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Posted February 27, 2013
This is a very, very good book. Those familiar with the Jane Brocket's blog won't be surprised by the quality and thoughtfulness of her introductions (sometimes leaning on informative and sometimes playful and almost poetical), and the clarity of the baking instructions. The photography is luscious and the styling props compliment the spirit of the recipes.
The author uses the adjectives "scant" and "generous" for the amounts of ingredients as well as possible substitutions and ranges of quantities instead of set numbers, tipping the cook on what to expect of the recipe. This and the tips on how to avoid disasters show this is a genuine collection of tried and true recipes.
"Vintage" is a very accurate term to describe the contents of this book, as they certainly belong to an era where calories and nutrition were the purpose of cooking and not the opposite. Most of this food is from the time it was scarce, and to be eaten with a mind of sharing and of relative indulgence. This is not food to eat on one's own, for sure!
I really liked the introductions and found the regional recipes quite open minding - most of them would fall in that category, actually. While the writing seeks to elicit nostalgia, as I'm not from any of the regions mentioned to me most were quite exotic. Not bad or difficult, just new and exotic.
I didn't give it 5 stars because: I disagree with most of the categorization (there are plenty of celebration cakes and small cakes in sections other than those, about half of the tin cakes don't last longer than a few days); it should contain a better table of contents and a better index, it should contain a page of equivalences of volume / weight / other expressions and use the same throughout the book (butter is expressed in sticks, cups and tablespoons and the baking powder is expressed in either teaspoons, grams or ounces), two recipes call for store bought pastry, and I found the overall styling (not just the pictures) cluttered and overwhelming. It should have been more sparse and allowed the reader some room for their own notes. I think it would be a nice addition to have more information on icing and decoration.
In spite of my misgivings I believe this to be a very good addition to my cookbook library, the recipes I've tried have come out wonderfully (banana loaf, tea loaf, madeira cake, pancakes, devil's food cake and my new signature little cake, "raspberry jam cakes", which is blueberry jam cake in my case) and I wholeheartedly recommend it to enthusiast home bakers, both new and experienced.
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