Pros: Colorful pictures with every recipe.
Cons: Some may not be challenged by the recipes.
I was looking forward to reading “Saved by Cake, Over 80 Ways to Bake Yourself Happy” by Marian Keyes. The title intrigued me. Death by chocolate was familiar to me, so I was wondering if this was going to be a play on that. I was happily surprised by the depth of content in this cookbook. Saved by Cake isn’t only about recipes from a self-taught baker, but how baking, and baking for others specifically, transformed this author and gave her a reason to go on each day. Keyes shows us how the magic of baking has given her a new lease on life. She has brought to the front all the fun that baking can be in her own unique way. We, the readers, get to follow along on that journey of discovery while rediscovering some favorite recipes.
Right away you will notice that this is a light hearted cookbook. Every recipe has a little antidote that precedes it. Some are simple one sentence descriptions, while others are a couple paragraphs of suggestions and what inspired her. However, she doesn’t always mention the origin of the recipe. This cookbook is a sturdy soft cover, with pages and cover that withstand my occasional butter splotches. The layout is quite nice. There is a section on suggested “Equipment.” One of the items listed was “Purple Silicone Spatula.” That made me laugh and is just one example of the kind of humor dispersed throughout this cookbook. The illustrations really bring the recipes to life. I am a big fan of illustrations. I believe they are especially important in a cookbook that is geared towards the fledgling baker. Every recipe has ample directions to enable even the most timid to give it a try. You should be able to find all the ingredients at your local grocery store. Most important is that every recipe I attempted was successful.
Marian Keyes is known for her fictional writing, and from what I can find this is her first cookbook. What she has attempted to do is reach out and show others that baking can be a great outlet for focusing your mind and using “baking therapy,” (it’s the only description that comes to mind) to bring inner peace and happiness to yourself and others around you. While there is no way to know if baking is going to be your magical outlet or not, Keyes has presented plenty of fun recipes for you to experiment with in a light atmosphere. As Keyes says “…It is sort of magic – you start off with all this disparate stuff, like butter and eggs, and what you end up with is so totally different.” With that in mind, I think the author accomplished what she set out to do. Keeping with the author’s tradition of sharing what she has baked I chose German Stollen Cake for this review. I hope you bake some and share it with others. This cookbook is definitely geared to the beginning baker. So, with purple spatula in hand, let’s go onto the recipe.
German Stollen Cake
This wonderful cake is traditionally served in Germany at Christmastime. It’s fabulous, a sort of bread-like fruitcake, but with a hidden heart of marzipan. It involves the use of yeast, which used to scare the daylights out of me. Then I discovered dried instant yeast and it’s changed my world.
I’ve read dozens of Stollen recipes, in the hope of making one as authentically German as possible, but there’s such a wide variety of ingredients and methods that my head nearly exploded. I’ve experimented with a fair few versions, and in the end, I decided on this recipe because it’s quite easy and phenomenally delicious.
Makes 2 smallish, 10-inch-long loaves, and you’ll get about 10 slices out of each.
1/3 cup currants
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup raisins
5 ounces glace cherries, chopped
2 ounces candied citrus peel
4 tablespoons rum*
2/3 cup whole milk
2 1/3 cups white bread flour
.25-ounce packet of active dry yeast
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
¼ cup superfine sugar
9 ounce marzipan**
*If you’re not happy using alcohol, orange juice will do instead.
**A quick note on marzipan. Some people make their own and good luck to them. I bought mine at the supermarket.
Soak the fruit in the rum, cover and set aside for at least a couple of hours. Overnight would be better.
When you’re ready to start, heat the milk to lukewarm (no hotter or it’ll kill the yeast) in a saucepan. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, the yeast, and the salt. Add the warm milk and mix well. You might see a few bubbles. This is an excellent sigh, evidence that the yeast is working.
Add the butter, egg, and sugar and mix again, cover the bowl with a damp, warm cloth and put in a warm place for about an hour and a half. You are leaving it to “proof” – this is a bread-making term, which means the yeast will do its magic and when you come back the dough should have increased in volume, it might even have doubled, and will have developed a strange, elastic texture.
Turn the lump of dough (it will be quite sticky) out onto a floured work surface and “knock it back.” This is another bread-making term which means, basically, that you punch all the air out of it and reduce it to its original size. Then put it back into the bowl, add in the soaked fruit and mix well.
If you’re lucky enough to have a KitchenAid, use your dough hook to do the hard work and take a moment to give thanks. If you don’t have a mixer, knead by hand on a well-floured surface for a good 5 minutes (sorry). At this point, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Take your marzipan, divide it in half and roll into two “ropes,” each about 8 inches long. Take about half of the stollen dough out of the bowl. Place it on the floured surface and, using your hands, shape into al oaf about 9 inches long and 3 ½ inches across. Place the marzipan rope down along the length of the loaf, in the middle, then fold in the sides of the stollen dough and squeeze them together so that the marzipan is completely covered. Transfer the loaf to your prepared baking sheet, seam side down.
Repeat the process for the second loaf, then cover the two loaves with a damp, warm cloth and leave to proof – yes, again – for about 40 minutes. (Entre nous, my loaves don’t puff out and rise at all during this second “proofing.” But still taste lovely. I don’t know what to make of it.)
Preheat the oven to 350F and bake the loaves for 10 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 300F and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, until the loaves look golden brown. Remove them from the baking sheet, cool on a wire rack, and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. (Do it through a sieve for a nice, even effect.)