I spent six years living in London and while I was there a wonderful café opened. Bea's of Bloomsbury is still one of the first places I return to when I am in the city to nurture my Red Velvet addition. The recipes in 'Tea With Bea' are all exactly as you will find them in her shops but the wonderful thing is that knowing how to bake these cakes will not stop me from going in whenever I am in London.
The book opens with a nice brief introduction and some key baking tips as well as how to make the perfect cup of tea or coffee. The philosophy behind the book is to take a personal look at already known recipes. It also acts as a type of textbook with basic pastry techniques and tips.
There are a few of the ingredients are harder to find or more expensive but there are also lots of the recipes that could be made with every-day store cupboard items. Where specific ingredients are needed the reason for them is always given, which is refreshing to see. The majority of recipes are quite long but this is usually because of the detailed instruction rather than being too complicated although there are certainly a number of dishes that would take a while to make.
It's easy to find what you are looking for and there is a fab section with ideas based on other recipes in the book. There's also a lovely page of great combinations of cakes to use for tea parties. The font is a little small and on some of the pages with a textured background it can be harder to read. The notes that start each recipe are well written with useful information, alternative ideas to play around with and also, humour which is quite a rare treat in cookbooks.
The photographs are painfully beautiful, do not look at them if you are hungry unless you already have cake. The styling is varied to suit each individual recipe. One of the amazing things is that every single cake has a photograph to accompany it - this is a huge selling point for me, especially with baking books. It's wonderful to know what you are aiming towards and really makes me keen to get cooking.
My favourite recipes are the Red Velvet Cake (obviously), the Gingerbread Guinness Cupcakes, the Sea Salt Caramels and the German Chocolate Cheesecake.
"Tea With Bea" has a wonderful balance of quite simple recipes to very innovative and extravagant dishes which makes this such a delight to read and cook from. There is a great mixture of gorgeous recipes, handy baking tips and genuinely interesting information all topped off with a good dose of giggles.
Disclaimer: I was very kindly given a copy of 'Tea With Bea' by Bea Vo
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