Baking, as they say, is an exacting science—there is a very delicate balance at play among the ingredients.
If you use extra large eggs as opposed to large, it could greatly affect the consistency and the texture of whatever you’re making. If your baking powder is past expiry, your cake won’t rise. And don’t use salted butter in place of unsalted, or you won’t be able to control the salt content. So the baker needs to pay careful attention.
Having said all that, the recipes that Tish Boyle presents in “Flavorful” are well thought out and carefully explained to practically ensure success. And the introduction has many helpful hints to keep even the baking novice well informed.
But for me, this cookbook is more for the experienced baker—and one with a lot of time to bake. The book is divided into nine sections according to flavor (hence the title) and I randomly chose nine recipes, one from each section. Of these, six recipes had instructions of two pages or longer.
One of the recipes I chose to test was the Apple and Almond Tart (recipe here). In total baking, cooling, and refrigerator time (setting the pie shell dough), the recipe took 4 hours start to finish. Not your average pie recipe. It did get great reviews, though—one friend told me it was the best dessert he had had since arriving in New York about a year ago. Another friend said the tart was “well balanced.” He enjoyed that the apples, while a little tart, were slightly sweetened by the apricot preserves. “Just delicious.”
Another recipe I tested was the Lemon-Blueberry Parfaits (recipe here). This was a snap to make and simply fantastic. These two are my favorite fruits for dessert, with the tartness of the lemon complementing the sweetness of the blueberries. And making the blueberries a compote with whole and crushed berries added a nice texture. The lemon component of the dessert was a creamy mousse, and the ginger snap cookies (I used them for dipping) added a little extra crunch. A true delight.
The last recipe I tested was a candy, the Chocolate-Sea Salt Caramels (recipe here). These were so easy to make and my photographer and I just loved them. I would say these are one of the few candies adults and children equally would enjoy. They are not too sweet, as the espresso powder cuts through the sweetness and the sea salt adds another dimension to the treat.
My final observations are that the recipes in this book, while beyond delicious, are time-consuming and at a difficulty level beyond the average home baker. This is a book for the experienced and confident baker.
I think novice bakers will also be intimidated by the low ratio of photos to recipes. While this book has some 150 recipes, there are only 42 photos of finished recipes. That means that less than a third of the recipes have accompanying photos. And of those included, I would have preferred more photos of the finished recipes and fewer of just the ingredients. If you don’t have a food processor there are a number of recipes that you’ll have to skip, or else you’ll need to process the ingredients by hand, such as using a cheese grater to get finely ground almonds.
And while you’re reading the recipe it will be imperative to add up the preparation and baking times, since these aren’t provided.
But if you like a challenge then this cookbook is for you.
“Flavorful” by Tish Boyle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015)