Two new cookbook reviews for a couple of books that were waiting for me when I arrived home from Cambodia – what perfect timing from Murdoch Books!
It’s been months since my last cookbook reviews and I’m back in the saddle with a couple of doozies from Murdoch Books. The first is one on a topic very dear to my greedy little heart – chocolate. In fact, that’s what it is called- just Chocolate. No room for confusion there.
It’s penned by pastry chef Kirsten Tibballs, who has been dubbed “the queen of chocolate”. Kirsten is owner, director and head pastry chef at Savour Chocolate and Patisserie School in Brunswick in Melbourne and has a long pedigree when it comes to chocolate. She has represented Australia at the World Pastry Championships in Las Vegas, won gold at the Pastry Olympics in Germany and has judged at the World Chocolate Masters in Paris, the Patisserie Grand Prix in Japan and the World Chocolate Masters National selections in London. This is a woman who really knows her subject.
Given that vast international experience, you might think that her book would be technical and intimidating – and you’d be dead wrong. Kirsten has put together a line-up of her own favourite recipes that almost anyone would feel confident to tackle. The vast majority of the recipes are quite simple, but even the more challenging ones are broken down into simpler steps, making the whole recipe very accessible. And every single one of them is stunning.
This book was waiting for me when I arrived home after almost two weeks in very hot and humid Siem Reap, an almost chocolate-free zone. I fell on it and was happily baking within 24 hours of arriving home, beginning with the brownies, before moving on to the delicious peanut butter cookies and the almond chocolate cakes (see recipe below), all of which turned out perfectly – I don’t ask more than that from a recipe.
Aimee’s Perfect Bakes is the second book from Aimee Twigger, a 28 year old British crafter and food blogger, who blogs at Twigg Studios. She started her food blog in 2011, in order to share her passion for baking and her fast-developing skills in food photography. In fact, Aimee says that she shot all the beautiful images in both her books using a cheap Samsung compact dslr that she bought early in her career.
This second selection for my cookbook reviews contains over 50 original recipes, featuring both sweet and savoury bakes. The recipes include a selection of baked gift ideas, as well as tips for beautifully wrapping and presenting her goodies for any occasion.
Aimee’s skills obviously lie in the serious cake department and her recipes for things like feather-lite lilac cake, rainbow cake with edible flowers and persimmon cinnamon cake are all accompanied by the kind of images that leave me weak with desire and slightly envious of her styling skills.
I’ve only tackled one or two of the simpler recipes so far, but have my eyes on the parsnip pear cake, the pumpkin pecan cinnamon buns and especially the pomegranate, pistachio and lemon biscotti. Baking is one of the most rewarding things you can do in the kitchen and this book is perfect for anyone who has some basic skills and wants to create unique and delicious treats.
Now – as promised – here is the recipe for Kirsten Tibballs delicious, and simple, almond chocolate cakes. Give it a go – you know you want to.
Almond chocolate Cakes
- Almond Cakes
- 310 g 11 oz marzipan (50% almonds)
- 60 g 21/4 oz Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted
- 170 g 6 oz/about 3 whole eggs, lightly beaten
- 85 g 3 oz unsalted butter, just melted and not too hot
- icing confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
- Berry Jam
- 200 g 7 oz frozen or fresh raspberries
- 125 g 41/2 oz caster (superfine) sugar
- Almond Cakes
- Preheat the oven to 165°C (320°F).
- Put the marzipan and sifted cocoa powder in the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.
- Slowly add the egg in stages to the marzipan mixture, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the side of the bowl.
- Slowly add the melted butter, scraping the bowl down as you go.
- Evenly divide the mixture between 12 holes in a greased or non-stick cupcake tray. Bake for approximately 12–15 minutes until it bounces back when touched.
- Remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool at room temperature. Remove the cakes from the tray and make a 1.5 cm (5/8 inch) hole in the centre of the top of each cake with the handle of a teaspoon. Dust with icing sugar.
- Berry Jam
- To make the berry jam, put the raspberries in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil, while stirring.
- Add the caster sugar, still stirring, and bring the mixture back to the boil. Continue to boil until you reach 102°C (216°F). (If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test the jam by dropping a small amount on a chilled plate and checking the consistency — it should just hold its shape.)
- Spoon a small amount of jam onto the top of each chocolate cake. Store at room temperature for up to 4 days or in the refrigerator for up to a week.