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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Whether you've been turning out fine cakes for years, or if you only just got into Great British Bakeoff, this book has something for you. Annie Bell is a great food writer, not just of baking titles (her Gorgeous Christmas is a must-have). But this book is her most massive (literally) labour of love. (At 200 recipes and more than 320 pages, it's HUGE. That hasn't stopped me carrying it round the house for the last few day, though - reading a bit in bed, a bit on the sofa while everyone's watching telly.... It's compulsive!)

It begins with a careful and thorough introduction that talks about ingredients and utensils - setting the tone for the whole book, which is methodical and detailed. She is obviously someone who has baked almost daily her entire life, and it shows. Every recipe has permutations, suggestions and tips that suggest the 'triple-testing' described in the book's title.

But don't imagine this means the book for experts - she always encourages you to have a go.

Chapters are:
1_ COOKIES AND BISCUITS
22 different recipes here, from classic shortbread, through chocolate digestives to gingerbread men, but also taking in cornflake crispies and lebkuchen. If you are a more experienced baker, you can try stem ginger and chilli biscuits, or cookies with chocolate and fennel. Bell clearly spends some of the year in France and there's a few tempting French things too - Breton gateau and Mont-St-Michel cookies.

2) TRAYBAKES AND BARS
Starting with flapjacks there are 25 recipes - lots of nuts and oats, then six kinds of brownies - millionaire's shortbread, fridge cakes, baklava.. bakewell slices... and many more. This chapter includes some flourless brownies and its worth saying that Bell has gone out of her way to test recipes for people with food allergies and has quite a number of suggestions even on the 'normal' recipes - I wouldn't be surprised if, in this huge book, it added up to more useable ideas than in a regular food allergy cookbook.

3) THE FRENCH QUARTER
Six recipes for the kind of little French cakes you buy in patisseries. Having made a few of these lately I can safely say - please have a go! It's so great making your own and makes you feel so sophisticated... :-)

4) MUFFINS, CUPCAKES AND FAIRY CAKES
14 recipes here, including some for desperate mums of non-vegetable-eating children like Courgette and Cinammon Muffins, and Pineapple and Carrot ones too. She talks a lot about how to decorate them, the debate between traditional fairy cakes with not much cake and about a third icing, then modern muffins with all their sprinkles. Very enjoyable and lots to try.

5) MERINGUES
Something else I've been getting into lately (SO EASY - why didn't anyone tell me before?) 11 recipes including classic plain meringues, chocolate almond and raspberry flavours, and then five variations on a lemon meringue pie which someone else will have to test as they make me feel sick...

6) SPONGE CAKES
14 recipes: Swiss Roll, a Victoria Sponge, a Madeira cake and a Lemon loaf, but also Marble cake, Angel cake and Coca-Cola Cake (uh-oh). The Angel cake in particular looks fascinating - no fat!

7) CHOCOLATE CAKES
We are wading into dangerous territory now - from the Tiramisu Torte through Sachertorte to the Devil's Food Cake, none of it's going to be good for you. However, again Bell has squeezed in at least two food allergy recipes - a Free-from Chocolate Mousse Cake with no nuts, flour or dairy; and a French flourless chocolate cake. Yum.

8) CHEESECAKES
A dozen cheesecakes, from New York to Germany via Key West and Italy. Even a white christmas one....

9) FRUITCAKES
17 recipes. These range from the American-style fruit cakes like carrot, banana, and passion cake, to French apple cake and proper old-fashioned Dundee. For food allergies there's Free From Pretty Much Everything Cake! I want to try the Hummingbird cake which is like a carrot cake but made with pineapple and banana... mmm....

10) CELEBRATION CAKEs
Yep, as if you couldn't find anything special enough in all of the preceding chapters :-)
Eleven cakes, from Simnel to Pumpkin pie via Black Forest Gateau and Christmas Log. Red Velvet Cake looks particularly tempting...

11) TARTS AND PIES
19 recipes, including one for mincemeat, and then Bakewell tart (there's Bakewell slices elsewhere) Swedish Mazarin, Pecan Pie, Treacle Tart, American Cherry Pie, Banoffee Pie, even the humble jam tart!

12) EASY BREADS AND PANCAKES
Finally, a slightly low-key odd chapter tacked on the end, containing simple homebaking. This is the one bit I could probably have lived without, but here are scones, fruitbreads, scotch pancakes and two little clafoutis (I've used her clafoutis recipe before from another book and it's top notch).

All in all this is a superb book. It certainly does live up to the title 'Bible', but has loads of personality too, avoiding being too much of a "Complete Manual". Annie Bell's careful, enthusiastic approach to baking comes through on every page. Most of the recipes are illustrated but not all, however for me I don't mind that. In fact the only complaint I could make is that I wish her publisher had printed it on cakemixture-resistant paper. I can see this book is going to get a LOT of use and I want it to last as long as possible....
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 13 January 2013
Fabulous book: the whole premise of her recipes is that they should be practical and achievable for the home cook. She manages to do this without being patronising or repetitive: some feat when you're talking about this number of recipes aimed at this wide an audience. I speak as an experienced home baker when I say that there's plenty in this book to interest me without - I think! - there being anything that looks intimidating to the novice.

There are very few ingredients required that you can't find in an average supermarket and she is very careful to confine the equipment needed (listed next to each recipe) to the minimum. The only 'specialist' kit she uses is a food processor, an electric whisk (no need to pay much for one) and, for a very few recipes in the French section, special silicone moulds, which I picked up for a few pounds each online. And as she explains in her introduction, she gave herself two firm rules: no piping bags and no yeast (both of which she thinks put many off).

I've made about 10 of these already and have plans to make most of the rest - even to the point of going through the book and buying the less usual store-cupboard ingredients. Everything I've done so far has been enthusiastically hoovered up: particular successes are the White Christmas cheesecake ("best cheesecake ever") and the Breton cake. I'm also expecting a warm reception for the Black Forest Gateau I have sitting in my fridge right now. I'm ashamed to say I ate all the madeleines (authentically humped!) before anyone else could try them.

Really, I can't recommend this book highly enough. For cakes I rate it even better than Dan Lepard's Short and Sweet, which is the highest praise I can give.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 18 December 2012
Gotten my interest back in baking, the easy way and uncomplicated recipes. Easy to follow and not all ingredients are expensive
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 8 December 2012
Though the owner of many books on baking (even before the current 'craze')' I could not resist adding this one to the collection, because I have long respected Annie Bell's cookery writing.
I am not disappointed. It is a solid, beautiful book of interesting but sensible recipes.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 27 October 2012
I have always liked Annie Bell's cook books and this one is no exception. I own many baking books and this one compares favourably to them. The recipes are clear and easy to follow, with the majority having pictures of the finished cake. If this makes sense, it is a very inviting book to look at and the recipes seem to call from the page "cook me".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 8 January 2013
Bought this as a present. Very good selection of recipes, both tempting & easy to try. Would be a lovely present both for someone starting to get into baking & someone who loves it already as recipes are clear & refreshing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 February 2013
Good for simple souls like me. Easy to follow recipes with excellent results. A great variety of cakes. Very good
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 March 2014
Despite being an avid baker, I don't own many baking books. I tend to find they all have the same things in them. This covers the classics but is also full of interesting new combinations. It's a book that I think will appeal to beginners and more experienced bakers alike.
The coca cola cake was very popular and the salted caramel flapjacks are amazing. Don't get me started on the fig streusel squares.
Most of the recipes have photographs and it's really nicely laid out, clear and clean, easy to follow.
If you're looking for a baking book you'll refer back to again and again, this would be the one I'd recommend.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 25 February 2013
A fantastic book, everything I've baked from it (which is a lot) had been straightforward, faultless and delicious. There are really unusual recipes too which you don't come across too often. Can't recommend this enough.
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