My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Messy Baker title gave me hope, so I asked for a review galley of this cookbook, which Rodale was kind enough to grant through netgalley. My hope was justified; The Messy Baker delights the heart of someone intimidated by the "weigh-it-for-precision" philosophy of baking that's been in vogue. The Messy Baker does not refer to flinging flour around the kitchen with abandon (although, why not, if you clean it up?); it's for those of us that like a little wiggle room, room for flair. For those of us who think of recipes as guidelines, not commandments; for those of us without a kitchen scale. And possibly more experienced bakers will find inspiration here, as well.
Charmian Christie has the perfect tone of "Come on, let's try this!" The recipes themselves are clear--and most fit on one page, which is great. There's a lot for beginners, here. There's a kitchen supply list; there are tips for "when" things go wrong and tips for "making do;" there's encouragement, and a lot of celebration of the fun that can be had in the kitchen. Charmian celebrates the sensuality of cooking; the chapters are arranged by sensory experience: crumbly, sloppy, drippy, etc., and she describes the way the dish is supposed to taste. Her stories are interesting, too. Also, lots of savory stuff! For those of us who don't bake because they don't crave sweets, the book is a treasure trove--and the sweet recipes have some layers: Blueberry-Lime Cornmeal Muffins. Yum. Piglet Biscuits--with cheese and bacon! And I really like the aioli and gremolata variations.
Charmian has a blog also (messy baker.com) and The Messy Baker book will go on my foodie shelf! I'm betting if she wrote a memoir or novel with recipes, I'd give it five stars. Recommended for both cooks and foodie readers.
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