Monday, 13 September 2010

Rachel Allen - Bake Cookbook Review

Back to my afternoon tea making - for the choux buns with creme patissiere and crunchy sugar on top I followed the choux pastry recipe from Rachel Allen's Bake book. The instructions were very easy to follow and I liked the accompanying photos so you had a clear idea of what the different stages should look like. I'm always surprised at how quick choux pastry is to make, and impressed in equal measure! I'm afraid I cheated at the filling, found one in the finest section of Tesco - oops! The caramel on top was quite entertaining. I cut the tops off the choux buns and then La Mama poured the caramel on top - then we had to scrape the tops off the plate when the caramel set!! It wasn't the easiest thing but we managed eventually! The main thing was that they tasted very nice. I would have dried the pastry out a little more but time was running out.

My second trial from the book was her pizza dough. The quantities were spot on, often I struggle with bread dough. It was very easy to work with, rolled out nicely and kept beautifully in the fridge and freezer. I don't think I'll ever be without a batch in the freezer now. Each quantity of dough made 3 full-size pizzas which is great for a family or a few friends.

There have been many variations in our household now I've discovered this dough recipe, always having to make different sections as my brother is a very picky eater and will only have plain or pepperoni pizza! The more exciting side of this pizza has goats cheese, blue cheese, mozzarella and emmental. Mmmm, cheese-fest! The dough was a little thick on my first attempt and a bit soft underneath, even using a pizza dish.

Attempt 2 was a little posher! Black olives, artichokes and prosciutto. This time I pre-baked the base a little so it wasn't so soft in the centre. I also rolled out the dough much thinner. Much better this time and the toppings were great.

Attempt 3 was pepperoni for my brother and I, blue cheese for La Mama - trying to keep everyone happy is hard! I think this base was even thinner than attempt 2 and again I pre-baked it, something I'll always do now. It doesn't take long but it really does improve the texture of the dough. And now I want to eat more pizza! I made another one at the weekend with a trusty ball of dough from the freezer. Lovely.

With a 1/3 of a dough batch I thought I'd attempt these pizza crescents from a fantastic blog:
I've fancied making them for ages. They were pretty easy to do, just very messy when rolling all the ingredients up in the dough! But like a complete dunderhead I totally forgot to add the cheese, the best bit of a pizza! So I added a little bit on top instead. They were great as a little snack but so much better eaten warm. I'd probably make them again as they were fun, this time I'll add the cheese!
And back to Rachel Allen's book, this is a really great and pretty comprehensive baking book. I've just borrowed The Great British Book of Baking, as seen on the BBC on a tuesday, and I think that Rachel's book wins out. Not that I've tried anything from the BBC book yet!

The book covers the whole range of baking, both sweet and savoury. Great looking recipes for biscuits, cakes, tarts, pies and breads. I want to make pretzels next, but will make them with cinnamon sugar rather than salt. The rustic bacon and cheddar bread also looks completely gorgeous. This is a book you can keep coming back to and finding something new to cook, or returning to a favourite recipe. Thumbs up.


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