We’re a few episodes into the new season of The Great British Bake Off and… it’s pretty much the same as it was before. I can’t help but wish that Channel 4 had made some extra changes to the format. We all know that Bake Off is perfect comfort viewing though so I really can’t complain too much. Over the years, a lot of bakers have gone through the tent and loads of related cookbooks have been released but are any of them any good? Read on for my favourite GBBO-related cookbooks!
Bake It Yourself doesn’t assume that you know everything about baking. And it also doesn’t assume that you’re an idiot. The tool kit at the start is genuinely helpful, explaining the type of equipment and ingredients you might need and having absolutely no airs and graces about it (own-brand flours get the seal of approval). Recipes are split into difficulty levels, allowing you to pick something that won’t overwhelm you, and each recipe is accompanied by helpful step-by-step instructions which is explain the whys as well as the hows. Many of the recipes have a list of suggested twists you can experiment with once you’ve mastered the basic version of the bake. An unexpected delight of a cookbook which genuinely tries to make you a better baker.
To be honest, I find the tie-in GBBO cookbooks very hit and miss, and they rarely include as many recipes from the contestants as I want. This is the only one I’ve returned to more than once. Split into sections (biscuits, breads etc.), the book includes a good glossary of baking terms, and a we’re-not-making-any-assumptions-on-your-level-of-experience list of how to do basic tasks like greasing a tin or melting chocolate. The recipes themselves range from bog-standard (Victoria sponge, for example) to the exotic (venison rendang), giving you options for an average weekday and a fancy dinner party. There seem to be a lot of reviews on Goodreads complaining that the recipes are too complicated but I don’t agree. Pick a simple recipe and you’ll get simple instructions, pick a more complicated one and there will be a lot more steps – it’s just how these things work. For me, The Great British Bake Off: Everyday is a fantastic reference book that you’ll come back to again and again.
In the words of the author himself “I want to show you how baking works. I want to prove how easy baking can be. And for baking veterans, this book tells you why you’re doing what you’ve been doing all these years.” All of the recipes in How Baking Works (And What To Do When It Doesn’t) are divided into straightforward steps that don’t assume you know what you’re doing, but don’t patronise if you do know what you’re doing (a fine line, I’m sure you’ll agree). From brownies to mille-feuille, James Morton wants to encourage you to give it a go. He’s not concerned with you having fancy equipment (you don’t need a sieve never mind a £400 KitchenAid!), or perfect attention to detail. He just wants you to get stuck in and prove to yourself that it’s not as hard as you think it is, and once you’ve done all that he wants to give you the knowledge that will allow you to experiment in your own kitchen, something I’m hopeless at.
The bakes in this book are so freaking cute. The recipes are straightforward, interesting and all of that, but, honestly, the bakes are so cute. From a knitting-themed cake to simple but effective cloud biscuits, I want to make pretty much everything in Quinntessential Baking. It’s also been great for inspiring me to take some of the ideas in it and apply it to things I already bake – this comes pretty close to experimentation for me so I’m delighted 😀 Actually, something a lot of the cookbooks from Great British Bake Off alums have in common is a desire to honestly make you a better baker who enjoys coming up with new ways to do things.
This book is such a delightful surprise. Not sure how to best position multiple tins in the oven at once? Luis has you covered. Blind-baked a pastry and it’s cracked? Luis can tell you how to fix that. From the very beginning, Luis acknowledges that no matter how much care you put into a bake, things can go wrong but his whole book encourages you to look for a fix, do what you can and concentrate on how bloody delicious whatever you’ve made is, even if it is a bit wonky. It also encourages you to pack everything you make full of flavour and I am all about that. There are so many delicious recipes in the book, including one for a lemon curd that always turns out brilliantly and has gotten me lots of good comments. Thanks, Luis!