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Mary Berry's Desserts

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Paperback: 264 pages / Publisher: Dorling Kindersley / Re-issue: 1 July 2011

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      12.07.2014 15:52
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      Extravagant

      I love baking and Mary Berry is the queen. Whenever she touches something it turns to gold... I just love her! Now I was quite disappointed to find that the recipes were very dated due to the fact that this book is a reissue of the one that was originally published in 1991. But nevertheless there is an abundance of recipes, that are conveniently split up into sections like pies and frozen desserts. This makes it easier to find exactly what you are looking for. The recipes are fairly detailed which makes it easy when baking something for the first time, there are also illustrations of what the desserts are supposed to look like, which is always a good thing especially when you have not heard of the thing being made. The recipes are quite extravagant and you can tell that they are from a different era, but I do like them because they are a bit of a challenge.

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      16.10.2012 18:05
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      A book for special occasions, more than everyday cooking

      Since buying Marry Berry's fantastic Baking Bible, I have been looking out for her other books in charity shops and car boot sales. One of the first I found was "Desserts" for a bargain 50p..

      A WORD OF WARNING

      According to the information on the inside of the front cover, this book was first published in 1991 under the title "Mary Berry's Desserts and Confections". So this is not a "new" book - the name change dates to 2008. {I have the 2011 edition.}

      THE BOOK ITSELF

      The first thing that struck me when I initially browsed through this book was that it had a dated feel to it. The way the desserts are presented reminds me strongly of the 1980's and 90's cookbooks that I have - lots of whipped cream and glace cherries dotted about. This made sense when I realised it was a reprint of a 1991 book. I can imagine this being a disappointment if you were looking for fresh inspiration as regards decorating your desserts. Having said that, the important thing for me is whether the desserts themselves can stand the test of time. Happily, I think that that these do - I hope fresh strawberry cream cake never goes out of fashion!

      The front cover of this book promises step-by-step photographs for each recipe. There are on average 3 or so of these per dish, rather than one per recipe stage as I expected. I don't find most of these extra pictures very useful myself. For example a picture of a hand adding ice cubes to a dish probably isn't needed to illustrate the instruction "add the icecubes." They do help to make each page layout look bright and attractive though. The final stage photos have definitely helped me. I use them to tell what form the finished dessert will take when it isn't immediately apparent from the recipe title e.g "Date dacquoise" or "Buttermilk Bavarian."


      RANGE OF RECIPES INCLUDED

      The recipes are divided into sections. These are: special desserts, cakes, pies/tarts/pastries, biscuits and frozen desserts. The "special" section includes recipes for the most elaborate desserts, including mousses and souffles, and custard and meringue based puddings. I expected the recipes that came after the "special desserts" chapter to be of the more everyday kind. I was wrong. They all feel more of the kind of recipes you would make for a party rather than as part of an everyday meal. Examples include pumpkin torte and Zuccotto, a Florentine cream cake. When I was first looking through the book, I was looking for a fairly simple and quick idea to serve 4 people. I struggled to find anything that could be made in less than an hour. In fact, a large number require 3-5 hours worth of chilling time, in addition to the time taken to do the initial preparation. Even some of the biscuits suggested a preparation and cooking time of 4 hours! In addition, the recipes most commonly serve 8-10 people, which adds to the feel that this book is really best for parties or similar occasions.

      I have now made a number of recipes from this book and they have all taken between 2 and 5 hours in total. It is worth reading the recipes carefully, as sometimes the time stated for the recipe includes cooling time, when you could of course be doing other things. This reduces the time commitment a little. Nevertheless, I would not recommend this to anyone looking for a large number of very quick recipes. However, if you treat this as a book of desserts for special occasions primarily, then the range of recipes is good. There is a mix of traditional choices such as fruit pies and ice cream bombes, as well as more unusual choices such as a layered cream dessert that uses butterscotch whip eg Angel Delight. The latter has been my favourite make although it is typical of the book in that it involves making several seperate layers, and a base so it is quite fiddly. Overall, I use this book when I am feeling in a patient mood and have plenty of time. If you think life is too short to spend time cutting up individual stawberries to resemble petals and then carefully piping cream in to them, this book will not endear itself to you! In some cases I have successfully adapted a recipe to make it less labour intensive, by simplifying the decorating ideas. You can also cut corners by using ready made pastry in some cases.

      The biscuit section contains about 20 recipes which are genuinely different from most other cookbooks I have. I am very fond of the hazelnut cookies here, and I am pleased to say that the 2 hour making time is pessimistic! It feels right to include them in a dessert book as they are good ways to finish off a meal.


      ARE THE RECIPES EASY TO FOLLOW?

      Yes. Many of the recipes may take a long time, but at least the fact is clearly stated at the start of the recipe. Mary Berry also tells you if the recipe can be made in advance and stored in the fridge, a fact I have found very useful when trying to plan ahead. The instructions given are easy to read and as straightforward as they can be. I can't say that any of the desserts I have made have come out badly, so I think it is fair to call this a reliable book. There are relevant tips included in each chapter as well as a very useful general information section at the back. In fact, this is my favourite part of the book. I have learnt a lot from reading it through. The knowledge that I can freeze nuts for example, has prevented me wasting what I couldn't use in a reasonable amount of time. You will also find basic recipes in this section, for example for chocolate sauce and pastry.


      CONCLUSION

      I have enjoyed the challenge of making the more complicated desserts given here. I would use this book more often if there was a greater range of simpler desserts included. The ones that are straightforward, such as rhubarb crumble and cherry pie, can be easily found elsewhere. With this in mind, I would not recommend this to you if you want fast dessert ideas. If, on the otherhand, you want to make elaborate desserts often, then I would recommend this book as a trustworthy source of recipes. The cover price is £18.99 for the hardback and £16.99 for the paperback edition, which I think is steep unless you will use the book often. I am more than happy to have paid 50p though!


      OTHER INFORMATION

      Published by Dorling Kindersley. 264 pages.
      ISBN for the hardback 2011 edition: 978 140 536 6304
      ISBN for the 2011 paperback: 978 140 537 3470
      Both available Amazon with a small discount.

      [This review also appears under my user name on Ciao.]

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