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Have you got a friend who laments ‘I wish I could bake more but whenever I make something it’s a complete disaster’? Or someone who watches Great British Bake Off avidly and is a good cook but declares ‘I could never do that’? Well if you do, and I think most of us know someone that, hand them a copy of Jane Hornby’s What to Bake & How to Bake It.
This is a baking book with a difference: it lays out with precision, and step-by-step photographs, how to bake 50 varied recipes, from scones and traybakes to macarons and pies. Each recipe is presented in linear, diagrammatic fashion. Here’s the ingredients, these are your steps and that’s how you achieve the end result. If a recipe calls for a special tool or specific tin etc. the steps outline other options – you literally feel like you couldn’t possibly go wrong when following the instructions.
The layout and photography are equally straightforward. Whilst the incredibly plain font pains the book designer in me it fits the tone of the book perfectly. The photography is beautiful but stripped away of most styling conventions we are used to seeing in cookbooks – you feel like you can achieve the exact look of the finished bake (and indeed you can).
Even though the book is probably best suited to someone without great baking experience there are enough recipes that will appeal to more seasoned bakers – including the Coconut Layer Cake, Tarte au Citron and this glorious Sticky pear and pecan toffee cake which caught my eye the minute I flicked through the book. I tested the recipe and, no surprises here, it was perfect.
What to Bake & How to Bake it is published by Phaidon and out now. To be in with a chance of winning a copy, follow the instructions on the Gleam form at the bottom of the post.
Sticky pear and pecan toffee cake
150g | 5.3oz pitted dates
225g | 7.9oz | 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
150g | 5.3oz pecans
2* medium, just ripe, pears, peeled, cored and cubed
*(I will add a third pear next time I bake this)
200g | 7oz light brown soft sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
4 tbsp milk
300g | 10.6oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon or mixed spice*
*(I used Speculaas spice mix)
1/4 tsp salt
For the toffee
100g | 3.5oz light brown soft sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter
100g | 3.5oz double cream
- Preheat the oven to 160C (320F). Brush a large (25cm /10in) bundt tin with melted butter and dust with flour.
- Soak the dates in boiling water and leave to stand until softened – about 10 minutes.
- Either chop the pecans by hand or pulse them briefly in a food processor until coarsely ground.
- Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade (I used the Magimix for this) and mix until smooth.
- Thoroughly drain the dates through a sieve then add them to the food processor and pulse until smooth.
- Add the eggs, milk, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and salt and process until you have a smooth batter.
- Transfer the batter into a large bowl and fold in the pear and pecan pieces.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top. Bake for 50 minutes (I baked my cake for an hour) or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
- Cool slightly before carefully inverting onto a large plate.
- Make the toffee: put all the ingredients in a small pan and heat gently until sugar dissolves. Simmer briefly until you have a smooth sauce.
- Stir in the pecans (these are optional in my opinion) and then spoon the sauce over the cake.
Notes: if you don’t have a bundt tin you can bake this in a large traybake tin instead and adjust the cooking time to 40-50 minutes.
Terms and conditions
> Giveaway open to UK residents over the age of 18 only.
> One winner will receive a copy of What to Bake and How to Bake It.
> The giveaway ends on the 19th of October at 12pm.
> Entries using an automated process or software to create bulk entries will be disqualified.
> The winner will be randomly selected, announced in the Gleam box and contacted via their provided e-mail address shortly afterwards. Please claim your prize within 4 days of being notified.