Book Review: Tanya Bakes, by Tanya Burr

Available at bookshops nationwide.

cv_tanya_bakesTanya Burr is, by all accounts, a British You Tube vlogging star. I’m about 20 years too old/ too resolutely unhip to have heard of her, so I figured I would take her second book, this time a cook book, on its own merits.

It’s a very nicely produced book, with lots of colour photos, and the end results of her baking are stylishly shot. The recipes all start with a nice personal explanation of the recipe’s provenance – some from her childhood, some her current favourites, recreations of baking she’s had at restaurants and cafes that she’s enjoyed, and some recipes reproduced from her favourite famous bakers like Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver and Mary Berry.

I think when I’m reviewing a cookbook that it’s only fair to try a few of the recipes. I am a pretty good baker, so felt confident to try my hand at most of the recipes. The range of recipes feels pretty Nutella-heavy – not my favourite taste, so I avoided those. I largely chose recipes that I could prepare for my regular contribution to the fantastic work of charity Good Bitches Baking, so my trials were mostly on the biscuit/slice side of things.

First up I tried Cornflake Choc Chip Cookies. These are sort of like a caramel Afghan biscuit, but chewier. I had to reduce the heat as the first batch burned at her recommended time and temperature, and I shudder at what Burr thinks is a reasonable portion size – the recipe stated “makes 12 large cookies” but I made more than double that, and the cookies were the size of my palm – so pretty generously proportioned. The unburnt ones were very tasty and had a nice texture, as promised.

Next I tried Kate’s Mum’s Lemon Slice. To Kiwi home bakers, this is our very familiar Citrus Slice. Again, Burr’s serving size freaks me out – the recipe says serves 10-12, but it’s double the quantities of any Citrus Slice recipe I found in NZ cookbooks or websites, and I cut it into at least 50 decent size squares as it’s pretty full on as baking goes and a little bit goes a long way. I also adapted her method, melting the butter in the traditional Kiwi way with the sweetened condensed milk, rather than using softened butter. It was extremely delicious, and very popular with the multitudes who got to share the mega-batch.

I then tried the Earl Grey Tea Loaf, a fruit loaf that Burr recommends serving spread with butter and a cup of tea. I followed the recipe faithfully. While a delicious result ensued – it really was very tasty – the mixture felt too wet and sure enough, it didn’t rise at all in the tin, so was kind of stodgy.

Lastly I tried Burr’s Oat and Cinnamon Health Cookies for another GBB bake. I really wish I hadn’t, because I had high hopes for these wheat-free biscuits. The method looked reasonable enough, so I stuck to her instructions. There was no promised spreading of the cookies, they fell apart as they baked, the raisins burned at her recommended temperature despite me pulling them out early when I got the tell-tale whiff of over-caramelisation, and despite smelling deliciously of honey and cinnamon as they baked they were exceptionally bland when I tasted them. That batch went straight in the bin.

My overall verdict, I’m afraid to say, is that Tanya Bakes is a triumph of style over substance. I will probably make the first two recipes again as the results were tasty once I adapted the instructions, but I’m reluctant to try any further recipes except perhaps the ones from other bakers. I just don’t have the time and energy to adapt her methods so that they’ll work every time.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Tanya Bakes
by Tanya Burr
Published by Michael Joseph Ltd
ISBN 9781405928199

Book Review: Sweet: Treats to share, published by Penguin NZ

Available now from bookstores nationwide.

Wow what a wonderful time we had baking up a cv_Sweet_Treats_to_sharestorm in the kitchen this week! Sweet: Treats to Share is a book I would highly recommend to everybody.

This book has an abundance of things to choose from; including reworked recipes that granny used to make, to the newer more indulgent recipes. There is certainly something for everyone; even some tasty gluten free treats, that Master 4 years has really enjoyed.

With an easy to follow layout; Sweet: Treats to Share becomes a book that can be appreciated by both novice bakers and experts. Beautifully displayed pictures and quotes make for a pleasant touch, as do the short stories that follow some of the recipes explaining their history.

Another nice touch near the back are small write-ups on each of the wonderful people who have contributed to such a great book. These small blurbs leave you with a little bit of information about each individual, their achievements and other books or TV shows they are known for. This is especially great if you enjoyed one persons recipes and wanted to go out and purchase more of their books.

I found the well-explained and easy-to-follow instructions to be my favourite part (other then eating the final product of course). There is nothing worse then deciding to copy a recipe and getting stuck halfway through; because you lack the knowledge in products, terms or measurements. The structure of this book allows you to understand the baking basics and measurements before you begin, and each step is written as simply as possible, meaning you can’t really get lost or make a mistake.

Occasionally, there will be a recipe that gives you the choice to try it with different flavours eg: lemon rather then vanilla. I strongly urge you to try these out as its amazing how one recipe can be so transformed with one small change; and your tastebuds will love you for it.

Now I don’t want to give to much away, so, as I sit down to a slice of Allyson Gofton’s Cinnamon scone tea ring (which Miss 2 has kindly helped me bake as she entertained me all morning, trying to pronounce the word Cinnamon), I urge you to head out to the local book store and pick up this beaut of a book. There is not one recipe I wouldn’t try, and there hasn’t been one I have made so far that I would never make again. Great for families, Individuals, partners and groups.

Get sharing NZ.

by Jess Moore

Sweet: Treats to Share
Published by Penguin Books NZ
ISBN 9780143571575

Book Review: Feed a Family of 6 for under $20, by Jas McPhee

This book is available now in books.

The success of a cookbook for me lies in a combination cv_feed_a_family_of_6_for_under_$20of a simple lay-out, easy-to-follow recipes and an excellent index. This book has all of these factors and more.

The first section gives you tips on how to make the most of your money at the supermarket and marketplaces, which are very well considered and obviously learned from long experience. I never would have thought of buying milk and freezing it, though I now remember student friends doing this in Dunedin – as I am lactose-intolerant, I didn’t need to!  Don’t put too much faith in the prices that Jas offers up though, just be aware there are fluctuations in food prices depending on where you live in the country or within a city.

raspberry_sliceWe tried a few recipes, mainly the baking ones. I made a perfect raspberry slice, and very imperfect apricot & date snack bars that I was initially enthusiastic about the idea of as an alternative to expensive muesli bars. Upon making these, I realised that this is really a treat slice – very sweet, and delicious, but certainly not in the least something that I’d suggest as part of your regular diet for your toddlers!

My husband made us hotcakes for pancake day on Tuesday, and they were delicious. He doesn’t often follow recipes, and found this was very easy to follow.

I think I would have found this book overall more useful if my boys were a bit older, and I will certainly be pulling it out when they are in their peak energy-burning age, as these recipes are for food that isn’t necessarily low in fat. We tried one of the chicken nibble recipes – Chinese Chicken, and I found them delicious, but the 3-year-old took exception to the skin (this is not uncommon in our household – skin, peel, rind, you name it).

Overall, this recipe book is a great investment for large families living on a budget. There are plenty of recipes that are great replacements for fast food meals like KFC (try JFC!) and Chinese takeaways (Sweet and Sour fish on rice), and I feel like its strongest audience is probably a family with fussy teenagers.

Fantastic work from a first-time recipe book writer.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

Feed a Family of Six for Under $20
by Jas McPhee
Published by Penguin NZ
ISBN 9780143570769

Email digest: Wednesday 31 July 2013

This is a digest of our Twitter feed that we email out most Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Sign up here for free if you’d like it emailed to you.

Book review
Book review: Alice in Bakingland, By Alice Arndell, reviewed by Emma Wong-Ming 

The book launch for Craig Cliff’s novel The Mannequin Makers is at Kirkaldie & Staines tonight

Meet the Author – Isobelle Carmody: Tue 6 August

Fergus Barrowman will launch Eleanor Catton’s much anticipated 2nd novel, The Luminaries, tomorrow night at @timeoutbooks

Page & Blackmore ‘Rumpus at the Bookshop’

Book News
PANZ AGM guest speaker Sandy Grant on the hammering the book industry has taken

The Nielsen bestseller lists for the week until 20 July

The Bookseller’s trial top 50 e-book bestseller list

Awards News
#nzpba New Zealand Post Book Award finalist taster: pages from The Meeting Place, Vincent O’Malley

From around the internet
Who is excited about Artemis Fowl being made into a Disney movie?

Real live paper books fill @PenelopeWhitson with a naughty joy unlike any other (aka. paper v e-books, the benefits of each)

What are your book deal-breakers?

Four designers of recent book covers compare their original concepts with the final version

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