How to Bake by Paul Hollywood

This is the first of three Paul Hollywood books I will review. As someone who loves baking, most of my cookbooks are focused on baking from the sweet to savoury to bread. This book covers that. It is the British edition of the book which I ordered from Book Outlet. I do prefer the UK editions of cookbooks.

What is a bit inconvenient is that Hollywood loves Stilton cheese which I can’t eat due to a penicillin allergy. Époisses cheese is featured once in this book too and it is hard to source here. As a UK book, there other things such as apricot jam, glace cherries, and dried peel. The pies and tarts section is more British as well. I love British baking so I adapt and substitute when necessary.

This book is suitable for novices, but it has recipes and sections for more adventurous bakers. There are sections for Sourdough and Pastries. My relationship with the former is contentious and most of the sourdough recipes makes 2 loaves which is too much for me. There are recipes for croissants, danishes, and brioche. I’ll tackle the brioche one day.

There are couple of non-baking recipes such as those breads or “bakes” you can make on the stove: chapatis, crumpets, and pancakes. On the whole, I’d recommend this for bakers who are keen on breads and expanding their repertoire. It’s not a cookies/biscuits kind of book. None of Hollywood’s books are. They are a bit more advanced than some standard cookbooks.

This was my first Hollywood book and I continue to love his cookbooks from the photographs, instructions, and to the binding.

Prose and Writing: Each section has an introduction page which gives some good pointers. Every recipe has a little blurb which not extremely useful, but nice. Hollywood is not super effusive in his writing.
Technique and Teaching: Lots of information for bakers with a bit of experience. He teaches various bread shapes: plaits, spirals, loaves, couronnes, and so forth. I’ve learned many bread and baking tips from Paul Hollywood including kneading with oil and simple things like how to mix, what tools to use, etc.
Photography and Layout: This book stands out because of the instructional photos. Great photography all around.
Other Book Notes: I really liked the overall binding of this book. It’s a hard cover, but Hollywood’s books tend to be less glossy and lighter.
Usefulness Factor: 5/5. If you’re serious about baking, bread, and viennoiseries, this a useful book.
Inspiration Factor: 4/5. Croissants and Danishes!
Recipes Tested:

  • Focaccia – Amazing. As if you bought it in the store.
  • Cholla (Challah) – This book includes pictures and instructions on how to do an eight strand/plait. Very good challah recipe.
  • Scones – Uses bread flour which I’m not too keen on with scones. They are alright.

The Recipe:

Marble Cake

Marble Cake

From How to Bake by Paul Hollywood and lovefood

  • 200 g (7.1oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 200 g (7.1oz) caster sugar
  • 1.5 tsp natural vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 250 g (8.8oz) plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 40 ml (1.4fl oz) full-fat milk
  • 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup icing sugar for dusting
  1. Heat your oven to 180°C. Line a 1kg loaf tin with baking parchment.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter, 180g of the sugar and the vanilla extract together until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then sift the flour and baking powder over the mixture and fold in with 2 tbsp of the milk.
  3. Spoon two-thirds of the mixture into the prepared loaf tin – it should three-quarters fill the tin. Sift the cocoa over the remaining third of the mixture and fold in, together with the remaining 20g sugar and the last of the milk.
  4. Spoon the chocolate mixture over the cake mixture in the tin, then run a fork through both mixtures, gently swirling the two together to create a marbled effect.
  5. Bake for 55-70 minutes, until the cake shrinks slightly from the sides of the tin and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, testing the cake after 55 minutes. Remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack. Once cooled, dust with icing sugar.

Recipe Review: While still good, this is not one of the best recipes in the book.

A 1kg loaf tin is 2lb loaf tin or by some sources, a 9×5. I have an 8×4 metal tin and a 10×6 silicone loaf mold. I used my 10×6 silicone loaf mold which makes the cake batter more shallow. In Hollywood’s Bread book, he writes that a standard 1kg loaf tin is about 27cm x 13cm x 7.5cm which would make it almost a 10×6. To be safe, I increased the temperature by 25 degrees and decreased the baking time. I checked it around 33 minutes because of the smell. It was not done, but it was done about ten minutes later. I really like using the silicone mold because I don’t have to grease it or use parchment paper, but it throws off the baking time and makes loves lower than they could be. I need to buy a 9×5.

This recipe required a lot of beating which was good for the workout. Sugar was 160g or 15g for the cocoa portion. I found it hard to marble though which is why my loaf ended up looking ugly.

Taste was good and if I kept the sugar at 200g, it would still have been alright since I think Hollywood’s recipes are less sweet than some others. This recipe was for the most part easy and I did enjoy the result. Unlikely to make again, but I still adore this cookbook.

ETA: Four days later and I have to say that I gifted some of the loaf to my parents and as they ate through it, the marbling got better. Taste was still good within the first three days too. I’d make the loaf again actually, but using a hand mixer next time.

The Fast Diet by Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer

Like many others, I became more interested in Intermittent Fasting (IF) after watching Dr Mosley’s BBC Horizon programme on it. I began to realize that this would be the only diet that I could ever do. It’s more of an eating pattern, but it is one that I can relate to. I do believe people eat too much in the West and especially junk or processed food. Food is everywhere. It’s excessive.

This “diet” is straightforward and easy to follow. Two non-consecutive fasting or low calorie days per week. The rules are simple and you can eat anything on the non fast days. The studies are showing

I do love food. I think about it a lot. I make it. I read about it. I watch shows about it. I also can and do eat a lot of it. However, I have done variations of IF or calorie restriction before. When travelling, I often go through hours without eating much. I often do not eat lunch. For breakfast, I often have a simple steel cut oatmeal breakfast. I do not mind it actually and love oatmeal as breakfast. On weekends, I will often brunch and have bigger meals with family or friends.

In the past, when I have done IF without even realizing it (travelling, as a poor graduate student, as a poor intern), I did did lose weight. I am not sure if there were other effects. I do not need to lose a lot of weight to begin with, but it is getting harder to lose weight over the years.

This book could be shorter as the second half is full of reference information. IF and the Fast Diet is fairly simple to follow. The book was a good reminder of eating less at least a couple days a week. I hope to fast more in the future. Due to circumstances, I can’t follow the calorie restrictions, but it is a good reminder to eat less on certain days.

Read February 11-13, 2016.

How to Cook Everything: The Basics by Mark Bittman

When looking through my cookbooks I am surprised I had never written about this book. I love this cookbook.

This is the photographic edition of Mark Bittman’s How to Cook: The Basics. I have two other Bittman cookbooks largely because of how much I adored this one. I don’t know if I’ll get around to those for a long time.

This is a fantastic cookbook for someone starting out to cook for the first. Even an intermediate home cook will find it useful because he gives loads of variations in each recipe to alter it. I’ve used more recipes and tips from this cookbook than any other. It is extremely handy and helpful. Maybe not the best ever recipes for certain things, but practical and still good.

There are sections for vegetables, meat, seafood, and there’s a section on beans. 2016 is the year of the pulses so that is appropriate.

Prose and Writing: Concise. Strong. Easy to read. This befits a writer from the New York Times. Good for learning.
Photography and Layout: Not fancy, but to the point. I really like the layout as there were over 1000 photos in this book. It was all arranged well on the page.
Other Book Notes: This book is heavy, but no means my heaviest cookbook. I really like it though and it’s one of the first cookbooks I go to when I want to do something classic or standard.
Usefulness Factor: 5/5. This book has recipes for all your basics and for big family meals and entertaining.
Inspiration Factor: 4/5. While nothing fancy, the variations to the recipe give you a ton of ideas for the future.
Recipes Tested: Lots: Granola and Muesli, Cinnamon rolls, Chicken Stock, Minestrone soup, Vinaigrette in Jar, Tomato Soup, Garlicky White Bean Soup, Bean Burgers, Roast Chicken, Grill Cheese Sandwich, No Knead Bread (not from this book exactly from other Mark Bittman resources), Coconut Layer Cake (for reference of other cake).

The Recipe:

Pasta with Eggs and Cheese

Pasta with Eggs and Cheese

Salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup freshly grated pecocorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, or more to taste
1 pound linguine or other long pasta
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Bring a stockpot of water to a boil and salt it. Heat the oven to 200F and put a large oven proof bowl in it for about 5 mins. When the bowl is warm–handle it with oven mitts to avoid burning yourself–crack the eggs on a flat surface and open them into it. Beat them with a fork or whisk until uniformly coloured. Then stir in the cheese.
  2. When the water boils, cook the pasta until it is tender but not mushy: start tasting after 5 minutes. When it’s done, scoop out the reserve at least 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.
  3. Immediately toss the pasta with the eggs in the bowl; if it’s too dry (unlikely), add a little of the pasta-cooking water. Taste and add more salt or cheese if you want, then add black pepper–I suggest a lot–and serve.

Notes: I made it for one person by using one egg and less than 150g of pasta. I liked the flavour and simplicity of it. A couple of quibbles. 200F not warm enough. I would raise the temperature and put it in while the pasta is cooking. I did not need the pasta water. I used a lot of parmesan. Yum.

The Shepherd’s Life: A People’s History of the Lake District by James Rebanks

This is a lovely memoirs with a perspective that is not often featured in the mainstream media or in stories. It is written by a shepherd who is well educated and uses modern technology, but farms in a traditional way.

I do like sheep. As a knitter, I know more about wool and sheep than the average westerner. By my desk at my parents’ home, I have a poster of Ontario sheep breeds. I got it at a sheep festival where I also saw sheepdog show. Sheepdogs are amazing when well trained. So I am a bit of a sheep nerd. I have utmost respect for shepherds as a result.

This whole book was fascinating and I found it relatable to me since my parents grew up in rural areas. I do romanticize it a bit and I don’t know if I could fully commit to rural life the way the author does. However, I can understand his connection the land. I found his prose simple, but powerful. I understood his background and perspective. The writing felt honest and not that judgmental. It felt beautifully raw. I hope to read more books from Rebanks in the future.

Read February 8-10, 2016.

FO: Pogona

Pogona

I really enjoyed this pattern overall. It only had two rows and was very easy to knit with while watching movies or TV. I didn’t feel pressured to finish it and loved going back to it. I don’t always wear my Stephen West shawls, but I’ve enjoyed knitting everyone of them.

Shortened mine from the pattern because I had read many people ran out of yarn. I went to about 12″ rather than 14″ before doing the final garter rows. I did four garter rows instead of the six. Finished off with an Icelandic bind off which was new to me and stretchy. I’ll use it for socks next time.

The yarn is lovely. It didn’t bleed very much and the photos don’t capture how nice it is. It was soft and knit up so well. No issues with knots, abrupt colour changes, or ply issues. I’d definitely use Fleece Artist again.

Pogona

Pogona, started December 16, 2015, finished February 3, 2016. Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Pogona by Stephen West Ravelry Pattern Page
Yarn: Fleece Artist Merino 2/6 – 350.0 meters (382.8 yards), 125 grams – in Sangria
Needles: US6/4.0mm
Measurements: Post blocking 18”/46cm from centre stitch to BO edge. Wingspan: 46”/117cm which is ten inches less than the original, but mine is longer at the centre.

Pogona

Modifications & Notes:

  • Alternate cast-on method from KarenK (The No-Garter-Tab Method): Cast on 3 sts. Row 1: K 3; Row 2: K1, M1 (using backwards loop increase), K1, M1, K1 (5 sts); Row 3: K 5; Row 4: K2, M1, K1, M1, K2 (7 sts); Row 5: K3, P1, K3; Row 6: K3, YO, K1, YO, K3 (9 sts); Start with Set-up Row 1 (WS) in pattern
  • Slipped slevedge. Slipped first stitch of every row and knit tbl on the last stitch.
  • Used KFB instead of YO at the edge stitches so that my rows would be: Sl1pwise, K1, KFB… KFB, K1, Ktbl
  • Going from purl to knit: Purl st through the back loop. I didn’t find any benefit to this one.
  • 12” before garter rows.
  • Do 4 garter rows rather than 6.
  • Paired lifted increases
  • Icelandic bind off

Pogona

Tools/Notions: Many stitch markers.
Lessons Learned: Icelandic bind off.
Cost of Project: $16CAD for the yarn.
Would I knit it again? Yes, but doubtful I would. Recommended pattern for easy project.
Helpful Links:

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher

This was a really amusing adaptation of the Star Wars: A New Hope in Shakespearean form. The author admits to finding iambic pentameter a natural. I wish I did, but this was enjoyable.

I think he did a good job of adapting the style and tone of both Shakespeare’s works and George Lucas’s movie. I did find there was a bit too much of the Chorus, but otherwise, it was a very cute and fun work.

While reading this book, I went to see a production of Twelfth Night and it made me wonder even more how Star Wars would be on the stage. I hope someone tries it one day and screens it for the world.

Read January 27-February 7, 2016.

Important: Blog Feed and Subscribe

Hello! It recently came to my attention that my Feedburner RSS feed was no longer updating. It’s been broken for months. I have tried to fix it myself to no avail and learned that Google offers no support for Feedburner. I have had to switch back to using my WordPress feed exclusively. I am very disappointed because I will lose some subscribers from this. However, I have done my best to change the links on my current blog to go direct to my standard blog feed.

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Monthly Movies – January 2016

Movies in Theatres:

For some reason, Wordpres didn’t save that last month I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens on 29 December 2015. I enjoyed it. I really look forward to rewatching it on DVD and the next episode in the series.

Movies at Home:

Belle (16 01 2016) – Period piece. If you like Amazing Grace which is also another Georgian abolition movie, this is it. Honestly, gorgeous period details and wonderful acting. I liked Gugu Mbatha-Raw in “Doctor Who,” but she is deservedly breaking out in the last couple of years. She was just wonderful in this. All the rest of the cast were British and excellent. I like Sam Reid a lot as well and look forward to seeing more of him. Not enough Matthew Goode who looked fantastic in his navy uniform. I do wonder if Tom Felton will be cast in things other than as British Douchebag #1. Going to try and see Beyond the Pines for her.

Little Women (17 01 2016) – 1994 version. Lovely movie overall and a good adaptation of the book. It brought me memories of how I felt reading the book. Not enough Beth though. I was not really fond of the Amy/Teddy ship and watching the movie, even more so. Christian Bale was quite dreamy in that role though.

American Psycho (18 01 2016) – Darkly funny and engaging. Christian Bale is excellent in this. Unhinged and fully invested. A good cast too. I did get a bit tired 3/4 of the way through of the gore. The ending is almost a bit too subtle for people to realize the post-modern take on it. I definitely recommend it as a way to not be in life.

Gone Girl (22 01 2016) – See here.

Weekend at Bernies (22 01 2016) – I laughed once. It had amusing moments, but I didn’t really care for it. I found the two protagonists too stupid especially Andrew McCarthy’s Larry. He looked and acted really differently from when I first saw him in Pretty in Pink. I had to rewatch some of the latter’s scenes to remind myself how much cuter he was with Molly Ringwald.

Les Poupées Russes (23 01 2016) – I saw the first movie Auberge Espangole ages ago. Xavier is an idiot. I did like how these movies have so many varied settings and is multilingual. I loved the lines, “How can many sincere moments make so much misery?” and “I love you for your imperfections.” So French and European.

Casse Tête Chinois (24 01 2016) – The final movie in the Xavier trilogy. I think this was the best movie in terms of plot and character moments. Xavier was much less annoying and the setting of New York City worked really well. I’m sad he didn’t work out with his wife, but at least he ended up with one of his first loves.

Oz: The Great and Powerful (25 01 2016) – I went in with low expectations knowing that the reviews were bad. It was not too bad the first half and I really liked the Little China Girl. However, I really became bored when Mila Kunis became the Wicked Witch. I queued this movie in large part because I adore both Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz. I wanted them to win, but they didn’t. The main protagonists were uninteresting. Not recommended really.

Napoleon Dynamite (28 01 2016) – Amusing and cute. It was strange and quirky. I enjoyed it but it’s not something I feel I need rewatch.

Rewatched Movies:

The Princess Bride (09 01 2016) – Always makes me smile and swoon and laugh. For my review of Elwes’ memoirs on making the movie, go here.