Top critical review
3 people found this helpful
on 21 November 2012
There is certainly a fair range of recipes, covering all bases from quick and easy recipes to more elaborate offerings. In my view it's an OK book but not outstanding. If you already have a comprehensive baking book I would strongly suggest you take a peek before ordering - the book isn't overly innovative and you may already have a good grounding without buying another book.
There is a chapter entitled 'Healthy' - I was quite intrigued by this but the title is a complete misnomer in my opinion inasmuch as cream, sugar, etc abound. The first recipe is a chocolate, rum & almond cake - it doesn't contain flour (so no gluten) but to call a cake healthy when it involves 225g chocolate, 225g sugar, 150g butter and 6 eggs is pushing it. This chapter is really aimed at those with food intolerances, etc which isn't quite the same thing. Even outside the 'Healthy' chapter there are comments about healthy foods. Whilst some people do claim that blueberries are a superfood, or as Rachel says "full of antioxidants and seriously healthy", the effects of this will surely be mitigated by 225g butter, 225g sugar and the lemon cream that accompanies the blueberry and coconut cake! There is nothing wrong with the recipe or eating the occasional cake but to make spurious claims for health benefits for it is quite another matter.
Many reviewers have commented on the photographs. I am not generally fussed if there isn't a photo of a finished dish, although with cakes I think it is always a help and more important than say with savoury dishes. This book doesn't have a photo of every dish but it has far too many pointless pictures of Rachel Allen smiling inanely (the same issue arises in some of her other books). If publishers are going to include photos then they should be relevant. Apart from the pictures of the author there are more pointless photos of a sieve (at least twice), a bun tin, a bun tin with a whisk, etc.. Why do this if space for photos is limited? The choice of photos also leaves something to be desired - if space is limited why include pictures of commonplace things like Victoria sponge, Madeira cake and carrot cake at the expense of more unusual or elaborate cakes?
Anyway, here are a selection of the recipes: angel food cake (topped with either rosewater icing or lavender icing), peanut butter banana muffins, raspberry & blueberry friands, cinnamon & yoghurt cake, pear & ginger muffins (there is a nice pear & ginger cheesecake recipe too), Swedish almond cake, Bakewell cake, walnut & orange cake and a rather glorious white chocolate anniversary cake. The children's baking chapter is largely wasted on me although I think the cake pops (essentially sponge cake crumbled into melted chocolate) could work for adult parties too with the addition of some alcohol.
I am not convinced about the timings on at least some recipes - the baking time seems too short but I suppose ovens vary (although checking mine with an oven thermometer suggests the oven is accurate). This could prove a little troublesome for the novice or the unwary. For the most part ingredients will be readily available at the supermarket and methods are well-described.