Are you looking for a cookbook to make fabulous desserts, which take some effort, but aren’t too complicated, have some unique flavour combinations and helps you learn some new techniques? Look no further: ‘Sweet‘ (affiliate link) , by Yotam Ottolenghi is probably the book for you.
I myself bought the cookbook based on an appearance from Yotam at one of my favorite tv shows, Masterchef Australia. I really liked his way of thinking about food, which he expressed during the show. He also shares it on his website “we are very serious about making people happy through our food (…) it’s vibrant and bold yet familiar and comforting”. Instead of choosing a book because I knew the author from a blog or restaurant, I chose for philosophy which turned out perfect. Sweet is one of my favorite dessert/baking books in my cookbook collection.
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Sweet (affiliate link) is literally the ‘sweet’ cookbook in Yotam Ottolenghi’s repertoire of cookbooks. He has been publishing an astonishing number of cookbooks, about one every two years, since his first, ‘Ottolenghi’, in 2008 (we review one of his other books, Plenty, here). Most of them are savory cookbooks, where vegetables play a central theme, so this book is a little different from the others, being all about ‘sweet’ recipes.
In the introduction the title itself is discussed. They mention that they had thought of calling is ‘sugar’, due to the omnipresence of it in the book, but ended up calling it sweet.
The authors: Yotam & Helen
Yotam Ottolenghi has had a store in London for years where he and his team sell a varied assortment of savoury and sweet snacks. Apparently one of his more famous products is the meringue they sell. There are a lot more sweet snacks though, all fitting with the Ottolenghi brand, which isn’t your basic British fare but is quite inventive.
Yotam has written several of his cookbooks together with someone else. This book he wrote together with Helen Goh who had been with Ottolenghi since 2006. She was a head pastry chef in Australia before moving to London where she ended up working with Yotam Ottolenghi. Together they’ve been to numerous tastings and improvements to make this book work.
Their vision on sugar
As I mentioned in the introduction, I bought ‘Sweet’ at least partially because of Yotam’s philosophy around food. One of those aspects is how they think about sugar and ‘free from’ foods. They’re well aware that eating 3 pies a day is not good for you, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat any pie any more. Eat with consideration, know what you’re eating and enjoy it. It’s better to really enjoy a slice of something ‘less healthy’ than not at all enjoying something ‘healthy’ (which most likely will make you eat something else later in the day).
I like their common sense thinking and it also shows in their recipes. They makes recipes the way they think they taste best and if that makes a recipe gluten-free or nut-free, that’s fine, but it’s not the goal. This is honest cooking.
Design & lay-out
The book is all about sweet treats and the chapters highlight each of the different categories within the realm of sweet. There are a lot of nice and original variations on existing themes. There’s a chapter on cookies, cakes, cheesecakes, confectionery snacks and more. All the types of sweets I’d like to make are covered in the book.
The different chapters are also some sort of a necessity, it makes it easier to find the type of recipe you’re looking for, since there’s no table of contents at the start of the book. It makes you browse through the book though to find new creations. This is a must for this book since it doesn’t contain a lot of truly traditional recipes. Most recipes have a real spin on them, making them just a little different and special.
Almost all of the recipes have a beautiful phoot accompanying them. For me, at least one photo per recipe is a must in a cookbook, it will make it so much easier to know what you’re striving for. This book fits my needs well, but you won’t find step-by-step photos. The overall lay-out it very user friendly, with plenty of instructions, but also a good use of bolder fonts and white space to make recipes and the book, easy to follow.
There are over a 100 recipes and a lot of them are very original. They aren’t your basic brownies and chocolate chip cookies. Instead, the recipes are a mix of Mediterranean, English and various other cuisines. This is probably what makes the recipes so original. When going through the book the first time I already managed to tag over 10 recipes that I wanted to make (see all the white posts in the book at the top of this page…).
At first sight the recipes looked quite complex. However, since the book is so well written, the recipes are actually very do-able. The instructions are very clear and due to the clean lay-out it is very easy to go through all the steps one by one without losing track of what has to be done.
The ingredient lists can be quite long, but generally the ingredients are pretty common that you’ll be able to find either in a larger supermarket or online.
It seems that this book will keep me busy for a while and will teach me a few new skills (which is one of the main reasons to buy a cookbook isn’t it?). While making the recipes I have learned of a new way to make ice cream, added parsnip to a cake (tastes good!) and used rosemary in chocolate tarts (surprisingly delicious). It’s these new, surprising things that make the book unique and worthwhile to explore and use
Cooking/baking the book
By now I’ve cooked over 10 recipes from the book. With the exception of one (due to an ingredient replacement I made that I shouldn’t have) all worked out great. Some where reasonably easy, doable within 30 minutes of preparation. Others were a lot more extensive (the frozen espresso parfait) but came together so well. The best thing so far has been how well the flavour combinations come together.
All recipes contain quite extensive long and detailed descriptions. This may seem daunting but it makes it very easy to follow along and do exactly what you need to do.
So far (1 week after I got the book) I made one recipe from the book: a pistachio, raspberry, white chocolate roll. It’s a thin cake from pistachios and made airy through egg whites which is rolled up with a rich white chocolate cream in between and raspberry spread throughout. Even though these rolls tend to be quite fiddly, it worked out perfect! The instructions were very clear, and while making it, I realized that it was actually quite simple to do.
Sweet (affiliate link) is definitely one of my favorite cookbooks. The recipes are original, have amazingly good flavour combinations, are very doable and just work out great. That said, I wouldn’t advise the book to a beginning baker, it might be a little daunting since you won’t find a lot of your basic, traditional recipes in here. Once you have some experience (this doesn’t have to be a lot) baking you will find that this book will teach you new skills and thoughts to help you improve.
Apart from that, his philosophy, beauty of the photos and overall lay-out and structure are simply very good. If you like baking and making sweet things, this truly is an addition for your cookbook shelf!
After buying and using Sweet, we also bought Plenty, a vegetarian cookbook from Yotam and of course, we wrote a review as well.