Leiths Baking Bible

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When I was little my mum was always baking cakes and pies etc and I really enjoyed helping her. However, in this busy day and age, the art of home baking seems to be dying out a bit – there are so many ready-made cakes and pies to buy, and I guess we are all that bit more health and weight conscious so do not want to be continually eating this sort of food. Having said that there, there is little more satisfying than seeing your freshly baked cake come out of the oven, and within a short while actually being able to taste it!

I was on the lookout for a good baking recipe book, mainly because I thought it would be good to do some baking with my daughter like my mum used to do with me. I already knew of Leiths Cookery Bible so when I saw Leiths Baking Bible I didn’t need to look any further! The recipes are actually compiled by Susan Spaull and Fiona Burrell but are all tested at Leiths School of Food and Wine.

The book is divided into three parts:

Part 1 – Basics

This is incredibly useful as it looks at all the basic cooking ingredients you might need when using the recipes. It goes into the background of some of the ingredients – for example, did you know that in early times butter was produced as a way of preserving milk, and that the type of cow, as well as the cow’s diet, has a great influence on the flavour? I didn’t before I read this! Also, it looks at the different varieties of specific ingredients – for example, eleven different types of flour. I found this very helpful, because it can be confusing knowing which flour to buy! This section also helpfully talks about how to store the different ingredients in order to keep them at their best. Even if there were no recipes in this book, this section on its own would make it well worth having!

This section also looks at the different types of baking equipment you might need. It’s really annoying when you start making something, only to discover when you come to put it in the oven, that you haven’t got the exact baking dish that you need. This goes through all the basic equipment you will need for weighing, measuring, cutting, and putting in the oven, as well as some specialist bread and cake making equipment! Again, all this information is incredibly useful.

Part 2 – Recipes

This is, of course, where the book gets very interesting (and quite mouth watering too!) The recipes are broken down into several sections which include pastry, cheesecakes, biscuits and scones, cakes and bread to name just a few favourites of mine. Each of these sections has a brief introduction and then goes on to provide a number of deliciously tempting recipes.

As we have made best use of the cakes section so far, I will look at that in more detail! At the beginning, there is quite an interesting bit of history about cakes, which go back as far as primitive man, although not in a way that would resemble cakes today. There are also some key points to remember when baking cakes which should help you be more successful. They then look at the basic ingredients, preparing cake tins (an art in itself) and then the different methods of cake making. These include rubbing in, melting, creaming and whisking. What I particularly like at this stage is that there are more key points to remember and also pointers about what might have gone wrong when certain things have happened like the cake has sank in the middle or the top is domed and cracked! (Don’t you just recognise it?) These often happen to me when I am baking cakes, but at least now I know why! There’s also good advice on cooling, turning out, freezing and storing your cakes – so pretty much everything you might need to know about the whole process.

The recipes themselves are quite straightforwardly broken into steps and are easy to follow, with diagrams where appropriate. They are very tempting and cover just about any cake you can possibly imagine – so far we have tried St Clements cake, ginger and honey cake and coffee and raisin cake to name but a few. All have actually turned out pretty well, which I put more down to the helpfulness of the book than my culinary ability! One thing I do think is missing from the recipes though is any additional nutritional information, particularly the number of calories per portion. Mind you, if this was there, it would probably put me off making anything from fear of what it could do to my waistline!

There are not a huge number of glossy colour pictures in the book so often you do not have a great idea of what the finished product should look like, I don’t mind this too much because often, what I make looks nothing like the picture anyway! In fact more of the pictures concentrate on the methods rather than the finished product, which, in my opinion, is much more helpful! For example, there are step by step pictures showing the process of the whisking method, and also some very helpful ones demonstrating how to roll a Swiss roll! There are one or two very tantalising finished cakes too – just to get you salivating!

I haven’t counted the number of recipes in the book but there must be hundreds – enough to keep you busy trying out new ones for many weeks and years! There is a small section on gluten-free baking so if you need to cater for coeliacs, this is the place to look!

Part 3 – Terms and tables

This is by far the shortest section, but it does have a very useful glossary of terms so if you come across something you are not sure of in a recipe, this is a handy reference. Also there are conversion tables, although as all the recipes show both metric and imperial measures, you probably won’t need to make too much use of these!

So overall I do think this is a very useful book and I am glad we bought it, particularly as my daughters are showing a lot of interest in cooking. As it says on the back cover, it is detailed, reliable, and authoritative: everything you need to know about baking in one book!

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Leiths Baking Bible
by Susan Spaull, Fiona Burrell

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Written by kingfisher