In case you’ve managed to miss it so far, this week is National Baking Week. The nation seems to have gone crazy for baking recently, with lots of baking programmes on TV and a whole array of new and very beautiful baking bibles to add to our collections. When Leon Baking & Puddings published by Octopus Books landed on my door mat I knew I was in for a treat.
Who wrote it?
The co-authors of this book are Claire Ptak and Henry Dimbleby. The book is very much a collaboration between the two of them, with recipes from them both. Claire used to be a pastry chef at Chez Panisse in California and now runs her own bakery in East London, called Violet. Henry co-founded the Leon chain of restaurants (along with John Vincent and Allegra McEvedy) in 2004 – with the aim of changing the face of fast food. PLEASE OPEN A LEON RESTAURANT IN ST ALBANS!
This is the third book in the Leon series. Allegra McEvedy wrote the first Leon book - Leon: Ingredients. Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent wrote the second Leon book – Leon: Naturally Fast Food and now Henry and Claire Ptak have written the third one together – Leon Baking & Puddings.
What makes it stand out?
For me, the big theme in this book is sweet treats with a healthy twist with over three-quarters of the recipes in the book being sugar, dairy, wheat or gluten free. The book opens with a Guide to Baking Ingredients, with an explanation of the different types of flours, including traditional wheat flour, spelt, gluten-free flour and gram (dried chick pea) flour, as well a guide to fats, sugars and sweeteners including healthier alternatives such as agave nectar and stevia. There is also a section on Tools, Tips and Techniques, covering everything from basic tools to advanced tools, handy conversion charts as well as advice on eggs, a comparison on creams, basic (non-scary) pastry recipes and a section on baking with alternatives.
Leon Baking & Puddings follows the same principle as the first two books and echos the ’vision’ of their restaurants which is that what tastes good can also do you good. Through their restaurants, Leon have sought to change the way that fast food is ‘done’ - they use seasonal ingredients, olive oil and herbs and spices, they use meat from farms they trust and incorporate naturally low GI foods. They don’t shy away from sweet treats, but they do use good quality ingredients – Valrhona chocolate in their brownies, fruit sugar in place or ordinary sugar and ground almonds in place of flour and examples of this can be very much seen throughout the book.
Photo Credit: Georgia Glynn Smith
Leon Pecan Pie – Wheat Free, Gluten Free
As mentioned, the introduction is long with a thorough explanation of techniques and ingredients. The book is then divided into two main sections – Part One – Every Day and Part Two Celebration:
Part One: Everyday
- Power Snacks
- Tea Time
- Puds – too many good ones to mention
- Cooking with Children – a lovely selection
- Bread & Yeast
Part Two: Celebration
- St George’s Day
- Mother’s Day
- Father’s Day – includes Desperate Dan Pie!
- Wimbledon – very cool
- Halloween – great spooky biscuits
- Bonfire Night
- Valentine’s Day
- Wakes – new one for me!
- Extra Helpings – includes Leon Salted Caramel Banana Split – too yummy!
This book is really, really well thought out with recipes for every occasion. The recipes are not in any way daunting and you really get the feel that you could pretty much give any recipe a go and come out with a satisfying result. I like the fact that there is a little stamp on each recipe telling you who tested it (real people v home economists) and that the steps are simple to follow. There are also very handy tips at the bottom of many of the recipes, suggesting additions or alternatives, for example -
TIPS (following the Clementine Polenta Cake)
- Wonderful served with Greek yoghurt or double cream
- You can experiment with other kids of citrus fruits in this recipe as well. It works very well with lemon.
- You can sue agave nectar instead of honey for the syrup (this would go nicely with lime juice in place of the clementines)
There are also symbols – low saturated fat, good carbs, wheat free, gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, indulgence. Then levels of confidence: beginner, medium, feeling brave.
Recipes that grabbed me:
Obviously a highly personal choice and what a surprise, many of the ones I went to first were marked ‘Indulgence!’
Hannah’s Banana Bread (Karen from Lavender & Lovage made this see her review here) – the recipe suggests wholemeal spelt flour
Leon Pecan Pie (see photo above) – the recipe is wheat free, gluten free, vegetarian, uses gluten-free plain flour
Any of the fruit recipes – lots of seasonal fruit, such as Roasted Peaches, Tart Tatin, Jossy’s Jewelled Rhubarb & Mango and Dittisham Plum Crumble.
Leon Chocolate Mouse – this has appeared in previous Leon book but it’s so good they put it in again! It uses dark chocolate, dark espresso, orange oil and fructose (less likely to give you a sugar high followed by a sugar low)
Jossy’s Lemon Pudding Delicious (see photo below) – I’ll be sharing this recipe tomorrow
S’mores – American treat in the Cooking with Children section which has some super fun recipes
Apple Crisp – I think this must be the easiest recipe in the book and my kids absolutely loved it. I loved it. It’s my new favourite recipe. It’s made with apples, sugar and cinnamon topped with stale bread torn into pieces and dipped in melted butter (I added vanilla paste to the butter) then sprinkled with sugar (and I added extra cinnamon too) and baked for half an hour. A great way to use garden apples for a quick, warming pud!
Tried at Home: Apple Crisp – My Photo
There is also a non-daunting section on making bread, including Sourdough, Gluten-free bread, Flatbread with Zatar and Pizza Dough.
The Celebration section also has lots of interesting recipes you wouldn’t automatically think of, such as Eccles Cakes for St George’s Day, Turkish Delight for Eid and there are even two recipes suitable for a wake – Irish coffee and Guinness Malt Cake – they really did think of every occasion!
What is the style/photography like?
This book is very much the type of book you’d want leave out on your kitchen side. It is hard-backed, there are photos of every recipes as well as some step-by-step photos, taken by Georgia Glynn Smith amd it has a very retro feel to it, particularly with recipes such as the Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Baked Alaska and Apple Sorbet (these were the sort of recipes in the very first book I learned to cook from - My learn to Cook Book) so there is a very nostalgic feel to the recipes. Many of the recipes are ones that have been passed down too through the family. There is definitely lots to keep non-bakers as well as experienced bakers busy.
Leon Baking and Pudding is published by Octopus Books and is priced at £20.00, currently £10.40 on Amazon - an absolute bargain for such a lovely, thick book full of brilliant family friendly recipes.
Photo Credit: Georgia Glynn Smith
Jossy’s Lemon Pudding Delicious
Many thanks to Fiona at Octopus Book for sending me this copy to review.
Look out tomorrow for an exclusive recipe from the book as well as an exciting giveway of three copies!