Category: Best for Baking

The best books to bake with – Mary Berry’s Baking bible

Best books for baking

I think now is a good a time as any to start sharing with you all my favorite baking books. I have a LOT, as I am sure you can imagine, but some I love more than others.  I’m not going to feature them in any particular order. I’m just going to share them with you and do a good review on each one that I can’t live without. I’m also hoping to review new books as they are released, but more on that another time.

Mary Berry’s Baking bible

I was given this book when it first came out in 2009 by Jane Curran, the Food Editor on Woman and Home magazine. When a book is called a ‘baking bible’ you really expect a lot from it, and I have to say that it really delivers. It’s the first book I pull off my shelves when I want to bake something new! It has over 250 recipes so if you can think of a cake, tart, biscuit, tray bake, and pudding or pie the chances are it’s in here!

I have tried about 20-30 recipes from this book so far. My favorites are the Lemon Drizzle Tray bake (recipe to come tomorrow! Yay!) the very best chocolate fudge cake – it really is THE best and the melting moments biscuits, which I make with my girls as they have to be rolled in oats before they’re baked and they are brilliant fun to make with kids. I still haven’t attempted any breads or rolls. I think I may be too impatient to make bread, as you have to leave it to rise before you come back to it, knead it a bit more and so on and I’m more of a bake it now and eat it now kind of a girl.

So what makes this book great?

Click on the book image to go straight through to Amazon!

The book is divided up into sections which cover everything you could possibly want to make. There are also pages covering baking hints and tips, conversion tables and clever techniques. Here’s what’s inside.

  • Classic cakes– like Madeira and Victoria sandwich (which I am making tonight to take to a friend’s  house tomorrow)
  • Fruit and nut cakes– Cranberry and Apricot fruit cake anyone?
  • Spiced cakes– like Almond Spice cake
  • Chocolate cakes– you name it, it’s in here! Death by chocolate and brownies to name just two.
  • Cupcakes and other small bakes– like Madeleines, muffins, and eccles cakes
  • Celebration cakes, including a classic Christmas cake with different measurements for different size cake tins- very handy.
  • Special Cakes– These are “more complicated to make but look very impressive” such as Sachertorte, Wimbeldon cake and Chocolatines.
  • Tray bakes– I’ve only just discovered these, having only made flapjacks before. They’re really light and soooo easy to make. I defy anyone not to go back for seconds. Iced chocolate tray bake, Devonshire apple cake and Fast flapjacks are the next ones on my to try list.
  • Biscuits and cookies. So far I’ve made the Fork biscuits, chocolate chip cookies (for Tim… not me!), Lavender biscuits and Oat rounds. But the melting moments as mentioned earlier are my favs, especially still warm from the oven!
  • Fancy biscuits– These are a bit more fiddly but taste fantastic (of course) I’ve tried a few but I fancy having a go with the Almonds Tuiles and Macaroons. As Mary says in the book, these would make a great gift with a personal, thoughtful touch.
  • Shortbreads and bars – Bishops fingers, Millionaire’s Shortbread, Bakewell slices, They’re all here. You know how I feel about shortbread?
  • Baking for Children– Here there are a selection of fun and easy to make cakes and biscuits for kids to help make your kitchen a mess- or is that just my girls?
  • Tarts and Pastries – My father-in-law is the master of the tarte tatin so I don’t even go there, but all the recipes you need for tarts, tartlets, chocolate éclairs (Tim’s favorite – do I say that for everything?) and pastries are here.
  • Breads– Just looking at this list makes me hungry- English muffins, honey glazed walnut bread, Irish soda bread, Focaccia!!!!
  • Fruit breads–  Oooooh I’ve just seen the recipe for Banana and honey tea bread- two favorites in one. There’s also carrot and orange loaf, Courgette loaves and tea breads
  • Buns and scones. This is where I think I should really give yeast bakes a go! Bath buns, Rock cakes, hot cross buns and no less than eight types of scones.
  • Hot puddings and pies– Now I am a HUGE pudding fan. This has to be my favorite section, starting with classic apple pie and going right through to bread and butter pudding, treacle sponge and Pecan pie… pass the ice cream please?
  • Soufflés and Meringues–  Roll on summer so we can all make the Strawberry Pavlova and lemon meringue pie. I’ve never attempted to make a soufflé before, but looking at the hot chocolate one I really want to have a go now.
  • Cheesecakes– There are nine cheese cakes to choose from. I fancy the American Chocolate Ripple one.

After writing all that I have decided that I should only sit down to review a cook book after lunch and NOT before. Instead of wanting something healthy today, I’m dying for some bread and butter pudding now! Probably due to its warming effects and the fact that there’s 3 inches of snow outside. Resist Emma resist!

So, you can see why I recommend Mary Berry’s Baking bible to any keen baker whether a novice or an experienced cake maker. It’s got it all and what’s more you can hear Mary Berry’s voice encouraging you when you read it. Her recipes are simple to follow and are nearly all made up from baking cupboard supplies. If you have eggs, flour and sugar in your baking cupboard then you can conjure up a treat from this book in no time at all.

A quick Mary Berry story

Last summer I went to the Lakeland Christmas press launch. (Christmas starts in June/July for stylists!) At press launches shops show you all the new products that they are going to be selling the autumn and winter and Lakeland were also showing all the food gifts that they will be selling that year too.

I was being shown around the launch by the lovely Lakeland PR , Kelly. One of their newest designs was a sandwich cake tin that has a form in the middle that lets you have tons more cream filling in the centre. On the display was a copy of Mary Berry’s Baking bible and I said to Kelly “I’ve got that book. It’s fantastic” To which she replied “Oh Mary’s here, she’s in the next room being shown the new kitchen gadgets” Well you can imagine how excited I was. I HAD to meet her.

Now I should just make it clear at this point that I have met quite a few celebrities in my time. I’ve shot a lot of famous people’s houses and been to a lot of celebrity product launches, so I really shouldn’t get star struck anymore. I mean I’ve been an interior stylist for 12 years!) But let me tell you, meeting Mary actually made me nervous. This is ridiculous as she is so tiny and slim (doesn’t she eat her cakes? I only have to look at a cake and I put on 3lb!) but she is the nicest lady. When I met her I prattled on about loving her book and being a baking mad nut and we chatted about how impressed we both were with the new Lakeland products and she was really sweet. She talked to me for what seemed like ages. It absolutely made my day.  Now whenever we see her on TV on The Great British Bake Off I always say to Tim  “I’ve met her. She’s lovely” Now, if I could only meet Paul (I’ve got the bluest eyes ever) Holiday!

Enjoy!

Best for baking- Oxo Good grips Hand held mixer

Whiskful thinking.

The Oxo Hand held Whisk

When it comes to whisking food up what do you use? I usually use my Kitchenaid, my tiny whisk from the Nigella Lawson range or my hand held stick blender. Depending on what it is I am making, of course.  I don’t have a traditional whisk (the kind with a pair of removable beaters. I really should do something about that!)

Last week I was sent a press release for one of OXO Good Grips latest products.  A hand held mixer.  Now, I love to test anything baking related so I asked if I could have one to play with. It’s funny how a new toy gets you making things you haven’t made in ages! This week so far we’ve had pancakes, omelette and I have just whipped up a chocolate butter cream for a chocolate cake, just so I can have a go on this whisk. Thank goodness there’s no cream in the house or the healthy eating really would have gone out the window! (The cake wasn’t for us!)

Mixing chocolate

OXO

I have known about OXO Good grips for ages. I studied them (or at least their ethos) when I was at Uni doing Product Design. They’re very clever at designing comfortable to use items with great style. Everything has to be ergonomical and effortless.

So what’s so special about this whisk?

There are a lot of reasons for liking this whisk. Firstly it has a really soft non-slip handle which makes it  very comfortable to use. That’s obviously essential when you are likely to be whisking for a long while, like with meringues.

It's so easy to clean. Just press the button.
It's so easy to clean. Just press the button.

The whisking part of the mixer is removed at the push of a button.

Easy assembly
Just give the whisks a gentle tug to remove.

  The steel beaters are also removable and can be cleaned in the dishwasher after use. Just a gentle pull to the sides makes them pop out.

The elevating bar
See how the extra bar at the bottom prevents the whisks touching the bottom of the bowl? So clever!

It’s the ingenious bar which raises the beaters off the base of the bowl during the whisking that I think really makes this gadget a winner! 

Oxo Good Grips mixer

I’m not one for having a gadget just for the sake of it. Who has the space in their kitchen drawers apart from anything else? But I would definitely add this to my ‘must have’ list. Just because it’s so much fun!

enjoy!

Best for baking – JosephJoseph Baking gift set

Roll up! Roll up!

JosephJoseph baking kit 

I love JosephJoseph,and it’s not just because they have beautiful blue eyes! JosephJoseph are twins and I have met them a couple of times at press launches. They have such a passion for design that it’s infectious. Every one of their products is a “Why didn’t someone think of that before?” item.   I’ve been a fan of their clever products for a good few years now – probably because I studied Product Design at Uni and think they are great!

This baking set is really cool.  It was sent to me to test and I have to say I am impressed! It consists of an Adjustable rolling-pin, Elevate pastry brush, Elevate small spatula and a kitchen timer. The whole set is so usable whether for baking or cooking and I think it’s really great value at around £40 from Josephjoseph.com – considering what you get.

Here’s why…..

Adjustable rolling pin,

JosephJoseph Adjustable rolling pin rolling pin

This rolling pin was brought out a few years ago and I thought it was brilliant then, but it had a JospehJoseph logo on the centre which was recessed and left its mark on whatever you were rolling out. Now if you’re making cookies then it doesn’t matter, but I wanted to use it for icing which needed to be perfectly flat so it was just frustrating. So I gave my green one to my mum. She loves it! The newer version is completely flat ( no indented logo) so I can now roll out sugarpaste, dough and marzipan to my heart’s content!

Adjustable discs on the rolling pin

The main reason that this is such an amazing piece of baking kit is the way you can remove the discs at the ends to select the depth of thickness of what you are rolling out from 2mm, 6mm, 10mm. These sizes cover most of my needs! I also like having the measures on the pin so when you need to roll out icing to cover a cake or dough to fill a pie dish, you can see how much more you need to roll out.

You can pop the discs in the dishwasher but as with all wooden rolling pins you should just wipe them with a damp cloth. If you get it soaked the water gets in and can crack.

Elevate pastry brush,

JosephJoseph elevate pastry brush

I always use a silicone pastry brush when I am greasing a cake tin. They’re great for getting into every nook and cranny and are sooooo easy to clean. They also dry quicker than the old hairy bristle types.
This design has a really nifty handle which keeps the bristles lifted off the worktop surface when you put it down. It’s also larger than most brushes, which is great for glazing. It’s heat resistant up to 340°C, so you can even use it to baste a turkey. You can also pop it in the dishwasher.

Elevate small spatula

JosephJoseph elevate spatula

The spatula has the same type of  handle as the pastry brush (as the name would suggest!)  The spatula part is nice and soft so you can really scrape out all the cake mix from a bowl. I’m a big fan of silicone. It really is the easiest material to use and clean when baking.
It’s heat resistant to 340°C which means you can use it for cooking too. Once you’ve made scrambled or fried eggs with one of these you’ll never look back!

Kitchen timer

JosephJoseph kitchen timer

I never used to use kitchen timers that much, I just set the clock timer on the oven, but there have been a number of times when I have needed to set two timers to run at different times, say for different batches of cookies. Since receiving this kit I’ve used the timer non-stop. I don’t know how I lived without it before. I must say that I have also been giving my girls a “10 minute tidy timer” and as it’s pink (!!!!!) they actually love it!

So to sum up, I think each of the items in this set are great on their own, but as a set they are a brilliant bit of baking kit which I know I will be using for years to come!

Baking Gift Set

What do you think?

My one stop shop for Christmas recipes is…..

Woman and Home’s

‘Feel Good Food magazine’

Now, you might think that I am biased about this particular magazine as not only did I work for Woman and Home for nine years, and I know the food team at Feel Good Food (or FGF as we call it!) and I also write the table setting pages for each issue, but I’m not biased at all!

As you may know I am Jewish and as Tim is Christian so I get to celebrate all the religions festivals for both sides of our families. It’s the fact that I eat a practically vegetarian diet ( as I keep Kosher) and am always on the lookout for new cakes and cookies to bake makes this quarterly mag like food porn.

The Food Team

The Food team at Woman & Home are Jane Curran and Rebecca Smith and they are my food guru’s. I used to sit opposite Jane in the Woman & Home offices and I would throw all sorts of baking queries at her and she could fire back the most complicated response in an instant. I was always impressed. Their recipes are seriously impressive, yet easy to follow and very impressive for a dinner party.

Bex is the foodie behind the food blog truefoodie.com. I love reading this as it’s like she’s still sitting next to me in the office and we are chatting about food like we always used to. Bex’s brownies are the best I have ever tasted. I’m taking them to the New Year’s eve party we are going to this year. She taught me about adding a little salt in chocolate recipes. “Salt!” I thought. But try it. Just add a pinch.You’ll never look back!

Her most recent post is about getting the timing right for your Christmas dinner – turkey and all. I’m so glad I am the baker in my house and not the cook, but check out her advice here.

Feel Good Food Magazine

Feel Good Food Magazine

Whenever a new issue of FGF came out I would read it on the train home. Just to warn you, this is not the magazine to read on a train when you are hungry! It will make your mouth water.  I always want to make the veggie options as they are always proper meals. None of that tasteless nut loaf rubbish here.

From this issue I’m making  the Vegetable potato pie which is packed full of sweet potatoes (which I love) my fav veggies and all sorts of great flavours  (a must for any veggie meal)

Feel Good Food Magazine

I love how these ‘Home made gifts’ are packaged up. These truffles look melt in the mouth! (actually I know that they are as I’ve eaten Jane’s truffles before!)

Feel Good Food Magazine

I asked Tim what I should take to his parents for Christmas day this year. I wanted to make the roulade ( as I’ve never made one before and I love them) but he reminded me that his dad likes to make one (from a FGF recipe from a few years ago) so I should make this layered chocolate cake instead. He loves Chocolate cake. The recipe states that it will keep in the fridge for 3 days. Yeah right! This will be scoffed in one sitting at the MT household if me and Tim have anything to do with it!

So, if you are stuck for the perfect recipe and still need some inspiration this is the only mag you’ll need. I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s inside. There’s over 101 recipes in here! It’s available in supermarkets, news agents , but I always pick mine up in M&S.

Enjoy!

Best for baking #1

Baking equipment on test

When it comes to baking equipment you can easily spend a fortune getting the right stuff. I’ve been decorating cakes for a few years now and my baking armoire (yes I bought a huge French cupboard just to house my baking stuff in!) is packed to the brim with cutters, rolling pins, baking papers and the all important tins and trays. If you’re into baking you’ll know what I’m talking about. You can never have enough!

Pink Heart Roaster, £8,Available in Sainsburys at Easter 2012

Well, yesterday I went to the Sainsburys Spring / Summer 2012 press launch – we work far ahead in the magazine world! I was talking to the Head homewares  about bakeware. They’ve got a gorgeous new range of baking products coming out which I will be sharing with you when they hit the shelves next year. Here’s a sneak preview to whet your appetite!

We were discussing what keen bakers look for in their baking equipment and what Sainsburys should be stocking for us decorators of cupcakes, biscuits and cakes alike and it got me thinking about how you can easily buy tons of stuff that you will hardly ever use or that you don’t really need. Also, is it always worth buying the expensive stuff or will a less expensive version do?

So, I am going to share with all you readers what I rate and what I use in my ‘Best for baking’ posts. I get to test out new gadgets and equipment all the time as well as new foods for features when I write for magazines so watch this space for up and coming products. But for now……

Mermaid bakeware – On Test!

Ten years ago, when asked by my mother-in-law what I would like for my birthday,  I said some  Mermaid baking tins. M-I-L wasn’t keen as  this wasn’t the glamorous gift she had in mind. But I had it on good authority (albeit from a PR who was slightly biased) that these were the tins to have. It was said that the tins out last many marriages! Once I saw them I had to have them. Those original tins are still going strong today. And I still use them all the time. I was recently  sent a set of their new range to test for a feature I was writing and I can’t tell you how excited I was when the box  arrived.

The baking sheet

I blame ‘The Great British Bake Off’ for my latest obsession with using a baking sheet over a baking tray!  I had never had one before and now I can’t do without it. All the Mermaid tins are hard anodized . This means that the heat is distributed really evenly, so whether you are using a tin for a cake or sheet for biscuits there are no hotspots and everything is baked to perfection, AND you can get loads more cookies on a sheet than on a tray!

Square tins  or round tins?

I was really impressed with not only how well the loose bottomed cake tins performed but how easy they are to clean. I’m a bit of a clean freak with my tins. I like them to always look like new – and these do. There’s something very satisfying about a really cold, hard baking tin that you can scrub clean easily.  There are lots of sizes to choose from in the loose bottom collection-in both the square and round shapes. I’ve nearly got all the sizes now. They’re an investment but I know I’ll never have to replace them!

It’s also worth mentioning the pudding basin, perfect for your Christmas pudding.  I haven’t baked any puddings in mine yet but it’s a great shape for so many decorative cakes. It’s a really handy shape to have in your stores.

Mermaid don’t just do baking sheets and tins, they do Roasting tins too (although I have been using their mini roaster to bake cakes in for ages as it is such a great rectangular size for a football shirt cake!)

So, If you are looking to buy some new bakeware I can definitely recommend Mermaid Cookware. Check out the range at www.mermaidcookware.com or call them for your nearest stockist on 0121 569 7906. They are also available at John Lewis and Lakeland.

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