Baking and dessert cookbooks

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Perfect your cupcakes and pastries with the best baking cookbooks

Short and Sweet

Dan Lepard, Fourth Estate, £25

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Dan Lepard – seasoned baker, Guardian columnist and kitchen conundrum solver – has delivered the mother of all baking books. He loves detail, and spends as much time honing and testing scone recipes as making whoopie pies, breads, and crisp pastries.

What sets Lepard apart from other cookery book authors is that he absorbs the science behind making great bakes and offers solutions for kitchen catastrophes without sounding geeky.

His style is chatty – ingredients for bread are mixed to a ‘shaggy mess’; he coaxes us to boil caramel to the point of no return (‘burnt is closer to what you want’); and shares his secret for successful sweet-making (‘be careful and organised and stay relaxed’).

He doesn’t waste energy pummelling bread dough to an inch of its life, either: a gentle prod here, some doughy relaxation there, and a few quick folds is all it takes. After my weekend baking session testing his recipe book, highlights included German stollen, a festive and fruity cardamom-spiced bread with a hidden treasure of softly set marzipan.

The recipe for lemon tart, so often a challenge to get spot-on, delivers a perfectly set tangy filling inside a crisp and deep golden pastry case. Even the sniffiest French pastry chef would be impressed by the outcome.

Some recipes are taken from his newspaper columns, trusted favourites including delicious blueberry muffins, and a cheesecake-like pear and champagne mousse cake, held steady by two discs of light sponge. It’s a showstopper.

Lepard also includes savouries – a big pork pie, pasties, hearty tarts. There’s even a Christmas mincemeat recipe gleaned from a dusty seventeenth-century manuscript.

Hold onto your apron strings – this one has chopped tripe nestling among the dried fruit.

For kitchen novices and practised hands, here’s a doorstopper of a recipe compendium, blessed with plenty of sweet treats.

Roopa Gulati, Time Out London Issue 2155: December 8-14 2011

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