Newest Review: ... types of bakes and there will be something for every taste and every occasion. Each double page has a clearly laidout recpie on one side... more
Good Food, Excellent Book!
Good Food 101 Cakes and Bakes
Member Name: andrewl
Good Food 101 Cakes and Bakes
Advantages: Clear design, precise recipes
Disadvantages: Difficult to keep it open while cooking, you will put in a lot of weight...
Recipe books come in two varieties these days - the first are the huge coffee table hardbacks from your favourite TV and celebrity chefs, which are generally one part recipe to three parts glossy photography and self-important whiffling from the chef.
The second are the small practical books that are just jammed full of recipes fit to burst. I have a lot of books, so it stands to reason that I prefer my cooking information to be a bit more... condensed.
I've received a few of the BBC Good Food 101 books as presents over the years, and my opinions have been, sad to say, mixed. I remember seeing a recipe for Jamaican Jerk Chicken and being terribly excited... until I read it and saw that it was something along the lines of 'get some chicken and fry it with Jamaican Jerk seasoning'.
Cakes and bakes avoids that sort of corner-cutting, for the most part. Published in a small paperback format with just over two hundred robust pages, it's an instant repertoire of yummy dessert based goodness for all levels of experience.
Although I have a reasonably sound reputation for cooking curries and stir-fries and other delights, I've never made too many cakes, so I approached this with trepidation. Thankfully, the series' simple and effective design helped this baking novice. Each spread consists of a recipe on the left hand page, and a photo on the right. The recipe itself is sub-divided into two columns with an ingredients list and the method, as well as a rough idea of how long it will take to prepare.
Measurements are in both metric and imperial scales, for those people who worry about such things (I rely totally on jugs and scales to tell me how much stuff to use, I'm totally weight blind). For baking, you also get told what temperature to set your oven for both gas, electric and fan ovens, which is really useful for a fan oven owner like myself who always forgets to subtract a little from the temperature given in most recipes...
The recipes are written concisely but clearly, there is no flowery language here. Although you can rely solely on the information presented in the book to make your desserts, you might want to cast your mind back to school cookery lessons for basic techniques like beating butter and icing sugar, that sort of thing. Although any even vaguely advanced technique is explained in detail, like making ganache, for example.
I've now made three of the recipes from this book - a torte, some cupcakes and a Dark Chocolate and Orange Cake, and all three have been very well received by the target audience. Prior to this I've spent the best part of two years cowering away from baking as an unknown skill, relying on my banana syllabub and chocolate mousse for desserts. It's no exaggeration to say the friendly layout of the Good Food 101 book gave me the confidence necessary to embark on this scary world beyond the wok, where everything is dependent on things rising, and things being folded with a metal spoon or whisked precisely.
Another great point in the book's favour is that the recipes are all apparently triple-tested by people connected to Good Food magazine. I once had a flatmate who worked as a chef and he constantly bemoaned the fact that many recipes we see in cookery books have never actually been tested at all. I was never sure if he was right or not, but it's good to have the assurance of knowing that your cake has been successfully made by someone else - although that does mean if you do mess it up you have no one else to blame!
On the minus side? Well, these are quibbles. I personally question the point of having nutritional information at the bottom of each recipe. I can see where they're useful for other books in the range (eg the Healthy Eats one), but if you don't know that there's a few calories in a Dark Chocolate and Orange Cake then... well, you're already fooling yourself really, aren't you? Also, given that the books are so completely practical and clearly designed for kitchen use, it's a shame they don't stay open very easily. I like to refer to a recipe as I'm making it, and I have to weigh down the two sides of the book with the edge of a saucepan and a chopping board, ruining the spine very quickly. It's a nitpick, but a spiral binding or something might have removed this problem.
So, yes, I totally recommend the 101 Cakes and Bakes book, especially over the other books in the range. Buy it and begin treating your nearest and dearest to yummy chocolate and cake-based goodness today!
It retails at £4.99 in most good bookshops, and you can often find books from this range on the 'Buy 2 Get 1 Free' tables...
Summary: Cakes ahoy, with painless instructions and great ideas
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