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Soulful Baker: From highly creative fruit tarts and pies to chocolate, desserts and weekend brunch Hardcover – 21 Sep 2017
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About the Author
Julie Jones learnt to cook from her mother. Never anything fancy but always packed with flavour, loaded with butter and made with love. Aged 30, she re-trained as a chef and after spending just a few weeks in a Michelin starred kitchen she realised how flavour could be taken to a whole new level.
After her mum was diagnosed with dementia she started to bake with her as a form of mutual therapy, taking photos of their baking days together and posting them on Instagram as a precious record. Her personal story and her talent for baking quickly gained a very large and devoted following (18.8k as of March 2017). Every day she receives message of support and thanks for her inspirational feed, as well as many photographs of the baking that she has inspired in others.
Julie loves her creative space on Instagram where she’s discovered great warmth, support and a shared passion for food and baking from her many followers. At home, she runs a weekly supper club that is currently booked up until January 2018.
She has appeared on BBC Television’s Yes Chef judged by Pierre Koffman, and is a judge for the Nestle Professional Toque D’or Student Catering Competition. Instagram: julie_jonesuk
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One route for a self-taught cook to get a first cookbook published seems to be to build up a following on social media first, and this is what this author has done. She began baking and blogging as a way to cope with her mother's diagnosis of dementia, and that has led to the publication of this slim volume of delightful recipes. The book is a high quality finish, with beautiful styling and photography, and contains about 60 recipes for mouth-watering baked goods and their accompaniments, documenting the author's baking journey.
Where cookbooks from self-taught cooks can fall down, however, is in making the recipes easy to follow. The recipes in this book are somewhat wordy (rather than being set out in short, numbered steps) and contain no preparation or cooking time, nor an equipment list. Putting those niggles to one side, this is a wonderful cookbook of recipes that vary from the simple to the more complex. It's a combination of solid British staples (such as crumpets, muffins, lemon curd, bread and butter pudding and fruit crumble) and delicate patisserie, so there is plenty to choose from. My favourite so far is the banana, pecan and chocolate muffins!
=== THINGS I LIKE ABOUT THIS BOOK ===
* A good balance of recipes that range from really simple to quite complex to put together - though overall the recipes are not overly complex.
* The book comes in my favourite style of layout, namely each recipe is on a double-page spread with a lavish illustrative photograph on one side and the recipe set out on the other
* Lovely quality hardback book with a beautifully colourful sleeve
* The book stays open by itself (though may need a little bit of weight on one side or the other when cooking recipes at either end of the book)
* Recipes are divided into clear categories - fruit tarts and pies; cakes, bakes and treats; bread and yeasted doughs; chocolate; desserts; and weekend breakfast and brunch.
* Some of the chapters begin with an introductory page of tips - getting pastry right; successful cake baking; and getting dough right
* At the back of the book, there's a age on equipment and suppliers
* There's a recipe list at the front and an index at the back, making the book easier to use (sounds basic, but some recipe books do miss out on these vital cookbook ingredients!)
* The recipes are given in metric, imperial and cups.
=== NIGGLES ===
* There are no cooking or preparation times stated in the recipes. This is a major omission and makes recipes much more difficult to incorporate into everyday cooking if you want to serve various dishes at the same time.
* No equipment list is included in any of the recipes - you have to find out what you'll need by reading through the recipe first.
* The contents page only gives page numbers for the start of each chapter, meaning you can't just turn to the recipe you want but instead have to flick through the whole chapter till you find it. It's almost as if this step was missed before the book was being sent to print.
* A small font size is used, making recipes a little tricky to read unless you have excellent eyesight and a well-lit kitchen.
* Rather than short or even numbered steps, the recipes are set out in lengthy prose paragraphs sometimes 15 lines deep containing several steps. This makes it harder to follow recipes.
* The pages are slightly glossy, meaning it can be difficult to read a page that's curved because there'll be a distracting sheen down the middle of the page.
For sale at the time of writing this review at £12.27 (RRP £20).
Julie has some useful tips about how to perfect pastry, cakes and dough however reading her narrative is slightly irritating given the repetitive nature of some of the text - we are informed several times that clingfilm is plastic wrap, a tin is a pan and a pastry case is a shell, when only once would have done. In fact this continues throughout the entire book including the recipes and becomes tedious, particularly when other repetitive explanations such as cookies/biscuits, aubergine/eggplant and jam/jelly join the mix.
I really like the collection and warm to Julie and her story. I will enjoy having a go at the intricacies of presentation, some recipes such as the strawberry firework tart are more forgiving than others. But I am not sure I can yet bring myself to try chocolate and aubergine/eggplant brownies just yet.
It reminds me so much of a guidebook for The British Bake Off. I reckon you could win the program if you followed this perfectly. I love the intro, I always love reading the intro's of cookbooks, and she used to bake with her mum who had dementia and it's a very heartwarming and human reason that she got in to it.
And the obvious...the cakes are STUNNING. This is what makes this book stand out from the rest. And it's not all icing decorations or anything like that at all, it's just really creative uses of tools and presentation, well explained on how to achieve them.
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✽ JULIE JONES
✽ PHOTOGRAPHY: LISA LINDER
✽ PUBLISHER: JACQUI SMALL
📝 ‘Julie bakes with love.
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