Book review – Sweet Tooth

12 October 2012 by
Book review – Sweet Tooth

Sweet Tooth
Lily Vanilli
Canongate, £20
ISBN 978-0-85786-441-3

Artisan baker Lily Vanilli (real name Lily Jones) is the first to admit that she has had no formal training. Everything she has learnt about baking has been through trial and error; through reading and practice.

Professional chefs shouldn't be put off by that. The hard graft might have been in a domestic kitchen rather than a catering college but perhaps the lack of formality is a good thing. She says it gave her freedom to experiment and add personal touches according to whatever she fancied, which is certainly evident in this cook book.

It's a fairly comprehensive collection, with chapters on cake, pastry, biscuits and tea cakes, meringue, chocolate, sugar and ices. Each opens with what could reasonably be described as the science bit.

Without being so detailed as to scare off novice bakers and so basic as to bore the more experienced, Jones explains the whats, hows and whys of the processes involved.

She concludes the book with a selection of basic recipes: staples like basic egg custard, buttercreams and coulis - essential starting points for those looking to get down to some experimentation of their own. That said, there are plenty of unique flavour combinations and presentation ideas provided by Jones to play with first.

Event caterers looking for a novelty canapé might like the look of popping candy fool's gold chocolates - nuggets of popping candy, preserved in chocolate and brushed with gold lustre dust - while hotel kitchens could whip up a batch of hot toddy tarts - chocolate tarts with burnt butter and whisky - for a warming winter twist on a typical afternoon tea.

Many of the quirky ideas for decoration are wonderfully simple and effective and could undoubtedly be appropriated for all sorts of sweet treats.

You never know when you might need to make meringue mushrooms on a bed of cocoa "soil" but it strikes me as quite a nice thing to have in your repertoire. There's even a handy tip on how to make your own bespoke biscuit cutters.

In these cash-strapped times, kitchens without a full time pastry chef would do well to keep a row of books on desserts and sugary treats handy. Sweet Tooth would fit in rather nicely.

If you like this, you'll love these:
Short and Sweet Dan Lepard
â- British Baking Oliver Peyton
â- Pierre Hermé Pastries Pierre Hermé

By Janie Manzoori-Stamford

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