Stemming from our British heritage, New Zealand has a proud baking tradition that is newly popular again as people return to home cooking.

So perhaps it's not surprising to see three new baking cookbooks published recently: A Good Baking Day - 500 recipes from the kitchens of Rural Women New Zealand (Random House), Sweet: Treats To Share (Penguin) and Fill the Tins: Easy Baking for Home by Sophie Gray (Random House), which will be available from Friday.

There are many old favourite recipes in these, but, as someone who likes to bake but is always looking for healthy recipes, I was disappointed to find recipe after recipe calling for 225g butter, 250g butter, 175g butter, 200g sugar, 450g sugar.

These may be treats, and I certainly don't mind eating one or two biscuits or slices like this, but I don't want to make a whole batch that we are going to eat daily for a week or two.

Sadly, there are few food writers who actively rework traditional recipes to be more healthy.

However, looking further carefully I did find a small number of recipes in each book that were less indulgent but still enticing, such as Allyson Gofton's chocolate, nut and orange slice, and pumpkin and prune cake in Sweet Treats, lunchbox slice, date loaf and bachelor girl biscuits from A Good Baking Day or Sophie Gray's carrot and ginger cake, and cranberry spice biscotti.

A Good Baking Day follows A Good Spread and A Good Harvest, previous collections from Rural Women New Zealand, and like them has a mix of old and new, traditional and contemporary recipes, but presumably all are well-tested favourites - rural women have a reputation as good cooks.

The instructions tend to be brief and simple, so it may not be the best for absolute beginners but more experienced cooks will find a wealth of recipes here.

The index is basic so you may have trouble finding something you were looking for.

Sweet is a collection of recipes from some of Penguin's cookbook authors, Allyson Gofton, Alexa Johnston, Annabelle White, Dean Brettschneider, Sarah Bowman and Kim Evans and it's nicely produced with a padded cover and pink ribbon bookmark for Mother's Day.

Sophie Gray's (aka the Destitute Gourmet) Fill the Tins is more comprehensive, aimed at beginners as well as more experienced bakers, so the instructions are detailed. She includes tips and alternatives, and useful information such as how long it takes to make and cook - ready in 40 minutes or ready in 25 minutes (scones which are quick) or ready in 2¾ hours (Dundee cake which takes 2-2½ hours to cook).

Her recipes range from biscuits, slices, small and large cakes, to sweet and savoury pastries, scones and breads, desserts, Christmas specials and sweets.

A useful book for beginning bakers, although more experienced ones are sure to find some tempting treats.


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