Nearly two years after immersing myself in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child, and cooking many dozen delicious and beautiful dishes and desserts, I received as Christmas gifts two new baking cookbooks, which I had been not-so-secretly coveting. The first is Baking with Mary Berry. The second is Paul Hollywood’s 100 Great Breads. You may recognize both names from The Great British Baking Show, to which my daughters introduced me a few years ago. We have watched, with pleasure and intimidation, Great Britain’s expert amateur bakers, glad the hosts’ withering critiques were not aimed at us. With no judges but myself and my admiring parents, I spent January making several recipes a week. Hollywood’s first bread recipe is for a “wheat sheaf loaf.” He promised if I can bake that, I can bake anything in his book. Well, I did succeed in making a beautiful loaf. (Beware: cut the insane volume of salt by at least half.) Each of Mary’s recipes fits on a single page, faced with gorgeous photos. They have all turned out wonderfully so far: magic lemon pudding cake; magic chocolate pudding cake; white chocolate muffins with strawberry jam centers; double chocolate muffins; French pancakes; and, oat-butter-crunch “flapjack” bars (nothing like American pancakes). But the most beautiful so far is her orange-chocolate mousse cake, which I offered at Hyrum’s birthday. I heard on National Public Radio that millions of people have taken up the baking hobby due to Covid pandemic cabin-fever isolation. For me, the motivation is different. I love the metamorphic magic of taking an assortment of powders and liquids and combining them to create an edible work of art. Not to mix metaphors, I consider each recipe as a treasure map, some harder to follow than others, but all leading eventually to an unexpectedly delightful treasure. I hope I my cartographic talent is steadily growing. Mom and Dad are happy for me to practice on them.
Mary Berry’s Orange-Chocolate Mousse Cake
Paul Hollywood’s Wheat Sheaf Loaf