Book Review: Bake Me Home, by Alice Arndell

cv_bake_me_homeI wanted to review this book because it was promoted as a great book for people who need to bake for kindy morning teas, and other similar last-minute baking occasions. It is great for this, but there are a few buts – for instance, anybody (possibly excepting Alice) who took a bunch of multi-coloured meringues to a shared lunch at my kindy, would probably be told off like a 4-year-old. Our teachers are renowned for their notes in lunchboxes – I haven’t yet earned one.

Moving on though, there is a lot to love about this book. The ingredients used are simple to find and easy to use. There are very handy hints for substitutions at the back of the book – one of which I had to use when I ran out of brown sugar as I was finishing baking the Apple Crumble loaf. That recipe was probably my least successful in that I had to turn the loaf tin upside down to dislodge the loaf, which neatly removed all of the crumble… The loaf itself, however, was divine. I got maybe one slice, then the kids demolished it (without permission) after kindy one day. Handy hint: don’t ever use ‘homebrand’ baking paper except as tracing paper. When it is cooked, it crumbles, so you can’t use the paper as an aid to remove the loaf from the tin.

The design and photography in the book is very elegant, and I like the fact that it is realistic. While the style is using sharper focus for the foreground, there was no neatening of edges, and nothing fanciful about it. The food speaks for itself, even the lunchbox muffins look delicious without being over-styled.

The recipes themselves are easy to follow, and almond_and_orange_anzacwhere there are a few tricky steps required, like with the Louise Cake, there are directions on where to find step-by-step instructions on the author’s website. I received a delicious wee promo pack of Anzac biscuits just before the book was launched, which the office girls’ demolished (even the one who can’t have egg – no egg in Anzac biscuits). When I made my own I think I may have mis-measured my dry ingredients. As you can see to the right, they ended up rather crumbly. Nobody minded, as again the recipe was yummy.

The tips in the back of the book are invaluable, one of the best being that if you leave a piece of bread on a cake while it is still cooling overnight, the bread will dry out but not the cake. Genius! Alice also explains the point of plain v high grade flour (one has more gluten) – I do bake frequently, but have never known the difference. Below is the tinned fruit shortcake, which I replaced plums with peaches in, to use up some tinned fruit in the fridge. It was delicious.

shortcake_bake_me_homeI can’t wait to break out some of the great recipes in this book at this terms’ shared lunch (but not the meringues) – and at the next birthday party I throw for one of the kids. The Swirly Sprinkle biscuits look divine, without being as sinful as some of the other recipes! And on the savoury end of the spectrum, the mini-hotdogs using cocktail sausages and pastry, look fancy without being difficult – just what you need when you are trying to do fifty things at once plus the cake for birthdays.

All in all, this is a well-produced, friendly to use book, which I am certain to use over and over again.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

Bake Me Home: Delicious everyday occasions
by Alice Arndell, photos by Erina Wood
Published by HarperCollins NZ
ISBN 9781775540496

Book review: Alice in Bakingland, By Alice Arndell

This book is in bookstores now

Recently my Japanese sister and I agreed to exchange Image
cookbooks.  It is easy for her to find books on Japanese cuisine to send to me, but it took me a few minutes to think about what I would send her.  While I will always struggle to think of meals that define New Zealand cuisine, baking is very much a national strength.  The book Alice in Bakingland adds to our tradition of baking by updating many classics and explaining techniques behind newer recipes.

I was thrilled with my first sight of Alice in Bakingland – a beautifully presented book with a range of ‘delicious, decadent and daring’ recipes.  The book is well suited to both novice and experienced bakers: for the novice there are tips with each recipe to facilitate success; for the more experienced baker, new approaches to classic recipes are always welcome. The photography and design of this book deserve special mention – the book is beautiful, just a pleasure to sit down with and read.  The gorgeous vintage linens and crockery made me wish I had more reason to serve my baking on delicate china, rather than serving in my trusty tupperware container!Image

I found particular inspiration with the ‘Spiral Vege Tart’ and ‘Matcha Green Tea Sponge Roll.’  The former is a beautifully presented tart and the second inspires with a reminder of the versatility of tea in baking. Between recipes, there is a break for a ‘how to’ section.  I thought I had a good technique for making macarons, but definitely learned from this section.

The book is strongly regional, and the author includes recipes from local Martinborough businesses, her relatives and friends. It made the book feel very personal, as you get the sense of how the author connects with her community – both her local community and the foodie one!

Recipes I made:

  • Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread: well worth the effort and best eaten on the day it isImage cooked.
  • Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch sauce: Beautifully spiced and exceptionally popular with guests!
  • Cheese scones: mine were not as fluffy looking as those in the book, but I’d had to substitute the buttermilk for soured milk.  Tasty, rich scones.

Review by Emma Wong-Ming

Alice in Bakingland.  Delicious, decadent and daring.
By Alice Arndell
Published by HarperCollins Publishers (NZ)
ISBN: 9781775540151