Food Yo­tam Ot­tolenghi’s Just Desserts

Forward Magazine - - Contents - By LIZA SCHOENFEIN

Anew book by Yo­tam Ot­tolenghi is cause for cel­e­bra­tion. And when the book in ques­tion, from the au­thor of such wildly pop­u­lar cook­books as “Plenty” and “Jerusalem,” comes out with a tome de­voted en­tirely to dessert, well, it al­most feels like we should de­clare a hol­i­day. Not a na­tional one, mind you, but one that — like the Is­raeli-born, London-based Ot­tolenghi’s recipes them­selves — spans the globe. Like most of his other books, this one, called “Sweet,” of­fers vi­brant images to ac­com­pany the recipes, along with in­ter­est­ing ori­gin sto­ries and other in­for­ma­tion, all pre­sented in Ot­tolenghi’s ex­pan­sive, en­tirely friendly voice. The book is co-writ­ten by He­len Goh, who has been cre­at­ing recipes for Ot­tolenghi’s restau­rants since 2006. To­gether they have achieved an ut­terly en­tic­ing ad­di­tion to the Ot­tolenghi oeu­vre. In a re­cent in­ter­view, Ot­tolenghi dis­cussed the book and of­fered some in­sight into the de­li­cious dessert recipes reprinted here. Sweet!

In the in­tro­duc­tion to “Sweet,” you write that dessert can “raise spir­its and cre­ate a mo­ment of pure joy.” Dur­ing such a frac­tious time in our world, can a book of con­fec­tions help spread cheer?

We be­lieve it most cer­tainly can. Bak­ing a cake or whip­ping up a home­made dessert is an act of do­mes­tic bliss, a way to put aside trou­bling thoughts, mak­ing a ges­ture which is purely pos­i­tive. Bak­ing a cake and of­fer­ing it to friends and rel­a­tives is a way of say­ing that, ba­si­cally, ev­ery­thing is just fine.

You also write that the “Ot­tolenghi way” is about abun­dance, in­clu­sion and cel­e­bra­tion. Can you speak more about that, and how it re­lates to your desserts?

When you take a look at the food coun­ters in our restau­rants and delis, or peek through our books, you see a world which is di­verse — with in­flu­ences rang­ing from the Mid­dle East to Europe to North Africa to South Asia to the Amer­i­cas — and clearly gen­er­ous: big plat­ters piled up with lots of vi­brant veg­eta­bles and sprin­kled with fresh herbs; moun­tains of gi­ant meringue balls dusted with co­coa; an ar­ray of cakes and con­fec­tionary de­lights. This rich­ness is a re­flec­tion of the spirit of Ot­tolenghi also be­hind the scenes.

Which recipes in the book, if any, are in­flu­enced by your child­hood grow­ing up in Jerusalem? Which would you say have the fla­vors of Israel and the Mid­dle East?

The tahini and hal­vah brown­ies are an ob­vi­ous one. I grew up with sesame seeds both in sweet and sa­vory con­texts. I don’t know many Is­raeli cooks these days who can do with­out tahini. It’s our olive oil. Per­sian love cakes, made with ma­haleb [cher­ries], al­monds and yogurt, are not some­thing I had grow­ing up per se, but they are cer­tainly rem­i­nis­cent of the sort of fla­vors I had as a kid grow­ing up in Jerusalem.

Tell me about the recipe called ‘notquite-Bon­nie’s rugelach.’

I al­ways loved rugelach, by which I mean the Is­raeli kind, made with yeasted dough and lam­i­nated with choco­late or cin­na­mon, a bit like a mini babka. When I started com­ing to North Amer­ica on book tours, Bon­nie Stern got me hooked on her ru­galach, which are of the kind more com­mon in North Amer­ica, made with short, flaky pas­try. I couldn’t get enough of them, so I asked Bon­nie for the recipe and she was gen­er­ous enough to give it to me. We made a few ad­just­ments, but, es­sen­tially, we stuck to her win­ning for­mula.

We’re run­ning the recipe for the black­berry and star anise friands. What is a friand, ex­actly? Is there any­thing

Dur­ing such a frac­tious time, can a book of con­fec­tions help spread cheer?

Black­berry friands, lit­tle French cakes, are ex­ceed­ingly de­li­cious and pretty easy to make.

our read­ers should know about this recipe be­fore at­tempt­ing it?

Friands are lit­tle French cakes made with ground al­monds and lots of brown but­ter. They are slightly chewy on the out­side and de­li­ciously rich and soft on the in­side. Their rich­ness is of­ten bal­anced with fresh or cooked fruit. They are ex­ceed­ingly de­li­cious, pretty easy to make — just make sure you don’t go too far with the but­ter when “burn­ing” it — and great both iced and un-iced.

Roma’s dough­nuts with saf­fron cus­tard cream would be great at Hanukkah, yes? Isn’t this recipe based on one for suf­ganiyot, or Is­raeli-style jelly dough­nuts?

In­deed. He­len’s [the book’s co-au­thor’s] mother-in-law, Roma Kaus­man, found this recipe in the Jerusalem Post in 1973 and has been us­ing it ev­ery Hanukkah since. We adapted it a bit — no saf­fron cream in the orig­i­nal suf­ganiyot, ob­vi­ously — but it is a great ba­sic recipe, which can be used with jam or just served plain. They are sen­sa­tional!

There’s an en­tire chap­ter de­voted to cheese­cakes! For New York Jews, cheese­cake is a sta­ple. Which is your fa­vorite? Why a whole chap­ter?

We both adore cheese­cakes and so do our cus­tomers. Cheese­cakes are a won­der­ful blank can­vas on which you can fea­ture the fla­vors of the sea­son: cit­rus in win­ter, straw­ber­ries in the height of sum­mer, nuts in au­tumn, cran­ber­ries in De­cem­ber, choco­late all year round. The op­tions are end­less, re­ally. To choose one fa­vorite is ex­cru­ci­at­ing. If I must, I’d go for the rather un­usual baked ri­cotta and hazel­nut cake, an Ital­ian-style cheese­cake, with choco­late driz­zled on top.

We are also run­ning the recipe for the cin­na­mon pavlova with pra­line cream and fresh figs on our web­site. Can other fruit be sub­sti­tuted once figs are gone from the mar­ket?

This is an un­usual pavlova be­cause the meringue is made with brown su­gar, which makes it re­ally chewy, but in the best pos­si­ble way. It’s such a cel­e­bra­tion of fla­vors: cin­na­mon, brown su­gar, figs, nuts. I can have it ev­ery day. If you can’t get figs, poached or raw pears would work pretty well here, too.

SWEET By Yo­tam Ot­tolenghi & He­len Goh Ten Speed Press, 368 pages, $35

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.