Friday, 19 December 2008

Birthday Food Presents

For my birthday, I got a lot of food related items. Maybe I talk about food too much instead of confining it all to here! I though I would review all the books initially and then review again once I have actually used them. I find buying cookbooks can be a bit overwhelming as they look good when you buy them, but when you try to use them they aren't always clear.

Rachel Allen: "Bake"
This has some nice pictures about how things are meant to end up, always useful! The tips section at the back also had some stuff that I didn't already know about, so I think it could be a fairly comprehensive guide. I also think it is interesting that it has sweet, savoury and meal items, not just cakes and biscuits. Some of the pies look very good. I have book marked the white chocolate blondies and the chocolate lava cakes to make when I get back to Edinburgh after Christmas.

Dorie Greenspan: "Paris Sweets: Great Desserts from the City's Best Pastry Shops"
This doesn't have any photos, just illustrations, so there is more need for your own presentation skills and creative thinking with this book. Another problem is that a lot of the measurements are in American units, although I have measuring cups so this is not so much of a problem. I also like that the book is interspersed with anecdotes and histories of the dishes, so you get a feel for the culture as well as just the baking. I made the Opera cake from this book a while back, as I found the recipe online, and it was pretty spectacular. I think this is probably more of a special occasion book than "Bake", but I might try out some of the recipes for D's wedding cake in the summer.

Heston Blumenthal: "Further Adventures In Search of Perfection"
In terms of practicality, this is probably the worst cook book ever! One of the recipes involves digging a pit in the back garden. However there are a couple that wouldn't require too much extra equipment, as I am planning to get a temperature probe after Christmas, and this seems to get used in every recipe. The really great thing about this book is that each recipe has 10-20 pages explaining every single method, ingredient and technique, and why it is done. For example, when investigating how to make the perfect chicken tikka masala, Blumenthal uses an MRI scanner to test different marinades, and to work out which is the best way to get flavour in to the meat. Although it is not a practical cook book in many ways, it is fascinating to find out the science behind a lot of food, and how minor alterations can make a big difference to the final taste.