Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Baking Made Easy - Lorraine Pascale Cookbook Review

This week I was testing out Baking Made Easy by Lorraine Pascale. Having enjoyed her television series I went to borrow the book from my local library. After leafing through I promptly went out to buy my own copy! I thought she came over really well on BBC2 and that her recipes truly looked easy. She made it look like I could actually bake a decent loaf of bread or perfect a cake. But who am I kidding, I'm a sucker for a baking book and if it promises to make things simpler then all the better. That said, Ms Pascale had some making up to do, I didn't enjoy her cupcakes from Ella's Bakehouse in Covent Garden in the least. http://cookbookgoodness.blogspot.com/2010/08/london-town.html Heavy and boring and really not worth the price. I didn't return on my last London trip

The book itself has 100 recipes, everything that was featured on the show and more. The chapters are straightforward: breads, cakes, savoury baking, desserts and patisserie, dinner party, sweet treats and basics. There is a nice, laid-back introduction and a few baking tips, including a great one about lemons - wash ordinary lemons in hot, soapy water and ta-da - you have unwaxed lemons! Probably isn't a revelation to many of you foodies but I was impressed!

The first recipe in the book is for croissants, probably not the first item I'd start with in an easy baking book. It might have also been nice to have step-by-step photos for such a (relatively) complex recipe. The finished articles do look delicious but I have to say they're not something I'm sure I'd tackle. It gets better though and so many of the recipes sound gorgeous, I'd say I'd attempt 70% of the book which isn't bad at all. Same old, same old but where are all the photos? The ones that are there make the food look very inviting but there aren't nearly enough, especially for the cakes. I bet a lot of us buy certain cake books to delve into and admire the photographs then stick it back on the shelf! Well, when someone is making something as complex as a three-tiered red velvet cake I want to see a photo of it, not just a very attractice lady smiling over a bowl! We did see the finished product on the show but I do think it's a major downfall in a book. Photos aside, in tradition with Lorraine herself I had to take some photos of my food and share them with friends! Though they weren't taken with my phone and I'm afraid I've already eaten everything so there's no point coming round! I also don't deliver things on a moped, shame! I chose to make her pizza dough, mostly to try out my new pizza stone. I'm very scared of dropping it! Lorraine's was topped with prosciutto, mozzarella and fig but mine was ham and pineapple to keep La Mama happy. As you can see my tomato puree caught a little but it was fine. The stone made the edges really crispy and light but the middle of the pizza was still pretty doughy. Disappointing. Maybe the dough didn't rise enough, it was hard to find a warm place in the house at the time. The recipe was easy to follow though and it's nice to be able to make just 1 batch of dough. So not great but I'll try it again and see if it works better next time. Rachel Allen's recipe works better for me so far. http://cookbookgoodness.blogspot.com/2010/09/rachel-allen-bake-cookbook-review.html

The next I tried were the big fat breadsticks, I tweaked these so they were more like bread rolls as we'd run out of bread that day and were too lazy to go and buy some! Like a complete dunderhead I halved the recipe but I went ahead and put the bigger amount of yeast and salt. Oops! Strangely I think the bigger amount of yeast actually worked as these rose really nicely and the texture was great. Unfortunately the salt was a bit too much! But I was still really happy with these and would definitely make these again and again. I thought they looked really nice too. Finally, a bread that works, and I think I'll increase the amount of yeast again. http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/big_fat_salt_and_pepper_59413

Last of all I made the hazelnut and lemon madeleines. These went down extremely well in our house, La Mama is fanatical about these little cakes. I liked that the eggs were whisked first to get in as much air as possible into the mixture. Mine look a little anemic as I cooked them in a silicone madeleine dish and the bottom didn't get a chance to colour. I'm going to look into getting a proper tin as I think silicone bakeware really messes with the texture of a cake. It's great for ease of use but I can't help feeling that my cakes sweat in the silicone. But these were still really good and I'm looking forward to trying out new variations.

So all in all I'm pretty happy with this book and am excited to try out other recipes to see if they are successful. I'm trying out her mascarpone and brown sugar scones for my Mother's Day afternoon tea this sunday, fingers crossed they are delicious - not sure what they are meant to turn out like as there is no photo! Grrrr!


  1. I'm a bit of a sucker for baking books and I liked her series. I hate it if you buy a book and the recipes on TV aren't in the book. I have the same issue with silicone bakeware. I like it because it is easy but I think the results in metal bakware outweigh the ease of silicone. I have never been successful with silicone!

  2. Try the foccacia it's amazing. Ideal with pasta. It's turning into a Saturday night staple. I got the River Cottage Bread handbook, which I think is the best book I have read for basic breads. It appears our bookshelves are looking frighteningly similar! I love the Thomasina Miers book. It's obsessive!

  3. It was a good series and she did explain things well for beginners. Shame that the photos in the book didn't live up to the recipes.

  4. Oooh the bread looks particularly fab! I am a massive bread fiend but I've never dared make it yet. I just ordered this book for my dad to give as a present to my step-mum and was very tempted to order a second copy even though I never saw the series but decided to be sensible and see what she thought of it. I want so many cookbooks but always end up doing one recipe then going back to BBC Good Food! Love your review, look forward to seeing your Eric Lanlard creations!