Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Review: Bake It, Don't Fake It

Pastry chef turned cookbook author Heather Bertinetti's Bake It, Don't Fake It! is a great recipe book...if you have all the tools and the desire to make super special desserts. I was under the impression that the recipes would be a bit easier for the every day baker but I was mistaken. I've had my advanced reading copy for ages but I actually ended up only making two recipes because I didn't have a lot of the specialized tools or ingredients the book calls for. I was disappointed in that but the two recipes that I made were very delicious!

This is the cookbook's description:
Looking to impress your friends and family with decadent desserts but afraid you lack the skills to pull it off? Are you reaching for that packaged cake mix and can of frosting instead of whipping something up from scratch? Fear no longer; we’ve got the fix for you. Heather Bertinetti, a talented pastry chef with years of experience in Manhattan’s top eateries, is sharing her insider tips for how to make restaurant-worthy desserts right in your very own kitchen.
Bake It, Don't Fake It! is filled with recipes perfect for the home cook, such as Bourbon- Chocolate Pecan Pie, Strawberry Daiquiri Truffles, Red Velvet Macarons, and PB&J Whoopie Pies. Once you learn the whys and why nots of baking, you’ll be able to get creative and give all of your favorite treats a special touch. As an added bonus, you’ll find Heather’s “Chef It Up!”; tips throughout the book, where Heather reveals her tricks for giving homemade desserts the wow presentation factor. All of the equipment you’ll need is probably already in your kitchen and all of the ingredients are readily available in your local supermarket, so it’s time to get baking!
My very first thought as I was flipping through my copy was that I wished there were more pictures. Raise your hand if your favourite thing about cookbooks is the pictures. Be honest! :) Since I don't cook often, I like having a visual when I do (so I can see how far off I am...), especially when it's a recipe for something I've never even heard of. Do any of you know what a St. Honoré cake looks like? What about canelles or Pâte à Choux? These recipes are all in this book but do not have pictures and I wasn't even going to think about making them.

I had an issue with the recipes themselves, too. Some of them don't really look all that challenging but there was more effort required than I think most people may look for on an average night. On the flip side, they are easy enough for someone to make the dessert to wow friends and family for a weekend party or holiday. Going hand in hand with this issue is that a lot of recipes require special baking accessories. Both recipes I made actually required a stand mixer with various attachments. I am a 26 year old unmarried female. I do not own a stand mixer because I am too poor to buy one myself and as I haven't had a wedding I haven't been able to put it on a registry. I don't have a bundt cake or cheesecake pan and I didn't know where to find special, large liners to make bigger muffins or how to even use them if I did find them. Do I put them in a regular muffin tin or what? These all seem like little issues and if you have all sorts of cool gadgets, I think you'll be just fine!

The first recipe I made was double chocolate chip muffins. I made them for a baby-bunny date (a friend with a then six week old baby came over so I could meet the baby and she, my friend, could meet my bunny) and they were a hit. I was a little worried at first because the batter was really wet and I was afraid that I'd overflow my muffin cups. Everything worked out fine and they were delish. They were super chocolatey as it was a chocolate batter with chocolate chips mixed in so they were basically cupcakes without the icing. We weren't complaining though and I sent home a couple of extras with my friend so her husband could enjoy them as well. And she asked for the recipe! I'd say this was a win.

I was intrigued by the banana cream pie recipe but there was one problem with it...it required rum and I don't drink rum. This crisis was averted when I realized I would be visiting a friend who does drink rum before this review would be written. She's a fan of baking and said she was in for making the pie when we came to visit. Good thing she likes baking because she actually ended up doing all the work. In my defense, I had a wicked cold and wouldn't know where anything was in her kitchen. I proved to be a pretty good supervisor though, I think! :) This recipe was super involved as it required making a crust (out of shortbread cookies, which I liked because I'm actually not a fan of typical pie crust), the whipped topping, and the cream (which was another recipe entirely) for the filling. We made the crust and the filling before going out for brunch and we learned something important: when leaving a bowl in an ice bath, ensure there is not too much water in the bowl with the ice as you may come home to discover that the ice has melted, the bowl has sunk, and the water has overflowed onto the wrap covering the bowl full of cream. Oops. My friend managed to save it and we carried on with assembling the pie. We didn't use all of the filling because our pie crust wasn't high enough. It would have been a massive pie had we been able to do one more layer of banana and cream as the recipe called for. That wouldn't have been a bad thing but there's no way you could get all of it in when you're using an average pie plate. We left the pie to chill the three hours as directed and then we set out to eat it. Hilarity ensued as my friend tried to lift pieces out of the plate but the end result was a freaking delicious pie. We actually probably could have finished it off between the four of us that night!

I wanted to love Bake It, Don't Fake It! by Heather Bertinetti but my lack of flare in the kitchen, not to mention my lack of baking accessories, led me to feel a little disappointed in this cookbook. I don't think "easy" should be included in the subtitle: "A pastry chef shares her secrets for impressive (and easy) from-scratch desserts." The desserts aren't hard, at least the two I made, but they're definitely not what I'd call easy. It's a little misleading, I think. That being said, the two recipes I was able to try turned out well and were really yummy. So, if you fancy yourself a baker and like challenges I would definitely suggest you try this book out. And perhaps send me some of your desserts? :)

Happy reading...and baking!

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Simon and Schuster Canada, in exchange for an honest review.*

Update, November 22: After receiving a comment telling me I was wrong when I stated that there was not a photo of the St. Honoré cake in the book I decided to check out a finished copy (I had received an advanced reading copy from the publisher). The commenter told me the photo was on page 73, which was incorrect. I, however, was also incorrect. There is a photo of the cake on page 155 (I believe. I'm going from memory). In my experience, recipes that have photos on another page usually state that in an obvious place in the recipe. In this particular recipe, the author referred to the photo but it was buried in the recipe. You wouldn't know it was there unless you were looking for it. I apologize for not being thorough in my original review and erroneously stating that there was not a photo of the St. Honoré cake. 


  1. Mmm the banana pie sounds delicious! Too bad that the recipes were more complicated than expected though :P


    2. Hi there...I've checked my copy and there isn't a picture of the cake on page 73. You are right, my copy is an ARC but I would have thought the publisher would have told me that there were fewer pictures in the ARC than the finished copy. I did not think to ask as there were pictures in my copy, though in black and white. My apologies if there is in fact a photo of each and every dessert, including the few I singled out. I will make a point to check my local bookstore for a copy and will update my post if necessary.


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