Updated: Apr 2, 2019
I'd really badly wanted to cook from Kirsten Tibballs' Chocolate. But when I asked around, people seemed apprehensive because the recipes looked very tough. Since I last discussed doing Chocolate for a cookbook club meet, I've made a half dozen recipes from the book. While some are tough, the instructions are crystal clear. And making them doesn't seem half as much of an ordeal as one might imagine. That said, we might just pick it up for the cookbook club some time later. This time instead, we used a book called Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding: Sweet and Savoury Recipes from Britain's Best Baker.
Justin Gellatly is Britain's best baker. He worked with Fergus Henderson (of Nose to Tail Eating: A Kind of British Cooking fame) at St.John as Head Baker and Pastry Chef for several years, and now runs Bread Ahead, a bakery and school in London. He's also co-authored Nose to Tail Eating, as it turns out.
And that got me thinking. So I ran up to my bookshelf and pulled out the Nose to Tail book that I own. Turns out, that's The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating, by Fergus Henderson. I'm beginning to wonder how different that is from Nose to Tail Eating: A Kind of British Cooking.
This time's cookbook club meet had a few new faces because a bunch of the usual suspects were busy.
Gayatri - a professional baker who has recently moved from Bombay to Pune,
her friend Ekta who conducts cooking and baking classes for kids,
Keya - a friend of Priyanka's, who is a teacher and makes some utterly lovely sweet onion and herb tarts.
Among the usual suspects were only Priyanka and myself.
We met at Keya's house because I needed to see a house that wasn't my own, on Sunday, November 5th 2017, for what was supposed to be brunch (that ended at 5 pm).
The food was a mishmash of good and average fare. I was mighty pleased with the brioche buns I'd baked, but somehow they didn't find many takers over brunch that afternoon. I sent some over to my parents and ate brioche for breakfast over the next couple of days. There was a ginger cake and a steamed marmalade sponge which were a little dense for my liking, but maybe that's what their recipes intended them to be. Here's what the menu for that afternoon was:
Steamed Marmalade Sponge and Whisky Custard
Justin's Ginger Cake with a warm cider and caramel sauce
Poppy Seed and Black Onion Crisps
Sweet Onion and Fine Herb Tart
Cheese and Chilli Pops
The cheese and chilli pops were made using a brioche dough, and called for about 50 grams of finely chopped green chillies to be kneaded into the dough. Since we're in India, my oversmart brain told me to half the quantity of green chillies, because 50 grams seemed a little too much. I was wrong. The buns didn't taste of any chilli. I also stuck in little cubes of mozzarella in one half of the buns, in the hope that I'd get ooey-gooey cheese oozing out of warm buns when they were torn apart. Again, that's not quite what happened. The cheese settled inside, not lending it's typical gooey stringiness to the bread when pulled apart. The top of all the buns were sprinkled liberally with parmesan, as per the recipe and did little to add to the yumminess of the dough, in my opinion.
I also made a chocolate terrine. The recipe suggests that they be served with ginger snaps or chocolate and oat snaps, and I decided on the latter, because Gayatri was already making Justin's ginger cake. The terrine was divine. So good that I've written it out as a blog post here.
Priyanka played safe with a custard tart - the custard was nice and creamy. She says she sprinkled some nutmeg on the top, following the recipe. And I wondered whether we could've brûléed it. It was just very mildly sweet and the caramelized sugar would've added a whole nother dimension to it, along with some added crunch. The pastry was flaky and buttery and quite delicious.
Gayatri brought in the poppy seed and black onion seed crisps. We had some goat's cheese and some brie at hand, for the crackers. And also added some smoked cheddar and some edam to the plate. She also baked a ginger cake that she served with a warm cider and caramel sauce. The tartness from the cider made that caramel sauce refreshingly different, and as someone who isn't the biggest fan of caramel, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The almost fudge-like crumb of the cake wasn't something that I warmed up to though.
Keya made some Sweet Onion and Fine Herb Tarts that were absolutely delicious. I even managed to snag the last one home for my grandmum. She wouldn't stop gushing about how much she enjoyed it all evening.
Ekta used oranges from her garden for the marmalade for her steamed cake. Maybe the fact that they were home grown made that marmalade sing! It was hands down one of the tastiest orange marmalades I've ever had. The cake did feel a tad dense though. And like I said earlier, maybe that's how the recipe intended it to be.
This was our first entirely vegetarian cook and it was interesting in many ways. I'm all for for picking difficult recipes and seeing (read: hoping) they come to fruition. But I need to know that I can't expect everybody to think that way. And maybe when we pick a seemingly difficult book, there is more likely to be only one difficult recipe at lunch and several other easier ones. That's not a bad thing, really. But sometimes I wish there were 5 of me, so that we could do five tough recipes and exchange notes.
I'd love to make doughnuts from this book some day. They're on the cover and they look challenging and tasty at the same time. Until then, here are some more recipes from the book that were published in The Guardian a few years ago.