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Saturday, 13 June 2015

Sensational Strawberry Pavlova and 'How Baking Works' Review

I've been making pavlova for many years and didn't think I had much to learn about making this meringue based dessert. WRONG!  You see I've been reading How Baking Works (and what to do when it doesn't) by James Morton.  I'm sure you remember James Morton from the Great British Bake Off, this young medical student (now qualified) has taken his medical scientific mind and applied it to the science of baking.

So what is in the book?  It starts by telling us 'How This Works', James promises no flowery language everything simple and direct.  The book is designed to explain to you how to make the basics of baking, with some recipe suggestions but with the intention that, once mastered, you will go on to make your own variations.

Forebake is an excellent primer for baking well.  A list of ingredients with full explanation of their contribution to the bake and how best to use them.  There is also a list of essential equipment which won't scare you off as it really is pretty basic.

The Basics takes you through techniques and staples, reducing the fear factor of Creme Patissiere, Creme Anglaise,  Creme Brulee, Frangipane and Caramel, including how to save crystallised caramel.  Melting chocolate is demystified and chocolate ganache couldn't be easier.  Three different types of buttercream to fill those lovely cakes, marizpan, crumble topping and even jam and curd making.  Each one described carefully and simply with step by step instructions.

So now we are really ready to start baking each chapter starts with some basic instructions and lots of reasons why you need to do certain things, I do like to know why, don't you?
The detailed notes on the variations will help you make changes to your recipes without risking disaster.  If things still go wrong, James is ready with a list of troubleshooting tips.

This is the pattern for CAKE, SPONGE, BROWNIE, MUFFINS, TORTE, BISCUIT, SHORT, SWEET, CHOUX PUFF, MERINGUE and  MACARON. Following the whys and wherefores are the recipes.

And here are some of the recipes that took my fancy: Celeriac Cake with Strawberries and Cream, Wee Sponges with Passion Fruit Curd and Italian Meringue, Macadamia and Raspberry Blondies, Yoghurt Muffins, Squidgy Gingerbread Muffins, Torta Caprese, Chocolate Orange Cookies, Iced Rings, Mushroom and Thyme Tart with Poached Egg, Cherry Bakewell , Frangipane Fruit Tart, Choux Divorces, Eccles Cakes, Kiwi Pavlova (I made it with strawberry instead!) Mango, Raspberry and Pistachio Roulade and Caramel Macarons.

Who is it for? When I first started to read this book, I thought it was a book for baking geeks, who look at baking as a science rather than an art and who need to know every little detail before they start to bake. Well it would suit that type of baker, but to be honest, I think everyone who bakes would benefit from reading How Baking Works and I do mean READ.  It was only when I sat down to read the book that it all came together for me and I could see what James was trying to achieve.

Pros: One of the things I really liked about this book was just how clearly you could hear James' voice.  Perhaps that was easier because I watch GBBO avidly, however the style is informal, the language is quite clearly James' own.

Cons: There are less recipes than you usually get in a cook book this size, but as explained at the beginning that's because the real purpose is to teach you to understand how each type of bake works.

The Verdict:  This book should be on the shelf of every wannabe baker and also of those of us who have been baking successfully for years but didn't know quite why we were successful!  I will certainly branch out a little more using the knowledge I've gained from reading How Baking Works.

James Morton's Kiwi Pavlova 
and Janice's Strawberry Lemon Curd variation
makes one sizeable spectacle

4 medium egg whites
200g caster sugar
1 pint double cream
caster sugar and vanilla extract, to taste
6 kiwi fruits

1. First, preheat your oven to 120C/100C fan/Gas 1/2.
2. Into a large clean bowl (not plastic or silicone), place the egg whites.  They should be free of any trace of yolk - if there is any remaining, use a soon to coop it out and use a torch or the light on your phone to make sure there is none left.
3. Using an electric whisk or stand mixer on the highest speak available, whisk the whites until light, fluffy and stiff.  When they're not getting any bigger, start adding the caster sugar, a teaspoon at a time, still whisking on the highest speed.  When it's all incorporated, keep whisking for a bit longer before setting aside.
4. Use a wee touch of the meringue to stick a sheet of baking paper to a baking tray.  Then, scoop your meringue into one massive circular blob.  Try to make it thinner in the middle and thicker towards the edges.  A thicker crust is required because so much of the centre will become soggy when laden with cream.
5. Bake your meringue for approximately 2 hours - I like a bit of beige (even brown) on my Pavlova. Leave it to cool on the tray.

6. Whip the cream by hand in a cold bowl until just coagulated, adding sugar and vanilla to taste.  Peel and slice the kiwi fruits.
7. Scoop about the cream on top of the meringue disc and spread it around.  Add about a third of the kiwi fruits then cover completely with another layer of cream and top with the rest of the fruit.  Preferably in a big pile.  Keep in the fridge and serve over the course of the following day.

To make the strawberry variation use 1 punnet of strawberries, hull and half them. Mix 3 tbsp lemon curd into the whipped cream or use good quality Greek yogurt.  Put all the  cream or yogurt mixture onto the pavlova and place the strawberry halves on top in circles.  Dust with a little icing sugar.

I've always added cornflour and vinegar to my pavlova to create the marshmallowy texture inside the crisp shell, but this recipe did all that without any additives and was just fabulous and will be the ONLY way I will make pavlova in future.

As James would say of the pavlova of his childhood: " There would be an attempt to slice it, but then it would simply be scraped from it's tray and shovelled into a bowl, just as it should be"

How Baking Works by James Morton
Photography by Andy Sewell
Published by Ebury Press
RRP Ā£20

Here are some other Pavlova variations you might like to try:
Mini Chocolate and Rhubarb Pavlovas - Tin and Thyme
Banana Pavlova with Chocolate Fudge Sauce - Farmersgirl Kitchen 
Chocolate Berry Pavlova - Farmersgirl Kitchen 
Strawberry and Creme Fraiche Pavlova -Lancashire Food
Diamond Jubilee Pavlova - Fab Food 4 All

I'm adding this to Dom's Simply Eggcellent Linky at Belleau Kitchen as there would be no pavlova without eggs!

Not forgetting Simple and in Season over at Ren Behan/Food for those wonderful seasonal strawberries.

And Bake of the Week, I'm not quite sure how Helen at Casa Costello manages to keep this weekly linky going, but she does and it's a source of lots of amazing bakes so please do visit.

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At 13 June 2015 at 09:51 , Blogger Keep Calm and Fanny On said...

Looks lovely! There are so many variations and recipes out there, it's great to know this one works so well. I have James' bread book, but have swithered whether this one would be worth my while... Think I need to reconsider! Thanks...

At 13 June 2015 at 10:47 , Blogger Unknown said...

I love your book reviews Janice. In fact I am off to amazon to buy this book now. This book is SO me! I am a baking geek and I love the 'how and why' tech being cooking. Actually excited about a cookery book for once! And that pavlova is gorgeous! I love your lemon curd too. i think strawberries, lemon curd and meringue are the perfect combo! Thanks so much for entering it into Simply Eggcellent

At 13 June 2015 at 10:56 , Blogger Janice said...

Thank you. You won't be disappointed by this book, it really is excellent.

At 13 June 2015 at 10:57 , Blogger Janice said...

Wow, that's a great result! Glad you enjoyed the review and I'm sure you will love the style and the details in James' fab book.

At 13 June 2015 at 11:41 , Blogger Fab Food 4 All said...

Sounds like a great book as I love the science side of cooking. Your pavlova with the strawberry and lemon curd combo is to die for and a variation I shall definitely be trying out with some of my Granny's Lemon Curd:-) Thanks for adding my pavlova link:-)

At 13 June 2015 at 16:12 , Blogger Choclette said...

Ah, I need James' help now Janice. I'm trying to make Italian buttercream and it's just split on me and gone all runny and ..... aghhh!

Another fab review, yours are the best. And your pavlova looks totally scrummy too.

At 14 June 2015 at 19:41 , Blogger Galina Varese said...

Great book review, Janice! And your pavlova looks absolutely lush! Lemon curb is an inspired touch

At 17 June 2015 at 16:01 , Blogger Jacqueline Meldrum said...

I've not made a pavlova in such a long time. You have really tempted me Janice!

At 17 June 2015 at 16:28 , Blogger Unknown said...

Sounds like my kind of book! Definitely interested in getting this. :)

At 17 June 2015 at 16:36 , Blogger Gingey Bites said...

What a nice post Janice - the pavlova looks delish! I really need to get better at baking so may well invest in this book :-)

At 17 June 2015 at 16:44 , Blogger Unknown said...

Oh gawd, afraid I had to whizz through your post with my eyes tightly closed Janice as I'm off sugar and I think reading the recipe might have broken my will! Love the pic with the little swirl of meringue coming off the side, I so would have swiped that with a finger whilst no one was looking :D
Janie x

At 17 June 2015 at 22:04 , Blogger Janice said...

Thanks Camilla, the lemon curd comes from a recipe by Claire Macdonald, it's a really great combination.

At 17 June 2015 at 22:05 , Blogger Janice said...

Well he certainly has all the info you need on Italian buttercream. Thanks for your kind comments.

At 17 June 2015 at 22:05 , Blogger Janice said...

Thanks Galina, it certainly tastes good.

At 17 June 2015 at 22:06 , Blogger Janice said...

It's such an easy dessert to make and always looks impressive, go on, you know you want to!

At 17 June 2015 at 22:06 , Blogger Janice said...

I'm sure you would enjoy it Sarah.

At 17 June 2015 at 22:07 , Blogger Janice said...

Thank you. It's a great book, full of so much information.

At 17 June 2015 at 22:07 , Blogger Janice said...

oh dear Janie, hope you managed to get a virtual sugar rush!

At 18 June 2015 at 10:43 , Blogger Unknown said...

I need to be brave enough to try a pavlova that big - and you might have just about tempted me to.

At 19 June 2015 at 17:04 , Blogger GG said...

I've got this book and love it. I'd been trying to find a book that actually explained the science for some time. I'm off to bake a Pavlova - really! GG

At 21 June 2015 at 22:08 , Blogger Janice said...

I'm sure it would be a breeze for you Bintu, really pavlova is not difficult to make.

At 21 June 2015 at 22:09 , Blogger Janice said...

That's good to hear, Amanda. I'm just about to try the Friand recipe and see if I can alter the ingredients based on the science!

At 23 June 2015 at 20:45 , Blogger Lili said...

Love the pavlova and your book review too! I've also been unable to resist and am ordering it on amazon!!! Thank you! :)

At 23 June 2015 at 22:06 , Blogger Janice said...

Oh that's great, I'm so pleased. I'm sure you will enjoy baking with James.

At 17 July 2015 at 21:46 , Blogger Ren Behan said...

Ooh the pavlova looks lovely and gooey, I'd love that for dessert! Thank you for linking to Simple and in Season, pinned and the round up is now live x


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