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For those with a sweet disposition!
James Martin - Desserts - James Martin
Member Name: queenofpuddings
James Martin - Desserts - James Martin
Advantages: Good old fashioned puddings . Easy to read . Good Value.
Disadvantages: Lacked the secret Pastry Chef tips I had hoped for.
"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.
Summary: A worthwhile purchase if you are enjoy your puddings!