Reviewed by Jen Kulman

Bake by Tina Bester is just such a beautiful book – high quality photos and a carefully laid out format make it a true pleasure to look through. The front and back covers are thick and slightly textured, the endpapers are heart-patterned fuchsia, and the beginning of each chapter is marked with scarlet pages. Every recipe has its own full page photos, and my gosh, are they terrific. The end result is that Bake manages to be both comforting and inspirational. I want to invite people over and serve plates that look exactly like these.

Published in London, the measurements are, of course, in metrics. I only made it four recipes in before deciding that I didn’t care. The photographs of Pat Fraser’s Shortbread and Double Chocolate and Pecan Nut Brownies convinced me it would be well worth my time to do a bit of conversion. You may have to do a bit of swapping, like using cookies instead of digestive biscuits for the cheesecake crust, but I didn’t note any unusual ingredients. Castor sugar appears frequently, but that is called superfine sugar here, which you can make at home by whirling regular sugar in a coffee grinder or food processor.

Divided into six sections of Biscuits, Cakes, Meringues, Sweet Tarts and Pastries, Savory Tarts and Old-Fashioned Pies, and Breads and Buns, there are treats to tempt every appetite. The German Apple Pie is a traditional apple pie, divided into six portions and baked in cereal sized bowls. Ah, to be served your very own bowl of steaming apple pie with a domed, sugared crust. That’s pretty perfect. In the opposite direction, I was just as taken with her Butternut and Sage Triangles, which consist of steamed butternut squash wrapped in phyllo pastry and folded into neat triangles. Through the browned pastry, you can just make out the outlines of the buttered sage leaves tucked inside.

Bester’s goods are built on the basic baking blocks of butter, sugar, cream, fruit, and chocolate. One of the last recipes in the book, Country Buns, requires just five ingredients and one hour of rise time. For that, you get six classic buns – big fluffy torpedoes with slash marks on top that bed for lashings of real butter. The Chocolate and Orange Truffle Meringue Tarts look like a dessert you would find in an upscale restaurant, but her directions are so easy to follow; I’m certain I could make these. Four piped dollops of meringue line each tart, with the peaks a lovely toasted brown, and their bottoms nestled firmly in a pool of rich chocolate.

Bake is an amazing book, although my copy is already marred with turned down page corners, marking my selections.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Jen lives in Michigan with her husband and six year old son. She writes reviews of children’s books on her blog, FIRR-Kids and loves filling her own shelves with cookbooks.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Pavilion. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.