Friday, 14 December 2012

Book Review: Tea With Bea

As I eagerly await the arrival of the second book from Bea's of Bloomsbury – Afternoon Tea With Bea – published next year, I thought that now, as we begin thinking of all the delicious things that we could make for Christmas, would be the perfect time to review the first book, Tea With Bea, that was published September 2011, just in case you missed it. 

Bea Vo is an American living in London and the owner of the famous Bea's of Bloomsbury, that has been serving delicious treats in the heart of the capital since 2008. Bea is a pastry chef and has worked Nobu and Asia de Cuba.

Some people say that you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, and just so you know, those people are lying. Just looking at the front of this book is enough to make your mouth water, unless of course you have a weird aversion to chocolate, sugar, and all those other tasty things that are ridiculously good for you. 

The book begins with a general introduction followed by crucial pastry pointers to make sure you get the recipes right. It lets you know how to use the book and reinforces how imperative it is to follow all the steps because they have already been streamlined.

You are given guidance on how to make the perfect tea and coffee, including recipes, as there seems little point in making perfect treats to eat if you are going to settle for a substandard beverage. It's all about making an effort to get it perfect. 

With the formalities over, the recipes begin. The first chapter covers cookies and bars, including; Snickerdoodles, Lemon Verbena Semolina Cookies and Killer Valrhona Brownies. The instructions are indeed streamlined and therefore easy to follow. However there are also various interesting details scattered throughout that broaden your understanding of baking. It might be information on the best chocolate to use, or the reason why you shouldn't leave eggs and sugar together for long (the sugar absorbs water, so dries the egg which results in the egg scrambling). I've actually tried the chocolate chip cookie recipe and found it hugely successful, they were large American style cookies, good enough to rival any I've eaten previously – they certainly didn't last long! 

The next chapter is Scones and Small Treats, which includes more delectable delicacies that feel more grown up, including the Ultimate Afternoon Tea Scone (which I must try considering how appalling my last attempt at scones was), Almond Cherry Muffins, Gingerbread Guiness Cake, Vanilla Marshmallows and Sea Salt Caramels.

Chapter three covers recipes for tarts, beginning with two pastry recipes that are used throughout as the bases for the tarts, Pâte Brisée Dough and Pâte Sablée Dough. Tart recipes featured include Golden Bourbon Pecan Custard Pie and Milk Chocolate Sesame Cream Tart. Again details are included throughout the recipes briefly explaining the science behind the ingredients but are always written in an accessible way.

The book then moves on to Cake Bases and Fillings, where there are what feels like an endless list of recipes. The fillings include; Lemon Curd, Vanilla Pastry Cream, Coconut Pastry Cream, Green Tea Pastry Cream and Italian Buttercream, while the cake bases include; Vegan Chocolate Cake, Wheat-Free Valrhona Cake, Espresso Bourbon Cake, and Almond Frangipane Cake. The cake bases and fillings appear indulgent enough as they are, but they are then taken further in the following chapter, Special Cakes, where they are embellished and turned into delights such as; Espresso Bourbon Cake with Mocha Buttercream, Gingerbread Guiness Cake with Poached Pears and Cream Cheese Icing and Vanilla Coconut Cake With Lemon Curd and Cheesecake Filling, to name but a few. 

Should your eyes still have room for more delicious goodies, the final chapter offers a small selection of cheesecakes, including Ameretto Cheesecake with Caramelised Peaches, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cheesecake. 

The book has a wonderful balance of recipes and flavours that happily represent tradtional British afternoon tea (Scones and Shortbread) and both traditional and contemporary American tea (Banoffee and Peanut Butter). It feels like you are getting the best of all afternoon tea. 

Tea with Bea is great value, containing well over fifty full and base recipes. It exudes elegance and indulgence thanks to its ornate design, feminine title typeface, gold, black and earthy tones, and beautiful full page colour photographs, (by Kate Whitaker), that accompany each recipe throughout. This isn't a book about cute pink cupcakes and girly sprinkles, these recipes feel high-end and strictly for the modern lady (or fellow), and it's certainly as good as the cover looks.

Tea With Bea
Bea Vo

RRP: £16.99
CICO Books -

  • ISBN-10: 1849751439
    ISBN-13: 978-1849751438
  • Please note, I was given a copy of this book, but was not paid to write the review.

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