Saturday, 23 July 2011

Love Bakery: Cupcakes from the Heart Cookbook Review

I'm quite partial to a cupcake, as some of my other posts will attest to, so when I was making a Book People order a few months ago and saw this book for cheaps I just had to add it to my basket! I hadn't even heard of the Love Bakery before but I figured I'd take a punt. I was glad I did as it's a lovely book, both to look at and to cook from. The book is a good size and actually stays open while you're trying to follow a recipe - always a bonus! The photography is gorgeous and there is a full-page photo of each cupcake. The super huge images really help as they add a lot of decoration to their cakes and you can recreate the designs much more easily when you can see every detail. The flavours are original enough to justify buying yet another cupcake book! There is a great section with Cuptail recipes! There are also the classics, breakfast cupcakes, fruit, afternoon tea, retro and kid's cupcakes. Flavours include Rhubarb and Custard, Toffee Apple, Chocolate Lime amd Cosmopolitan. There is also a recipe for English Whoopie Pies, Cake Pops and the ubiquitous giant cupcake. There are even a couple of preserve recipes.

What also makes this book great are the little additions throughout the book like the really useful tip of using an apple corer to remove some sponge to then add a filling to the cake. Brilliant! At the end of each recipe there is a 'To add the love' section which details how to fill and decorate the cakes; and then a 'Love tip' which gives information about ingredients or alternatives. They have also given gift-wrapping ideas, a few mood boards they have created and there are gift tags to use and templates for sugar-paste decorations. A really well thought out book.

What do you do when all your surfaces are covered? Take your cupcakes into the garden of course!! I love Red Velvet cupcakes but have never attempted to make them so I thought I'd choose it as my first recipe from the book. The recipe was well laid out and clear, it even lists all the equipment you will need, down to the smallest detail like a teaspoon and a wire rack. I halved the quantity and the mixture made exactly six, as did the frosting - take that Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook!!

Haha, cat looking on! This is the first time I've been truly successful with a frosting which made me extremely happy. The cakes also rose beautifully though the sponge wasn't as red as I'd hoped, even with a little extra colouring. They were very moist but not too sickly. Very happy.

Then today I made the Pimms Cuptails. Again, the recipe was a pleasure to follow and the buttercream was easy to make while the cakes were baking. Another successful frosting - joy! I didn't follow the Love addition of blitzed cucumber, strawberries, raspberries, mint and orange for the centre of the cupcakes which probably lessened the flavour a little but they were lovely as they were. We couldn't really taste the Pimms in the sponge which was a shame and the orange flower water overpowered the extra Pimms in the frosting but it still made a really tasty, light cupcake. I'd probably leave out the orange flower water in the frosting next time and add a little more Pimms to the mixture for a stronger flavour. I used a piping bag for the first time today too!! These were definitely the two prettiest ones but I think with practice I might be ok next time! There was obviously glitter involved too, I think it might be against the law to have a bling-less cupcake!!

Next time I want to try the Whisky Mac Cuptails - a spiced cake with whisky frosting sounds amazing. All the cuptails look pretty fab, as do the It's Not Terry's But My Chocolate Cupcakes and the Lemon Curd Mascarpone Cupcakes. Most things really. Can't say I fancy Cake Pops much though, the idea of compacted cake crumbs makes me feel a little queasy!

I'm so, so pleased I own this book. The recipes quantities have been bang on and have been really successful. An absolute treat and lovely to look at too. I think a trip to their shop is in order when I go to London next month. I hope it lives up to my expectations, and I also hope they make another book with more flavours one day! The book is still available for £4.99 over at The Book People if I've tempted anyone to try it!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

James Martin - Masterclass Cookbook Review

I've been dipping in and out of cookbooks these last 2 weeks but haven't really stuck with one. I decided however to try James Martin's new book - Masterclass - properly. Unfortunately I had a run-in with some freezer burnt squid so there went my idea of making of making his Chilli Salt Squid. Boo.

There seem to be a fair amount of cookbooks out this year all about teaching cookery, such as the Rosemary Shrager book I reviewed a few weeks ago, and the Cookery School book I looked at a while back. James Martin's new book also follows the same idea, though it doesn't alienate a more confident cook. The book is split into 10 chapters including Soups, Stews and Pies, Red Meat, Pasta and Grains and Vegetarian. The introduction is very brief, it pretty much goes straight into recipes which I appreciate. There only seems to be 1 photograph per 3 recipes which is a shame but what is there is mouthwatering, apart from the Braised Fennel with Breadcrumbs and Ricotta - it's very beige! There is a good mix of the simple which could be made easily (Cream of Cauliflowers soup, Bang Bang Chicken and Poached Pears in Perry) to the more challenging (Chocolate, Mint and Satsuma Bread, Classic Beef Wellington and Potato and Duck Confit Terrine with Sweet Red Cabbage Chutney).

At first I wasn't sure if there was a lot I would want to make, I don't tend to make pies, I don't eat lamb and the side dishes are pretty boring, but on second and third viewings there were more and more things I fancied trying - unfortunately the chilli squid being one! Oh well! There wasn't any fresh in our local supermarket either so I was obviously being told something!

There are a few step by step pages to teach you how to do things such as filleting round and flat fishes, how to cut a chicken into 10 pages and how to poach an egg. I don't think I'd buy the book for these guides, there are books that do it better but it is a nice addition. For my first recipe I tried the Best Beff Burgers in the World. How could I not check if these lived up to their name?! The quality of beef is key in this recipe, James asks for tail of beef fillet or great quality minced beef. I went with the cheaper mince offer which worked well. There were plenty of additions to the burger including dijon mustard, chopped gherkins (more the better in my opinion!), shallot and double cream. The cream was a surprise but there was no egg in the mixture so it helped to bind the burger.

The burgers were easy to put together and grilled well. The additions added a great richness and tang to the burger. Maybe it wasn't the greatest ever burger I've eaten but I'll definitely be following this recipe again.

The other recipe I made was Basil Chicken with Lime. I made this with chicken thighs instead of breast which just took longer to cook. I prefer chicken thighs as they stay moist much longer and they have a lot more flavour. The marinade was quick to make and smelt gorgeous. It only needed marinading for an hour and this gave enough flavour to the chicken. The sauce wasn't the prettiest after being in the oven but it tasted gorgeous. The green chilli added a hint of spice and the mix of the mint, coriander and basil was really fresh and fragrant. The lime at the end really lifted everything. The sauce would be great with fish too and I'll be keeping this recipe safe.

Not the most exciting recipes to try but I couldn't fault them on taste. The book's recipes aren't earth-shatteringly new but you can pretty much guarantee that they'll taste delicious and will be easy to follow and make which is pretty important. I do prefer his My Kitchen book but I think there are some lovely additions in this new cookbook. The Chicken Kiev recipe using panko breadcrumbs looks gorgeous, as does the Rum Babas with Chocolate Sauce. The Cinnamon-Dusted Doughnuts are also going on the 'must make soon' list along with the Pork Burgers with Apple Chutney and Rarebit. Actually, most of the book looks pretty tasty! Maybe it's one to buy afterall ...!

Also this week I needed a cake recipe to use up some cherries we had. I looked through book after book and there wasn't much call for fresh cherries till I found a recipe for a Cherry Crumble Cake in Rachel Allen's Bake book. La Mama wanted some cakes to take for a party she was having for one of her French classes so I split the mixture into muffin cases rather than making one whole cake. Rachel's Bake book hasn't failed me yet and they were probably the most successful cakes I've ever made - and I only got to eat 1/2 of one! Oh no! But I'll probably make these again this weekend as I want more! Try them too here.

I also really enjoyed Simon Hopkinson's new show The Good Cook on BBC1 last friday. The Sticky Toffee Pudding looked amazing, I think I put on weight just watching it being made! We had some chicken thighs left after making the Basil Chicken so decided to make Simon's Coq Au Vin. I liked how the chicken was marinated overnight in the red wine, herbs and garlic. It was a last minute make so we had no celery or carrot but it didn't matter too much. I also put in diced chorizo instead of pancetta which added a really nice background flavour. It was absolutely delicious with some wild mushrooms. The sauce was just thick enough that you didn't waste any (before one of the cats got to it that is!) and I'm looking forward to seeing what he makes this week. Another accompanying book that's going on my wishlist!