By Jason Atherton
Absolute Press, £25
Hot on the heels of Jason Atherton’s last cookbook, Social Suppers – which hit the shelves last summer – comes, somewhat appropriately, Social Sweets.
Billed as a collection of Atherton’s “top desserts to make at home”, Social Sweets appears to be aimed at the domestic market. But on closer inspection, it’s clear that the precision for which this celebrated chef-restaurateur has become known is in abundance. So it’s likely that culinary professionals will be able to get just as much out of it, if not more.
Atherton’s introduction is short, sweet and just about sums up how many chefs feel about working on the pastry section, at least until they experience it themselves. He describes how, in the early years of his career, he wanted to do the “macho” things like cooking meat, making sauces and prepping big boxes of wild mushrooms from the New Forest.
But one day, when working at Chez Nico, the pastry section was short-handed. Atherton was asked to step in and help, and he did so, he says, with some trepidation. But he then entered an “amazing world of precise measurement and exact skill”; of “total concentration and, above all else, disciplined teamwork”. On reading that, one imagines a collective air-punching from pastry chefs the world over.
What of the recipes? Atherton has crammed in a bit of everything: breads, biscuits, muffins, ice-creams, sorbets and a gloriously large chapter on restaurant desserts. These will be a bit more of a challenge for the home cook, often comprising a number of techniques. But Atherton has made every effort to make them as achievable as possible.
The flavour combinations – such as in green tea cake, yuzu and raspberries – are typical of this chef, who loves marrying myriad influences. There’s plenty of traditional flavours too though, such as a chocolate and strawberry eclair inspired by the signature dessert at Atherton’s Berners Tavern restaurant at the London Edition hotel.
The photography, by John Carey, is beautiful, and I look forward to attempting to recreate these stunning desserts.
By Janie Manzoori-Stamford
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Social Suppers by Jason Atherton
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