Posted by: Lisa Hill | November 25, 2022

Bake, by Paul Hollywood


I wasted no time in experimenting with this cookbook!

Paul Hollywood’s Bake, My best ever recipes for the classics, arrived today, and the cherry cake above is already out of the oven and cooling down for a sweet something after dinner. It’s the easiest cake I’ve ever made: you bung all the ingredients except the cherries and the almonds into the Kenwood, and when you’ve blitzed the batter you fold in three quarters of the cherries, and then you press the rest of them and the almonds into the top of the batter.

(The eagle-eyed reader will notice that the pantry held only slivered almonds instead of whole blanched almonds and a mixture of red and green glace cherries, but necessity is the mother of invention as they say.)

As you’d expect from Paul Hollywood, judge of The Great British Baking Show, there is a bit of yada-yada at the beginning, but the main message is that it’s easy, you can do it yourself, and people will love you for it .

Next time you go round to someone’s house, bake a cake or a loaf of bread and take it with you instead of a bottle of wine or some chocolates.  There’s nothing like making something yourself.  The processes involved, the fact that you can share the experience with your kids and family, it creates those all-important precious, lasting memories. (p.11)

It’s true, isn’t it? There’s just something about baking… I love it when my best friend comes for dinner bearing a tarte tatin. Her husband loves it when I bring a batch of blueberry muffins for breakfast when we go on shared holidays.  The Offspring loves my apple tart, which just like my mother’s version, is packed with fruit and not too sweet. And The Spouse’s favourite is my orange and almond cake… but it could be that there are some challengers in this cookbook…

Chapter 1: Cakes

  • Chocolate Orange Banana Bread.  I have four bananas, they just need to a bit squishier and then I’m trying the recipe. Done! My oven is a bit uneven which is always a problem with a loaf tin rather than a round tin, and it took 10 minutes longer than it says in the recipe, but it smells divine!
  • Victoria Sandwich: interesting to see that he uses half butter/half margarine.  I have some lovely posh jams for the filling… see the photo here
  • Sticky Ginger Loaf: golden syrup and black treacle! And cloves!!
  • Cherry Cake: I chose this one to do first because we had all the ingredients in the pantry, more or less.
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Torte : this one is a definite for a dinner party, it looks impressive but is really easy.
  • Carrot cake: I will need to master the art of piping cream to make it look the way it is in the photo, but the actual cake is simple.  It uses wholemeal flour so we can pretend that it’s healthy.
  • Lemon Drizzle Cake… yes, when our lemon tree stops sulking and produces some fruit.  (Ok, maybe I did prune it too hard, but still…)
  • Chocolate Fudge Cake: three layers of total decadence, see the photo and recipe here
  • New York Chocolate Brownie Cheesecake… to die for.
  • Fruits of the Forest Cheesecake: the most demanding of the recipes, and I’m not quite sure what he means by frozen ‘forest fruits’.  Berries??

Plus there are recipes for Blueberry Muffins, Chocolate Brownies, and Blondies.

(You will have noticed that there are four cake recipes with chocolate.)

Chapter 2: Biscuits and Cookies.

These are all on the To-Do list.

  • Hazelnut and Apricot Cookies
  • Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Peanut Butter Cookies
  • Amond and Orange Biscotti
  • Ginger Biscuits
  • Oat Biscuits
  • Shortbread (nice for Christmas gifts)
  • Chocolate Macarons: it’s true, they are expensive to buy so learning to make them myself is a good idea,  and I can make the Lime variety when the lime tree obliges.
  • Classic Scones
  • Cheese Scones
  • Cheese Crackers

I skipped Chapter 3, Breads and Flatbreads, because we are spoiled for choice with excellent bakeries in our local area, and they deserve our loyalty because they served us well during Lockdown, running home deliveries for the duration — and I also skipped Chapter 4 Pizzas and Doughnuts because pizza is The Spouse’s department and I do not like doughnuts…

However (Update 2/12/22)… The Spouse has experimented with the pizza base recipe and (with his own seafood topping) it really does make a crispy base, even without a fancy pizza oven.  (We have a pizza stone, but not a special oven.) The secret is to dry-fry the base first.

Chapter 5: Pastry and Pies.  It begins with some yada yada about gluten and the essentials of blind baking (to avoid Soggy Bottom) and chilling the pastry if the recipe tells you to. And then, with some stunning photography by Haarala Hamilton, there are some very enticing recipes if you love pastry like I do.

  • Individual fish pies
  • Thai Chicken Pie (with some fancy lattice work, but there is such a thing as a pastry lattice cutter to do the pattern… who knew?)
  • Steak and Mushroom Pie (looks nice, but I am bit wedded to Matthew Hopcraft’s Beef and PepperberryPie.)
  • Meat and Potato Pie
  • Sausage Rolls (if you have never made these yourself, you are in for a treat. My mother was not a good cook and she didn’t like doing it, but her pastry was superb and her homemade sausage rolls were always the first things to vanish at her parties.)
  • The Ultimate Sausage Roll has Stilton in it! And caramelised onions!
  • Cheese and Onion Pasties
  • Hand-raised Sunday Lunch Pie. Now this one looks like a bit of a challenge. I’ve never worked with lard before but it does look like a proper British pie.  You can see the photo and recipe here
  • Beef empanadas
  • Apple pie
  • Pear and Almond Slices
  • Key Lime Pie, see the photo here
  • Pecan Pie. No.  I do not like pecans.
  • Croissants, Pain au Chocolat. Apricot Danish Pastries. Pains aux Raisins.  No.  See comments above about my loyalty to local bakeries.

Chapter 6 is Desserts.

  • Sticky Toffee Pudding
  • Individual Lemon Sponges
  • Chocolate Souffles
  • Bakes Alaska… yes, really!  And why not?!
  • White Chocolate and Raspberry Bread and Butter Pudding. Yesssssssssssssss.
  • Banoffee Pie. (I will never understand why people like this.)
  • Lime Meringue Pie. (Will bake this for my American neighbour when she comes for dinner.)
  • Mango and Passion fruit Trifle: Yum!! white chocolate custard filling and a mascarpone and cream topping, and a mango jelly.
  • Berry pavlova, see the photo and recipe here
  • Mango Meringue Roulade
  • Lemon Tartlets: who doesn’t love a lemon tart?
  • Yule Log: I made one of these once, with chocolate ripple biscuits.  It was ok, but this looks much nicer.
  • Classic Meringues… and finally, a showstopper…
  • Chocolate and Raspberry Entremets*.  The most complicated recipe in the book.  You make a raspberry jam, a chocolate Genoise sponge, a chocolate and raspberry syrup, and a chocolate mousse. After you’ve assembled it, there’s a raspberry glaze. Not like the cherry cake that you can whip up in just over an hour.

*An entremet, according to Dessertisans, is

…a cake composed of multiple components assembled into layers, encased in a mousse, enrobed with a glaze and topped with fine decorations. Entremets come in all different colours, shapes and sizes and can showcase a variety of flavour combinations. Making an entremet requires the precise execution of many traditional French pastry techniques. Entremets are an impressive and delectable dessert and would be perfect to celebrate a special occasion. They are available to buy from patisseries, nice cafes, or as a dessert at high-end restaurants.

This is a cookbook for cooks. I think it’s ideal for beginners because there are plenty of basics that are easy to do, and some more challenging recipes once confidence is established.  The layout is clear and easy to read, and the directions are clear, with photo sequences of the steps for more complicated techniques. The photography is well done too: it shows what the finished dish is supposed to look like, it provides guidance for garnishes and decoration, and where relevant, the photo shows what a dish looks like inside when it’s sliced. Measurements are metric.

Author : Paul Hollywood
Title: Bake, My best ever recipes for the classics
Photography by Haarala Hamilton
Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2022
ISBN: 9781526647160, hbk., 302 pages
Review copy courtesy of Bloomsbury


Responses

  1. I’m not really a baker … cakes make me nervous. I think being wheat-free since the mid-80s hasn’t helped as gluten is so important to the best cakes. However I do have several foolproof recipes including almond and polenta based ones that I make. You are right, there’s something about home-made treats. I like the sound of that cherry cake. It would possibly work with the new gf flours!

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    • My go-to recipe for gluten-free is the orange and almond cake, but I remain dubious about gf flour. We used to have a specialist baker in our small local shopping centre, and if I hadn’t had time to bake myself, I would buy a little cake or sweet thing for Daddy when I was visiting him every day. The cook was presumably an expert in using gf flour, but the cakes and pastries were always crumbly and fell apart. They tasted fine, but the texture was wrong.

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      • Unfortunately orange is a big no-no for me. Was probably the trigger to my skin problems when I was six years old. Very sad as back in the 8Os and 90s that was the only gf cake around. However, I have a lovely Passover Almond Cake recipe given to me in the 70s – lemon and almond. My longtime go to.

        Yes, that’s exactly it, texture is the main Issue. Some cakes etc work better than others with gf substitute. Moister ones are often better.

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        • I’ve googled Passover Almond cake, but all I’ve found is made with oranges. Any chance you could email me your recipe?

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          • Darn it, thought I had it in my app! I’ll put it in there and email you from that … that will kill two birds with one stone!

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  2. Though I enjoy cooking, baking I still find somewhat daunting. But I have enjoyed both The Great British Bake Off and Hollywood’s other baking programme (I forgotten the name but he travels to different countries and explores the baking) and as these recipes are simple I might be tempted to give them a try sometime.

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    • I know what you mean. My early days in the kitchen were with general cookbooks that had chapters about baking, but they were not specialty cookbooks like this. We have (literally) about 250 recipe books in our collection, but they are mostly cuisine-based e.g. Italian, Vietnamese etc or they are generalist like The Cook’s Companion or Larousse or Mastering the Art. The only biscuit recipes I’ve used, for example, come out of my old Women’s Weekly and Margaret Fulton recipe books, and the photography isn’t a good guide to show you how they should look.

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  3. This has got to be the most delicious book review I’ve come across lately. Your cherry cake looks scrumptious! And I am with you when it comes to having *more or less* the right ingredients for a recipe. I have to say, though, my very favourite pie is pecan. :)

    My daughter bought me Paul Hollywood’s “Bread” cookbook a couple of years ago, and it’s very good. It sounds like you don’t need that one, though, with all your nice bakeries!

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    • We do make some breads, that is to say, The Spouse does. He made everyday breads at the beginning of the lockdown until the deliveries got going, but there was a shortage of yeast which made it difficult. Now he just makes foccacia for lunch al fresco, and he makes pizza dough. But our croissants come from the local patisserie (run by a Vietnamese couple with French flair); our sourdoughs, baguettes and ciabattas come from Bromleys and until I master the art of making them myself, our macaroons come from Gateaux.
      When I think about, it really is quite extraordinary that we have these and also other options, all within walking distance. There is a monster shopping mall that sucks up local trade, and yet these bakeries and patisseries in our local strip shopping centres are thriving.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Excuse me, I’m not sure I can be friends with someone who does not like doughnuts! 😆

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  5. You don’t like doughnuts? Wow. I had my first doughnut when I was about 16 and I regret it ever since – because I fell in love with them. This is a book I have been eying for a long time… I adore Paul Hollywood, and we often get some of his series on our cooking channel here.

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  6. That does look good, and your cherry cake looks delicious!

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    • There’s one slice left now….

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  7. OK this is going to be a “must have” book for me. Though your cherry cake looks fabulous I’d. have to eat the whole one myself since my other half hates almonds and cherries. Chocolate orange banana cake though – now that sounds delicious
    For forest fruits you should be using a mixture of berries – blackberries, blackcurrants, raspberries, red currants….

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    • Ah, thank you, I had sort of guessed that, probably from reading British fiction where people go foraging in the forest for berries such as those, whereas as here, as you know, none of those berries are naturalised in the forest, though blackberries have become a weed. You should never eat any growing wild because the odds are that they’ve been sprayed with some kind of toxin.
      My bananas are nearly squishy enough to do the choc orange banana cake, one more day maybe…

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  8. That cake looks lovely. I’m yet to bake anything from this one but have marked quite a few.

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    • I’m still waiting for my bananas to go squishy! How come they do it so quickly when you don’t want them to, and stay resolutely firm when you do?!

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