The French-style apple tart’s crust was nothing short of golden, buttery goodness. Abigail Monti / Daily Nexus

I watch “The Great British Bake Off” the way some people watch “The Bachelor”: religiously. If you’re like me, then you’re familiar with the beloved (and feared) judge, Paul Hollywood. While primarily known as the “King of Bread”, Hollywood has written dozens of recipe books on more than just yeast creations. Though published in 2014, “Paul Hollywood’s Pies & Puds” is a timeless cookbook that includes hundreds of mouthwatering meals and desserts enveloped in pastry dough.

In honor of upcoming Pi Day — the one day a year that bakers and mathematicians find something in common — Hollywood’s cookbook seemed like a natural choice for review. My mother had already given glowing recommendations for two other cookbooks of Hollywood’s, so I opened “Pies & Puds” with high expectations.

It did not disappoint. The cookbook is well-organized and very aesthetically pleasing, with tantalizing photos accompanying nearly every recipe — a huge draw in my opinion. Another positive was the diverse selection of recipes: “Puds & Pies” includes both savory and sweet options of traditional pies and puddings, plus tarts, hand pies, empanadas, pastries and more. 

Prospective readers should note that this cookbook was written by a Briton, and thus all measurements adhere to the metric system. I own a kitchen scale, so this was not a hurdle for me. However, in a pinch, you can easily consult the internet for grams-to-cups conversions.

Although, “Pies & Puds” might just be the excuse you need to buy a kitchen scale: they are affordable (generally less than $15), increase accuracy and ensure consistency, guaranteeing your baked goods turn out perfect every time. 

Admittedly, I experienced culture shock just while reading some of the recipe names and ingredients. “Pies & Puds” includes niche dishes that I’ve never heard of before, like Bedfordshire clanger, Wensleydale pie and Cumberland rum nicky. Presumably, these and others are common dishes in northern England, where Hollywood grew up. Though their names are daunting, Hollywood outlines their recipes with short ingredient lists and easy instructions. In the foreword, he articulates his affection for straightforward baking, which generations of English laborers, farmers and fishermen have thrived on. 

The ingredients themselves were another curiosity. Hollywood’s recipes frequently incorporate rum, ale, rabbit, buffalo, obscure white fish and dates — all ingredients I’ve never cooked with before. Though intimidating, I welcomed the opportunity to expand my baking comfort zone.

In order to holistically review the cookbook’s fare without spending all of my weekly earnings on butter and flour, I picked one savory and one sweet recipe to test. The first was the French-style apple tart, made from a sweetened shortcrust pastry and loaded with frangipane and slivered apples. For anyone unfamiliar with frangipane, it’s an almond paste that becomes set and fluffy when cooked. It was subtly sweet, and the nuttiness well complimented the bright tang of the apple layer. The crust, of course, was nothing short of golden, buttery goodness. Hollywood’s secret ingredients, lemon juice and lard, bring a tenderness to the dough that butter alone cannot accomplish. The tart came together rather quickly — about an hour, start to finish — and did not necessitate any complicated techniques or cooking equipment. It would be the perfect dish for any springtime party.

The spinach, feta & pine nut parcels were akin to empanadas, though the filling was encased in a soft bread dough, rather than traditional shortcrust. Abigail Monti / Daily Nexus

The second recipe I chose was the spinach, feta and pine nut parcels. These triangular-shaped pastries were akin to empanadas, though the filling was encased in a soft bread dough, rather than traditional shortcrust. The result was a pillowy, warm hand pie, sectioned into individual servings. While the crust was delicious, the inside stuffing was the true triumph: a combination of warm spinach, crispy garlic, roasted pine nuts and salty feta cheese. Hollywood’s recipe skillfully blends different savory flavors and textures to create a complex flavor profile out of rather simple ingredients. This recipe took slightly longer on account of waiting for the dough to rise — about two hours, start to finish — but the result was worthwhile. These pastry parcels travel well and taste wonderful hot or cold, making them ideal for picnics or dinner parties.

Next on my radar is the cheese, potato and onion pie. After that, maybe I’ll find the courage to tackle the Bedfordshire clanger. With hundreds of intriguing options, “Paul Hollywood’s Pies & Puds” is perfect not only for Pi Day, but every other day of the year. I highly recommend you give this cookbook a try.