Tuesday, 15 May 2012

cookbook review: Rachel Allen's Bake

I love taking cookbooks out of the library because it gives me a chance to test them out before committing to buying them. I'm glad I took this one out before buying it because it didn't really work for me.   I took it out to try the peanut butter and white chocolate blondie recipe as my lovely husband loves baked goods, peanut butter and white chocolate, so it sounded like a winner all round. 
Peanut butter and white chocolate blondie
They were nice but they weren't nearly squidgy enough to be called "blondies" which I think of as the white chocolate equivalent of brownies - they were more like cake - and the cooking instructions were rather unclear.   They didn't need anything like as much time as the recipe suggested but we were a bit indecisive about when to take them out because the instructions were so vague, "almost firm in the centre" isn't - in my view - desperately helpful.

I also tried the soda bread recipe.  One of our friends invited us over for dinner a while back and made soda bread and I was filled with envy watching her do it by eye (also she added garlic to it which was yummy) that I've been meaning to try soda bread ever since.  It's fun to make and pretty quick and easy.  I think I'll be making it again. 
Soda bread with coriander

But probably using live yogurt instead of buttermilk, as suggested by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall as I usually have that on hand, and maybe rye flour as I have some to use up.  Am also quite tempted to make it in scone form with black pepper and cheddar cheese.  Mmm.  Anyway, I wasn't wildly impressed with Rachel Allen's recipe.

Despite saying in the blurb, that this is made every day in her kitchen, the recipe tells you that you need somewhere between 350 and 425 ml of buttermilk.  

Soda bread with coriander
This is quite unhelpful for a few reasons.  Firstly, if you don't have actual buttermilk but are doing the lemon juice in normal milk thing, do you make 350ml and then make extra if you need it?  Or do you make 425ml and potentially waste some of it (I hate wasting food)?  Also, if you make this everyday, surely you can be a bit more precise here!

As someone who'd never made soda bread before, I wasn't entirely sure what the dough should look like so I wound up (I think) making the dough too liquidy due to the lack of direction on the amount of buttermilk necessary.

The bread itself actually turned out ok, though, I think it could have been better with less buttermilk.  I put coriander in it (she suggests that you can put in rosemary, sage, thyme, chives, parsley or lemon balm but coriander was what I had on hand) and it was really nice and fragrant. 

I'm not a terribly confident baker, though, so perhaps that's why the book wasn't a good fit for me.

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