If you’re a home baker, you’ll know that baking is often messy. It’s not all clean counters and “here’s one we made earlier” atmosphere that you see on many cooking shows. But many cookbooks don’t acknowledge this, preferring to present baking as a clean past-time where you create perfect iterations of complicated-looking (and sounding!) baked goods and desserts. It can be a little frustrating (“Why doesn’t my kitchen look so well-organised?” “Why doesn’t my XYZ look perfect like it does in the book?”). Enter Charmian Christie, author of the recently-published The Messy Baker (and blog of the same name), who totally “gets” that in the real-world, we don’t all have fancy kitchens or equipment. For Charmian, lopsided cookies and “interestingly-shaped” pies are the norm, and, in The Messy Baker, these less-than-perfect iterations are celebrated, not than shunned because they are “not perfect”. Charmian’s is a “real kitchen”.
The Messy Baker is a lovely combination of useful information and real, do-able recipes.
If you’re a baking geek like me, you’ll appreciate the first section of the book which includes a chapter on “The Basics.” There’s information about kitchen equipment (gadgets you “can’t do without”, those ones that would be “nice to have” and the ones where you get to say to yourself “I’m a Baker and I’ve Earned it”. I appreciated the over 20 pages of information about Essential Ingredients as well. A useful Glossary of commonly-used terms appears at the back of the book along with a section outlining Common Measurements and Equivalents (though if you are a metric baker, be aware that all the weight measurements are in ounces and if you are used to baking by weight, most of the recipes in the book still call for volume measurements). There are thoughtful touches like the information about about Adjusting Cake Pan Sizes (because , even though you might want them all, we can’t all have every type of cake pan!) and an Emergency Substitutions section (Help! You have the wrong type of an ingredient or are missing one entirely with no way of getting hold of it – not that – ahem, that ever happens to me!).
The book itself is divided into chapters with slightly confusing names (at least for me, I didn’t find them intuitive) : Pastry, Flaky, Crumbly, Dippable, Sloppy, Smudgy, Gritty and Drippy. Cute, huh? But I didn’t find them easy to understand in terms of knowing what type of recipes would be in each chapter (would you consider a gingersnap “Smudgy?”). Each chapter does list the recipes at the beginning, so you will most likely spend a little bit of time going through the book to see what’s where. I am the type of person who likes to have recipes of the same type grouped together (for example: there are tarts in each of the Smudgy, Sloppy and Flaky chapters), but organisation (of recipes in particular) is a very personal thing and this type of sectioning seems to suit Charmian’s style.
The recipes themselves are easy to understand, and approachable. I’ve bookmarked a lot of them! Coming soon to my kitchen? Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage Tart (can you say Thanksgiving?), Sweet Potato Samosas (I tried
one many at Charmian’s book launch), Blueberry-Lime Cornmeal Muffins (ditto!), Double Stuffed Oreo Cookies (ahem, ditto!), Dill Zucchini Fritters with Lemon Tzatziki, Fig and Apricot Newtons, Chewy Fruit and Nut Bars and the list goes on…. The balance of sweet and savoury is nice – I think that all too often we think of “baking” as being “sweet” or “just desserts” but there is so much baking over on the savoury side!
I chose to make Charmian’s profiteroles for our annual street party last month and can attest to the fact that these are so-good-they-won’t-make-it-to-the-table! The first batch disappeared before I made it to the dessert spread and the second batch had people literally lining up or seeking me out in the crowd to taste the “cream puffs”. Yes, they are that good. I’m a bit of a choux pastry connoisseur so was interested to try this recipe and it did not disappoint. Charmian walks you through the process of making the pastry in a friendly, easy-to-understand manner that totally takes the intimidation factor out of these fancy-but-so-easy (sssh!) desserts!
If you’re a “real baker”, you’ll love The Messy Baker.
Did you know? It’s #MessybakerMonday ! A group of us are posting Messy Baker recipes today – head on over to check out:
Jenny – Whiskey Kissed Cream pie
Robyn – Blueberry Lime Cornmeal Muffins
Jan – Chili Cheese Twists
Brittany – Chery and Lemon Macaroon Meringues
Rhonda – Ginger and Vanilla Scones
Heather – Piglet Muffins with Caramelized Bacon
Louisa – Double Stuffed Uber Oreos
Libby – Basil and Aged Cheddar Scones and Deep Dark Cherry and Chipotle Brownies
Christina – Savory Pecan Cheddar Bites
Meg – Rhubarb Raspberry Galette with Frangipane
Jennifer – Tomato Arugula Stuffed Foccacia
Stephanie – Smoked Paprika Corn Fritters
Valerie – Welsh Griddle Cakes
Liliana – Burnt Caramel and Sea Salt Sticky Buns
A Messy Baker giveaway!
Harper Collins Canada is offering one lucky eat. live. travel. write. reader (in Canada) the chance to win a copy of The Messy Baker!
How to enter:
There are 2 ways to enter (maximum of two entries per person for the duration of the contest).
1. Leave a comment on this post telling me your baking style – are you a messy baker or not?
2. Tweet the following message: Enter to win @charmian_c ‘s Messy Baker from @HarperCollinsCa + @eatlivtravwrite (Canada). Details: http://bit.ly/1uwBzv3
then come back to leave a second comment letting me know you did.
Eligibility and contest rules:
– Open to Canadian readers only.
– No purchase of any product necessary for entry.
– Winner will be chosen randomly (using www.random.org) from all qualified entries on Wednesday October 8th 2014 after 6pm EST.
– Winner will be notified via email Thursday October 9th 2014.
Bonus! For another chance to win a copy of The Messy Baker, check out my review over at RecipeGeek.Com!
Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of The Messy Baker for review purposes. I was not otherwise compensated for writing this post and all opinions are my own.
Canadians – win a KitchenAid Produce Preserver and a $50 to stock up on fresh produce. Closes Wednesday October 1st 6pm EST. Details here.