Making puddings and sweet treats goes back generations in my family. Tucked away inside cookbooks are hand written recipes and individual preferences for all sorts of lovely food. These are fantastic bits of family history, which will be mine one day. For now though, James Martin's cookbook to accompany his series Sweet Baby James has become my favourite puddings book. I've also started using it to tuck my handwritten recipes into and due to my general clumsiness in the kitchen smells of flour and vanilla, the way every pudding cookbook should smell in my opinion.
This book contains fantastic, amazing puddings as well as simple, everyday ideas. I defy anyone to not be able to make a Victoria sponge following Martin's instructions. There is a great section at the beginning on basics including pastry, ganache, spun sugar (extremely messy, but great for decorations) and basic cake recipes. The chapters that follow contain enough recipes to keep you going for a long time, whether you want something hot, cold or baked. Also included are ice creams and a few very fancy cakes and bakes for the more adventurous (the fire and ice cake is one to try for a special occasion).
My pick of the recipes include the Spicy Plum Crumble which I increased in quantity to feed 20 people at New Year and everyone loved. The chocolate ganache recipe is very good, as is the Lemon Curd Syllabub. This book is fantastic to have as the recipes are clearly written, most have pictures, and many of the ingredients are ones that most pudding fans will have in the cupboard and if not, they are not difficult to obtain. The introductions to the recipes make it plain why dishes are included and are nice to read.
Overall I think this is a fantastic cookbook, not least because I love puddings, but because anyone who reads it would be tempted to have a go.
Every time I went into Whsmiths I saw this dessert cook book on the shelf and kept thinking that I would get around to buying it. Fortunately my husband noticed that I always picked it up and bought it me for Christmas.
The book itself is hardback and I noticed that Amazon are currently selling this for £7.78 in paperback. I think it was nearer to the £10 mark in Whsmiths.
There are over 100 recipes included and the book goes with the TV series Sweet Baby James. At the front is a very nice introduction written by James explaining where some of the recipes came from. Whether they were family recipes, reciepes that James altered or even ones that James made himself.
Above each recipe is a little note from James either giving hints and tips or his opinion on that dessert.
I like how at the start of the book he starts with basic pastries so that you can just refer to the front instead of making a recipe twice as long. This chapter is simply titled as Basics and shows the reader how to produce a varied range of pastries. Then the book goes onto give recipes for cakes such as Victoria sponge and Chocolate cake and other popular recipes such as Shortbread and meringue.
The next chapter is for Hot Puddings, as James mentioned in the introduction there are recipes that have been slightly altered. For example there is a bread and butter pudding but instead of bread he has used Croissants.
Out of this section I have baked the Sticky Toffee pudding with Toffee Sauce recipe. I found it to be very easy to follow with clear and concise instructions. It even looked nearly as good as the picture in the recipe book! It tasted lovely and it is one I will definitely try again.
Following on from Hot desserts is the Cold Pudding section, this section holds recipes such as Ginger and Syrup Cheesecake and the classic recipe of Black Forest Gateau. I haven't got around to making anything in this section but I am looking forward to having a go at making the Raspberry and Passion Fruit Pavlova.
Next up is Tarts and Flans which includes the Classic Lemon Tart which is another one I am looking forward to trying. I have however made the Lemon Meringue Pie. Again the instructions were easy to follow I did find it slightly more tricky than the Sticky Toffee Pudding but not overly so.
Cakes and Bakes is the next section the first recipe is for Madeira Cake which is one of the first recipes from this book that I made. I was very proud when it turned out pretty good. I thought I would try a cake recipe first as that is what I am used to baking. A Swiss Roll recipe is also given but I am never sure whether to attempt it or not as I have visions of it breaking up as I roll the sponge.
One thing to note is that some of the recipes are a little over the top in this section, one good example is the Fire-and-ice cake which has masses of decorations including flowers!
The one recipe I want to try in this section is the Jam Shortbreads, you make shortbread biscuits and then make an indentation in the top and then when they have cooled add a little bit of jam. They sound yummy!
The last section is on Ice Creams and Sorbets to which I have to admit I will probably never use any of these recipes. This is down to the fact I don't have an ice cream maker this makes the recipes useless to me. This is the only negative point about the book but because there are so many other delicious recipes I can forgive James.
At the very back are useful addresses with a list of Delis, specialist kitchen equipment and good quality chocolate and sugarcraft supplies. Along with a very handy A-Z of all the desserts included in the book.
Overall I don't have masses of cookery books but I have to say I was very pleased with this one. I liked how all of the recipes have been split into different chapters so you can go straight to the section you want. This saves time and is so much easier.
Most of the recipes do have pictures showing the finished result but some don't. To be honest I do prefer to see what it should look like but again it is only a minor thing and doesn't really effect the end result aslong as you follow the recipe.
There is a lot of choice in this dessert book and I don't think anyone would be really disappointed with any of the recipes. There is pretty much something for everyone to enjoy especially if you are like me and love puddings!
Why not give this book a go although you may want to avoid if you are on a diet. As i'm pretty sure that you could put weight on just looking through it!
James Martin has to be the King of desserts on TV. This fantastic book provides fantastic step-by-step instructions on some of the fundamental elements - e.g. how to make various types of pastry, simple sponges, tuiles, praline etc. There is also a section on spun sugar - word of warning...it takes a while to scrape it off the kitchen floor and clean out of a pan - take it from one who knows!
There are sections on hot puddings (you must try the sticky toffee pudding!), cold puddings, tarts and flans, cakes and bakes and ice creams and sorbets.
The instructions in this book are very detailed with some extremely tempting photography of the finished desserts.
The book covers desserts that would suit a novice to the more experienced home cook, but some could be quite daunting to those with limited experience in the kitchen. Having said that, this book is packed full of sumptuous desserts and is a must for all those with a sweet tooth.
"Desserts" by James Martin
"Desserts" by James Martin is described as a 'fabulous collection of recipes from Sweet Baby James' the BBC2 TV Series.
I think this book is a worthwhile purchase, particularly for those amongst us that share a sweet tooth. I adore puddings and so when I heard that James Martin was to create a TV series solely featuring puddings I was delighted. This book features the recipes from the series. It is divided into the following chapters:
This sets the tone of the book as James uses the first three pages to explain the background to his love of puddings. As with many great cooks he acknowledges the influence his older relations had in giving him inspiration to cook. In particular he singles out a memory of his Gran "rubbing in" the pastry in a bowl balanced on her knees whilst watching Coronation Street. James has a knack of be-friending his readers and it is this type of imagery that helps him do this.
In this section James runs through the basics required for pudding making, e.g. how to bake shortcrust, rough puff, choux and good old fashioned flaky pastry. This section also includes how to bake basic items such as Victoria sponge, Genoese sponge, and Meringue; he then includes some of the fancy "chefy" touches such as spun sugar, chocolate ganache and tuiles. The recipes in this section are nicely set out, with accompanying photos of James showing you the steps. A lot of novice bakers have a fear of baking their own pastry. I think this book would give them a lot of confidence as the writer takes you through each individual step in both words and pictures to ensure that you don't go wrong. Being a 'seasoned' baker I was a little bit disappointed that there were no magical chef tips on how to make a perfect Victoria sponge or light as air pastry, merely the basic recipe which is contained in every book of baking.
In my opinion, this is where this book really gets going. The recipes include James' trademark dish "Croissant Butter Pudding" which he created as a young chef to deal with a deluge of croissants being ordered by mistake. It was this stylish version of Bread and Butter Pudding that helped shoot James to his first job as a head chef and into the television limelight. I tried this recipe and it was excellent, a real winner of a pudding. I also tried the recipes for Steamed Treacle Sponge Pudding and Sticky Toffee Pudding with Toffee Sauce. Both were superb. This section also includes delights such as Classic Spotted Dick and Hot Chocolate Fondants. Alone, these good old fashioned calorie laden delights make this book as worthwhile investment, though they are not for those of a dieting disposition.
Though this section contains quite a few nice puddings, they are not perhaps as exciting as those in the other chapters. They include Crème Caramel, Figs in Vanilla Syrup, Lemon Curd Syllabub, Ginger and Syrup Cheesecake, and Profiteroles. The one highlight from this section is the recipe for Raspberry Marshmallows. As I am vegetarian I have not baked these due to the fact that they contain nine sheets of gelatine. However, I do recall the episode during which James made these and they did look delightful. This chapter also includes Kentish Pudding Pie, a recipe that James is trying to resurrect from Pudding Heaven He describes it as one of the most threatened puddings in the UK, which should be placed on an endangered species list.
Tarts and Flans
Once again, this chapter includes a good selection of Tarts and Flans such as Pumpkin Pie, Apple and Thyme Tarte Tatin, Baked Pear and Honey Tart, Classic Lemon Tart and Lemon Meringue Pie. I made the only unbaked pudding in this chapter, the Truffle Torte. It was delicious, and a nice re-working of a recipe that quite often features in recipe books.
Cakes and Bakes
This chapter includes recipes ranging from the simple, homely Madeira Cake and Butterfly Cakes to the more extravagant Fire-and-ice Cake. There are ample recipes for the chocoholics amongst us including Chocolate Fudge Cake, Sachertorte, Chocolate Cola Cake and Dark Chocolate Brownies. So, once again, this section is most satisfactory. In one or two of the recipes in this chapter James "goes to town" chefy style, such as with the decoration of his carrot cake. However, as with most of his recipes, he leave it up to you whether you wish to create an artistic masterpiece via his decorating tips or merely serve a good old honest carrot cake.
Ice Creams and Sorbets
This chapter includes a recipe for 20 second strawberry ice cream. This merely requires you to use a food processor and not an ice- cream machine, which you will need for most of the other recipes in this section.
Just prior to the index, the writer has included a helpful list of useful addresses for specialist kitchen equipment, sugarcraft supplies etc.
Overall, I was fairly impressed with this book. My only niggle would be that I had hoped that a Pastry Chef might impart one or two more of his "trade secrets" in how to achieve for instance a perfect sponge cake or light as air pastry. I appreciate that baking is more of a science than an art and therefore it is not possible to fiddle about with the basic recipes. I had, however, hoped that there might have been a few more tips that a Pastry Chef who has studied the art of making puddings for so many years could impart to us lesser mortals who are trying to achieve improved results.
I would say that anyone keen on baking, whether a complete novice or a more experienced baker, would find something of interest in this book. It has been written in a straightforward, easy to read manner. Every recipe has a brief introduction which either tells you the history of the dish or merely an anecdote from James. Most dishes have an accompanying photograph on the page opposite the recipe in order that you can see the desired end result. Most people will be familiar with James Martin as the face of BBC1's Saturday Kitchen". I think most people find him a likeable down-to-earth chap and that is how he comes across in this book.
The recipes are, on the whole, achievable without any special ingredients or equipment and many have a nostalgia factor from childhood. I admire a chef that includes his Grandma's Caramel Shortbread in the same book as Delice Au Cassis as it shows that he is not concerned about keeping up any pretensions as a chef but merely sharing his enthusiasm for puddings. The book is presented clearly with beautiful pictures and good sized text. In hardback format it makes a nice addition to your recipe bookshelf. I would recommend this book highly as a purchase for yourself or as a present for anyone interested in baking. I am sure James Martin could produce a sequel to this book and I, for one, would put an advance order in for it.
© First published by me under the name of smilesarefree on Ciao UK on 18 February 2008.
There is nothing that James Martin doesn't know about desserts, cakes and puddings. In his new TV series, which starts on BBC2 in Spring 2007, he shares his passion with the rest of the nation. He travels the country cooking up some truly irresistible dishes and looking at all aspects of sweet tasting treats, from the best of British puddings, to chocolate heaven, and perfect melt-in-the-mouth pastries, tarts and pies. The accompanying book contains over 100 dessert recipes from classics such as Tarte Tatin, Pavlova and Chocolate Mousse; comfort food heaven - Sticky Toffee Pudding, Chocolate Chip Cookies and Apple and Toffee Muffins; old favourites including Spicy Plum Crumble, Ginger Parkin and Lemon Meringue Pie; and traditional recipes for Summer Pudding, Lardy Cake, Junket Ice Cream and Kentish Pudding Pie. He also creates a delicious selection of confections which are destined to become firm favourites including White Chocolate, Whisky and Croissant Butter Pudding, Raspberry and Vodka Terrine, Chocolate Cola Cake and Fig Fritters. James will also share his trademark secrets to making every mouthful one to savour.