Dee Rettali, founder of London craft bakery Fortitude Bakehouse, has finally released a book sharing her unusual baking techniques. Encompassing fragrant fruits and herbs, aromatic spices and the tang of fermented butter, this book is a world away from the big hit of sweetness found in traditional sugary sponges.
She combines what she calls "quite old-fashioned methods" with a modern approach. For example, the fermentation of her butter cake mixture for days to deepen the flavour is an idea that came from the way her mother and grandmother in Ireland used to bake, where they would leave fruit to steep in tea for a week, or use sour milk that had been left on a windowsill "until it started bubbling" to add to soda bread.
Although she says it's a wonder none of her family got ill, Retalli's tried and tested recipes don't compromise on health and safety. Her recipes ease readers into the process, with the option to ferment the batter overnight or for just few days to deepen the flavour, or there's an even speedier version for those wanting to bake without the forward planning.
One of the joys of this is that many of her bakes last a lot longer than their sugary counterparts, resulting in less wastage, with some happily lasting in a tin for up to 10 days.
The book will test any home cook or chef's approach to traditional baking and will make you stop and take time to thoroughly understand the ingredients used. Chapters are split into herbs and botanicals, fruit and berries, dairy, spices and aromatics, bread-ish, sourdough and fermented cakes, and store cupboard.
Recipes have a grown-up, wholesome feel to them and involve complex flavours, such as the tarragon and apple syrup butter loaf cake, the elderflower and orange olive oil loaf cake or the chilli-soaked date and oat loaf cake (and yes, there are a lot of loaf cakes in this book – a nod to the simplicity of many of her bakes). Chefs who are interested in fermentation, sourdough and zero waste cooking should pick up a copy at once.
Baking with Fortitude by Dee Rettali (Bloomsbury, £26)
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