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Good in parts but not a baking 'bible'?
on 9 July 2014
I am a keen baker and have been since I was wee. Recently my trusty old version of Delia Smith's Book of Cakes fell apart, key recipes falling out every time I picked it up! I know a lot of those recipes almost by heart but came on amazon to look at and purchase the recently re-issued version of that classic book...
I got a bit distracted perusing other baking books, and was very tempted by Mary Berry's Baking Bible as it looked so completely comprehensive, covering classics and more modern versions. However, I do find Mary Berry's style at least on television, a little condescending so I began looking at this, another book calling itself a Baking Bible.
I have to say I wasn't very familiar with Annie Bell's work, though I had heard her name, and based on a quick look at it and the reviews I decided to go with this book because it looked a bit more up-to-date whilst still covering the basics.
It arrived the other day and I have to say I'm disappointed. It's a nicely put together book and there are some interesting recipes, with a definite French and American slant to some sections. But it is in no way a 'bible'. I spotted in her introduction Annie Bell says "two words in particular fill me with dread - rule and technique' and reading that my heart sank a little! I don't believe in sticking to rules or old ways of doing things but in my opinion, in baking both rules and techniques are really important! Play around too much and you don't get the best results. And I couldn't shake the feeling throughout the rest of the book that I wasn't necessarily in the hands of a very experienced baker.
There are some definite highlights and a few recipes I'm keen to try. The book is visually very attractive and the author's tone is relaxed and friendly so you don't feel that any of the cakes/bakes are beyond your own abilities. But equally I don't feel as if I am going to learn a huge amount from the book: there are virtually no techniques explored (sponge cakes which I would consider a basic first baking step aren't covered until chapter six) and the whole thing is almost a bit random in order and content at times.
Maybe calling it a Baking Bible has given me false expectations? If you want a true baking bible I would suggest you look elsewhere but if you fancy trying a variety of recipes including several more unusual continental cakes and buns, then give this book a look!