Category: Book review

The Cake Decorating Bible – book review

The Cake Decorating Bible- book review

If you’re into baking and cake decorating then you’ve probably heard of Fancy Nancy. She (Juliet Sbear) is so amazing. Her cakes are simply stunning which is why  The Cake Decorating Bible: Simple steps to creating beautiful cupcakes, biscuits, birthday cakes and more, by Ebury Press is such a great book. She shares with us all her hints and tips and makes it all look soooo easy. After doing a short course at Le Cordon Bleu cookery school, Juliet went on to work at The Little Venice Cake Company. After 18 months she set up her own cake business from home and the rest, as they say is history.

” Above and beyond everything this book is full of practical know how on creating shop quality cakes in your own home” Juliet says and boy is she right.

 

So, what’s in the book?

The Contents

Introduction, Cake Jargon and supplies, Equipment and tools. Preparation: Cakes and cookie basics.

As you would expect these sections are bursting full of tips and advice from how to line a cake tin to what different terms are.

The Cake Decorating Bible- piping bag

Recipes

Juliet’s sponge recipes are devised so that the cakes are firm and can take the weight of marzipan and icing. Perfect for decorating.  They include Very Vanilla, (complete with measurements for different sized tins) Rich Belgian chocolate truffle cake, Lemon Drizzle sponge, Rich boozy fruit cake, Chocolate cup cakes, zesty orange cupcakes, and basic vanilla cookies (which I will be having a go at this weekend).

book review

Fillings and coverings

When you see a picture like this bowl of fresh raspberry and strawberry buttercream don’t you just want a spoon to lick? The recipes in this section are just mouth watering – lemon, orange and belgian chocolate ganache buttercreams. There are also tips and advice on using Royal icing and fondant icing, pouring ganache and chocolate paste.

Buttercream. Yum Yum

Layering and contructing cakes

I wish I had this book years ago as I had no idea how to slice a cake in two when I started. I had so many lopsided cakes! The detailed explanations and clear steps with the photos here would have made my life SO much easier back then.

These pages make this book worthwhile more than anything else. It’s one of the hardest things I find to do.

Cake decoration book

Icing cakes

Here you’ll find a really handy chart for how much marzipan or sugarpaste you’ll need for different sized cakes. Fab steps showing how to cover a cake with marzipan, buttercream, Royal icing, as well as how to cover cupcakes – whether smoothing or piping. There are also lots of clever hints and tips for when dealing with chocolate paste and ganache.

Decorating cakes and cookies

Whether you are making cookies covered in royal icing, a wedding cake covered in flowers or big celebration cake bursting with cookies, this is where you’ll find the right technique to use – not to mention the inspiration. There’s a section on moulding -including silicone push moulds (as seen below) embossing, how to make roses and other types of flowers as well as ideas for cookies, cupcakes, mini cakes, single tier cakes, modelling and multi-tier cakes

Moulded flowers

This is just one of the cookie inspirations that I have fallen in love with (below) in the book. These cute dress cookies use edible printed sheets. Such a simple idea – yet so effective. I’m dreaming up a design for in the future. I have to use them.

Printed icing

I love the simplicity of the stacked cake designs. I have a cake stand like this one below. I just wish I could get married again (to Tim of course!) so I could have another wedding cake to decorate just like this! Stacked cake

Roses cake

Caketastrophies

The last chapter that I have to mention is the Caketastrophies. As Juliet mentions, not many books like this give you advice on what to do when it all goes wrong. It happens to all of us at some point or another and the tips here are really useful. Like – do you know how to remove a rogue air bubble? Or what to do when your cake developes hairline cracks? Well Juliet shares all in this chapter.

 

So to sum up

This book is a great all rounder. It has plenty of advice for a novice and expert baker alike. The cakes and cookies are original as are the recipes. It’s very inspirational. I also really like the way the page headers have been shot. It’s the care and attention to detail that makes this book practical and beauful all in one.

8/10

 

EmmaMT

Cake Pops – Christmas. Book review

 

 

Hands up who wants to make festive cake pops this Christmas?  Once you take a look at the cute designs in this book you’re certainly going to want to.

Bakerella is an American blogger (aka the lovely Angie Dudley). She’s the original cake pop developer.  She’s written books including Cake Pops and Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for Irresistible Mini Treats
….but her latest one Cake Pops: Christmas (Bakerella), Chronicle books, couldn’t have been better timed.


So what’s in the book?

Getting started with cake pops

If you’ve never made cake pops before then this is the chapter for you. It shows you step by steps on how to go about it. There’s a handy trouble shooting section (which I really need)

The recipes in this chapter are exactly what you want to get started including yellow cake, chocolate cake and red velvet cake. The frosting flavour recipes are Buttercream and cream cheese frosting (my fave)

The ‘Tools and techniques’ section is full of tips on how to create the shapes you need for each project in the book. There’s also a large section on working with Candy Melts. The first time I used candy melts I was surprised by how thick they were. I thought they would be just be like melted chocolate or floppy buttercream. In fact they are somewhere in between. That’s why the low down on how to use them is really handy.  I didn’t know where to start when it came to colouring them or thinning them out. I just did it by trial and error.

Cake Pops Bakerella
Easy to follow steps

There are all sorts of extras you can use to decorate your cake pops. You probably have lots already in your baking cupboard. Sprinkles, pearls, cookie cutters etc but Angie shows two pages of cute edibles you can use like Polos, mini cookies, pretzel sticks, small sweets like TicTacs or M&M’s. The list is as endless as your imagination..

Displaying and gifting

Knowing how to display your masterpieces is a bit of a mare when you first start out. They are top-heavy and wet when you make them so keeping them from not getting damaged at the initial stages is the most important bit for me, but making them look fantastic to give as a gift is the next step. As Angie says “Plan ahead” if you need to travel with your cake pops I would suggest using a polystyrene block but if they are staying home then there are all sorts of other ideas she has from glassware to wood displays. There are other really cute gifting ideas here too, but I’m not going to give the game away!

Christmas cake pop projects

There are so many cute and very, clever ideas in this book that I can’t mention them all. I’ll just share a few of my faves with you. There’s a ….

    • The wreath
    • Stuffed stockings
    • Jingle bells

      Cake pops - Christmas
      These look so real that they don’t look edible, but they are!
    • Pretty presents
    • Red nosed reindeer

      Cake pops, by Bakerella, Christmas
      Such cute and clever reindeer pops
  • Ornaments

    Christmas cake pops
    Simplicity is the key here.
  • Gingerbread houses
  • Snow globes
  • And just for good measure and because it’s Chanukah – Driedles (how cool are these?)

    Channuka cake pops
    I have to make these!

……..and that’s just a few! In total there are 22  winters themed pops.

Resources

This section is mainly recommending places in the US where you can buy the equipment for making cake pops, but alternatives are available here  in the UK. My local cake shop stocks most of these things. You can check out their website at www.cakecraftshop.co.uk

Cake pop image index

I think this is a really great idea. Have mini pics of all the recipes/ shapes/ designs on one page with their page number on it so you can instantly see where you need to be. Genius!

 

I love books like this. There are endless inspiring designs and hints and tips throughout, my favorite of which are…..

“Don’t push the lollipop sticks in more than half way into the cake pops” – Been there. Done that. They just go all the way through and make a big mess.

“Don’t dip frozen cake pops”. Yuck

So what Cake pops are you making this year? Do any of these designs grab your fancy?  I’d love to know.

Ottolenghi Spice cookie recipe from ‘Jerusalem’

After reviewing the book ‘ Jerusalem‘ by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi yesterday, I have very kindly been given permission by the publishers Ebury Press to run this delicious extract. I hope you enjoy it!

EmmaMT

Spice cookies

MA K E S 1 6 COOK I E S

During the late 19th century, as part of their Protestant beliefs, the Templers
arrived in Jerusalem from Europe and established the German colony, a
picturesque little neighbourhood south west of the old city that to this day
feels unusually Central European. This is the ‘civilized’ part of town, where
you go for a coffee and a slice of Sachertorte if you wish to escape the harsh
Levantine reality.

Germanic influences on the city’s food are evident in Christian contexts
— the famous Austrian hospice at the heart of the old city serves superb
strudels and proper schnitzels — but Czech, Austrian, Hungarian and
German Jews arriving in the city from the 1930s have also managed
to stamp their mark, opening cafes and bakeries serving many Austro-
Hungarian classics. Duvshanyot, round iced cookies,
made with honey and spices, typically for Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year),
are possibly a result of this heritage; they are very similar to Pfeffernüsse.

These are very loosely inspired by duvshanyot, or pfeffernüsse. They are
actually more closely related to an Italian spice cookie and are hugely
popular on the sweet counter at Ottolenghi over Easter and Christmas. The
recipe was adapted from the excellent The International Cookie Cookbook by
Nancy Baggett.

125g currants
2 tbsp brandy
240g plain flour
½ tbsp best-quality cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp each ground cinnamon, allspice, ginger and nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
150g good-quality dark chocolate, coarsely grated
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
½ tsp grated lemon zest
½ tsp grated orange zest
½ medium free-range egg
1 tbsp diced candied citrus peel

GLAZE
3 tbsp lemon juice
160g icing sugar

Soak the currants in the brandy for 10 minutes. Mix together the flour,
cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, spices, salt and dark
chocolate. Mix well with a whisk.

Put the butter, sugar, vanilla and lemon and orange zest in a mixer bowl
and beat to combine but not aerate much, about a minute. Add the egg
slowly, while the machine is running, and mix for another minute. Add the
dry ingredients, followed by the currants and brandy. Mix until everything
comes together.

Remove the bowl from the machine and use your hands to gently knead
until you get a uniform dough. Divide the cookie mix into 50g chunks and
shape them into perfectly round balls. Place on two baking sheets lined with
baking paper, about 2cm apart, and rest in the fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 190ºC/170ºC Fan/Gas Mark 5. Bake the cookies for
15–20 minutes, or until the top firms up but the centre is still slightly soft.
Remove from the oven. Once the cookies are out of the oven, allow to cool
for 5 minutes only, and then transfer to a wire rack. While still warm, whisk
together the glaze ingredients until a thin and smooth icing is formed. Pour
1 tablespoon of the glaze over each biscuit, leaving it to drip and coat the
biscuit with a very thin, almost transparent film. Finish each with three
pieces of candied peel placed at the centre. Leave to set and serve, or store
in an airtight container for a day or two.

Jerusalem is available now from Amazon (Just click on the book image below) and good book shops

enjoy!

‘JERUSALEM’ by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sam Tamimi book review

Have you ever been to Jerusalem? It’s an amazing city full of diversity and amazing sights, scenes, sounds and smells. Being Jewish I’ve been a few times and even though it’s the original ‘old city’ it always seems different each time I go. I have really, really fond memories of Jerusalem from when I went there with my family for the first time when I was 15 to when I was traveling with Tim during our gap year. When I first picked up this book all those memories came flooding back.Flicking through the pages has made me desperate to go back…. very soon!

The authors of this book are Yotam Ottolenghi who is from Jewish West side of Jerusalem and Sami Tamimi who’s from the Muslim West. They grew up there as kids and didn’t meet until years later in London when they set up the Ottolenghi deli (and there’s also a restaurant now) The cultural influence of this great city has such an impact on their recipes that this book is literally bursting with flavor.

I love the city shots

As well as all the great recipes here there are tons of atmospheric photos of markets and food sellers. Piles and piles of fresh fruits and vegetable. I love the shot of the hand written sign above a Falafel shop that reads in English and Arabic ‘I HAVE GOOD FALAFEL’  I mean say it like it is or what? It’s touches like this that make this book so beautiful. There’s tons of who, what, where and why for each section and mentions of both Jewish and Muslim traditions. I love that. The fact that these recipes and food combinations have been handed down over generations, carried on through families.

So what will you find inside this book?

In a word. EVERYTHING. If you’re vegetarian then it’s a must. If you’re a meat lover, then it’s a must. In fact if you like flavor then this book is a must!

Introduction: 

Jerusalem food, The passion in the air, The recipes, A comment about ownership & history

VEGETABLES 

Roasted sweet potatoes & fresh figs

At home Tim and I make what we call Israeli salad. It’s basically tomatoes, cucumber and onion all chopped up into very small cubes, drenched in olive oil, with a touch of salt and pepper all mixed up. It’s amazingly simple and totally delicious. If you take this kind of simplistic ‘throw it all together’ approach that’s what you get in this chapter, but so much more sophisticated. It’s all about knowing what to put together and boy do these guys do it well! Roasted sweet potato and fresh figs, Broad bean Kuku, even the simple mixed bean salad made my mouth water.

This is one big, jam packed section that I would eat from every evening. It’s also worth mentioning the Latkes. Who can resist a Latke?

PULSES & GRAINS

My family went to Israel for our first holiday abroad when my brother had his bar mitzvah. One of the big memories from the holiday (apart from my brother going down to breakfast first thing in the morning and then again for second breakfast when everyone else got up) was that every street corner had a falafel stand on it. I had falafel at practically every stand! I got completely addicted to them. Why am I telling you this? Well, guess what the first recipe in this chapter is? Yep. Falafel!

Whether it’s chicpeas, rice, pasta or couscous there’ s plenty of choice in this chapter. The thing about this book is that it has an amazing array of herbs and spices to flavor the most basic of foods. The Basmati & wild rice with chickpeas, currants & herbs looks amazing. The hummus…. don’t get me started on the hummus, and couscous with tomato and onion are so easy to make. Some I could eat as a snack (ie devour when no one is looking) but I am sure they are meant to be shared!

SOUPS

Watercress & chickpea soup with rose water & ras hanout

I love the soup chapter as it’s got so many unusual flavors. Who else could come up with  burnt aubergine & mograbieh soup? (Mograbieh is a type of large couscous by the way) there’s a meatball soup, pistachio soup and a seafood and fennel soup (slightly not Kosher but Tim loved the look of this) but the best soup has to be the proper Clear Chicken soup with knaidlach (aka Jewish Penicillin) Knaidlach are like dumplings and when we were little we nick named them knaidlebums and the name has stuck ever since. This soup is very easy to make and really does make you feel better when you are ill. I swear by it!

STUFFED

No, not a sign that you have eaten too much food from this book and need to loosen your belt buckle, this is all about stuffed foods and literally anything goes. I didn’t know you could stuff a carrot! I thought it was all about cabbage leaves! Not in this book. How does Lamb-stuffed quince with pomegranate & coriander grab you? Or how about stuffed onions, stuffed Romano peppers or stuffed potatoes?

MEAT

There are lots of easy recipes here that you can pop in the oven and leave to enhance. Roasted chicken with clementines and arak is on my to do list (especially for our next dinner party!) If you like chicken then there’s definitely something here for you. The meatball and Kofta b’siniyah look mouthwateringly good as does the lamb shwarma.

FISH

We eat a lot of fish in our house and as I’m no cook (Tim’s the cook. I can bake!) so it’s really good to get some fresh flavour ideas on our regular favs. Pan fried sea bream with harissa & rose, cod cakes in tomato sauce, Marinated sweet and sour fish, I could go on and on.

SAVORY PASTRIES

Red pepper & baked egg galette

I’m addicted to eggs. There I said it. I love them and could eat them every day (in fact I nearly do) so when I saw this red pepper & baked egg galette I knew it was love at first sight. I mean what’s not to love? puff pastry+ peppers +topped with a perfect egg! This chapter is all about the mouthwatering flavour of herb pies and Burekas. Nom, nom, nom!

SWEETS & DESSERTS

Mutabbaq

The first page in this chapter opens with Sweet filo cigars with all the sweet honey just oozing out, then moves swiftly onto sweet cheese. I love savory and sweet together and the Mutabbaq looks so mouthwatering. There’s also recipes for cakes, rice pudding, crumble, spice cookies (which I have the recipe for and will be sharing with you tomorrow) as well as yeasted cakes.

Chocolate Krantz Cake

CONDIMENTS

It’s really good to be given so many great condiment recipes. I’ve always wanted to add tahini sauce to my falafel and now I can. There are also yoghurt with cucumber recipes as well as countless picked options.

So in all, I love this book. It seems so perfect for this time of year when it’s cold and windy outside and you want a warm and full flavour dish to keep you toasty and satisfied on the inside.

It would definitely make great Christmas/Channuka present. Smiles all round I think.

You can buy it on Amazon.com by clicking on the link here-  Jerusalem– or on book image below

EmmaMT

Squires Kitchen ‘BAKE School’ magazine review

Have you seen this magazine on the shelves yet? I got my hands on the second issue this week and it’s really, really good. I don’t buy many baking magazines – if I started I don’t think I’d stop and what with all the interiors titles I buy for work I’d be drowning in piles and piles of paper!

Squires kitchen, for those of you who don’t know, is a baking shop/school/ haven. It’s based in Farnham in Surrey and has people coming from all over the world to learn how to master the art of decorating cakes and cookies, modelling, sugarcrafting and much, much more. Their baking ingredients and equipment are so readily available the chances are you already have a ton of it in your baking cupboard without even realising it. They have had a fantastic  Wedding magazine for a while but this new ‘Bake school’ is right up my street and so probably yours too.

So what’s in it?

Recipes to start with, and lots and lots of them. Most are by the Squires tutors but there’s also a few experts thrown in for good measure, Mary Berry, Edd Kimber and Carlos Lischetti to name but a few. There are also tons and tons of tips. Really simple things that make a difference to being a successful baker. How to line a cake tin, how to colour icing, how to pipe a cupcake, which nozzle give which effect etc

The features in this issue

Biscuits

There are loads of recipes as well as beautiful decorating ideas from stencilling and embossing to flooding and stained glass effects

Cupcakes

Recipes including very vanilla, triple chocolate and some basic how to’s on piping buttercream to more complex designs. I love the butterfly cupcakes with the iced cookies in them and the cupcakes that really look like roses. They’re incredible.

Cakes

Raspberry Victoria Sponge anyone? Or a pretty layered cake, like the one on the cover? Yes, please!  There are also some dairy free, wheat and gluten cakes as well.

Chocolate

Well what can I say. You will want to make all of these recipes from Mud cake to chocolate chilli cupcakes, Chocolate fondant puddings to chocolate and walnut brownies to name but a few.

Dessert

I love desserts. In fact I nearly love them more than cakes – but don’t tell anyone! This is one chapter that I have folded down the page corners on every page! Swiss Meringues that are so pretty, Eaton Mess Meringue cakes, Mango tart, yum, yum, yum!

Bread

I’ve only recently discovered the fun of baking bread. I have loved making pizza bases this week. They are so much better than shop bought ones. George Thomopoulos, Squires expert bread baker, shares his tried and tested recipes for brown malted loaf, bloomer and rolls and Focaccia – this is what I’m making next.

Also worth checking out ….

  • Susanna Righetto’s sugarcraft flowers. You could sell them in a florists shop they look so real.
  • The interview with Edd Kimber, winner of the first series of The Great British Bake off.
  • Plum chutney and a jam recipe to accompany other recipes.
  • In the kitchen with Carlos Lischetti – this man makes models from modelling clay that are incredible. They are so beautiful you could put them on a shelf as an ornament. They are the epitome of perfect.

Bake school is available from WHSMith, Sainsbury’s and selected newsagents for £5.99 or you can buy it directly from the Squires on line shop, but beware, you’ll come away with a lot more than you bargained for if you let yourself loose in the shop. It’s a treasure trove of baking goodies!

Do you buy baking magazines? Which ones are your favorites and why? I’d love to know what to look out for.

enjoy!

Paul Hollywood’s white cob bread loaf recipe

This is what Paul’s White cob loaf looks like – Taken from the book ‘How to Bake’

So, as I said yesterday, bread is not my thing. So when I set about making this loaf for the first time I was a little apprehensive! But my worries were completely unfounded. ‘How to bake’ by Paul Hollywood is really easy to follow and I really loved getting my fingers into the dough and having a good knead (as you will see below). It’s strangely satisfying. So soft and spongy not like sugarpaste which is much harder to manipulate. I’m sure I’m developing better toned arms from kneading sugarpaste, but I digress!

Making bread is fun. Not quite as relaxing as baking cakes (well for me anyway) but it’s just as rewarding.

I have been lucky enough to get permission to feature a book extract from ‘How To Bake’ published by Bloomsbury Publishing so without further a do…. here’s the White cob recipe – words Paul Hollywood,  along with my action shots!

White cob loaf recipe 

MAKES 1 loaf / PREP 3 hours / BAKE 30 minutes

Ingredients

500g Strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting

10g salt

10g instant yeast

30g unsalted butter,softened

320ml cool water

Olive oil for kneading

How to make a white cob loaf

1. Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl.

With a little help from Beau

Add the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other.

Add the butter and three-quarters of the water, and turn the mixture round with your fingers. Continue to add the remaining water, a little at a time, until you’ve picked up all the flour from the sides of the bowl. You may not need to add all the water, or you may need to add a little more – you want dough that is soft, but not soggy. Use the mixture to clean the inside of the bowl and keep going until the mixture forms a rough dough.

This is the fun bit!

2. Coat the work surface with a little olive oil, then tip the dough onto it and begin to knead. Keep kneading for 5–10 minutes. Work through the initial wet stage until the dough starts to form a soft, smooth skin. When your dough feels smooth and silky, put it into a lightly oiled large bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise until at least doubled in size – at least 1 hour, but it’s fine to leave it for 2 or even 3 hours.

3. Line a baking tray with baking parchment or silicone paper.

4. Once risen, the dough should be bouncy and shiny. Scrape it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. First shape into a ball by folding it inwards repeatedly until all the air is knocked out and the dough is smooth. Then form it into a round, smooth cob shape.

Before
After.
I couldn’t resist poking my fingers into it!

5. Put the dough on the baking tray and place in a clean plastic bag. Leave to prove for about 1 hour, until the dough is at least doubled in size and springs back quickly if you prod it lightly with your finger. Meanwhile, heat your oven to 230˚C and put a roasting tray in the bottom to heat up.

6. Dust the dough with some flour, then slash deeply with a knife. Fill the hot roasting tray in the oven with hot water: this will create steam and give your bread a lighter crust. Put your bread into the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until it is cooked through and sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Cool on a wire rack.

It takes serious will power not to eat the bread when it first comes out of the oven.

So, does it look right? I’m not sure. But I can tell you this. It tasted amazing! Beau and I had some toasted and that was even better than the warm slices we had once it had cooled down enough to handle it.

I will definitely be making bread again. It’s pretty straight forward and fun, you just need to have the time to come back a few times and do some kneading, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

Enjoy! 

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