One of my aims for this year is to work on becoming a better baker. Although I know how to bake I am very far away from being confident. I had too many recipes go wrong; and where in cooking I find there is always some room for adjustments; baking is a little more of an exact science.
So with that goal in mind I was excited to hear that Anne Shooter, the food editor of the Daily Mail, is published a book on baking. But not any baking! Jewish baking that covers cakes from Europe, America and of course the Middle East. Oh yes! I was itching to get my hands on copy.I tweeted Anne and asked her if I could review her book for her and was delighted when she replied and put me in touch with her publisher.
Sesame and Spice: Baking from the East End to the Middle East is a wonderful journey of discovery into the history of Jewish baking.
Content and Visuals
Recipe books on baking have to be very visually appealing to me. I find it very hard to excite myself for recipes that don’t have pretty pictures. So I was relieved to see that most recipes are illustrated with mouth watering photographs. I often use cookbooks to give me inspiration on how to photograph by own recipes; and Sesame and Spice provided me with a lot of ideas.
The contents is divided into chapters: cakes, biscuits, desserts, baking for Passover, breads, sweet doughs, sweet pastry and savoury baking. This is a very ambitious spread and you may think that all those different recipes from different countries could appear disjointed, but the recipes follow each other quite naturally. Each recipe is preluded by a little introduction from Anne. For example I was suprised to see the recipe for Austrian Sacher Torte included in one of the chapters. But I learnt that because the cake was invented by a Jewish pastry chef names Franz Sacher – it cannot, off course be missed in a Jewish baking book.
The recipes are very varied, easy to follow and modern. I love the way Anne suggests buying shop-bought pastry, but also provides the pastry recipes for those with more time. For me these little touches make the recipes so much more accessible to the everyday household.
I have tried two of the recipes so far. The Blueberry cake and the Tuna and Red Pepper Boerek. I baked both recipes in one evening and found the instructions very easy to follow. The skill level required varies from recipe to recipe. So that I think even a complete novice will not find themselves overwhelmed.
Who would I recommend this book to? Anyone who is interested in Jewish baking – because the little excerpts at the beginning of each recipe does provide you with a very good insight into their culture. Also this book is definitely good for a baker who likes trying something new. There are recipes there that will suit a beginner but also more challenging ones and the recipe guidelines are very easy to follow. There are so many recipes there that I am unsure which one I should try next?
Maybe the Triple Chocolate Cake?