I recently read an article in the local paper about a new book by an Oxford writer and baker: Anna Weston’s The Global Bakery. It sounded right up my street so I ordered a copy straight away.
The book doesn’t disappoint. Anna is a keen baker herself and was driven to write the book by the thought that every culture must have a favourite cake. Since she couldn’t possibly visit every country to find out for herself, she armed herself with a list and turned to the web to find out more. The result is a lovely recipe tour around the globe, with every cake tried and tested by Anna and her willing colleagues.
I haven’t tried any of the recipes yet, but I definitely will; the photos and titles alone had The Scientist and I salivating. The very first recipe, for Gateau Moelleux a l’Ananas et a la Noix de Coco (Soft Cake with Pineapple and Coconut) from the Cote d’Ivoire, will be right up there, as will the Bibingka (a coconutty cake from the Philippines), the Valmuefro Kage (Poppy Seed Cake) from Denmark and the St Lucian Banana Cake. The Scientist has put in an order for the Schwarzwaldertorte (known to most of us outside Germany as the Black Forest Gateau), but had a moment of wavering when he saw the photo on the opposite page, for a Hungarian Chocolate Mousse Cake.
One of the treats of this book though, is that it includes cakes which are very far from Western tastes, which can’t help but make the reader think again about what cake means to different people (I recently read in Martin Jones’ Feast that sharing food is a way of crafting nationhood, and we certainly see that here in the use of local ingredients and shared produce). I have to admit to not fancying the strangely pink-topped Guava Chiffon Cake from Hawaii (sorry), while the author states frankly that another pink-filled offering, the Taiawanese Sweet Potato Cake ‘didn’t meet with universal acclaim’ from her colleagues (although the basic cake apparently makes a very nice Swiss Roll)! Recipes include jaggery (a form of sugar), coconut milk, chestnut flour, guava and – yes, sweet potato (alternatives are suggested if the originals are hard to come by, although all can be found in more exotic grocery shops). Several use gluten-free flours, or are dairy free. Some are complicated while others are straightforward.
This book really will have something for everyone. I would (obviously!) have loved to know a bit more about the history and background of some of the cakes, but I’m sure they can be followed up further thanks to the marvel of the web.
You can find out more, and order it here.
(Disclaimer – I wasn’t paid to write this review or sent the book by the publisher. It really is that good!)