As the title suggests, Lorraine Pascale’s latest baking book, A Lighter Way to Bake, is all about baking in a healthier way. It is not about cutting out the treats, but reducing the amount of fat, sugar and refined flour in the sort of bakes we are familiar with. As regular readers will know, I have been using wholemeal flour all my life, so I was particularly pleased to see a TV chef catching up with the idea. Although I have a sweet tooth, I bake at the lower end of the sugar scale. When it comes to fat, I am of the Weston A Price persuasion and don’t actually believe that good quality butter and eggs, where the livestock has free ranged on grass, is bad for you, quite the contrary – see my post on ingredients are the key. Eating too much of it, of course, may well be a problem.
This is one very dense book. Although it is more or less the same size as Lorraine’s Baking Made Easy and is also published by Harper Collins, it seems to weigh a lot more. It does have 286 pages, which is about fifty more than her previous title, but I don’t think that accounts for it all. I like this feeling of weightiness and solidity in a cookbook, it gives me a sense of security. It is packed full of recipes and pictures. There are a hundred recipes covering breakfast & brunch, bread, savoury bakes, puddings & desserts, cakes, cookies & traybakes, teatime treats, special occasions and pastry. Unusually, there is a picture for every bake covered, although not always on the same page. They all look very enticing and don’t have any of the annoying fading out shots, where you can only see part of the picture clearly. There is a particularly intriguing picture of a raspberry, vanilla & white chocolate cake with almond flowers that I am now keen to attempt. There are also a couple of superflous pictures of the author, which always seems a bit odd in a cookbook. It’s good to have one good picture for interest, but I don’t really see the point of any extras. It does appear to be a modern trend though and I suppose there aren’t that many of them.
Rather strangely, the paper is very shiny, which can make it reflective when the lights are on and thus a bit difficult to read. The choice of print is also a bit odd, or rather the choice of colour. The print size isn’t that big and both the introduction to the recipe and ingredients are printed in a pale red colour: I found myself squinting on more than one occasion. Thankfully, the instructions are all in black. Red is a key theme that runs throughout the book and this colour is used on some pages and for most of the utensils.
The recipes all look good and I’d be happy to make or eat most of them. There are a few meat and fish recipes included, which I skipped over fairly fast, but the savoury section had an equal number of vegetarian recipes in it, eight of each, which I found very pleasing. I bookmarked the butternut squash naked bean burger with apple and mango chilli salsa as soon as I saw it. Being a bit of a squash fiend, I’m also rather keen to try the sweet potato, squash, apple and sage muffins from the breakfast section. Having watched all the breadstick action recently on the BBC’s Great British Bake Off, the oregano & thyme grissini caught my eye in the bread chapter and I’m looking forward to trying them out next time I have friends around for a meal.
Lorraine has gone for healthy, but has made an effort that this should not be at the expense of taste. Butter has not been cut out entirely, but is often substituted in total or in part by oil or yogurt. Ground almonds and wholemeal flour feature quite strongly and there is more emphasis on fresh fruit rather than dried. Many of the recipes use only egg white or have a ratio of more egg white to yolk to omit some calories; what, I wonder, do you then do with all the egg yolks? I can’t bear waste, but it rather defeats the object of not eating them in the first place if you then make a massive amount of curd or custard. Each recipe has a nutritional breakdown at the bottom of the page and gives a comparison to a more conventional recipe, although I have no idea which recipes those are. One of the almond blackberry and peach friands, for example, are 179 calories compared to 270, with 9.8g less fat, 5.5g less saturated fat, 4.4g less sugar, 0.1g more protein and 1g less salt.
There were plenty of chocolate recipes to choose from, which is most definitely a good sign. The chocolate Guinness and blackcurrant cake is a must as is the chocolate, chocolate torte. But first, I decided to try out the soft choc, choc chip cookies. The only change I made to these was to use rapeseed oil rather than olive oil and a slightly higher quantity of wholemeal flour as my duck eggs were quite large.
This is how I made:
Lorraine Pascale’s Choc Chip Cookies
- Creamed 75g unsalted butter with 100g light muscovado sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Added 25g of extra virgin rapeseed oil and beat some more.
- Beat in 2 duck eggs, one by one.
- Sifted in 110g wholemeal flour, 100g white flour, a tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda and 25g cocoa powder.
- Added 25g rolled oats and stirred until all incorporated.
- Stirred in 50g milk chocolate chips.
- Ran some cold water over my hands and rolled ping pong sized pieces into balls. The recipe said to divide into 12, but I made 16 large biscuits.
- Placed on a lined baking sheet and pressed down to about 1 cm in depth.
- Baked on the top shelf at 180°C for about 10 minutes.
- Transferred to a wire rack and left to cool – apart from one which I just had to try!
The biscuits turned out beautifully and were quite large. They didn’t spread too much, but rose up quite considerably. Warm from the oven, they were crisp on the outside and soft and slightly chewy on the inside. When they cooled down, they were soft on the outside too. Lorraine describes them as half way between a biscuit and a cake and I think she has that spot on – a whoopie pie by any other name. They were just the right side of sweetness, not overly sugared allowing for the chocolate to shine resulting in a really flavoursome biscuit.
I was sent a copy of A Lighter Way to Bake to bake from with no requirement to write a favourable review. As always, all opinions are my own.