A new Ottolenghi book! Hold the internet. He’s probably the most-hyped cookbook author working today, and Plenty and Jerusalem are food blog touchstones the way Delia*s and Daria are for certain-aged women. With Sweet, he shifts a bit from his comfort zone – veg-friendly, Middle Eastern inspired café food – into the pastry world. (With a bit of a detour into high-end Michelin cooking with NOPA, which I haven’t read.) He has a lot of help from Goh, the longtime pastry chef at his London chainlet.
Overall, many of his hallmarks are featured here – you’ll need a deep pantry to field some of these ingredient lists, but the vibrant flavors, focus on fresh fruit, and Brexit-inspired techniques are all here as well. Goh grew up in Australia and provides some ideas from Down Under as well.
This book is more technically difficult than his others, especially compared to the main baking-for-beginners books that came out in 2017. Many of these recipes reward someone with baking experience, or at least patience for multiple steps, processes and mini-recipes. I’m an okay baker, more comfortable the farther away I get from actual chemistry, and I felt pushed and prodded into unfamiliar and uncomfortable techniques as I cooked through this book. I was yelling THIS CAN’T POSSIBLY WORK in my head as I made their water ganache, but you know what, it did work. Everything worked, beautifully and as described.
Most of the photography was great, except for one picture that I could never place with a recipe (I only looked because I really wanted to make them! Still can’t figure it out.) and a few names-of-things that must be Britishisms because I had to google what they were supposed to look like, but since there’s no picture I can only assume it would be obvious to a local baker, my GBBO habit notwithstanding.
The rewards for your patience and persistence are manifold. The cakes are complex in flavor and texture, and will generally be the most impressive thing on the table at any party. So much so that a dog ate one of my cakes top-to-bottom and I considered it a compliment (and got out of there before he started pooping everywhere, sorry guys). The cakelets and pastries but look great and are addictive, especially because we don’t see those so often in American bakeries so there’s an element of whimsy. My German aunt called to ask where I had bought the iced gingerbread from. I can’t really pick a favorite but the chocolate-filled cookies and the apple cake with maple icing were up there. I kind of avoided writing this so I’d have an excuse to keep baking.
This book is a bit of an odd bird in America – many of the flavors and ideas seem new and intriguing and not part of our dessert canon, but I can’t say whether it’s the authors’ unique POV or just an import. What I can say is, for a semi-serious baker who wants to up their game, there is a lot in here to like.
make this one thing:
chocolate "o" cookies
3/4 cup plus 1.5 tbsp | 190g unsalted butter, at room temp, cubed
2/3 cup | 130g granulated sugar
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
1 3/4 cups | 220g AP flour
3/4 cup | 75g Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cinnamon stick
shaved peel of 1/2 orange
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
6 tbsp | 90ml boiling water
4 1/2 oz | 125G dark chocolate, roughly chopped
scraped seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod
1/4 tsp flaky sea salt
1/4 cup | 50g granulated sugar
2 1/2 tbsp | 50g light corn syrup
3 1/2 tbsp | 50g unsalted butter, cubed
To make the cookies, place the butter, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place. Beat on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda into a bowl, turn the speed of the mixer to low, then add the dry ingredients in two batches until a dough forms. Tip onto a clean work surface and knead gently until smooth and uniform. Cover the dough loosely in plastic wrap, press to form a disk, and keep in the fridge for 1 hour to firm up.
Preheat the oven to 325F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Remove the dough from the fridge about 5 minutes before rolling, so that it has some malleability. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough so that it is about 1/8 inch thick; you can divide it in half before rolling, if that's easier. Using a 2.5 inch round cutter, cut out 44 circles and place them on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 13-15 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until firm, then remove from the oven and set aside on the sheets until completely cool.
To make the ganache, place the cinnamon, orange peel and pepper flakes in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside to infuse for 30 minutes.
After the water has been infusing for about 20 minutes, place the chocolate, vanilla seeds and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
Place the sugar and corn syrup in a small pan and warm over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until the sugar has melted. Increase the heat to medium-high and boil until the sugar caramelizes and turns a light amber color, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the infused water and aromatics. Don't worry if the sugar seizes in the pan; just return it to the heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Return the caramel to a boil, then strain the liquid over the chocolate and vanilla; the aromatics can be discarded. Leave for 2-3 minutes until the chocolate has melted, then mix together.
Add the butter, one piece at a time, stirring continuously until all the butter is incorporated and the chocolate is smooth. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes until the ganache is firm.
Spoon a heaped teaspoon of the ganache onto the underside of a cookie, then, using a knife or the back of a spoon, spread it evenly all over the cookie. Place another cookie, underside down, on top of the ganache and sandwich together. Set aside while you repeat with the remaining cookies and ganache.