The cover is impressive, right? A loaf with a pear baked whole, cut through the center. The photography is equally fantastic, and provides a mood that makes you want to snuggle up with a generous glass of Irish Cream. Unfortunately, Home Made Winter didn’t deliver. I’m certainly not an expert baker or chef, but the measurements and directions were a bit off. Despite the delicious flavours, both recipes fell flat, literally in one case.
Considering the season, I thought a loaf of Gingerbread would be a lovely choice. Unfortunately, the directions for this recipe are lacking in specificity, especially for someone who isn’t a professional. The many reviews on Amazon criticize van Boven for poor conversion rates, and I think that’s what made the difference here as well. That, and when the recipe called for milk, it didn’t say what kind, so I assumed regular milk would suffice. However, in a loaf without eggs or butter, I didn’t think to use whole milk, which would provide a much needed dose of fat to keep the dough moist.
The final taste was nice and subtle, but the cake was like a brick: heavy, dry, and crumbly. On the upside, the loaf fell right out of the pan! In retrospect, I could’ve put some apple sauce into the batter, and that would’ve complimented the ginger nicely. Overall, though, I was disappointed.
Because Home Made Winter called for a lot of specialty fish and meats, such as ox tail, I decided to focus mainly on the dessert recipes. Up next on the docket? Apple Quinoa Loaf. Delicious in theory, but this is another “cake” that doesn’t call for any eggs or binding ingredient of any kind. Save for butter, and the drained cup of quinoa, there is very little to keep this cake together at all. Also, because the recipe called for “2 apples, cut into chunks” without specifying whether those chunks should be large or small, or whether the apples themselves should be large or small, I guessed and bought a couple of Courtlands, coincidentally massive. The directions don’t tell you what to mix first and last, in what order to add the wet to the dry. Being a newbie with little baking experience, this was a problem. So I tried to follow my instincts by melting the butter first, adding it to the sugar, then the flour in intervals with the quinoa. Last: the raisins and apples. No matter how I spin it, the batter was still too dry, and it wouldn’t stick together.
The final product looked nothing like van Boven’s picture. Actually, they looked so drastically different, I went through the recipe with a fine toothed comb to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. No, nothing. Maybe she used a different kind of quinoa, brown or red? Whatever the reason, the loaf nearly fell apart the minute I removed it from the pan. The surface was full of cracks and, as it settled, became a doughy, flattened crumble cake. Despite its fate, the taste was quite nice. Paired with blueberry frozen yogurt, the apple’s flavour and quinoa’s crunch popped.
In the end, Home Made Winter lacked direction. It’s a pretty book, but it requires a more substantial guiding hand. The photography is wonderful, but the recipes are meant for people who already have an intuition for the science of baking. The rest of us, however, need more specificity and, like Saved by Cake, the conversion scales became an issue. Borrowed from the library, I would likely not invest in this cookbook.
Have you tried any other Home Made cookbooks by Yvette van Boven? Any success?