Well, the first thing you should know about this book is that I will not be putting it on my kitchen shelves. No, it stays right on the counter. Next to the flour and sugar. Next to the light we use to soften butter. I want Bourke Street Bakery: All Sweet Things immediately at hand any time I have a craving for something sweet: cakes, muffins, cookies, biscuits, sweet pastry dough, tarts, sweet pies, puff pastries, choux pastries, croissant pastries, brioche, or just plain sweet bread.
Yes, those are the chapters in this intense, beautiful and important new baking book. Authors Paul Allam and David McGuiness began with one bakery in Australia in 2004. They now have eleven there and that is testament to their quality and meticulous attention to every aspect of baking.
This is a book for all of us because you really can do any of the recipes here. Some are relatively easy, some may put a bead of sweat on your brow if you’ve never assembled almond dacquoise, hazelnut dacquoise, and buttercream before:
That’s the Layered Almond and Hazelnut Meringue Cream Cake. This might take me two days to complete, with one day for all the components before the final assembly. But, you and I can both do this recipe. In this sense, Bourke Street Bakery is a match for any of the upscale baking books in recent years [like Patisserie by William and Suzue Curley]. Here again, the authors begn with recipes for the basics, like buttercream, and then lead you carefully to success. Dessert here can be a “construction” project where cake, creams, and fillings are happily crafted into a grand finale.
Or it can all be quite simple, but still magnificent. Consider this Flourless Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut Cake:
It’s striking. Yes, the photo stylist was superb here and the lighting and shadowing are superior. But, look right at that cake. It is made with just 6 ingredients: chocolate, butter, sesame seeds, hazelnut flour, eggs, and sugar. It’s easy to make. Dense, dark, and delicious. It’s a recipe from Piedmont and is one of the many recipes from around the world that appear in this book. The authors have fifty years of combined experience in the kitchen and they both know and love their sweets.
There are to be sure Australian recipes. Here is the iconic Lamington, a cookie with roots in both England and Australia:
It’s a sponge cake with a middle layer of blackberry jam. Perfectly British. Then finished with a raspberry-cocoa-and-sugar water dip and coated with dried coconut. Perfectly Australian.
Australia does not have bears, as my native Oregon does. I grew up on Bear Claws, a rich, sprawling pastry with nuts and cinnamon. In Australia, the bear claws are made with chocolate and this book has an entire series of photos to guide you in claw creation:
That’s the last step before baking. Look again at that dough. Rich, pillowy, and promising flavor. From the detailed recipe to produce that dough, you know the promised will be fulfilled.
Bourke Street Bakery: All Things Sweet is one of the most beautifully photographed cookbooks ever produced. And the photos do more than seduce. Like that last one, the photos are often key in educating you about how to achieve recipe success.
If you are looking for a cookbook gift this season, this book is a great solution. You should gift yourself, too, of course. Bourke Street Bakery is easily one of the 10 Best Cookbooks of 2018. Easily.
Oh, soon there will be a 12th Bourke Street Bakery. Right here in Manhattan. Just 3 miles from where I live. I go by weekly to see the progress. Like any construction, it’s going a little slow. I nod to the workers and always say the same thing: “Hurry up.”
Course, now they don’t have to hurry. I have the book. I even know just where the book is. On the counter. Next to the flour and sugar. Next to the light we used to soften butter. A book to be used throughout every week.