Friday, February 1, 2013

Cooking the Books.... Sweet Tooth

Phooarr I know you're not meant to judge a book by it's cover but judge I did. In case you hadn't noticed this little eater is one big fat fan of the colour aqua. Love would be an understatement so when I see a book by a baking guru, who long ago piqued my interest from afar, with a beautiful aqua cover and hot pink piped pages -well I was smitten. London based Lily Jones aka Lily Vanilli is considered to be the baker to the stars and I had to write a piece on her for Fairfax which meant I was elbow deep in flour making my way through her latest baking book Sweet Tooth. And let me tell you, it's a winner. Probably one of the best baking books I've come across in some time, and one I've looked forward to as much as the Momofuku Milk Bar and Philippa Sybley Desserts. So far I've cooked seven of the recipes and each have been foolproof. This will be one book I will turn to again and again.

Lily is quite up front. She never had any professional training but what she does have is a sugar load of natural baking talent. Her interest in baking was began when helping her grandmother make scones and victoria sponge and then what was largely a hobby has turned into a thriving business. She started selling a few cakes at the markets and now she does events catering, cake sculptures and opens a bakery one day a week to the public which has lines running down the street. There is quite a nice little video about her here.
I'm genuinely unsure how to answer this one as I have been having success after success with the recipes. So far my easy favourites have been the bitter chocolate cake and I think my gong goes to the ultimate pillow soft vanilla sponge. If I was to die tomorrow and needed a final resting place for my head, it would be face down in one of these vanilla sponges. In fact I'm a little tired now, and wondering if I could pop a pillow case on it and swindle it onto my bed. Oh lordy its good. No scrap that, its amazeballs. Its a sponge (page 38) that will change your life and something that is going to be an absolute baking fixture for me as I add bits and bobs and flavours as I go. I'll also be posting some adaptations of the bitter chocolate cake in a few weeks - watch this space.
The only thing I've found with the book is that I've often had to double the cooking times. This is not a criticism of the book because as far as I'm concerned, ovens vary and its not about time but when it is ready. Its actually a criticism of Joan, my oven, because I think she's on the fritz. It would be interesting to know how you fare.

Here are a few recipes for you to try.

As I've found so much lately, local bookstores can leave you wanting, and thats never a good thing when it comes to baking. I try hard to support local bookstores but when they never ever seem to have any titles in stock and tell you it will take over a week to arrive, I'm left ordering online like everyone else. I really do wish that this wasn't the book buying landscape in our country but it is and I think we need more speciality cookery book stores to help alleviate the problem of keeping the great titles, such as this one, on the shelf. Online I've found it accessible on all the usual suspects and I'm unsure if its available as an e-book, if you know otherwise please let me know so I can update.
The best bit to a lot of Lily's recipes is starting with the flour in the mixer. Rather than beating your eggs and sugar then folding through your flour as with most recipes, lily starts with the dry ingredient base then adds the liquids/fats. And it makes perfect sense, taking the principles of pastry and coating the flour with the fats to prevent the gluten from being overworked - resulting in delightfully light cakes. Its foolproof and a must for the more heavy handed bakers among us. I am a complete convert and will be using this as my way of baking from this point on.

Lily is one to talk about the science of baking - not in an insulting way - just to arm you with enough of the basics to understand the way ingredients work and their impact alone or combined on the end result and I really like her philosophy - start strictly with a recipe then you can enjoy its freedom - nothing could be more true.
Don't, unless you already own a copy or plan on it being a big fat glorious gift to yourself.  Or gift it, if you are cunning, and know that it will end in an invite for a cup of tea and cake.
Aside from the really workable recipes, Lily gives you hints and tips for crystallised flowers, flavoured milks and sugars as well as caramelising fruits and making hard candy. She also provides insight into handy substitutes - like buttermilk; elements you are likely to want to incorporate with your baking which many baking books don't give. 

1 comment:

  1. Another lovely book Katrina, this one sounds very useful as well as beautiful!