Cookbook Review: Great British Bakes

Due to my love and, some might say, obsession, of collecting cookbooks, I tend to get sent quite a lot of them to review. Some of the books I receive, well I am not too fussed about them, some I rather like and then there are others like Great British Bakes that I absolutely adore and keep by the side of my bed for weeks on end.

Great British Books is written by Mary-Anne Boemans, a finalist in the 2011 series of the Great British Bake-Off and a self-confessed cookbook hoarder and foodie.  Those three things together make me instantly love Mary-Anne.

In this book Mary-Anne successfully combines two of my great loves – food and history. If I had known back in my teenage years that “food historian” was a valid career path I would have lapped it up. As it is, I never knew there was such a job when I was younger but it still remains a great interest for me.  I love to read about old recipes and have a particularly fondness for regional cooking.

The idea behind the book is that the recipes are “forgotten treasures for modern bakers” and there are certainly some real gems in this brilliantly-researched book.  The book comprises of a foreward (written by Sue Perkins from the GBBO), a detailed and interesting introduction from Mary-Anne as well as some bakers notes. The book is then split into the following sections: Large Cakes, Biscuits, Gingerbread, Pastry, Puddings, Small Cakes, Yeast, Bits and Bobs.

Below is an example of the kind of recipe you can find under each section – selected because these are things I want to try out myself.

Large Cakes: Welsh Honey Cake, Scots Seed Cake, Big Biscuit Cake

Biscuits: Knights Biscuits, Shrewsbury Cakes, Pearl Biscuits

Gingerbread: Honeycomb Gingerbread, Old Welsh Gingerbread, Honey Gingerbread

Pastry: Fruit Fancies, Fanchonettes, Taffety Tarts

Puddings: Quire of Pancakes, Malvern Summer Pudding

Small Cakes: Hazlenut and Raspberry Slice, Banbury Cakes, Portugal Cakes

Yeast: Bath Buns, Cracknells, Ginger Rolls

Bits & Bobs: Raspberry Sugar, Apple Jam

Each and every recipe begins with an extremely detailed introduction which covers where the recipe originated from, the history behind the recipe and also Mary-Anne’s own tips for recreating it.  I found this an excellent aspect to the book, making it extremely readable and thoroughly interesting.

This book is more than just a cookbook, it’s a fascinating and social history of British baking and is definitely one for any baking-lovers out there, especially if you have a love of history too! Would make an excellent gift.

Great British Bakes by Mary-Anne Boermans is published by Square Peg and is available now from Amazon and all good book stockists.

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