Thank you for the amazing 8 years here at A Baked Creation, we can't thank you enough for the memories! But we've decided to move over to a new site - Sincerely, Syl. Please join us there for future posts on all the things you loved here!


Saturday, March 14, 2015

What to Bake and How to Bake It

What to Bake and How to Bake It
Written by Jane Hornby
Photographs by Liz and Max Haarala Hamilton
Illustrations by Kerry Lemon
ISBN 13: 9780714867434
Publisher: Phaidon
Hardcover: 240 pages

Happy March Break to those of you who have the midweek off! Traffic and the commute to work has already been a breeze on yesterday (sort of), so I want to thank you for that. Well, what do you do for a glorious week? What are your plans? If you don't have any, I suggest doing some baking - with or without your kids - and then bringing the goods back to work the week after.

"But Sylvia, what to bake?" some of you might question. And when I suggest cookies or cakes or brownies or macarons, some of you might ask, "but Sylvia, how to bake it?" Friends, let me recommend Jane Hornby's What to Bake and How to Bake It for all your March Break (and other occasions during the year) baking needs. Her book promptly answers both your questions. She's also the author of What To Cook and How to Cook It and Fresh and Easy for those meals you now have time to make.

But let's get back to the baking. Jane's latest book is divided into Introduction; Simple Family Baking; Morning Coffee and Afternoon Tea; Special Bakes; and Desserts and after Dinner. So you look for the occasion. Did you just wake up? Look for recipes under Morning Coffee. Do you have a birthday or celebration coming up? Check out the Special Bakes. Or because it's March Break and you want fun family activities, you would look under Simple Family Baking for inspiration.

You'll find the recipes useful (for beginners and ... what are bakers between beginner and advance called again? Intermediate?) due to the clear instructions and step-by-step photos. I would highly recommend reading the introduction and looking at all the tools and equipment before starting. I have to admit that I choose cookbooks based on their photographs. I like knowing how the recipe is supposed to turn out. How it it supposed to look like when finished? But then, you go and add process and progress photos and I am just over the moon. It's nice to see how those whisked eggs should look like after 5 minutes. It's nice to see how you're supposed to handle and assemble the cake. I guess you could say I need a little hand holding once in awhile. What home cook doesn't? It's not like we've gone to chef school for training!

Jane was so gracious to take time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for me. She's given me concise and thoughtful answers, so please read through to the end.
Syl: With recipes so easily accessible online, how do you make your cookbook stand out?
Jane: I try not to worry about online or it would drive me crazy, as I am primarily a book and magazine writer and earn a living from commissions rather than blogging and online content. Of course the beauty of online is that the two overlap and I can add and write extra material around all of the content in my books online now, getting the best of both worlds. I’m really lucky to work with Phaidon, as design is at their core and all of their books are covet-able objects in their own right. The design of the books works very hard for me, and is actually very familiar to people who follow blogs, with step-by-step photos and comment after each pic. When you need a reliable recipe, I think that nothing beats a book from a trusted author, something you can cherish as an object, trust in that the recipes are tested properly, and share with others.
Syl: Which recipe took the longest to develop and test?
Jane: Probably the coconut layer cake. I find the traditional American-style recipes for this far too sweet, but knew that I had to create something that readers in the USA would recognize. So, I decided to turn the frosting into meringue buttercream and use lemon curd to enhance the coconut and add a bit of zing. After more than a few tries I was happy. Then all I had to do was break it down into as few steps as possible for the overhead photography!
Syl: There are so many variations of recipes out there, how do you know when the recipe is "the one" to include in the cookbook? 
Jane: I have a really clear idea of exactly what I want from a recipe – the rise, the texture, the colour of the crumb even. I don’t stop baking till I get there, via a process of trial and error really, based on my knowledge as a baker and cook. My recipes for Phaidon tend to focus on ‘favourites’ and classics, which you’d think would make it simple…but of course everyone has their own idea of the perfect chocolate cookie or muffin, which is why I try and tick every box! Inventing new recipes is actually a lot quicker, I find, as I’m not trying to match anyone’s expectation of that recipe (aside from it being yummy and working when they cook it).
Syl: The cookbook comes with not one, but two beautiful teal ribbons. Which two recipes would you suggest readers bookmark at all times? 
Jane: I seem to constantly turn to the Blueberry-Cinnamon Crumb Cake (page 114 and watch Jane make them in this video!) and the Fudgy Cheesecake Brownies (page 96). They cover just about any need for cake or dessert.
Syl: What's your favourite dessert in the whole wide world?
Jane: Um…can I have two?
Syl: Yes!
Jane: I’m a total sucker for anything involving cream, crunch and fruit. So I’d say for winter, apple and blackberry crumble with clotted cream and for summer, meringues with berries and a dash of rosewater. Simple pleasures. You won’t find them in What to Bake and How to Bake It though – they are already in the previous two books!
I would comp this book to Illustrated Step-by-Step Baking by Caroline Bretherton. But if I had to choose, I prefer What to Bake and How to Bake It and not just because I'm reviewing it. I even placed Illustrated Step-by-Step Baking in my annual favourite cookbook list back in 2011, but that was before Jane Hornby's came out in 2014. The design is much better in What to Bake and How to Bake It, because even with all the photographs it doesn't feel crowded or overwhelming. There's a clean template and the designers stick to it. The photographs are of higher quality and I like the simple styling of the finished products. The no fuss attitude makes this cookbook inviting and encouraging.

Stick around for tomorrow's post where I make Jane's favourite jelly roll (pictured above).

Disclaimer: A review copy of What to Bake and How to Bake It was sent to me for review from Becca Levenson at Phaidon. Thank you! No incentives were used to produce a positive review of this book.

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