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Inside ‘Sweet,’ Yotam Ottolenghi’s Latest Book

The new dessert cookbook from the London-based chef and co-author Helen Goh

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Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh.
Peden + Munk

He isn’t quite the Ina Garten of cookbook authors, but when London-based chef, former pastry chef, and cafe owner Yotam Ottolenghi publishes a new cookbook, his legion of fans perk up their ears. His latest, written with his longtime pastry chef Helen Goh, is called Sweet — and its colorful and wide-ranging collection of recipes is a keeper.

As with Ottolenghi’s previous titles, recipes are written in clear, direct language, flavor pairings are bold and unexpected, and the results — whether a tray of simple cookies or a towering torte — are stunning.

Sweet is currently on offer online and in the UK everywhere books are sold. It hits stateside bookstores on October 3, and is now available for pre-order in the U.S. Here are four things to know about the new book that cooks and bakers are going to want on their shelves this fall.

1. Sweet features many recipes you won’t find on an Ottolenghi menu.

Despite the book’s subtitle, “Desserts from London’s Ottolenghi,” Goh and Ottolenghi confirm that the recipes aren’t strictly from the team’s shops and delis. “In our first meeting we started out by looking at all the desserts we had in the store,” Goh says. “And then we went back and worked from there. What might a person buying a book look for in addition to these?”

New recipes include variations on popular cafe offerings like lemon and raspberry cupcakes and strawberry and vanilla mini cakes (a childhood favorite of Ottolenghi’s). A light-as-air pineapple and star anise chiffon cake gets decorated with dried pineapple “flowers”; chocolate, rose, and walnut ice cream incorporates bits of Turkish delight; almond butter cake with cardamom and baked plums is a favorite of Goh’s; and the recipe on the U.S. cover, cinnamon pavlova with praline cream and fresh figs, is ideal for early fall.

The book’s showstopper is also new: Lemon and blackcurrant stripe cake involves rolling strips of lemon sponge around a deep pink blackcurrant buttercream so that when it’s cut, the cake layers appear vertical instead of horizontal.

2. The authors didn’t keep any secrets to themselves. These are the recipes they’d make at the shop, or at home for themselves.

Ottolenghi fans will recognize some items, which were simplified for the home kitchen: custard yo-yos (a sandwich cookie) with rhubarb icing, and Cleopatra cake moistened with olive oil, grapes, and an entire bottle of wine. “Some of the cakes we make in our shop are not really that easy to make at home,” Ottolenghi says. “The only adaptations we did were in terms of making sure that people could actually make this. So if there’s an ingredient that’s only available in a commercial kitchen, then we had to offer alternatives.”

“We were adamant that if it’s a cake that is served in the shop,” Goh says, “then it's exactly how we make it and how we serve it. We didn’t keep any information to ourselves.” The book includes exacting recipes for Ottolenghi’s popular chocolate peanut butter s’mores (photo below); rich, “take-home” chocolate cake; blackberry friands; lemon, blueberry, and almond teacakes; and deep caramel brown speculaas biscuits.

Dipping chocolate and peanut butter s’mores.

3. The pastry duo takes inspiration from everywhere. And then they “Ottolenghi-fy it.”

So what does it mean to Ottolenghi-fy a recipe? “There’s a boldness in it,” Goh says. “I think the idea of generosity, from the process of making it to the appearance to the kind of ingredients that we use, is a consistent theme. It’s a mindset to give everything we’ve got to the recipe.” For example, a Sweet recipe for pound cake acknowledges its inspiration — Cake Bible author Rose Levy Beranbaum — and then explains how the team tweaked it into a Neapolitan-style bundt marbled and flavored with chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. There’s a fruit-topped pavlova that’s cleverly rolled into a roulade.

Rolled pavlova.

“It’s about adding something that would not be predictable,” Ottolenghi says, “unpredictable in the flavors, in the texture, or in the layering of the cake or whatever it is that we’re making. It’s been an Ottolenghi trademark to add a little surprise.”

The brownie recipe in Sweet has shards of halva folded into the batter. Classic British treacle tarts are updated with the addition of crystalized sage. Lime cheesecakes (photo below), get A chiffon cake gets a pinch of star anise that Ottolenghi says is meant to be “a little bit different, a bit subversive, something people would not have necessary thought of in this particular context.”

4. Sorry Mary Berry, these two throw tradition out the window.

Ottolenghi’s Mont blanc tarts, which at the average French pastry shop look like they’re topped with a nest of brown spaghetti that’s actually chestnut cream, are instead piled high with brandy-infused whipped cream and topped with crushed candied pecans. The shop’s recipe for Victoria sponge (a traditional British dessert made from a soft yellow cake, whipped cream, and strawberry or raspberry jam) incorporates an unorthodox ingredient — white chocolate — and features fresh cut strawberries instead of the usual jam.

“The white chocolate cream is actually not a massive departure from tradition,” Ottolenghi says of his Victoria sponge. “White chocolate sweetens the cream and it also stabilizes it... it makes it a little bit richer and more substantial, but it’s not a massive departure.”

“And then you have the strawberries which are slightly acidic,” Goh adds, “and I think that the white chocolate offsets it quite beautifully.”

The team has received criticism for departing from tradition, though. “We served an Australian biscuit called the Anzac biscuit once,” Goh says with a slight chuckle. “It’s a cookie, basically, and our version was more crumbly. One customer took to Instagram to call us out about this. He clearly did not appreciate [our version].” (For those that did approve, the recipe is in the book.)

Overall, Ottolenghi’s fans know not to expect his team to follow the rules. “Sometimes people don’t like the idea that you’re messing with something they know and love,” Goh says. “But then they taste it, and I think the proof is in the pudding.”

Lime meringue cheesecakes.

Spreads courtesy of Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh (Ebury Press, £27) Photography by Peden + Munk.

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