Cookbook Review: Bake: Essential Companion by Alison Thompson

Okay – you wanna bake? Well, welcome to baking heaven. From the pale pink and black Fauchon-esque, superbly-styled cover, dotty endpapers and delectable paper – to the recipes themselves – this is a book so sweet, it’s already dusted with icing sugar and melting in my mouth.

Author Alison Thompson has been a passionate cook since childhood, writing her first cookbook when she was just 11 years old. With 15 years experience as a professional chef and pastry chef, she has worked with the world’s finest pastry chefs in Melbourne and London, and has also spent time at the famed Little Venice Cake Company in the UK.

She is also the founder and head pastry chef of Alison Louise Designer Cakes, a wedding and special occasion cake business located in the Yarra Valley near Melbourne. In 2010 she published her first book Macaron, and here we have a worthy follow-up in Bake.

Baking aficionados – it’s all here. From pizza to strudel, baklava to doughnuts – here is a book anchored firmly in a pink patty pan of puffed delight. What more could you need when it comes to oven-sourced treasure?

Beginning with a warm introduction, Bake takes us directly into tips for sucessful baking, baking techniques (from a master, no less), equipment and utensils, essential ingredients, and measurements and temperatures.

Then begins the glory of Bread. There’s an entire boulangérie of bliss here, including ciabatta and sourdough, pita and fougasse, bagels and grissini, fruit bread, stöllen and scrolls. Oh – and panettone. And pizza dough (along with several recipes for fabulous toppings).

In Pastry, we learn how to make several styles of dough, but then – hallelulah – we are also instructed on how to use them. Pies and tarts and quiches for shortcrust. Strudels and fingers and triangles for filo. Eclairs and desserts for choux. Twists and pastries for puff.

Is that not enough? Enter Brioches and Croissants. Don’t even start me. There’s savoury and sweet. There’s classics and classics with a twist and new classics – from rum babas to vanilla custard raspberry individual brioches and choc-orange ravioli. What more could you need in life?

I know… Biscuits and Slices! You won’t believe this section . . . there’s everything from cookies mum used to make to the bejewelled glass cases of Parisian haute pâtisseries. Try Anzacs, macaroons, gingernuts, macadamia bread, biscotti, lavosh, choc chip, meringues, shortbread, yoyos, panforte, brownies, fudge and slices of many sweet incarnation.

If you tire of all this, you can always bake Scones and Muffins, Cakes and Baked Desserts, and for those gluten-intolerants whimpering on the sidelines, yes there’s an impressive section for you, too, along with tips on basics and a gingerbread house template.

Recipes are clearly written and include the odd tip, variation and personalised note, which I love. Styling is simple but gorgeous, and potography by Adrian Lander is stunning, mouthwatering and as warm as a batch of scones slipped from the oven and upturned on a china plate.

Bake would make an exquisite Mother’s Day present for mums who love to whip up delicious in the kitchen, and for everyone else, it would make the perfect recipe book to create . . . Mother’s Day treats.


Title: Bake: Essential Companion
Author: Alison Thompson
Category: Cookbook
Publisher: Viking
ISBN: 9780143203674
RRP: $49.95
Publication Date: 28 March 2011

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  1. Emma says

    Wow that really does sound like a comprehensive recipe book on baking.

    I am a beginner baker. Everything I bake is always a bit dodgy, probably because I source most of my recipes of the internet and never use the same one twice.
    I want to be able to make kid friendly ‘bakings’ and things appropriate for whipping up in less than an hour before a playdate. Is this the book for appropriate for someone like me?

    I love to hear of some recommendations.