CHOOSING A BOOK
What I like to do is pick a book and stick with it. if you buy a load of different baking books you’ll find that you end up using none of them. Believe me, I’ve made this mistake in the past and now have dozens gathering dust in my hall where I’ve baked maybe only 1 or 2 recipes from them and moved on to another book. Amazon give you a good glimpse inside most books so you can get an idea of what’s on offer but the best thing to do is just go into an old fashioned bookstore and have a look through. If you work in an office that has regular visits from The Book People, then you’re in luck as they always have vast arrays of cookery books that are usually at least half price.
FOUR BOOKS I CAN RECOMMEND ARE…
Peyton and Byrne’s ‘British Baking’ is a beautiful book full of lovely traditional cake and biscuit recipes that range from really quick and simple to REALLY difficult. RECOMMEND AS COFFEE TABLE BOOK. DO try and make the fig rolls. DON’T try the black forest gateau unless you’re really brave (mine looked dope, tasted wack).
Paul Hollywood’s ‘How To Bake’ is great for those with a savoury tooth – more of a bread and pies type book than cakes and biscuits but great for potential male bakers! RECOMMEND FOR BLOKES. DO try the Flamiche. DON’T try the homemade sour dough unless you can put up with your house smelling of yeast for a few weeks.
‘Delia’s Cakes’ is the latest addition to my cookery book shelf. It’s full of recipes that are really simple to follow, but not always that simple to pull off. Great for those who sometimes find instructions a bit tricky as Delia’s writing is really black and white. RECOMMEND TO NEW BAKERS. DO try the lime and coconut cake for something a bit different. DON’T try the chocolate and almond cake unless you have time and arm muscles to do A LOT of grating.
‘Great British Bake Off: Everyday’ is a lovely book, especially if you’re a fan of the show and you’ll recognise most of the bakes from it. Contains a good range of sweet a savoury but also some really tricky stuff that you probably won’t ever end up doing! RECOMMEND TO ADVENTUROUS AND FANS OF THE SHOW. DO try the raspberry crumble shortbread. DON’T try the allotment cake; it’s just silly.
CHOOSING A RECIPE
Whichever camp you fall into, I would definitely recommend choosing a strategy…
If you think you fit into the category of ‘occasional baker’ I suggest that you tear up a piece of A4 paper into about 20-30 strips, flick through and mark all of the recipes that you’d like to eventually have a go at in your chosen book. You can colour the tips with a highlighter to distinguish sweet or savoury. This way you avoid the ‘recipe book porn’ session that is bound to ensue if you pick a book cleanly from your shelf with no idea what you’re going to make. I have several books that are marked in this way, so when I want to make something I can pick it up and flick straight to a page with something yummy looking on it.
If you see yourself as a potential ‘dedicated baker’ or if you’re just incredibly regimented and obsessively organised like me you can use my latest strategy. Buy yourself a cheap notebook (I’ve got a pukka pad) and label the first 12 pages with the months of the year. Next you’ll need a postit pad and your chosen recipe book. Flick through the book at random and stick a postit note on each page with a date range (I’ve used weeks so it’s used 52 recipes from my book). As you stick a postit into the book, note the page number and date range in your note pad. Obviously feel free to skip over recipes that you don’t like the look of or miss weeks where you think you might not have enough time for baking. You can also slot special recipes into your note pad too from other books for occasions like birthdays, Easter, Christmas etc. I’ve even scheduled world-cup-cakes in for June! You need to be pretty well disciplined to stick to this method but don’t feel guilty if you fall slack now and again. You also have to be able to resist eating cake and biscuits all the time which is a tougher ask but if you have a hungry bunch of work colleagues who deserve the odd treat you can offload your makes pretty easily. There will be recipes in the book left over so use the bookmark and highlight technique on these and if you ever feel like making something extra, these are your go-to recipes.
ONCE YOU’RE DONE
Stick a postit on the page of the bake you’ve just made with notes for next time. You can comment on how successful it was and possible variations for your next try. My postit notes include – YUK! Do not try again, Could do with a bit less time in the oven, Make more icing next time, and Perfect! Don’t change a thing! Such a simple tip but it’s a great way to remember what works and what doesn’t.