A few favourite baking books

So everyone’s in a state of GBBO mourning at the moment, aren’t they? As I write, Paul Hollywood has just been confirmed as the only member of the original quartet to have signed a deal to go over to the dark side (well, Channel 4. Which, to be honest, is the next best channel after the BBC to host a show like GBBO- but I know that’s not a popular opinion.) Anyway, this got me thinking- I do own two of Hollywood’s baking books, but I NEVER bake from them. And if you follow me on any social media channel, you’ll know I bake quite a lot. I like the books, they’re very pretty- but they’re just too fiddly and faffy for the type of stuff I like to bake. I’m probably more of a Bezza baker than a Hollywood baker, although I’ve never picked up one of Mary’s books.

But there are some books I use over and over.

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Bake- Rachel Allen

This was the first baking book I ever picked up (I had never seen Rachel Allen on the TV; I just wanted a baking book.) I learnt a few skills here, but I have found the recipes a bit hit and miss. However, as a first book, it was OK. I still swear by the honey cake and snickerdoodles in this, though.

51pxbskes6l-_sy291_bo1204203200_ql40_ Be-Ro Home Baked Recipes

Cheap and cheerful, the Be-Ro book is a proper, old-school classic. This is the book that I turn to when D wants to bake: gingerbread men, shortbread, tea loaves. It’s all the stuff your mum or nan probably made and the recipes are simple and straightforward (and you can get away with using margarine in most of them if you’ve run out of butter!)

510cb-crdgl-_sx258_bo1204203200_ Home Sweet Home- The Hummingbird Bakery

This book is one of the biggest bargains ever- I think I picked it up for a fiver. It’s stuffed full of what I think of as ‘showstoppers’, cakes that I pull out for fancy things and when I want to impress. My go-to brownie recipe is from Hummingbird (although I’ve tinkered with it so much now, it’s virtually unrecognisable from the basic recipe) and the strawberry milkshake cupcakes are seriously good. This is the book that really helped develop my skills onto more than just ‘basic’.

cover Flavour- Ruby Tandoh

I love Ruby’s recipes and have never had one fail. I was lucky enough that she sent me a signed copy of the book after I mentioned on Twitter that I had borrowed it from the library and loved it. Although it’s not really a baking book, but a book with baking recipes in it, I urge you to check it out. I can HUGELY recommend the easy chocolate cake- it is the only cake I’ve ever made that worked every time, and I’ll be making it for D’s fourth birthday in a couple of weeks. I’ve also made a banana cake and the shine theory truffles, which I adapted by adding rose and violet flavouring (I have plans for Christmas editions too… watch out for a future blogpost on those!) But what I really love about this book is the attitude in it- that we should eat what we like, and just ENJOY food. In a world obsessed with clean eating, it’s a refreshing change.

 

 

So, how was your Christmas?

I’m pleased to report that no one has died as a result of my cooking on Christmas Day! We had a hectic few days- my parents came down for the weekend beforehand and the day after they left, my friend Marine came to stay for Christmas itself.

As well as Christmas prep itself, we had to contend with a slightly broken toilet (the drainage man didn’t want to talk to me about what needed to be done to fix it, preferring to speak to ‘your husband… I can stick a camera down there and show him the issue.’ Obviously, my LADY BRAIN can’t deal with poo. I mean, it’s not like I deal with horrendous nappies on a daily basis, is it? Oh.) and the fact that the roof of our kitchen needs replacing and the ceiling is cracking quicker than an eggshell thrown against the face of a slimy politician. THAT work won’t be done until at least the first full week of January- and who knows when the drainage man will come back?

So, Christmas itself was lovely- D was pretty overwhelmed by all the presents, but seems very taken with the garage we bought him, a Postman Pat railway and a Cranky the Crane my brother bought him.

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I’ve known Marine since I was nine, so I knew she’d be an excellent presence when cooking my first ever roast dinner and we made the time on Christmas Eve to plan out the cooking schedule for the next day (excuse the spelling mistakes, I’d had quite a bit of M&S’ EXCELLENT mulled rose):

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I had alarms on my phone that corresponded to EACH one of those timings. The result was slightly less stress, although I do not recommend steaming sprouts and carrots (as M&S said I should do- so I totally blame them). I even had the time to take a ridiculous selfie (an elfie?) of myself wearing an elf hat provided by my aunt:

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The meal (apart from the sprouts) was lovely and the turkey was very nice, if I do say so myself. Dessert was a combination of chocolate Christmas tree cake and white chocolate and berries cheesecake and both were amazing.

I might have failed in my attempt to do the Ambassador’s Pyramid with the Ferrero Rocher though:

"Why, Ambassador, you REALLY SHOULDN'T HAVE"

“Why, Ambassador, you REALLY SHOULDN’T HAVE”

Marine, my aunt and myself attempted a variety of ways to stack them up (fuelled by champagne) and eventually conceded defeat- but not after discussing whether glue and/or blu tack were used in the original adverts.

I think it’s safe to say that Christmas Chez Pomfrett was a great success. And now I am going to hibernate with my stack of books- because quite frankly I’d like nothing more than to spend the next few months reading…

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Baking Challenge #7: Hummingbird Bakery Brownies

I’m about to show you my most successful bake EVER. The other day I had a hankering for brownies. Plain, no-nonsense brownies. All the recipes I could find had extras: walnuts, cherries, whatever. I JUST WANTED PLAIN BROWNIES.

So, after a couple of suggestions on Twitter, I found the Hummingbird Bakery recipe. Dead simple- chocolate, eggs, a ton of butter and a truckload of sugar. On the indulgence scale, this goes all the way up to ‘Nigella’. I was dubious that this could work, but my auntie had taken the baby out for the morning and I wanted to bake, so I decided to just crack on with it.

I needed 200g of chocolate and my local shop had a really limited range. (If I did this again, I would use fair trade chocolate… I particularly have my eye on Divine’s range of flavoured chocolates- especially the orange flavoured!)

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Mmmmm, this was lush even just as a batter…

I must admit that it was a lot of fun making the batter- very quick and easy (and it was SUCH a chore cleaning the bowl afterwards. With a spoon. Into my mouth.) It was also really quick; about fifteen minutes prep and then 30 minutes in the oven. The house also smelt AMAZING.

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The resulting brownies were perfect- slightly chewy on the outside and lovely and gooey on the inside. They also go very, very well with the English Rose tea I reviewed last week. It’s like a little slice of Turkish Delight, chocolatey heaven! (Benn, who’s a very critical person when it comes to my baking gave them 8 out 10. High praise indeed!)

This post was written in conjunction with Ethical Superstore.