No, this is not an autobiographic post! Even though I like to think the name fits me to a T, “Short and Sweet” is actually Dan Lepard’s new cookbook. The moment I learned of its upcoming publication, I pre-ordered it at amazon.uk. Do I live in England? No, not even close. Would I wait for its US printing? No way! And I am thrilled to have it.
My first surprise was its size: 561 pages! On the cover, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall summarizes my own impression after a couple of very late nights reading it: “Dan demystifies the baker’s art… all kinds of seductive treats become instantly achievable.” This is the essence of Dan Lepard, particularly evident on the subject he is best known for: breads. He dedicates the first 100 pages of the book to them, starting with a must-read introduction that covers all the basics, from flour to yeast, proofing temperature, kneading, shaping and baking. One by one, he destroys all the misconceptions and the rigid (often snobbish) advice so widespread in many publications by other authors. Then he offers a long list of recipes for white loaves, whole wheat, rye, quick breads, rolls, flat breads, wrapping up the chapter with some sweet and fruit breads, and a quick tutorial on how to make a sourdough starter. In one of the recipes, called “Flash Loaf,” Dan puts all his expertise into designing a recipe that will give you a fantastic loaf of bread in two hours from start to finish. I have it on my list to try in the near future.
The second chapter of the book is dedicated to cakes (my nemesis). Once again, he introduces the subject by going over the ingredients and techniques, and even though I always get a rapid pulse while reading about cakes, by the end of the introduction I felt I could tackle any of the recipes that followed. That’s probably not a smart thing to say, considering some of the messy situations I’ve faced in the past. Some examples included in this section are: Apple, Walnut & Custard Cake (the photo is enough to make me swoon), Cinnamon Cake with Blackberries (oh, my!), Brown Sugar Chocolate Cake (sigh), Caramel Christmas Cake (double sigh).
Next in line is a full chapter on “Small Things.” These are small like Chocolate Custard Muffins…. Blueberry Creme Fraiche Cupcakes…. Pumpkin Ginger Cupcakes…. Madeleines….Sweet Buttermilk Scones…. you get the picture.
Biscuits & Cookies follow the party. As in every chapter, an initial introduction helps set the mind frame for the recipes ahead. If titles such as Passion Fruit Melting Moments, Banana Fudge Cookies, Ginger Macadamia Biscuits, Blue Cheese and Oatmeal Biscuits appeal to you, you’ll have enough to bake for a long time thanks to those 38 pages of goodies.
A small chapter for doughnuts, batters, and babas, assembled together because, as Dan puts it “they are eaten the moment they’re golden and set after cooking….” Doughnuts, blinis, pancakes, the famous Crepe Suzette Tour d’Argent (that one brought me memories of an outstanding dinner with my beloved back in 2003), closing with babas (a treat I’ve never had, but after Dan’s description I wish I had a few right in front of me right now! ).
Next in line comes “Sugar Sugar.” Cute name for an impressive collection of techniques and recipes, the chapter opens with Making Caramel, and I must transcribe Dan’s remark about it: “be careful and organised and stay relaxed.” I might just print this phrase and frame it. Butter Caramels, Olive Oil and Black Pepper Caramels, Vanilla Fudge, Chocolate Truffle Cubes… A full section on icing, sweet sauces, and a few ice cream options close this sweet chapter.
Desserts comes next. Whoever is afraid of making tarts must get this book and indulge in this chapter. By the time you are done reading his “tips and techniques,” you’ll want to get into the kitchen and put in practice all his sensible advice. A few teasers for you: Malted Chocolate and Caramel Tart, Banana Caramel Cream Pie, Soft Crust Apple Pie, Black Forest Eclairs (I’ve always wanted to make eclairs, will definitely try this recipe), Prune and Armagnac Sponge Puddings, Blueberry Cocoa Meringue Pie…
If you think that’s all, then you would be wrong. The final chapter assembles a series of savory recipes such as Ham, Egg, and Potato Pie, Sweet Potato Crescents, Goat’s Cheese and Celeriac Tart, Black Olive Gougeres (triple sigh by Sally, the Kalamata Cheerleader), and many savory doughs, including Dan’s take on a few types of pizza dough.
One very nice touch is the index in outline form, with minor headings in bold. It’s a simple detail that makes finding recipes a lot easier!
Just as his previous book, “The Handmade Loaf,” I can’t recommend “Short and Sweet” highly enough. Together, these two books cover all the techniques and recipes to keep a baker busy and happy. Phil, who rarely opens a cookbook, saw it on the kitchen counter and started flipping through the pages. His words: “…this book is great! In just a quick glance I see at least 30 recipes you must make for us, I mean….. for the students in the lab, of course!”
If you want to order the book, click here…
If you want to follow the progress of people baking all recipes in it, click here for the Sweet and Tweet Challenge…
If you want to know which recipe I chose to inaugurate his book…
come back for my next post…
ONE YEAR AGO: Ciabatta, a Classic Italian Bread
TWO YEARS AGO: Portuguese Sweet Bread