Cookshelf- James Martin’s Desserts

Desserts, by the lovely James Martin. Nice shirt, too.

I could do bad things to James Martin. And not in a thinly veiled innuendo kind of way. He has stolen my Saturday mornings and made me obsessed with cake. He made me give up any concept of cooking with margarine. I hold him personally responsible for at least four and a quarter excess pounds of flub on frame. Bastard!

In other news, I love James Martin! And not just because he’s tall and Northern and makes good cakes. Yes he’s classically trained and all that and yes he can make some very fluffy and complex food but he’s honest about it. And he makes good cakes. No Saturday morning feels quite right to me unless it starts with a huge mug of coffee and Saturday Kitchen on the beeb for some weekend cookery inspiration. He’s amusing, and likeable and not pretentious. Did I mention the cake?

Yes cake, desserts of all kinds in fact to be found in his book, the not desperately imaginatively titled ‘Desserts’. I have to thank an unknown well wisher who bought this for a friend of mine some handful of Christmases ago. She ‘doesn’t really make desserts’ and offered me a secondary gift of this tome of puddingy goodness. I took it. It is without doubt in the top five favourites of my over stuffed cook book shelves and the undisputed champion of the ‘most frequently opened’ title. It is such a user friendly book with plenty of bare basics covered for those of us who don’t have a normal sponge recipe or aren’t that confident at just knocking out some spun sugar spirals. It’s all there, and it’s easy to follow. From shortcrust pastry to a ridiculously beautiful Fire & Ice Cake Mr Martin guides you through with some wonderfully chatty asides and introductions to generally easy to follow recipes. Puddings, tarts, pastries, pavlova. There really is something for everyone in fact I out and out defy you to buy this book and fail to find at least five desserts you want to make regularly. They aren’t all ten minute blender jobs by any means but even triple thumbed cooks such as myself can happily attempt anything in this book and if my efforts are anything to go by, make a pretty decent job of it.

Immediate favourites from ‘Desserts’ are a painfully simple ginger cheesecake which my Mr and I ran up as a last minute option for late notice dinner guests not long ago and utterly fantastic chocolate brownies which have never lasted more than 24 hours after baking- even when I didn’t have anyone to share them with! But my number one, flagship recipe for this book can be found on page 159- the Chocolate Cola Cake (way before that dodgy bint Nigella made the concept popular). This page in my book is now missing various lumps of text due to such heavy usage and the resulting splats of molten butter and beaten egg which have made the text run and in a couple of places stuck the pages together. No matter, I’ve made it enough times to bluff through now. It’s fantastic. The whole book is fantastic,  a one stop shop for afters of all sorts. If you cook, you should own this. Even if you ‘don’t really do desserts’.


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