Sue Lawrence’s Book of Baking

A book review by Franz Scheurer


The first time I met Sue Lawrence was for afternoon tea at her house in Edinburgh and she served us her raspberry brownies. Little squishy morsels of gooey, crunchy, soft yet firm explosions of taste and texture. I had never eaten anything like this in my life before (or since). Sue might be known as the Queen of Baking in Scotland, I know she is! I would have married her on the spot.


Alas, due to her husband, my wife and geographical impossibility, I will have to content myself with her new Book of Baking.


Sue has organised her book into ‘Breads’, ‘Savoury Pies, Pastries and Tarts’, ‘Sweet Pies, Pastries and Tarts’, ‘Traditional Cakes’, ‘Modern Cakes’, ‘Biscuits and Cookies’, ‘Brownies and Bars’, ‘Quick Bakes’, ‘Healthy Alternatives’, and finally ‘Festive Baking’.


To get you into the mood of the book, I’d like to quote the following from the introduction: “It is 9.55 a.m. and the Church Fair is due to open at 10.00 a.m. Behind the piles of neatly labelled and priced fruit loaves, pies, Victoria sponges and home-made bread, we – the stall holders – are trying not to panic. For Mrs. Mackie has not yet turned up. And despite the cornucopia of cakes and jam piled up on our stall, if Mrs. M. does not arrive, there will be a great deal of tut-tutting. It has never happened before, but it is easy to anticipate the outcry. For Mrs. M. makes shortbread, and the entire fair wants some. It is not just any shortbread; it is the very best in Christendom. Indeed, the queues that form whenever the hordes stampede to our stall are nothing to do with Mrs. Smith’s chocolate cakes or Miss Marshall’s three-fruit marmalade; it is all down to the shortbread. One minute to go, the doors are flung open and in rushes Mrs. Mackie (couldn’t find the back door keys). The relief from the Cake and Candy Stall is almost tangible; it is at times like this we thank the Lord there is no alcohol permitted within the hallowed walls of the kirk, otherwise we might have hit the bottle. But no, all is well with the world. Let the people in.”


Sue goes on to talk about the role home-baking played in her childhood, always coming home to the smell of warm treacle scones or scotch pancakes or the sight of a sultana cake cooling in the kitchen. 


She also describes baking as “the most generous form of cookery”, pointing out that you rarely bake a cake just for yourself.  She’s right of course. Today’s hectic lifestyle prevents most of us from even thinking about baking for ourselves but having read Sue’s book from cover to cover I have realised that with her recipes time is not an issue. The recipes are comprehensive but extremely user friendly and they work! Chose something that fits into your timeframe and lifestyle and experience the peace of mind and body that comes with the wafting aromas of the freshly baked. This is a much better way to get your blood pressure down than listening to the news, and yes, think of that bastard at work that soured your day when you’re kneading the bread dough; you’ll be sure to work the gluten!


The book’s design makes it look ‘homely’, exactly the right feel for the recipes inside. The photography is honest, simple and informative and the content is pure Sue Lawrence. Another winner!


Go on, switch off your computer and go out and buy a book that could change the way you do ‘home’.


Sue Lawrence’s Book of Baking

Recommended Retail: $60 (hardback)

Published by Headline Book Publishing

ISBN 0 7553 12112

Available in bookstores as of 8th December 2004