It’s cold outside, and what better way to stay warm than firing up the oven for a bit of baking? This is the time of year for festive cakes, pillowy breads and comforting scones. Baking is a great way to slow down and enjoy the holiday season, whether you’ve got the kids in the kitchen helping or you’re just enjoying a bit of solitary quiet time in the early morning hours. Some may find the idea of baking stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. The Photo Cookbook – Baking promises to keep recipes simple and straightforward, with plenty of step-by-step photos to ensure your baked goods come out perfectly.
Does this app have all you need to bake your way through these cold winter days? Keep reading to find out.
There’s a reason it’s called the photo cookbook — gorgeous food photography is the hallmark of this app. The first screen is a collage of photos typical of what you’ll find in the app: neatly organized ingredients, battered tins ready for the oven and mouthwatering slices of cake. I’m big a fan of this unfussy, naturally lit style of photography and was instantly captivated by the app.
The home screen is a collection of 60 recipes represented by photo tiles. Recipes are broken down into four Chapters: Cakes & Traybakes, Pastries, Small Cakes & Cookies and Breads. The images really drew me in and inspired me to get baking. I like the Search tool, which instantly displayed results before I even finished typing the word. The app searches recipe names and an ingredients list, which is very handy if you’re looking to find a chocolate recipe or to bake with a specific fruit, like apples.
Each Chapter of the app features 15 recipes, a mix of classics and more modern treats. Cakes & Traybakes has a number of recipes you’ll want to make this holiday season, like the decadent Chocolate Fudge Cake and the Coffee & Walnut Roulade. With only 15 recipes, I don’t really understand why they include two very similar almond cakes. I do, however, love the modern interpretation of banana nut bread — Banana Coconut Loaf Cake.
The Pastries chapter has a nice little assortment of sweet and savory recipes. The Broccoli, Pancetta & Bleu Cheese Galette or Chocolate Filo Parcels would make lovely nibbles at a holiday party, while the Spiced Pear & Golden Raisin Strudel is especially festive. Small Cakes & Cookies provides a selection of recipes perfect for the kids’ school parties or your office celebrations, like Classic Cupcakes and Marzipan Whirls. The Cranberry & Pine Nut Biscotti improve with age, so they’re perfect for the cookie jar.
The final chapter, Breads, is my favorite. For me, kneading bread is a relaxing, meditative task. The braided and twisted loaves are easy yet particularly impressive to pull off. Irish Soda Bread and Scones are quick, convenient recipes that need no time to rise. I was surprised to see Fresh Croissants, a more advanced baking technique. Learning how to work with that buttery pastry alone is worth the price of the app.
Each recipe begins with an ingredients list that’s conveniently broken down into components, like cupcakes and buttercream. The recipes don’t call for a lot of ingredients, but some are not that accessible, like the ripe passion fruit for the Blueberry & Passion Fruit Drizzle Squares. It’s convenient to be able to email ingredients lists, but there is not shopping list feature in this app.
Ingredients from the photos can be tapped to learn more about storing and preparation, which is helpful in the passion fruit example, but most recipes call for simple ingredients like flour and butter, so the explanation can be a bit overkill.
The app strives to be unique in offering step-by-step photos to support you all the way through each recipe, but I was disappointed by the lack of detail. For example, the Braided Poppy Seed Bread gives instructions to “divide into 3 equal pieces and shape each into a rope 10-12 inches long,” but the photo only shows end results and not how to get there. They could show the process of shaping and braiding the dough in more detail.
For Classic Cupcakes, the app instructs users to “Place the butter and superfine sugar in a large bowl and cream together until pale and fluffy.” Novice bakers need more information. What mixer attachments should be used to cream the butter? The recipe has six photos, but none that really give useful guidance on technique.
The app does have one handy feature: tap the knife and fork icon to see the nutrition facts for every recipe, including calories and a breakdown of protein, carbs and fat. This is especially handy for people on points diets trying to manage their weight during the holiday season. You can also add your own notes to recipes or save them to your Favorites for easy access. Overall, the app has a good selection of unique recipes to try. If you love to bake it might give you a few ideas, but it’s not the ultimate baking guide. It would be nice to see this app updated with more recipe collections to purchase.
The Photo Cookbook – Baking is simply a collection of beautifully photographed recipes. As the saying goes, beauty is only skin deep, and the step-by-step photos are pretty but not so much instructive. The app functions perfectly and the recipes are solid, but it novice bakers will need more support to get through the techniques. If you’ve got baking experience and you’re looking for some inspiration this holiday season, you’ll enjoy this app.