Could not resist the title of this post and ever since How to Bake by Paul Hollywood dropped through my letter box I have been singing this song.
I, along with thousands of other women, fell in love with Paul Hollywood when the BBC decided to screen a quirky little series which they thought would creep under the radar and they popped it onto BBC2. I am, of course, referring to the Great British Bake Off. Alongside the lovely Mary Berry, whose cookery books have been on my shelves for years, we had a new face (I gather he has been on TV before but nobody seemed to notice), one silvery haired, foxy guy called Paul Hollywood. Not skinny or bad tempered or sweaty like other celebrity cooks/chefs, he was quiet, to the point and utterly utterly gorgeous. I fell in love on the spot and came over all thing when he looked at a contestant in the eye and said 'Good bake'. Collective swoon all round.
Lovely lovely Bloomsbury send me lots of gorgeous books and so I begged for a copy of How to Bake and they duly obliged. Reading the intro it seems that he has been passionate about baking since he was eight years old. His father was a baker and so Paul spent a lot of time in his shop helping with jobs such as jamming the doughnuts (Oh how I would love to do that) and filling scones with cream and watching the professionals at work. Proof once again that what you observe and soak up as a child stays with you for ever. My mum was a great baker and she used to turn out Victoria Sponges, fairy cakes, scones, rock cakes, biscuits and whopping great fruit cakes. Every Christmas she made her own mincemeat, it was my job to turn the handle of the old fashioned mincer which was clamped onto the kitchen table, Christmas cake and puddings and I grew up with that lovely baking smell which permeated the whole house. Many years later when my girls were tiny one of my friends dropped by with her children and told me they loved to visit Elaine's house 'because it always smelled so nice of cakes and warm'. I took this as a compliment of the highest order. I have written about my cooking in an earlier post so if you are interested the link is here.
Anyway, back to Paul and this book which I have been reading in between shrieking at Usain Bolt and yelling for Andy Murray and generally being obsessed with the Games, and there are page after page of recipes I now wish to try. I have made bread and back in the seventies was very much into whole food and wholemeal everything and turned out loaves that could be used as doorstoppers, but have left all that behind me thank goodness. Now I just like to turn out a good plain loaf and thoroughly enjoy all the kneading and mixing that goes with it - no way would I want a breadmaker. Paul gives recipes for all the basic breads, but then goes onto a malted loaf, spelt bread, soda bread, milk loaf, ciabatta, focaccia and Fougasse which seems to be the French version of the latter. Just reading these recipes makes me drool.
But it is not all breads - he shows us how to make a basic croissant dough and then churn out pain au chocolat, then Danish pastry dough and pain aux raisins and Almond pastries (these are high on my list to do) and so it goes on. Turn over each page and drool. I did.
And then cakes -aaah the cakes. Triple Layer Chocolate Cake with walnuts; Caribbean Cake, raspberry and passion fruit muffins. Then there are the tarts and the pies and the..........
This is a gorgeous book, the recipes beautifully illustrated and step by step instructions given, particularly the pastry and the bread section. Paul signs off 'I still love the feeling I get from manipulating good raw ingredients into something fantastic. I hope I can pass that on to you and help you to create a little bit of magic in your own kitchen'.
OK what are you waiting for? Off you go but don't forget to watch the first in the new series of The Great British Bake Off on TV tonight at 8pm. I will be there, watching and drooling and it won't be the cakes causing this reaction....