I first spotted a version of Baking: One Step at a Time in France a few years ago and was very taken with its lovely layout and beautiful, instructive photography. How many of us are seduced by the design of a cookery book and buy it for its aesthetic appeal rather than any remotely edifying content? I do, all the time. Happily, this book has both brains and beauty, and it has now been translated into English.
It is intended to take the reader through ‘the pastry cook’s maze’ and covers five areas: creams; simple cakes; layered cakes; little cakes; and tarts – there are 71 recipes in total. There is a useful glossary of relevant equipment, ingredients and methods. But the absolute winning feature of this book is the chef’s-eye-view photographs, which show the stages of each and every recipe. They generally span between two and four pages depending on complexity, from a basic butter cream (two pages) to doughnuts (six pages).
Despite the simple step-by-step approach, the author’s tone isn’t the least bit patronising and the explanations that back up her instructions make her methods sound credible, as if they have been properly tried and tested. Cooks who are just starting out will be reassured by being able to check the progress of their creations against the photos, while more experienced domestic goddesses (and gods) can reinforce their skills and relish the challenge of producing faultless macaroons and vacherin.
I can’t wait to try some of these delicacies. I’ve already marked the pages for salty butter caramel sauce, panna cotta, yoghurt cake, mille-feuilles, and Almost Oreos. Will let you know how I get on.
N.B. This book has been re-titled for the American market, where it is available as Cooking from Above: Baking. I haven’t seen that version, but at a guess I’d say it uses cup measurements rather than the imperial/metric in the English edition.