Here it is. The Golden Book of Baking. A chunky golden ingot of a book. A gleaming brick of a tome. Another metallic and gift-quality edition in this series from Apple Press. A Christmas pressie that hardly needs wrapping. Gold edges, silken book-mark and gleaming belly jacket all shout “Pick me” …and you probably will.
Well, that’s all fine and good but that book will be covered in dust and pine needles by twelfth night and then what do you do with this beautiful ornament? You use it. That’s what it’s for, after all. It contains over 300 recipes for baked goods and there are an equal number of full-page photographs to give confidence to the less-practised home cook.
The recipes consider all manner of baked goodies from cookies to layer cakes, from pies to yeast cakes, and savouries are not forgotten. Eight chapters to entice you into the kitchen and your family to the table. Who doesn’t like a well-proportioned (ok, big) slice of something sweet with a flourish of icing or cream!
Baking isn’t the same as making a casserole. There is that element of science that requires exact measurement of ingredients. It’s culinary alchemy. One adds raising agents for a fluffy sponge. Liquid batter is turned into moist cake. Unprepossessing dough becomes extravagantly-decorated cookies. But there are no over-cheffy techniques to master. If you have kitchen scales and a few rudimentary utensils then you will be able to produce stunning and delicious treats.
Panforte is a dense confection of fruit and nuts. The candied peel might not be cheap to buy, but your homemade version will still work out to be more economic and more delicious than the commercial varieties found in high-end delis around the holiday season. Use the recipe here to make some edible Christmas gifts. Ideal for those folks who already have everything – more acceptable than socks or Lily of the Valley talc.
Butter cakes or Pound cakes have always been popular at the traditional teatime table. The classic three-tier stand held savoury sandwiches on the lowest level, scones in the middle and small cakes or slices of cake on the top. There are delightful examples of large cakes to cut. Cinnamon crumble cake is festive yet light. Dundee made an appearance at many a Sunday teatime when I was growing up. A perennial favourite.
Bakewell Tart is so named not because the cook was an expert at the oven; this sweet pastry and sponge creation is named after the eponymous town in Derbyshire in the UK. It is sometimes called pudding but it is in fact an almond-topped tart with the almond sponge covering a layer of jam.
The savoury chapter offers lots for that bottom plate of the tea stand. Onion Quiche would be an ideal candidate. Emmental cheese adds richness and tang to the tart. Spicy Corn Muffins are individual well-flavoured sponges bejewelled with red pepper and robust jalapeno (other chillies can be used). Rather exotic and sure to be popular.
The Golden Book of Baking is a book over which to linger. It has great shelf appeal and just as much kitchen appeal. The majority of recipes can be tackled by even the novice cook, but there are cakes here that will allow the more experienced to expand their repertoire. Astounding value for money.
The Golden Book of Baking
Authors: Rachel Lane, Ting Morris, and Carla Bardi
Published by: Apple Press
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018