Rachel Allen ‘Home Baking’
Free copy of the book was received for the purpose of this review.
I am not a baker. I can cook, but the alchemical rigours of baking are something I’ve never tried. Ingredients come in quantities that can’t be altered. Ovens must be at precisely the right temperatures. Freedom seems absent from this corner of the kitchen. And, of course, once you start thinking like this you’ll never take it up.
The first words on the back cover of ‘Home Baking’ are “Rachel Allen’s recipes always work.” I like that attitude. The book, handsome and heavy and glossy and slick as you’d expect, is aimed at people like me. The non-bakers. Everything is explained, Allen does not expect you to be familiar with every tool of the cake makers trade. She takes the time to show you.
The recipes are classics. Lots of cakes, biscuits, muffins and macarons. Nothing new to someone who is considering entering the Great British Bake Off, but a great set of instructions for a beginner. There’s even a small selection of savoury dishes for those who lack a sweet tooth.
I tried the Spiced lamb pasties (page 152). The filling was straightforward enough, some minced lamb, onion, peas and spices. But the pastry was a different prospect. For me pastry has always been something you buy in a shop. It has a tricksy, fiddly, intimidating reputation, and I had to make it from scratch.
Allen’s instructions were clear. And they worked. In far less time than I expected I had a plate of pastry cooling in the fridge. Assembling the pasties was also a simple process, helped by a recipe that, again, explained every step. And in the end I had a lovely dinner.
“Rachel Allen’s recipes always work.” I thought that was a boast when I read it first, it seems like a simple fact now. If you don’t bake, but you want to, this should be on your shelf.