By Melissa Sharp with Lindsay Stark
Ebury Press, £26
Prior to the recent ‘clean-eating' backlash, the subtitle of this book might have been A Healthy Way to Bake. Instead, scorn poured on the nutritional claims made by the likes of the Hemsley sisters and ‘Deliciously' Ella Mills by a BBC documentary earlier this year may have prompted the publishers to take a more circumspect approach. A disclaimer reads: "health claims made have been researched and do not state fact, but indicate that this is what research suggests", which some might think is having your nutritional cake and eating it.
Melissa Sharp's big idea is "gut health", fuelling microbes in our intestines with fibrous prebiotics and probiotics to help produce the serotonin that keeps us all happy and boosts our immune systems. That Sharp adopted this while being treated for and surviving cancer, that she has launched a successful business off the back of it (the Modern Baker café in Oxford) as well as receiving government funding to explore her ideas, lends the book credibility.
Written in conjunction with School of Artisan Food-trained baker Lindsay Stark, the 120 breads, cakes and biscuits are all interesting, unusual and delicious sounding. It's a consistently stimulating read and one that makes you want to bake gluten-free chocolate, raisin and hazelnut sourdough with tapioca and buckwheat flours.
There's also a tartine of Brussels sprouts, feta and hazelnuts with coconut ‘bacon' made with tamari, maple syrup, smoked paprika and coconut flakes; savoury pesto and walnut sourdough buns and a range of breads including broccoli and Stichelton sourdough. A huge bonus is that all the recipes are vegetarian and many are gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan.
In recent years, we Brits have gone baking mad with a consequent glut of books to feed the fad. That Sharp and Stark have managed to add something different to the mix is to be applauded. All rise for the Modern Baker.
By Andy Lynes
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Healthy Baking: Nourishing Breads, Wholesome Cakes, Ancient Grains and Bubbling Ferments
The First Mess Cookbook: Vibrant Plant-Based Recipes to Eat Well Through the Seasons
The Art of Gluten-Free Sourdough Baking
Sharon A Kane