I may have to re-impose my occasional moratorium on cookbooks, specifically baking, for a while. The Great British Baking Show released the annual cookbook to accompany the most recent season on Dec. 22; I pre-ordered. Due some unforeseen delays, I only just got the book a few days ago. The problem I have is that I only just started working my way through Pieometry; I’m a good ways through my Paul Hollywood book (How to Bake), but there’s still a lot to get through with that one too. What I think I’m going to have to do is review a cookbook that I have read but not cooked from. Honestly, this will probably be fine given the contents of Love to Bake.
The Great British Baking Show: Love to Bake includes recipes by the judges Paul and Prue as well as the bakers from the most recent season. This has been done in previous volumes; what I really appreciated this time is that in addition to labeling the recipes themselves, there is also a visual index, and the categories which include the expected genres such as breads, biscuits, cakes, etc., also includes “Judges”. There is also some focus on special diets, so the index also includes ‘vegan’, ‘vegetarian’, ‘gluten free’, and ‘dairy free’. If you want to look up individual bakers, you have to use the main index which is more traditional but also more inclusive than past installments. This is a massive improvement; it also means it’ll be so much more fun/easier to follow along when a re-watch of the most recent series needs to happen.
Another interesting and somewhat appreciated change this baking book has used is to divide the recipes by a general use. So instead of chapters for cakes, pastries, savory, etc, there are sections for “Random Acts of Kindness” (for gifting), “Little Bakers” (for kids to make/eat), “Celebrate” (special occasion), “Just Because” (comfort), “Community” (crowd sized), and “Gathering” (sharables). The introduction explains the general classifications. This set up is interesting although there’s a chance it might also cause a little bit of a sense of randomness with the locations of individual recipes.
My only real complaint is that about 1/3 of the recipes are for complicated cakes or pastries, meaning there are multiple components, much time needed, and in some cases unusual ingredients or equipment. I genuinely do not know anyone who actually owns a ‘pudding basin’, let alone two of different sizes (used in the Baked Alaska); mini pudding molds (Paul’s pineapple up-side-down cake; that Paul would include an American recipe like this after he has expressed disdain for American pies and other types of baked goods strikes me as a little off, but whatever); or “platinum grade gelatin leaves” (Peter’s Red Berry Delice, which otherwise would appear much more reasonable). Just taking Prue’s Raspberry and Salted Caramel Eclairs as an example; there are seven components, not counting decoration to make, including the choux pastry, crème patissiere, salted caramel, caramelized nuts for topping, raspberry puree, salted caramel icing, and a glaze. The decoration includes things like edible gold, fondant, raspberry powder, and fondant icing sugar. My issue with super specialty things like this is not so much finding them (hello Interwebs) but the expense and what to do with the remainder. I will most likely be not doing this one, or at best modifying heavily. The recipe itself is three full pages, yet it claims to only take one and a half hours of hands on work. I question this time assessment for the non-specialist.
I don’t mean to suggest that this book doesn’t have some good looking things that look do-able, it certainly does. But when a significant number of recipes look like they’d not only take all day, and then only be suitable to a specific occasion, that cuts down on the enticement factor in actually getting into, never mind trying to work through, the recipes. Yes, this looks kind of like a coffee table book, but really, I feel like it should aspire to more than that. Yes, some of the GBBO things are complex, but isn’t the point of these books to make such things a little more accessible?