By Mary Berry
BBC Books/Ebury Publishing
Baking has never really been my thing, so with whom better to break the veritable icing on the cake than with one of Britain’s foremost cookery writers, Mary Berry. Ever since the publication of her first book Ultimate Cake Book in 1994, Berry has quintessentially been considered something of a baking Buddha. And if this most recent of books is anything to go by, it’s not that hard to fathom out as to why.
As well as including literally hundreds of mouth watering baking recipes (chocolate cake, cheese cake, flap jacks, pastries, tarts and meringues being a mere tiny tip of the iceberg), Mary Berry’s Baking Bible is a great book by which to put ones’ baking traumas to rest.
Reason being, it doesn’t assume, it doesn’t pontificate, it doesn’t talk down, but more importantly, it’s an invitation. This book is an invitation to partake in what for me at least, has always been a little daunting, as Berry clarifies in her Introduction: ‘’I’ve included lots of simple recipes for children to make (with supervision), and some more challenging recipes that require careful timing, and more skill, including patisserie-style-desserts, such as Gateau Saint Honore. Cooks of all levels of experience should find something to make and to challenge them here.’’
In truth, I’ve never known where to start when it comes to baking. As apart from having made the odd upside down cake at school, I’ve never really had a reason to start. But start I already have, by initially baking a batch of Oat Rounds – which I stumbled across in the section on Biscuits and Cookies). Well blow me away with a sprinkling of simplicity, for what could indeed be simpler than four ingredients (flour, porridge oats, softened butter and casting sugar) and three instructions?
What’s more, Berry confesses to them being ‘’a firm favourite’’ in her household. So too are they now in ours.
Replete with a section on Baking Equipment, including Scales, Spoons, Whisks, Food Mixers and Tins (I never knew there were so many: muffin tin, bun tin, brioche tin; ‘loose-bottomed fluted flan tin’ – what’s that all about?); Mary Berry’s Baking Bible also includes sections on Baking Parchment, Baking Terminology, Key Ingredients and Baking Tips. Although for me, the most interesting and inviting aspect of the book, is the tone in which it has been written. For instance, at the beginning of the chapter on Tarts and Pastries, Berry writes: ‘’Making tarts and pastries might seem like hard work, but they really don’t have to be. Even patisserie-style pastries, such as Danish Pastries, Chocolate Eclairs and Profiteroles are simpler to make than you might realise. And, even if these recipes require a little effort to make, it is worth it as homemade versions are always far superior to bought alternatives.’’
Along with some superb accompanying photography – that’ll coax even the most hard-nosed of those watching their diet(s) into momentarily relinquishing their regime – this book is indeed a bible of sorts.
A book to which I’ll be returning and referring on many an occasion.