Saturday, November 23, 2013

Seasonal Baking - Fiona Cairns

My birthday is getting close so I've been buying myself treats. I had half intended to wait and hope that I got 'Seasonal Baking' as a present, but then I couldn't resist it (always on the cards) and got it anyway telling myself that I would need it for a birthday cake recipe, or instead of a birthday cake, or something along those general lines... I really liked Fiona Cairns first book, 'Bake and Decorate', the second one has some amazing looking things in it but isn't really my style so I was really curious to know what this one would be like.

I think it's excellent. It's easy to forget that five or so years ago we weren't anything like as baking crazy as we are now but I do remember how eye catching the first Fiona Cairns cakes I saw were, I now get to some of see them every day at work and am still impressed (as she's local I also sometimes see the woman herself shopping - she's very polite) partly because so much of it is really quite simple, the sort of thing that's realistically achievable with a bit of time and patience, and the sort of thing where most of the decorative bits are easily obtainable in any decent sized supermarket or cook shop. Things like hundreds and thousands, smarties, nuts, fresh fruit, and dribbled icing or chocolate are reassuringly familiar and a good collection of biscuit cutters and those plunger stamp things for icing won't break the bank. I've amassed a few over the years and like finding ideas that make me use the bits I've got rather than sending me searching for yet more new stuff. 

My favourite decorative inspiration in this book though is a cake with a rose design painted on it. I've thought about painting directly onto icing for a while but had never done it before - I have now and was quite pleased with the results. Painting with food colouring, especially the very thick paste kind is a combination of using water colour and what I imagine printers ink would be like, you have to dilute it quite a lot or it just doesn't want to dry which means you need to be careful about how you build up colour for shading but otherwise opens up some very intriguing decorative possibilities.

The seasonal aspect of the book is rather nice too, I like the use of fresh and crystallised flowers and fruit, and also the use of exotic fruits in their proper seasons (there are plenty of things to do with mangos in here), again it's encouragement to use what's around which is always going to be more cost effective and help get the best out of ingredients too .

Altogether it's a thoroughly inspiring, practical, book which delivers on both substance and style. There are savoury bits in here too, cordial recipes, and a very good sounding mincemeat (fig and almond). I'm pleased with my present to myself, it's certainly a rather better reflection of how I want to bake than a lot of the books I've seen recently.   


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