Saturday, 26 September 2015

Book Review - The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan

Amazon UK
Title: The Art of Baking Blind 
Author: Sarah Vaughan
Format reviewed: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks
Publication Date: 13th August 2015
Rating: 5 Stars

There are many reasons to bake: to feed; to create; to impress; to nourish; to define ourselves; and, sometimes, it has to be said, to perfect. But often we bake to fill a hunger that would be better filled by a simple gesture from a dear one. We bake to love and be loved.

In 1966, Kathleen Eaden, cookery writer and wife of a supermarket magnate, published The Art of Baking, her guide to nurturing a family by creating the most exquisite pastries, biscuits and cakes.

Now, five amateur bakers are competing to become the New Mrs Eaden. There's Jenny, facing an empty nest now her family has flown; Claire, who has sacrificed her dreams for her daughter; Mike, trying to parent his two kids after his wife's death; Vicki, who has dropped everything to be at home with her baby boy; and Karen, perfect Karen, who knows what it's like to have nothing and is determined her façade shouldn't slip.

As unlikely alliances are forged and secrets rise to the surface, making the choicest choux bun seems the least of the contestants' problems. For they will learn - as Mrs Eaden did before them - that while perfection is possible in the kitchen, it's very much harder in life.

A year ago I spent ages trawling around bookshops trying to pick up a copy of this book in paperback after seeing glowing reviews on blogs. After a few months of failing, I realised that it wasn't out until this year in paperback. Once I spotted it on the release schedules I was instantly eager again to try and get a copy of the book, and wow it was definitely worth the year's wait...

... What a fantastic book, full of family dynamics, baking, assorted family dramas and its a book that will definitely make you hungry while you read it. 

The book is separated into various categories, breads, cakes, puddings, biscuits etc... and each section focuses on that food stuff, as well as the characters memories of making them in childhood, how their practices are going. As well, we get insights into Kathleen Eaden's life while she was attempting to write the original baking bible "The Art of Baking". 

There are five contestants in this baking competition, all with their own reasons for entering, as well as what they are hoping to get from it. They have similarities between them, but their stories are definitely different. We don't get to learn huge amounts about Mike, but I feel he was mainly there to add a male perspective to the competition. 

The book mainly focuses on the four female competitors. 

Lily who is not finding parenthood as easy as she hopes, but does find great joy in baking with her son Alfie. 

Jenny who as the oldest women competing, is also the largest, and has grown up daughters, and a husband who has become a health freak marathon runner, so no longer appreciates the food Jenny makes.  

Claire, who is single mum to 9 year old Chloe, and is still very young, is trying make ends meet while working for the Eaden's supermarket chain. 

There is also Karen with her two teenage children, one of which seems to despise her, but will we ever discover what secrets she is hiding from her family. 

As the baking contest proceeds, various friendships are made, and the women generally become supportive of each other. Each chapter starts with a short excerpt from "The Art of Baking" and they all describe baking in a way that is very "olden days" which is clearly in keeping with the time when the tome was written. 

I found this to be a very relaxing read, one that once I started the next thing I knew loads of pages had passed, and it was such a pleasure to read it. Just remember to keep some baked goods handy while reading it, as you will crave them as the book progresses!

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