Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Baking with Passion Cookbook Review

September means birthday season in our house, both La Mama's , and more importantly - mine!! Too old to be very excited now but it's a good excuse to eat lovely food no matter the cost.

Found this little beauty reduced in Waitrose - oh how I like their reduced section!! Nice selection of seafood - king prawns, mussels, shelled prawns and juicy crab claws along with a lemon mayonnaise. Mmmmm! I think seafood is always a go to for a special meal, simple but delicious. Plus I thought the bucket was cute! La Mama wanted scallops for her birthday so I knew that I'd do the combination of black pudding, scallops and apple from James Martin's My Kitchen, served in a chunkier manner! Managed to cook the scallops just right and I love black pudding, just have to think hard of other things while eating it, don't want to think about the ingredients too much!

For dessert La Mama loves frangipane and we'd seen a tart being made on Saturday Kitchen the week before so decided to use the recipe for the topping and just have a base of mixed berries, leaving out the pastry. I'm not very keen on almonds but actually it was really light and most enjoyable. Here is the recipe if you fancy trying it out yourself:

And now for the main event - my cookbook review. This week I tried a couple of recipes from Dan Lepard and Richard Whittington's Baking with Passion. I like Dan's baking recipes from The Guardian so I thought I'd give his new book a go.

It's a very comprehensive guide to bread making which I liked, though some recipes I think I'd be too scared to try out - anything with a starter immediately frightens me but the breads do look incredibly light and very professional.

There is a large section at the beginning of the book all about essential ingredients, step-by-step guides with photos of how to handle and shape different doughs. They actually make it look possible!

The first section is how to create your own wild yeasts which is a really interesting side of bread making and something I would like to try. There is a chapter for fast-action yeast which is comforting, I've seen a few bread books that just use fresh yeast and it just isn't realistic.

The ingredients seem quite accessible - though bottled spring water is always used instead of tap water which seems a little bit poncy, though it is explained that it's more stable for use with yeast. I'm still going to use tap water though!

The photos look very inviting and the recipes are very clear, important for such an exact science. But it's not just breads on offer, there are also chapters on cakes, meringues, biscuits and pastries as well as a few other items.
Going through the book I quickly realised which dessert I wanted for my birthday - caramel tart. Oh yes! It should have also had chocolate on top but by the time the tarts were made I couldn't be bothered doing anything else! Yup, I made my own birthday dessert :-( I did have help to roll out the pastry and to watch the caramel that didn't turn golden for an age. Ah well, I also cooked my own rib-eye steak and Ottolenghi chilli broccoli as I know someone who overcooks steak at every opportunity!!

But all the effort was oh so worth it. It tasted just like my favourite caramel tarts from the Marks and Spencer cafes, it's just a little scary to see how much butter goes into these babies!! In the recipe for the sweet pastry it called for rum or brandy so I put some Sailor Jerry's rum which added an amazing vanilla flavour to the pastry, you could really taste it after it had baked. Very much a success. Oh, and do you like my musical note nails?! I'm not just an amateur cook!

I'd bought buttermilk to make cornbread, what with my obsession with all things Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (my brother surprised me with the cookbook to accompany the show for my birthday! That's so money!). But I completely missed the right time to make it - when we made slow-cooked brisket. And I mean slow cooked - in beef stock and a few spices for about 9 hours! Amazing, eaten as it was as a roast and then the next day in a bap with barbeque sauce. Scrum!!

But it was not to be, so I made white soda bread instead. Wow, why did I never realise how easy this was to make? No waiting for the dough to rise, no messing about with yeast - brilliant! My breads usually end up well cooked on the outside and still raw in the middle, not good. This was perfect all the way to the middle. Crusty on the outside, perhaps a little too crusty on the top but the recipe called for a really hot oven to start with. Didn't taste burnt though so it's all good! I just wish buttermilk was more readily available, I couldn't see any in a couple of supermarkets, think I got this tub in Sainsburys.

Whenever I am somewhere that sells buttermilk from now on however, I will be buying it and making some more soda bread. I'm going to buy some wholemeal plain flour too so I can make some brown soda bread, or maybe I'll make some cornbread .... one day!

So yet again, I've found a cookbook I'm probably going to have to buy! Next I want to make lemon butter cookies, orange cheesecake brownies and if I'm feeling brave - baguette!


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