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5.0 out of 5 stars Shortcrust Pastry So Flaky It Is Almost Puff, 18 Dec 2013
This review is from: How to Bake (Hardcover)
If you haven't heard of Paul Hollywood, it won't be long before you do. The 47-year old Hollywood started working as a baker in his father's bakery as a teenager. Baking and teaching others to bake has been his life ever since. I first came across him watching The Great British Bakeoff, but he has since expanded his horizons and is appearing as a judge on The American Baking Competition 2013 (CBS). I liked Paul Hollywood's Bread so much that I acquired a copy of How to Bake and am I ever glad that I did! Let me tell you about a few of my favorite recipes from the book.

Hollywood's passion is bread baking (he is said to bake the most expensive loaf of artisan bread in Britain, an almond and roquefort sourdough) and that comes shining through in How to Bake, with about 2/3 of the book devoted to bread in various guises, with chapters on Basic Breads, Flavored Breads, Sourdough, and Croissants, Danish & Brioche. Hollywood spent some time living & working in Cyprus and you'll see that experience reflected in a number of the breads featured in the book. I've made several of his recipes (his Ciabatta from Paul Hollywood's Bread is stunning and an unusual shaping technique makes it dead-easy) so I chose something a bit different for a test recipe.

▶︎ TEST RECIPE - PUMPKIN SEED STICKS WITH POPPY SEEDS

This is an easy recipe that utilizes bread flour, whole wheat bread flour and malted bread flour chock-full of pumpkin seeds. (If you can't find malted bread flour you could use a 7 or 12 grain flour.) The dough is divided into 10 portions, then each portion is rolled out into a stick about a foot long, brushed with water and then sprinkled with a generous amount of poppy seeds. The sticks are scrumptious with a rich, nutty flavor - excellent with cheese or the Carlton Pate that I recently made from Mary Berry's Christmas Collection.

This recipe could easily be baked as a single loaf, formed into dinner rolls instead of the sticks, or cut into 20 portions instead of 10 for a thinner, less filling nosh. I cut a couple of sticks on the bias, brushed them with a tiny dab of good olive oil and baked them at 250 to make small toasts or crackers to serve with cheese or that pate.

Where most baking books spend a lot of time on cakes and cookies, Hollywood combines Biscuits, Puddings & Cakes all into one chapter. Remember that in the UK biscuits are cookies and puddings can be any dessert. Look in this chapter for stunning recipe for traditional Shortbread that he says will keep 3-4 days (not in my house!), cheesecake, muffins, clafoutis and more. I was sorely torn between a flour-less Chocolate Almond Cake covered in Chocolate Ganache that uses ground almonds to provide a "cake" texture and a lemon cake. Lemon won.

▶︎ TEST RECIPE - MRS. POST'S LEMON DRIZZLE CAKE

A variation on Orange Marmalade Cake, this makes a small loaf that is flavored with lemon curd, then soaked with a mixture of lemon juice, lemon zest and granulated sugar while hot from the oven. One bowl, no mixer required. Lovely with a cup of tea, the cake is moist, very light textured and keeps for several days. It quite reminds me of my mother's favorite lemon cake - without the cake mix.

● One note - when making this or Orange Marmalade Cake (recipe not included in this book) do not "eyeball" the amount of marmalade or curd called for. Too much will throw off the chemistry of the cake and you'll end up with an ugly, though edible, dip in the middle of the loaf.

The final chapter in How to Bake is Tarts & Pies, which also includes Puff Paste. It is this chapter that thoroughly made the book for me. Our British cousins are much more prone to savory pies than we are here in the US and it is here that Hollywood's non-bread baking really shines. Having discovered Chicken & Mango Chutney Pasties inspired by the flavors of the British Raj in The Great British Bake Off: How to Bake: The Perfect Victoria Sponge and Other Baking Secrets, Hollywood's recipe for larger but similar Moroccan Pasties caught my eye straight off.

▶︎ TEST RECIPE - MOROCCAN PASTIES

Shortcrust pastry colored bright yellow with turmeric is cut into 7" circles, then filled with raw ground lamb and a mixture of potato or sweet potato, red onion and chopped fresh cilantro (coriander) flavored with cinnamon and spiced with a pinch of chile flakes. I used sweet potato since that was what I happened to have handy. Hollywood's Shortcrust Pastry recipe is a bit different than you see on this side of the pond. I make a mean pastry thanks to my Grandma - light and flaky. Hollywood's recipe is, however, not just a really good pie dough. It is exceptional, the flakiest I've ever come across this side of puff pastry.

Grandma's $0.02 - If you acquire How to Bake for the shortcrust pastry alone, it is worth every penny! My copy came from the UK and is in metrics. Other books by Paul Hollywood that I've purchased here at Amazon have not been "translated" so you'll need a digital scale. You'll find volume measurements on the side of your pyrex measuring pitcher. Teaspoons and tablespoons are the same.
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