Category: Book review

Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake – book review

If there was ever a man to teach me how to bake its’s Paul Hollywood. I mean is it me or does he have the bluest eyes on TV? Now I know that I should start a book review with “This is what this book is all about” but really! You can’t get past them. Anyone who watched the ‘The Great British Bake off’  series (new series is starting tonight by the way!) will know what I ‘m talking about.  (There! Secret crush dealt with. Now onto the book)

How to Bake,

By Paul Hollywood

I have a confession to make. Before getting my hands on this book I had never made bread, or rolls, or buns or anything with yeast in it before! So, this is the perfect book for me! It has all those “I want to make bread recipes in it” and they are really simple to follow. Step pictures always help I find! Don’t you?

Paul says that baking bread is not difficult. “It’s all about mastering the techniques”  And it’s true! Check in tomorrow to see how my first loaf turned out.

So, What’s in the book

Every chapter has tons of techniques, ingredients, the tools you need as well as baking advice. Paul’s years of knowledge is evident throughout and his tone is really coaxing. He makes you feel like you can make any bread with ease.

The chapters

Getting started with bread

This is where you learn about what each ingredient does when baking bread. It’s the science bit that I always want to understand but no one usually includes in a baking book. You can see how to do all the different techniques from kneading and mixing to rising and knocking back the dough (great if you have had a stressy day!) There’s also a list of the basic tools that you’ll need – don’t worry, if your a keen baker you’ll have most of them already.

How to knead bread

Basic breads

Now the fun starts. There are so many great recipes here that you won’t know where to start. White cob, soda bread and Cholla loaf are the ones I am going to start off with.


Of course I had heard of sourdough, but I didn’t really know what it was. Now I do, I can’t wait to try it. It takes forever to make but is well worth the effort from the look of it. There are 15 sourdough recipes in this chapter! I think I’ll start with the basic sourdough and move on from there!

Croissants, Danish & Brioche

Now, I remember seeing the contestants on ‘Great British Bake off” making croissants and being astounded by how much butter was in them. I couldn’t believe how there was any dough at the end of all the kneading and not just a pile of butter!  I vowed to stay clear or become the size of an elephant. That lasted about 2 weeks till I was on a shoot. Croissants are the staple breakfast on any shoot!

This chapter is not for the dieters out there. Pain au chocolat, frangipane, Creme Patissiere, Apple brioche!!!!!! I can’t go on! Just know that there are 14 deeeeelicious recipes to choose from.

Biscuits, puddings & cakes

This chapter is bursting with thirty three fab recipes that I either haven’t seen for a while or have a Paul twist to them.  I was very excited to see Clafoutis there after my trip to Norfolk a few months ago. There’s also carrot and almonds cheese cake, raspberry and passionfruit muffins and spiced coffee and date cake as well as a few traditional bakes like Victoria sponge, scones and buttery shortbread biscuits. In short theres loads to choose from.

Clafoutis Monique

Tarts & Pies

I never make pastry in a food processor as my mum always taught me to use the warmth of your hands to blend the ingredients together. Paul says exactly the same thing. He gives loads of hints and advice throughout all the chapters. Each pastry recipe states where it’s best used- be it a tart, pie or a pasty. I’ve been wanting to make Lemon meringue pie for a while now and this one looks seriously good. Each level is nice and thick! There’s puff pastry, short crust pastry as well as ingredients for sausage rolls, Pithivier, Peacan and chocolate pie and Flamiche to name but a few!

Lemon Meringue pie

Directory page – self explanatory!

What I like about the book.

The colours and layout throughout the book are really good. They give baking bread a modern touch. I love the punchy oversized fonts used for each chapter. The step by step shots are also perfectly placed, just when you need to see how your dough should look or how to knead it- there’s a picture to show you.

There’s no getting away from the fact that some breads need a lot of time to prove, but my mouth was literally watering when I first looked through this book. I love bread and I love cheese so the thought of putting the two together is just too yummy to resist. So in short. I’m sold on bread. Although I’m more of an instant baking results sort of person, there are plenty of recipes where you can leave the dough overnight and pick up where you left it in the morning.

I can’t wait to get started. Can you?

Check out other reviews on Amazon by clicking on the picture link below or see See Paul in action here

P.S. Check out Paul Hollywood’s White Cob loaf recipe here.

Peggy Porschen’s ‘Boutique Baking’ book review


I’ve been a big fan of Peggy Porschen for ages. I met her at the launch of the Hobby Craft magazine a few years ago. She had done a beautiful feature on how to decorate these cute cookies. She’s really lovely. Very quietly spoken and so passionate about cakes. We could have talked icing for hours!

At the launch I showed her some of the pictures of my cakes (they were really dodgy photos on my phone!) and she was so complimentary. She asked if I wanted to come along to one of her cookie masterclasses that she was doing that weekend. She had one place left! Obviously I jumped at the chance! It was a Halloween themed class (which I am pretty into as my birthday is on Halloween!) We made pumpkin, cat, and ghost cookies. I learnt tons that day.  Peggy made it look so easy but let me tell you it’s not!

Peggy’s been baking cakes for years and is one of the biggest cake guru’s in the country! She even sells her wedding cakes at Fortnum & Masons!!! She opened a cake shop just over a year ago in Belgravia, in the heart of London which is a huge success. In the basement she does classes. I can’t recommend them enough! Check out the website here!

The book

Her latest book is inspired by the cakes and cookies that are sold in Peggy’s shop.  As with her previous books the cakes and designs are beautiful, seasonal and would make fantastic gifts. There are loads of recipes and step by step shots on how to create the decorations and effects. So what’s in it?

The contents

Sweet treats

These are so cute. Mini Meringue kisses, Morello Cherry Bakewell tarts with the cutest cherry decorations on top, ice cream cake pops, Peggy’s signature macarons, Mini cinnamon donuts (I adore these!!) I’ve tried to make donuts in the past and they turned out to be greasy blobs so I’ll definitely be giving these a go.

PEGGY PORSCHEN'S BOUTIQUE BAKING- Morello cherry Bakewell Tarts

Beautiful biscuits

Just when you thought you couldn’t do anything new with biscuits Peggy comes up with a whole host of goodies, from stencilled decorations to moulded flower toppers.  The teaspoon chocolate biscuits are really lovely. I also love the sound of the mulled wine stars.  Deelish!


Cupcake heaven

With these flavours who can go wrong? Banoffee, sticky toffee, black forest, strawberry and champagne, Lemon and raspberry, vanilla chiffon, chocolate heaven and Cosmo (yep – like the cocktail!)  Each one has the perfect frosting and all are easy to make and look great.

Lucious layer cakes

I’ve used many of Peggy’s recipes from her previous cake books but these are something else! I love the way the cakes are layered and then cut open so you can see how tempting they are once ready to be served. The summer berry cake uses jam in the buttercream which is such a great idea. It gives the cake a pretty colour and looks like it would taste amazing. The chocolate on the Tipsy Orange Truffle cake looks so perfectly flat! How does she do it? There’s also a dark truffle cake and white chocolate passion cake as well as a glorious victoria cake complete with shell and swirl detailing.

PEGGY PORSCHEN'S BOUTIQUE BAKING- Tipsy orange truffle cake

Classic cakes & Bakes

There’s a great choice here with Neapolitan marble cake, Chocolate hazelnut Torte, Triple berry cheesecake, Luxury fruit cake, Mini eggnog kugelhopfs and the Raspberry & Rose dome cake which looks amazing and is the kind of cake decorating I can only aspire to.

PEGGY PORSCHEN'S BOUTIQUE BAKING- Raspberry and Rose dome cake

Delicious drinks

I was surprised to see drink recipes in the book, but then again there must be loads sold at the cake shop! They look so pretty. I think the pink lemonade and Minteani are first on my ‘to try’ list but they’re followed closely by summer berry ice tea and home made hot chocolate. I reckon you can stand a spoon up in that!


The icing on the cake

This is where you learn how to make daisies, blossom, chrysanthemums as well as other pretty details from icing. You’ll also see steps on how to decorate cup cakes, assemble layer cakes, how to use Royal Icing and making a paper piping bag.

There’s also an Acknowledgements page and a Suppliers page.

This book is serious eye candy. Not only are the recipes mouth watering, but the way they look is just beautiful. They’re the kind of cakes that I would love to take round to a friend’s house for a party. They look as good as they taste and there’s so much to choose from. Peggy’s books just get better and better.  It’s a great buy!


You can buyPeggy Porschen’s ‘Boutique Baking’ book, Published by Quadrille on by clicking on the image below.


The Busy Girls Guide to Cake Decorating – book review

The Busy Girls Guide to Cake Deorating

This book is great. It’s the perfect mix of delicious cake recipes and ‘how to’ decorating tips. ‘The busy girls Guide to Cake Decorating’ (David & Charles Publishers) is by Ruth Clemens of The Great British Bake off fame! 

I, like to so many other baking enthusiasts love ‘The Great British Bake off’ TV programme. Ruth was in the first series and when the final episode finished there was a synopsis of what each of the finalists were up to now and that’s where I learnt about her cake blog ‘The Pink Whisk‘. I’ve been following her ever since! 
I’ve commented on her blog many times and emailed her a few times too. Last Thursday I tweeted that I was really excited to have received her new book to review here on, so when I saw her  stand at ‘The cake decorating and baking show‘ last Sunday I had to say “hello”. To my complete astonishment she knew who I was (after I said “Hello, I’m Emma MT) She  jumped up and came and gave me a hug. To say I was seriously flattered would be an understatement. It totally made my day! 

Anyway, back to the book….

Now, I love a good cake book, but the design and layout of this one really feels like it’s aimed right at me. I love the way the pages look like a lined notebook, but my favorite little touch is all the Sindy dolls throughout. Not the new kind, the old ones that I used to play with for hours and hours with my friend Dena from up the road. They were so beautiful. Seeing them on the pages just made me really smile. It’s the simple things in life that make me happy! 

So what’s in the book?

The contentsThe Busy Girls Guide to Cake Deorating

Get ready   – equipment and ingredients.

This is where Ruth shows you what she uses to make the cakes in the book. It’s nearly all things that you would already have at home – with just a few exceptions. She also goes through each food ingredient and what she uses. It’s always great to get an inside view on that , don’t you think?

Get baking – Cake and icing recipes

There’s plenty of advice here on how to line a cake tin with greaseproof paper and all the recipes you’ll need to create her cake designs including Madeira cake, chocolate cake, fruit cake, (these all have the quantities for different size cake tins – I love that. You hardly ever see such detail in baking books and it just makes life so much easier. No guess work!) There’s also vanilla, chocolate, lemon and  blackberry cupcakes, vanilla sugar cookies, buttercream,chocolate frosting and royal icing. Phfeeew!The Busy Girls Guide to Cake Deorating

Get decorating – Techniques and know how

If you’re new to cake decorating Ruth’s easy to follow guidelines are just what you need. She makes it all look so easy, from piping lines and patterns to levelling the top of a cake and how to cover a cake in marzipan and sugarpaste.

Now get busy – 25 projects 

Evening whip ups – to make in an hour or less.

Ruth has a really good eye for creating a pretty cookie or cake with really easy to achieve techniques- and in no time at all. I’m always finding myself wanting to rustle something up at the last minute and these are just the ticket. I love the strawberry cookies made with heart cutters. So clever. Perfect for the next school cake sale I think!The Busy Girls Guide to Cake Deorating

Half day delights – When you’ve got a couple of hours

These are larger scale cakes with a bit more complexity. The ruffles on the mini cake are so sweet. I have to use them somewhere! I also love her technique for creating sugarpaste buttons. The Busy Girls Guide to Cake Deorating

Weekend wonders – longer projects

The clever thing about this book is that there’s no nonsense when it comes to how long it will take to decorate a cake. I was always surprised when a simple cake would take me 9 hours to decorate but it’s true. It always takes longer that you expect. 
The cakes in this section need more time, but the end result is well worth it. I love the use of colours. The cakes are so pretty. 

Extra pages

There are also pages on troubleshooting (I love the shot of the cake with the smoother smashed into it!) templates and a list of suppliers.
I have to admit that as I’ve been decorating cakes for a while now I didn’t think there would be so much to learn from this book. I thought it would be a really inspirational design resource but boy was I was wrong! Throughout the recipe and decorating pages are loads and loads of really useful tips. Things I have never heard before and I’m going to be able to implement them in my baking and designing, like chilling a cake before levelling it will make it easier”. I knew I’d like the book just from the cake on the front cover (you can always tell if someone decorates in a similar way to you!) but it’s a real treasure and I’m sure the pages will be dog eared very soon. 
Word has it that Ruth is working on a new book already. I for one can’t wait to see it. If it’s anything like ‘The busy girls Guide to Cake Decorating’ it will also be a winner! 
You can buy The busy girls Guide to Cake Decorating on Amazon by clicking the image or link below.


The busy girls guide to cake decorating, Ruth Clemens

The Busy Girl’s Guide to Cake Decorating: The fast, simple way to impressive cakes and bakes

‘The Great British Book of Baking’ book review

The Great British book of bakingThis book accompanies the first BBC series of ‘The Great British Bake Off’ TV series. It’s fantastic, which is probably why it’s been in the top 10 best sellers list for ever! It’s got over 120 savory and sweet recipes from around the British Isles. Loads that you’ve heard of and some you may not.

So what’s in the book?

These are the headings for each chapter and a glimps of what’s included.

  • A word from Mel & Sue The very funny duo who present the programme
  • Tips from the Judges. I’ve mentioned I’m a big fan of Mary Berry – She is the Original Guru, and Paul (I’ve got the bluest eyes on TV) Hollywood. Great tips from them both.
  • Introduction
  • Biscuits and tea time treats– Annetha’s moulded shortbread, brownies, all the classics I love- chocolate banana bread, Jewish honey cake, scones oooh and Welsh cakes. Yummarge!Annetha's moulded shortbread-The Great British book of baking
  • Bread– Farmhouse soda bread (I love this with eggs Benedict so much) Jasminder’s Focccia- do you remember it from the programme? Looks just mouth-watering. Four plait Challah (another Jewish one – Now I REALLY have to have a go at this one. No excuses!) Bagels, Naan, hot cross buns, Mark’s sticky Marmalade tea loaf. Too much choice!
  • Tarts and Flans– There is a great section on how to make pastry and fill a flan case and plenty of recipes for savory tarts to whet your appetite, like Blue Shropshire and broccoli tart, but it’s the sweet ones they really float my boat. I want to try Westmorland tart which is packed full of dates and raisins. But there’s all the classics too. Bakewell tart anyone?Cherry Pie-The Great British book of baking
  • Pies– If you want to make a pie you have to make a rough puff pastry (apparently!) so this is where you get the low down. There’s chicken, beef as well as apple and Cherry pie recipes, individual plum cobbler (Mmmm). I really want to give the Apple pie with cheddar crust a go. I had never heard of this before but it’s been around for 300 years.Apple Pie with Cheddar crust-The Great British book of baking
  • Cakes– Now we get down to the nitty-gritty. Cherry cake, Lea’s Pistachio and cranberry cake, Lemon drizzle, Jasminder’s parrot cake- don’t worry there’s no parrots in it, just loads of exotic fruit, Cornish clotted cream cake and of course a victoria sponge to name just a few! I could go on and on but as there are 50 pages of cakes I think you get my gist. There are tons!Lea's Pistachio and cranberry cake- The Great British book of baking
  • Puddings – I don’t feature anywhere near enough puddings here on CB&C considering how much I love them. The pudding recipes in this book are of course lush. Loads of traditional ones including bread and butter pudding, sticky toffee pudding, Baked Alaska, Apple and cinnamon Charlotte and Queen of puddings. I hadn’t heard of quite a few of these recipes till I watched the TV series so it’s great to find a book that not only gives the details but where they come from too!
  • Fancy pastries In this chapter you’ll learn how to make puff pastry and choux pastry. There’s plenty of savory recipes like sausage rolls and Little goats cheese and tomato tarts but for me a pastry is all about the sweetness of the Honeyed Baklava, cream puffs and Millefeuille!Millefeuille-The Great British book of baking

What I love about this book

There’s so much background information about all the foods and where they come from throughout this book as well as cute little cameo’s from local bakers and tea room owners. It’s so much more than a recipe book. I’ve been sitting reading it all. Things I ordinarily wouldn’t consider making take on a whole new meaning and I am so much more interested in them. It’s almost like a food history lesson.

Although this book is from The Great British Bake Off and has Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood and the contestant’s recipes throughout I can’t review it without mentioning the very talented Linda Collister and Sheila Keating who wrote it. They’ve done a cracking job and I think it is going to become a very dog eared/ stained book on my bookshelves in the years to come.


The Ultimate Chocolate Cook Book – Couture Chocolate

The book!As, promised in my post from Easter, I wanted to share with you this yummy book.

I’ve had lots and lots of cook books sent to me to review here on Cakes, Bakes and Cookies, but none of them have the amazing chocolate content of Couture Chocolate, by William Curley, Jacqui Small publishers.

This book has EVERYTHING! It’s totally jam packed full of helpful advice on how to handle chocolate including how to temper chocolate properly and tons and tons of recipes.

William Curly may not be a household name yet, but I am sure he soon will be. He started his career at the Gleneagles Hotel and has worked under some of the biggest chef names around including Pierre Koffmann at La Tante Claire, Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Marco Pierre White at The Restaurant in Knightsbridge and Marc Meneau at L’Espérance in France. He also worked as Chef Patissier at the London Savoy.  He’s won a ton of awards and in 2004 teamed up with his wife, who also just so happens to be a Patissier, to open their shop in Richmond Upon Thames as well as one in Belgravia. They sell box after box of their delicious chocolates and truffles as well as run master classes and courses for kids and adults. I think I may need to go on one of these!

So what’s in the book?

The chapters are…

  • An approach to Chocolate– A word or two by the main man himself.
  • Chocolate essentials– Loads of background info on the ‘Origins of Cocoa’, how it’s transformed from ‘Bean to bar’ and the all essential how to temper.
  • Truffles – great tips on how to make a truffle from piping them to rolling, with nine delicious recipes including how to make ganache, which is essentially what truffles are!  I’ve made loads of truffles in the past – usually as gifts at Christmas time, but these looks so much more high end. (Mental note to self – make the Yamazaki single malt whisky and Dacquoise truffle this year!)
  • Couture chocolates– These are something else! I mean where else will you find how to make layered chocolates, jelly layered chocolates, how to emboss, decorate and add flavour to chocolates? I mean I haven’t heard of some of the ingredients but they still sound delicious! How is that so?
    Couture Chocolate book review
    Piedmont Hazelnut , Szechuan Pepper, Chauo, Pistachio Toscano, Juniper berry & blackcurrant, Raspberry Toscano and passion fruit & name but a few!
  • Bars & Bites – This is where the diet HAS to go out of the window. Florentines, Cerises au Kirsch (Tim’s favorites) Walnut brittle and the most delicious bars of chocolate I’ve ever seen. I have an unhealthy love of salt so the Rosemary and Sea salt bars are the one for me, but I can’t resist these fruit and nut bars. If there’s fruit on them does that count as healthy?

Couture Chocolate book review

  • Bouchées– The word ‘Bouchées’ means ‘little mouthful’ in French and normally refers to a vol-au-vent type pastry, but here they are mouth watering delicacies including Millionaires shortbread, sea salt caramel mou, chocolate meringue, chocolate or coffee macaroons, the list goes on and on!
Couture Chocolate book review
These look way too good to eat! Just look at the chocolate on these Millionaire's Shortbread. It's so shiny!

  • Cakes & Biscuits– How about chocolate Madelines to start, Chestnut and sesame brownies for main and a chocolate cake made with dark chocolate not cocoa powder to finish?
  • Patisserie– This is where the artistry comes in. Knowing how to get chocolate to do what you want in order to create a decoration, whether that’s in hoops, curls, waves, balls or twists. There’s a fine artistry to the assembly of these deserts. William takes the classics and gives them a modern spin. You’ll find chocolate tarts, a classic Mille Feulle, chocolate and apricot roulade and Chocolate tiramisu in a casket (as seen on the cover of the book)

    Couture Chocolate book review
    He makes it look so easy.
  • Ice cream, sauces and drinks– If I say chocolate & raspberry sorbet, Almond milk ice cream lollies, chocolate & praline spread and black Forrest milkshake, you’ll get a small hint of what’s in store in this chapter. Something to tickle every taste bud!

There’s also a glossary of ingredients and equipment at the end of the book. I love this as it’s always fascinating to see what other people use as their tools of their trade. William also gives his advice on what to look out for when buying equipment and how to care for it,  eg you should clean chocolate moulds with cotton wool to ensure that you have a shiny surface on your chocolate.

On my ‘To do list’

Oh my goodness, there’s too much to choose from. I can’t stop flicking through this book and although I would normally switch off the moment a thermometer is mentioned, these recipes look too amazing not to try. They have the most incredible ingredients and combinations. Just one look at the Blackcurrant tea cakes ( you know the kind of marshmallow tea cakes you get in M&S!) and I’m hooked. I’ll also be giving the Matcha (green tea) & chocolate shortbread and a whole selection of couture chocolates a go.

This book is a definite keeper. The knowledge and tips and advice make it worth it alone but with all the delicious recipes. I think it’s a winner all round.



‘Pop party’ book review

‘Pop party’ book review

Pop party book

This is the second Cake pop book by Claire O’Connell from The Pop Bakery. At just 23 she runs a successful cake pop business from her home in West Hampstead, London, creating truly beautiful pops, you know the kind that are too good to eat!

I hadn’t made cake pops before getting my hands on this ‘Pop Party’ book. They’ve been on my to-do list for a while now. I had a fancy dress party to go to on Saturday night so I decided to attempt to make some for that!  This was SO the book to inspire and help me, but more on that tomorrow!

The book

Not only does this book contain the basics on how to make a cake pop, but it also has recipes for some of Claire’s other delicious cakes including Omelie’s chocolate cake, chocolate pistachio ice cream cake and Ruffle cake (this is gorgeous. I must have a go at this one with its delicate layers of soft pink icing)

Ruffle cake
I love the cute book mark in the book.

The cake pops

Each of the cake pops in the book look so cute. So much more detailed than the basic round ball ones we have all seen. There are babies with cute faces, racing cars, pencils, balloons, monkeys, fish, dinosaurs, swans, camels, unicorns, hot dogs, apples, mermaids and so much more.

My favourite designs have to be the mini tiered wedding cakes. They’re absolutely gorgeous hence they make the cover of the book (check it out in my Amazon book shop to the right of this post!). The Cavalier dogs are also really sweet with their big eyes and fluffy ears.  Lastly the ice lollies in bright colours with a bite taken out of them are very sweet (no pun intended!)

The extras

As well as the recipes and inspiration there are examples on how to display your pops as well as decorations to really create a party atmosphere. There’s a how-to on making paper roses, drink parasols, cake bunting as well as instructions on how to make a tiered display stand from polystyrene. The stand is really clever as it means the cake pops will stand up perfectly and not get damaged in transit. I made one for my cake pops.

This is the kind of book that you just can’t help but flick through and want to make absolutely everything in it. It’s beautifully shot, incredibly pretty and Clare makes it all look so effortless (it’s not- believe me, she’s seriously talented!) I found her tips and ideas made my first attempt at cake pops a whole lot easier.

Right I’m off now to by her other book Pop Bakery now. I can’t get enough of them!


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