If you are a serious cook and baker over here in the UK, you would have had to be living under a rock not to have been aware of that fabulous television series, The Great British Bake Off. Hugely popular, the third series is about to air on the BBC. It is a televised baking competition between amateur bakers in the UK, pitting their skills against each other in a series of baking challenges, and judged technically by Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, both famed for their baking skills. It's a show that is as much entertaining as it is technically informing. For the baker and cook, it is "Must Watch" programming!
I was delighted therefore, to have been sent the book based on the current Series to review. It is entitled The Great British Bake Off: how to turn everyday bakes into showstoppers, and has once again been written by Linda Collister, and includes technical challenge and signature bake recipes by Mary and Paul. Showstoppers challenges you to create bakes that will not only turn heads but make mouths water.
"BAKING DOESN'T HAVE TO BE COMPLICATED TO BE "SHOWSTOPPING." (A claim from the inside cover.) To transform really good recipes into eye-catching bakes, you don't need professional levels of skill, nor hours of time. Just a host of brilliant recipes, together with ingeniously simple styling secrets and decorating tips.
This is a fabulously substantial hard backed book, filled to the brim with luxurious looking recipes accompanied by gorgeously delicious looking photographs. (just what I like in a book). Divided into sections: cakes, biscuits, breads, tarts, pies, desserts, puddings and the basics . . . and then within each section, the recipes are rated by the level of skill required or difficulty, ie. easy, needs a little skill, etc. I really like that because you instantly know how long it’s going to take you, and how you can progress to something more difficult.
After that each section has a selection of recipes suited to all skill levels. There are lots of simple tips on most pages such as ‘If you don’t have time to make frosting, keep it simple and dust with cocoa or icing sugar.' I like that. Tips are nice. Tips help good bakers to become better bakers, and novices to become well acquainted with the skills they need to become more exerienced.
The photos, as I said, are absolutely gorgeous, but if there is one drawback, it is that some of these recipes, which include technical challenges and signature bakes from the show, are quite complicated and yet almost half of these are not accompanied by a photograph of the final result. But having said that . . . it is still a beautiful book and it is chock full of sound, reliable fabulous recipes, that photograph or not, would be quite easy and uncomplicated to execute.
Scattered throughout the book are ‘Showstopping Techniques’ which include how to do spun sugar, crimping and decorating with pastry for pies, piping meringue swirls and making chocolate leaves for example.
Finally right at the back there is a brilliant reference section with recipes for icings and fillings such as chantilly cream and lemon curd and sauces such as beurre blanc. Some words of advice on stencils, sprays and glitters. I liked the addition of advice on using edible flowers.
The first recipe I chose to bake from the book was not a really difficult one I didn't think . . . and one that I thought my readers would enjoy. Ruby Jacks . . . flapjacks with a difference. These are flavoured with both ground and candied gingers . . . and topped with melted white chocolate and dried cranberries. Flap jacks are not something that I had ever really tasted before I moved over here to the UK. Oh . . . I had had North American flapjacks (pancakes) but I'd no idea that over here they were these moreishly scrummy oaty cookie type of bar things . . . and in all honesty, there is no baking creation over in North America that is even remotely similar, not unless you count the base and topping that is used to make Date Squares, and even that's not the same . . . there was no photograph accompanying the recipe . . . so I made created one . . . by laying my finished flap jacks on the recipe page . . .
Don't they look good???? I know!! Fabulous!!
Flap jacks are wonderfully buttery, and really kind of difficult to describe. They're not raised. They're not like cakes. They're not like cookies even . . . they're kind of like a cross between a cereal bar . . . and a cookie . . . and yet, at the same time, they nothing like either one. I have made them on here before, with my Cranberry, Pecan and White Chocolate ones . . . as well as some delicious Fruit & Nut ones. I love flap jacks, and I have to tell you that this recipe for the Ruby Jacks resulted in the BEST flapjacks I have ever eaten . . . so good in fact that I dare say I may be up a pound this week on my weigh in instead of down, because I have not been able to resist them or leave them alone. My willpower having completely vanished . . .
Buttery and moreishly gingery . . . they satisfy on all levels. Homely and comforting . . . they're also deliciously upscale. That topping of white chocolate and the chopped dried cranberries . . . they tip them ever so elegantly into the realms of being almost divine. There are only three left.
Ruby Jacks . . . thou art my newest weakness . . .
Delightfully buttery flapjack, moreishly filled with the lovely flavour of glace ginger, and topped with a white chocolatre drizzle and chopped dried cranberries and cherries!
115g of unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
70g of light brown muscovado sugar (1/3 cup packed)
5 TBS golden syrup
1 rounded TBS of chopped glace ginger
1 tsp ground ginger
180g of porridge oats (2 1/4 cups)
Preheat the oven to 150*F.300*F/ gas mark 2. Lightly butter an 8 inch square baking tin. Set aside.
Measure the butter, sugar, syrup, glace ginger and ground ginger into a large saucepan. Cook and stir over low heat to melt the butter and sugar, stirring to combine well, and using a wooden spoon. (the mixture should not feel gritty.) Remove from the heat and tip in the oats. Stir to thoroughly combine. Tip this mixture into the prepared pan. Lightly press the mixture down with the back of the wooden spoon to level off. Bake for 20 minutes, or until turning golden brown around the edges. If you would like a crunchier flapjack, bake for an additonal 5 minutes.
Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack. Carefully score the mixture into 16 squares, using a lightly buttered knife. Leave in the tin to grow completely cold before removing.
If desired, you may melt 100g of good quality chopped white chocolate (a generous 1/2 cup) and drizzle this over top or spread. Decorate with some chopped dried sour cherries and cranberries. (75g each, scant half cup)Leave until the fruit has set in the chocolate. Store in an airtight container and eat within a week.
The Great British Bake Off,
how to turn everyday bakes into SHOWSTOPPERS
by Linda Collister
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: BBC Books (2 Aug 2012) Ebury Publishing
Product Dimensions: 24.8 x 19.2 x 3.4 cm
RRP: £20 available at all good booksellers
What’s new this year is that there is an iphone app to accompany the books. It’s a tad expensive at £2.99 but there are some interesting features like touch free instructions and the ability to take a photo of the recipe you’ve made and share it. Recipes included are from series 2 and 3.
All in all I think this is a lovely book, and I can envision myself spending many happy hours baking from within it's pages. I give it two thumbs up!