By Sarit Packer
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There’s always something sweet in the oven at Honey & Co., the tiny restaurant in London where the day is marked by what comes out of the pastry section. In the morning, sticky buns are stuffed full of cherries and pistachios; loaves of rich dough are rolled with chocolate, hazelnuts, and cinnamon. Lunch is a crisp, crumbly shell of pastry filled with spiced lamb or burnt eggplant, and at teatime there are cheesecakes and fruitcakes, small cakes, and massive cookies-so many treats that it’s hard to choose one. And after dinner? Poached peaches with roses, something sweet and salty drenched in orange blossom syrup, or maybe even a piece of fresh marzipan.
This is the magic of Middle Eastern soul food. This is Golden.
Previously published in the United Kingdom as Honey and Co: The Baking Book
“I want to make every recipe in this book. . . . And you should, too!”-David Lebovitz, author of My Paris Kitchen and Ready for Dessert
A restaurant, even a small one like ours, is a watering hole, a crossroads where people meet (by chance or design), to rest, to replenish. Dozens of people from all walks of life in London's mad parade pass through our doors every day, all through the day. From the quiet early-morning coffee and Fitzrovia bun for the road, through the manic, slightly crazed rush of lunch, to the last licked dessertspoon of dinner, our ten tables will be set, cleared, cleaned and set again constantly. An endless stream of suppliers and delivery men fill our stores and fridges with produce from all over the world: British berries, French wine, Lebanese spice, nuts from California, chocolate and vanilla from the African shores, Indian rice, cut flowers from Holland—all find space under our tiny roof, for the pleasure of our customers and ourselves.
A restaurant can have a life of its own. It can grow so quickly, seemingly unaided; at first it was just the two of us, doing everything, but now there are many of us working in Honey & Co. As I write this we have three pastry chefs and five chefs in the kitchen, three kitchen porters running up and down the stairs, seven waiters and shift managers working the floor upstairs, Louisa in the office and the two of us, trying to find a bit of space to work.
A restaurant is a machine with many moving parts. In order for things to fall into place time and again, it needs to have a culture, a routine, and at the heart of our routine is our baking. Even though it is only a part of what we do, the pastry section is the backbone of the operation, the driving force and the powerhouse. What baking requires represents everything we want our staff to have and our customers to feel—consideration, concentration, experience and patience, of course, but also a lot of passion, greed, an eagerness to please on an industrial scale and a great big heart. Our days are governed now by the rhythm of the pastry: weighing, mixing, kneading, shaping, baking, chilling, glazing, serving.
A restaurant takes the shape of the people in it, customers and staff. We never planned to have such an elaborate pastry offering—I originally thought we would do only one type of bread—but the selection grew rapidly. The cakes came about because we wanted something tempting in the window to lure people in, the desserts happened because of a friend's remark, the breakfast bakes because we needed to bring the morning trade to life. It all seemed gradual, almost accidental, but with hindsight I can say that the growth of our pastry was inevitable. I am a complete sweet tooth, always dreaming of new cakes and sweet things, while my wife has been baking all her life, and has a great passion and talent for it. You could almost say that baking is her favorite form of interaction with the world. I don't think I'm biased in considering her one of the best bakers in the world (although of course I am), and all of us at Honey & Co, employees and patrons alike, are united in our admiration and love for her gift. And the rest of the team are just as sugar-mad as we are—Giorgia, our pastry chef, lights up most when she talks about cakes; Julia and HD are always snuffling up the sweet offcuts; the girls upstairs argue constantly about which cake is their favorite, and each tries to convince our customers that their choice is best.
A purple plastic folder sits on the shelf in the pastry section. In it are neat spreadsheets containing pastry recipes that my wife has collected throughout her baking life. It has been with us for years now, since long before we opened our restaurant. It is divided into categories—sponges, mousses, biscuits etc.—and each recipe has a note about its origin—from famous patisseries to "Barry's mom," busy brasseries to Michelin-starred kitchens—and another note about the end result, things like "freezes well," "not too sweet" or just plain "delicious."
This book has our favorite recipes from it, and the best of all of us.
I have a really bad memory: old school friends, people I have worked with—I often draw a complete blank. My mum still has to text me to remind me of all my nieces' and nephews' birthdays. My dear husband says that if I put my mind to it, I would remember everything. He may well be right, because there are memories that are etched on my brain. I remember mincing meat with my mum when I was a child, and picking chicken off the bone to make a chicken pie. I remember the first cake I baked for my sister's birthday (the white chocolate cheesecake), and the first meal Itamar and I had in London at the Orrery when I returned there with him on holiday. And I remember the cakes, cookies, bars, ice creams and many other sweet confections that have been a part of my life, both personal and professional.
As a child I used to roll ginger cookies with my mum and I can still feel the silky warm dough forming into balls that we would bake to the crispiest cookies. On field trips we would make flat breads on a makeshift taboon, forming the dough into uneven lumpy shapes filled with the sand from our dirty palms (they tasted great). We were allowed to mess around in the kitchen from a very young age but I think I started baking seriously when I was eleven or twelve. My sister brought home an amazing pastry book on classic French desserts by one of Israel's most famous food writers and I was hooked. I wanted to try everything.
I started by making crème brûlée (my mum's favorite to this day). The book said to use a vanilla pod, which I assumed was the same as a cinnamon stick. It said to open it up and scrape out the black seeds. I didn't find any—I decided the writer was crazy—and my crème brûlées had a distinct whiff of cinnamon. It took years for me to discover my mistake. I went on to make tarts: fresh fruit tart, classic apple tart, rich chocolate ganache tart. Then cheesecakes became an obsession and I baked them whenever I could. I got more and more adventurous.
At eighteen I came to the conclusion that this was what I wanted to do for a living, and as soon as my compulsory army service was over, I decided it was time to learn the art of cooking properly. My parents had a few misgivings, so I resolved to earn my own money to pay for cookery school and at the same time enrolled in a French language class because I felt that France was the best place to learn about patisserie. It probably is, but I never got there, because after working for a year as a PA and part-time caterer for anyone who would hire me, I had earned enough to make a move and opted for London instead. I spoke the language, I had the passport and even had some family there, so I packed my bags, enrolled at catering college and never looked back. Everything about it was amazing, from cooking at The Apprentice (the college restaurant designed to give us true-to-life experience) to discovering how to make ice creams with a balsamic reduction, how to bake my very own profiteroles and madeleines, and how to use a piping bag the correct way. After graduating I started work at the Orrery, and after six months I moved to their pastry section. There I learnt how to make jellies, opera cakes, ice creams, parfaits, caramels and soufflés. It was fine dining at the highest level.
After my time at the Orrery I headed back to Israel, eventually starting a catering company with a colleague. We thought being self-employed would mean that we could cook what we wanted, but nothing went to plan and we ended up in a converted chicken shed, running a pastry kitchen selling baked goods to cafés and restaurants. I baked cheesecakes by the dozens, babkas with millions of different fillings and cookies for the various holiday seasons. I made crazy, constructed mousse-cakes (they were all the rage at the time), loaf cakes, jams and savory bakes. People came to our kitchen to buy a couple of cakes for the weekend, then some cookies for the week and a specialty cake for an occasion. It was a mad time. The old chicken shed was hotter than hell in summer and colder than the Arctic in winter, and we had to do everything ourselves, from cleaning to invoicing.
By this time I had met and moved in with Itamar, but we had no free time to spend together and we were running out of money, fast. After a year of living on Itamar's salary it was time to admit I needed to get a "proper" job. It broke my heart, but what I had learnt made me stronger and smarter.
In each place I have worked since then, I have learnt more and more: ways to get things right; ways to improve quality and speed; how to teach other people to work with me, and how to trust them. When we moved to London I became sous-chef in charge of a large team of pastry chefs in the brasserie and restaurant at the OXO Tower. Penny, the head pastry chef, really taught me about mass production; we would feed over 800 people a day between the two venues. Itamar worked with me there, and when he left to work at Ottolenghi, he told Yotam all about me. I still remember our first meeting—I was late (as always) and way too cocky, but Yotam still decided to give me a chance.
When I saw the cake display at Ottolenghi, I was a little disappointed: no crazy sugar work, no color, no French finesse. But when I got into the kitchen and started tasting things, it was a revelation—here it was all about flavor. Weekly pastry meetings with Yotam and Helen were inspiring and creative, and managing four separate pastry kitchens and a bakery was an exciting challenge. Ottolenghi was truly a turning point for me, but after four years I couldn't face baking another oversized meringue and I wanted a change. I started by joining the team creating NOPI, but eventually Itamar and I decided it was time for our own place.
Our original business plan for Honey & Co didn't contain a single cake. I told Itamar I needed the place to be about chopping vegetables, roasting meats and grilling fish. But when we saw 25a Warren Street and its beautiful big front window, I knew that cakes would have to be a part of what we were going to do. We set about creating our own cake identity. Itamar suggested fruit and lots of color, so that it would look like a Middle Eastern marketplace and I started with that. Then he suggested spice and coffee and honey, and I added them to the mix. This is how we work together: we develop, we taste, we get excited and angry and occasionally disappointed when something fails. But it is by far the most creative environment I have ever worked in. Those of you who have read our previous book will know that Itamar loves his cakes and sweets, and that he is my biggest inspiration. He dreams of cakes and I try my best to fulfill his dreams. Sometimes I hate his ideas and we argue, but at other times what he wants makes perfect sense to me. Sometimes I make something that I love and he hates (or thinks is too sweet, or not sweet enough, or too ugly, or too pretty) and I get really offended. I take it personally, for a while… But then we let our staff taste it and give their opinions, and we fix the things that have gone wrong and together we create something special. There is nothing quite like it.
Much of the above is by way of explaining that none of the recipes in this book are purely my inventions. They are always based on something. They may have been inspired by another recipe, or another method, or perhaps by a flavor combination that struck me as a revelation. In essence pastry is a combination of a few staples—butter, sugar, eggs, flour and occasionally nuts, chocolate and fruit. It is how you combine them and the proportions you use that create the huge variety. This book is inspired by my memories of my baking life, of all the people I have cooked with and the places I have worked; by recipes I found in a book when I was an eager teenage baker; and by amazing cakes baked by friends. In the same way that you learn from people about their cakes and methods, you teach others about yours. There is always another recipe to discover, or a trick you had never heard about. It is the search that is the best part.
How to be good at baking
I can't understand people who say they are not good at baking, or that they are scared of it. In my experience it is simple: you find a good recipe, follow the method and get great results. But in order to be able to do that, you need to understand the instructions. The following guidelines should help, so if you feel you need some assistance, have a read through and get to grips with the basics (according to me).
The golden rule
I will repeat this again and again throughout the book: always read the entire recipe before you start and make sure you understand it. Whenever possible, I strongly advise setting out all your ingredients in advance too; that way, there is less chance of forgetting something. I tend to weigh all my ingredients, including the liquids, as I find it a more effective and precise method, so I have listed both gram and milliliter measurements for liquids throughout the book. You can find a conversion chart inside the back cover of the book.
The main types of chocolate I use in baking are:
• bitter dark chocolate with a cacao content of 62% and over
• dark chocolate with between 42% and 54%
• milk chocolate
• white chocolate
Use a brand you like (my rule is that if I don't want to steal a piece, I shouldn't be baking with it) and check the cacao mass. Be aware that you can't substitute a bitter dark chocolate with one that contains a much lower percentage of cacao as it simply won't perform in the same way. However, you can be more flexible with milk and white chocolate varieties.
How to melt chocolate
Make sure you are using dry utensils and bowls (even a little water can ruin an entire batch). Break or chop the chocolate into even-sized pieces before you start melting it. Then you can use one of two methods.
• Place the chocolate pieces in a dry microwave-safe bowl and set on high for a minute. Remove and stir. Return to the microwave for another 30 seconds, then remove and stir again. If it still isn't fully melted, put it back in for additional bursts of 10 seconds, stirring in between each one, until it is completely liquid. Do note that microwaves vary in strength and chocolate is very easy to burn, so you will need to be cautious.
• The better method, I find, is to use a small pan and a bowl that fits snugly on top, so that there is no space up the sides for steam to escape. Pour some water into the pan. Place the bowl on top and check that it doesn't touch the water (if it does, tip some out). Set on the heat, bring to the boil, then remove from the heat again. Put the chocolate into the bowl. Allow to melt for 2–3 minutes before stirring, then mix to a smooth paste. If this doesn't prove sufficient to melt all the chocolate, you can return the pan and bowl to the stove on a very low heat for 2–3 minutes, but do watch it and take care not to overheat it or you will burn the chocolate.
When a recipe calls for melted butter and chocolate, I always start with the butter on its own. Use one of the methods above to melt it. Once the butter is warm and fully liquid, add the chocolate and stir until it dissolves.
When melting chocolate with a liquid, always bring the liquid to the boil first. Remove from the heat, pour over the chocolate pieces in a bowl and leave for 2–3 minutes. Place a whisk in the center of the bowl and whisk in small circular movements in the middle until you have created a shiny liquid core. Then whisk carefully until the chocolate and liquid are fully combined.
Chocolate sets and hardens as it cools, so if the recipe calls for melted chocolate, don't melt it until you are ready to use it. Each recipe varies as to how and when to add the chocolate, so read the method carefully.
Sugars & caramels
The main types of sugar we use are:
• granulated sugar
• light brown sugar
• dark brown sugar
• confectioners' sugar
• demerara sugar
• coarse sanding sugar (occasionally)
Each imparts a different texture and flavor and can affect the end result of your baking. You can swap them around a little, but you must make sure to dissolve the grainier sugars well if you want to achieve good results.
You can very easily turn granulated sugar into super-fine sugar (called caster sugar in the UK) by blitzing it in a blender for 15 seconds. You can even make it into confectioners' sugar if you use a fine grinder, like a spice grinder. When I was growing up in Israel, grinding sugar ourselves was the only option, but luckily super-fine (caster) and confectioners' sugar can be purchased easily these days, so I don't usually have to bother.
How to make caramel
There are two main types of caramel.
• Wet caramel: This is used mostly for sauces and bases that require additional liquid. Place the sugar in a small, clean (ideally heavy-bottomed) pan. Turn on the cold water tap to a very light trickle. Hold the pan under the tap, moving it around so that water pours around the edges only, leaving the center of the sugar still dry. Remove from under the tap and use the tip of your finger or a spoon to stir very gently to moisten the sugar in the center, taking care not to get it up the sides of the pan. If you do, moisten your finger or a brush with some water and run it around the sides of the pan to clean away any sugar crystals. You should have a white paste in the base of the pan. Set it on the stove on the highest setting and bring to a rapid boil. Don't stir it, but if you feel the urge, you can very gently swivel the pan in circular motions. Once the color deepens to a light golden caramel, remove from the heat and add your liquids or butter. Be careful as the caramel may spit and seize. If it does, return it to a low heat and continue cooking until it liquefies.
• Dry caramel: This is mostly used for decoration work or making brittles. Set a heavy-bottomed pan on a high heat. Once the pan is hot, sprinkle the sugar in a thin layer over the base; it should start to melt almost immediately. Stir with a wooden or heatproof spoon. Once the first layer of sugar has melted, add another layer and repeat the process. Continue until all the sugar has been dissolved and the color deepens to a lovely amber, then remove from the heat. At this stage you can:
• cool it (by dipping the bottom of the pan into cold water), if you are making decorations, or
• add butter and nuts, if you are making brittle, or
• simply pour it onto a sheet of baking parchment and allow to cool before breaking it up.
I am not wedded to specific brands but do like to make sure my flour is fresh. Check the "best before" / "use by" date and try to use it up before then, rather than letting it sit forgotten in your cupboard. If you have a large freezer, store it there for a longer shelf life.
I use a few different types of flour in my baking. Each recipe will state which one is needed.
• All-purpose: I use this for most of my cake baking and some of the cookies. It is the generic, standard flour sold everywhere.
• Bread flour: This is used in all my bread and yeast-based baking, and for cookies or biscuits that call for a very crisp end result.
• Self-rising: This is simply flour that has been activated with baking powder (very well mixed through). This gives a nice even rise to cakes. Sometimes I prefer the results you get using this flour to those you get by adding baking powder or baking soda by hand. If you don't have any self-rising flour, you can substitute pre-mixed baking powder and all-purpose flour (use a teaspoon of baking powder for every 100g of flour).
The freshness and flavor of eggs can greatly affect many desserts, especially ones that aren't baked, like mousses and creams. I tend to use free-range medium eggs for baking, and the best eggs I can find for desserts that aren't cooked through (and for eating generally). In the UK the tastiest eggs I have tried are from Cotswold Legbar and Burford Brown hens.
The best way to test if an egg is fresh (apart from the date stamped on it) is to dunk it in a bowl of cold water. If it sinks to the bottom, it is fresh; if it floats, it's best not to use it.
I store eggs in the fridge to keep them fresher for longer but always let them come up to room temperature before using, as cold eggs can give very different results compared to warm ones, especially when whisking.
Sabayon is a general term used in many recipes containing eggs. It is created by whisking eggs, usually with sugar (which is sometimes heated to a syrup). You should ideally use an electric whisk to give you more power. There are a few stages to the process (the same stages apply whether whisking whole eggs or egg yolks) and I specify which one you need to reach in each recipe. The three stages that I refer to in this book are:
• foam: Whisking combines the eggs and dissolves the sugar, making the mixture foamy (like bubble bath), while remaining quite yellow. Reaching "foam" stage simply ensures that you have dissolved the sugar properly and added some volume to the eggs.
• ribbon: Whisked eggs at "ribbon" stage should look almost velvety, with a light yellow color. The larger bubbles present at "foam" stage condense as you continue to whisk, and after a while the ripples caused by the whisk start to hold their shape. Mixture trailed from the whisk onto the remainder will sit on the surface for a little while, resembling a ribbon (hence the name), before sinking back in.
• strong sabayon: This has a very pale color and more than three times the volume of the unbeaten eggs. A "strong" sabayon should have a nice firm texture, similar to whipped cream.
Meringue (as a term, rather than the crisp-baked sugar sweets) is reached by whisking egg whites (on their own or with sugar) and has its own stages. The main points to remember are:
• use eggs at room temperature or even warm, as cold eggs will take twice as long to whisk and will have a denser texture.
• always start whisking on a slow speed, then increase the speed slowly once the first bubbles appear. This will help you achieve a strong texture.
• add any sugar according to the recipe instructions.
• soft meringue stage is when the mixture coming off the whisk leaves a trace of "ribbon" on top of the rest of the egg whites; this will slowly sink back down (it is similar to "ribbon" stage when making a sabayon).
• strong or peaky meringue stage means that when you pull the whisk out, the egg whites hold their shape in a little peak that doesn't sink back into the mixture.
I use heavy cream (42% fat) in the recipes in this book, unless something else is specified. Do remember that you can't whip half-and-half, so it isn't a suitable alternative in recipes that call for whipping.
When whipping cream, always use a whisk (it doesn't matter if it's manual or electric). There are four main stages to whipped cream:
• soft ribbon: The whisk just starts to create shapes that, if left alone, sink back into the cream.
• strong ribbon: If you lift the whisk slightly above the bowl, the trail of cream falling off it should leave a visible mark on the cream still in the bowl.
• soft whipped: The cream doubles in volume and starts to hold the shapes created by the whisk.
• fully whipped: The cream holds in little peaks when the whisk is pulled out. I would only whip cream to this stage when I intend serving it.
Butter & other fats
I tend to use unsalted butter in my recipes (I will always mention when there is an exception) and I use a good one. My rule for butter (which is similar to my rule for chocolate) is that if I wouldn't spread it on my toast, then I shouldn't use it in a cake.
Burnt butter, or beurre noisette as it is called in French, is made by heating butter in a saucepan until the water boils off and the milk particles turn a dark golden color and develop a lovely nutty flavor.
- On Sale
- Nov 1, 2016
- Page Count
- 304 pages
- Little, Brown and Company