I also try to support the bookstore and buy something whenever they do have an event, so I purchased this cookbook. As I was driving home I did contemplate how wise that was given that I really didn't know much about Kate Bracks, but having now spent time going through the cookbook a couple of times, I don't think it is a purchase that I will regret.
Kate was incredibly generous with her time. We (being Bree and I) spend a lot of time talking to us about several topics. One was getting your kids involved in cooking which was clearly something that she is passionate about. Our kids are at different stages but I talked bout the little chef and the fact that he loves to cook things but not necessarily to try the things he cooks (except what he cooks at school apparently) and Bree talked about engaging her younger children. We also talked about the process she went through when creating the cookbook which was actually really fascinating to listen to. She had roughly organised the chapters, tested the recipes repeatedly until she was happy with them, then sending the recipes off to friends/volunteers who tried the recipes to see if the instructions were clear and then to a professional recipe editor - who knew there was such a thing?
One of the other things we touched on was her future plans include her website which will include a kids club section with recipe videos which sounds fantastic as the little chef and I like to sit down and look at cooking videos together. At this stage the website isn't up yet, but I am looking forward to when it is!
In this video, Kate talks about the cookbook including some of her family's favourite recipes from the book.
I should probably talk about the book itself which focuses on sweet treats of all types, hence the title The Sweet Life. There has clearly been a lot of thought put into how to put this book together. There are nine chapters touching on different techniques: syrups and sauces, meringues, custards and sabayons, ice creams and sorbets, frozen desserts, gelatine, pastry, cakes and puddings and baked treats. Each chapter is then broken into two parts. There are the basics and then beyond the basics. For example, in the gelatine chapter the basics includes recipes for Strawberry Mousse, Blackcurrant Jelly and Earl Grey Panna Cotta and then in beyond the basics there is Turkish Delight, Plum and Red Wine Mousse and Mango Panna Cotta with Orange Blossom Jelly.
Every recipe has been photographed (which I love in a cookbook), many of them includes suggestions for variations and the other thing that I love is that each recipe has been given a visual rating as to how difficult it is to make. If the recipe has one spoon, then the recipe should be "simple and relatively quick to master" ranging through to a four spoon recipe which is for "the avid home cook who wants a bit more of a challenge". The other thing that I was really impressed by is that, in addition to your normal recipe index, there is also a page that specifically lists which recipes are suitable for those that deal with food intolerances which is a great idea!
The final chapter in the book brings together all the techniques in the book and gives us some of those four spoon recipes that would be at home in a restaurant; Chocolate Terrine with Spiced Praline, Mandarin Oil and Creme Fraiche (yum), Buttered Popcorn Ice Cream with Bitter Caramel and Salted Almond Crumb and Raspberry and Hazelnut Tarts with Poached Meringue and Frangelico Syrup! Yum! I don't think I would be making any of these recipes any time soon but they are very pretty to look at.
There are however lots of other recipes that I could see myself making ranging from Bung in Chocolate Cake, Baked Honey and Rosemary Apples, Little Lime Meringue Pies, Blueberry Croissant Pudding, Lime Curd and Coconut Slice, Raspberry and White Chocolate Puddings and.....well, lots more. If the little chef didn't have a hazelnut allergy I would be making Embarrassingly Simple Chocolate Hazelnut Pastries all the time!
Today though, I am making Little Lemon Syrup Cakes, so I am including the recipe for that below.
In my experience there are a couple of different types of cookbooks. There are those that are pretty objects - gorgeous presentation, yummy looking recipes but when it comes to picking a recipe to cook they are not all that accessible. The other type is a cookbook that you can find numerous recipes that you want to cook out of. The best type though is one that combines both of these, and I would think that this book is one that I will cook out of time and time again!
Lemon Syrup CakesPrep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 20-25 minutes
Cakes125g butter, at room temperature, chopped
165g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
185g (1 1/4 cups) self raising flour
Pinch of salt
80ml (1/3 cup) fresh lemon juice
80ml (1/3 cup) fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest, optional
110g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
- Preheat the over to 170 celsius. Grease and flour 8 holes of large (1/2 cup capacity) muffin tins and line the bases with a small round of baking paper (Alternatively you can line the tin with paper muffin cases.)
- Use electric beaters to cream together the butter, sugar and zest until pale. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flour and salt, followed by the lemon juice.
- Divide evenly among the muffin tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of a cake cakes out clean.
- Meanwhile, to make the syrup, combine the lemon juice, zest and sugar in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat without boiling until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat until medium and simmer for 1 minute.
- As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, loosen them from the edge of the tin. Prick them with with a skewer all over and then spoon the syrup evenly over each cake (you may not use up all the syrup).
- All the cakes to cool for 5-10 minutes in the tin, then transfer to a wire rack, discarding the small round of baking paper.