself as a very organised and methodical person, but when it comes to the kitchen I change into a totally different person!
Whilst I would never expect to meet the culinary skills of top chefs such as Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsey I enjoy the challenge of experimenting with new recipes and testing them out on my husband and work colleagues. However, as my husband is an insulin dependent diabetic his tasting of my cooking is somewhat limited, so I am on a mission to learn more about diabetic treats that can effortlessly be prepared at home. Whilst I have frequently read articles about nutritional values of particular foods and the benefits of different vitamins I find the first section of the book extremely valuable as there is a breakdown of each vitamin with details of the foods where they can be found.
Each recipe is printed on the left hand page in an easy to read font and what I find very useful is that the ingredients are listed in the upper section together with the amount of people the menu will feed. Consequently, I am not wading through masses of text before I can make a list of any items that I may need to purchase during my next visit at the supermarket. The recipes provide oven temperatures in various formats together with measurements in both imperial and metric. They generally consist of up to six fairly short paragraphs, so for novices like me they are extremely easy to follow. The opposite page to each recipe displays a delicious looking coloured image of the completed dish, which is the selling point for me with any recipe book as if there are no photos I am not inspired to try out the recipe. I would have liked each recipe to provide details of calories and fat content, particularly as my husband and I try to maintain a healthy diet, but it goes without saying that all of the cakes and biscuits in this book are fairly fattening.
A real plus for me with the design of the book is that the pages are attached with several lengths of strong white twine, which are discreetly hidden at the edges of the pages. The design enables the pages to remain fully open when I'm following a recipe as a problem I experience with some books is that the pages will flip over of their own accord, so I've needed to use floury and greasy fingers to return to my original page. I'm aware that I can purchase a book stand for the kitchen, but I'm the type of person who does not like many objects on the surfaces as I prefer things to be hidden away. Due to the way the book has been created and despite its repeated use it is looking as good now as the day I first made my purchase.
As you can probably guess from the title of the book there is a huge range of chocolate recipes from which to choose; all of which display the must alluring colourful images. My husband and I have a few firm favourites such as the Chocolate Sponge Pudding with Fudge Sauce, which I would not have had the confidence to have previously attempted, but the straightforward instructions have enabled me to produce a masterpiece (even if I saw so myself!) with very little effort. I have a real passion for mousses and until purchasing this book I had never attempted to make my own, but I have now learned to perfect an extremely scrumptious Brandied Raisin Chocolate Mousse.
If you are not a fan of chocolate (if ever there is such a person!) the first section of the book offers a large variety of chocolate-free recipes, such as the Lemon Drizzle Cake, which is an absolute delight with its fresh, zingy and fluffy taste. What I favour with this book is that on the lower section of each recipe we are offered substitute recipes where we are provided with two choices, namely an alternative and one for children. For example, the alternative for the Lemon Drizzle Cake is Lemon Bars and the suggestion for children is Lemon-Iced Ginger Squares.
All of the recipes use basic ingredients, which are generally found in the kitchen cupboard of most households, so there's no hunting high and low in the supermarket trying to locate that little bottle of something that you've never heard of before. Another favourable point for me is that the recipes use affordable ingredients, which is very important due to the current economic climate and consequently, this book is perfect for entertaining or simply for treating the family. I have to admit that as of yet I've not tried out all of the recipes as otherwise my husband and I would be the size of beach whales, but over a period of time I will try out the majority with the next on the list being the Supreme Chocolate Gateau. Although I have had a few mishaps along the way, I feel a real sense of satisfaction that I've been able to produce some delicious tasting and professional looking food, particularly as I've previously had very little confidence in relation to cooking as I tended to stick with what I knew. Chocolate and Baking comes with my full recommendation as if I can do it anyone can.
I purchased my copy a couple of years ago from The Works for just £2.99 and I am aware that they are still in stock at most stores. I have checked on Amazon and at the time of writing you can purchase a brand new copy of this book for £7.09 inclusive of P+P, so I'd head to The Works if you can.
General Editor: Gina Steer
Published in 2006 by Flame Tree Publishing
My cousins parents own a restraunt and my grandad used to bake wedding cakes. Its only natural that i became enthralled by the art of baking. I bought this handy little cook book for £9.99 off Amazon but right now its reduced to £6.99! As a chocolate addict, seeing this book was a dream come true! Now you will notice that this book is not A4, its smaller but i would say that it contains near enough 200 beautiful recipes. I haven't had a chance to try many of the recipes in this book but the ones i did turned out apsolutely fantastic. I dont know about you guys but i find baking very fun and a great way to spend my spare time.
Since i never had a food mixer/processor or a blender at the time i opted for one of the more basic recipes.
I tried to make the whipped shortbread. They didn't turn out great as well they were as flat as a pancake but they were to die for. Mmmmm... the smell of homemade shortbread!
There are 2 different catagories of recipes. The first catagory is called baking, none of these include chocolate and tend to be lighter deserts. The second catagory is of course the chocolate one. There are so many recipes in this catagory and every single one of them are equally as delicious. Some of the recipes within the book are easy, some are average and some are hard which is great for beginners as they can work their way up the recipes until their mastering the advanced recipes such as the Dark Chocolate Layered Torte which has 6 different layers!
My suggestion is that if you plan on buying this book then you really do need a food processor/mixer atleast and possibly a blender and a whisk of course. Nearly all of the recipes in the book require one of these 4 items and its a pain being restricted to the easier and more basic recipes as those are the ones which tend to not need any of these.
The recipes in this cook book are very easy to follow and overall is great value for money especially now as the book is reduced on Amazon.
This review is also on Ciao under the username Connor131
This little recipe book was gifted to me last christmas, and up until now, I haven't really had a chance to look at it.
First impressions; the cover shows a picture of some wonderful chocolate cookies which look scrumptious! The book itself is smaller than most recipe books (it's a square, smaller than A5 sized little thing) but it's still thick and full of recipes. As the title suggests, it's focussed on the sweet side of cookery, with all the recipes being orientated around either chocolate or sweet things. The recipes range from the extravagant 'Rich Chocolate Cupcakes' to the homely 'Oatmeal and Raisin Cookies', with over 300 hundred recipes included, so there really is something for everyone in here. The recipes seem to get progressively harder as the book goes on, ending with a chocolate chip ice-cream recipe.
I've only had the opportunity to make a few things from this book, but by far my favourite recipe is the chocolate cookies recipe. There are so many different ways of making chocolate chip cookies that sometimes you don't know where to begin, but the simple layout of this means that you can get stuck right in straight away. The recipe doesn't call for anything too complicated, it's simple techniques that everyone knows how to do and can grasp quickly. It also provides instructions for those who have a food processor or hand whisk and those who don't - so you don't need to buy any special equipment to make the things in here. Like I said, I made the chocolate chip cookies and they were a massive success. I cooked them for slightly less time than was recommended and they came out beautifully soft and crisp round the edges. However, they have hardened very quickly - which is not great when you've got 25 of them!
The book also includes a section on hygiene in the kitchen and nutrition. These are both short, almost obligatory sections, but very interesting to sit and read if you have time. They are very basic and really stuff that people should know already - like you need to cook eggs thoroughly to ensure there's no salmonella lurking - but it's nice to have a reminder, and also turns the recipe book into something for the younger cook. I would say this book is definitely aimed at the first time baker, because of the layout, ease of access and simple recipes. The index at the back allows you to look up quickly what you want to cook and where you can find it in the book.
I would recommend this recipe book if you're looking for a simple but efficient guide to making all sorts of cakes, cookies and chocolatey goodies. Even if you're into your flashy TV chefs with techniques coming out of their ears, this is a good staple to have on your shelf! It would be particularly useful for those just starting out in baking as it is well layed out and easy to follow.
This is a small and handy book for novice bakers addicted to sweet treats. The recipes are easy and simple to follow and mostly do not require any equipment that you wouldn't already have in the house.
The book is well presented with a picture of the final product on the right page and the list of ingredients and simple recipe on the left. The pictures are realistic and I've found that if you practice enough, your end result should look pretty much as advertised.
There is a large section of recipes for tarts and pies as well as some warm puddings and desserts that are useful for the upcoming cold wintery nights. One thing this book does lack is recipes for cupcakes, I believe there is only one cupcake recipe, which is a shame as this are usually something I love to bake.
The book also has a small but useful nutritional guide at the start so that you keep in mind that you should probably eat healthily and not get too carried away in just making the desserts from this book.