As a big fan of The Great British Bake Off, any products related to the show immediately grab my attention. I was in Waterstones a couple of weeks ago, browsing the cookery section to see if there were any books by Mary Berry or Paul Hollywood (the judges of the show) that I wanted. While there were none there that caught my interest, there was another book with The Great British Bake Off label that caught my eye.
How To Avoid A Soggy Bottom: And Other Secrets To Achieve A Good Bake is a helpful guide book written by Gerrard Baker. At £12.99, it is a hardback presented in a twee Victorian style cover, and on the back, the blurb says 'Banish sunken sponges, burned caramel, and soggy bottoms from the kitchen forever!' The book answers over a hundred and fifty essential baking questions, explains common techniques, and offers thirty recipes to try your hand at.
I have been milling through the book over the last week or so, and have found it very useful. Many of the questions I had about baking, but could not find the answer to elsewhere, were throughly explained in Baker's book in a clear and simple manor.
The book is divided into five sections: cakes & biscuits, bread, pastry, dessert, and flavours & fillings. Each section gives a history about when these fabulous treats were invented and how they evolved. For example, the reason there is so much confusion over names today (e.g. shortbread biscuits) is because cakes, bread, and biscuits were all very much the same kind of thing back in Greek and Roman times.
While Baker provides interesting factoids like this, he also gives very useful advice, and answers a range of troubleshooting questions. Something I had wondered for a long time is why so many of my cakes dome in the middle. Baker says that the reason could either be that the ingredients are too dry, or that tin cake tin is too small, meaning there is not enough room for the sponge to expand.
Among the recipes, you'll learn how to make a boiled fruit cake, Sally Lunns, olive oil pastry, Italian meringue macaroons, and pastry cream.
If you've ever been frustrated by an unsuccessful bake, and not known what you did wrong, I really recommend How to Avoid a Soggy Bottom.