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The Violet Bakery Cookbook Hardcover – September 29, 2015
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"Unlike so many baking and pastry books, which are merely eye candy, this one includes nourishing and intriguing recipes like Loganberry and Geranium Jam; Sweet Potato, Coconut, Date and Rye Muffins; and Roasted Quince. Its homespun aesthetic will make this a fixture on your kitchen counter." —Georgia Pellegrini, The Wall Street Journal
"While the recipes in her book are unusual and inventive, they’re also incredibly tasty." —Cree LeFavor, New York Times
"Violet Bakery promises to be a doozy: at her uber-popular London bakery, pastry chef Claire Ptak serves up all the beautiful cakes and biscuits anyone could ask for." —Paula Forbes, Epicurious
"Pastry Chef Claire Ptak has hit the nail on the head with her London bakery serving up delightful treats that have garnered a cult following (in that ever so civilized British way) in the UK and beyond." —Meghan Markle, The Tig
"Ms. Ptak, a pastry chef who once worked at Chez Panisse, applies a modern, seasonal and decidedly Californian sensibility to the proper British baked goods in her London bakery. [...] They are just the kind of intriguing yet unfussy sweets I can see making all year long as the different ingredients come in and out of season." —Melissa Clark, New York Times
"Claire is one of my all-time favorite cake-makers, and all her baking is seasonal, beautiful, achievable, real, and of course, totally delicious.” —Jamie Oliver
“A work of beauty. These gorgeous recipes are lovely and nourishing—you’ll want to stay home baking all day.” —April Bloomfield
"...I found Claire Ptak's new book, The Violet Bakery Cookbook, to be a breath of fresh air. Claire's philosophy? Flavor first, without exception. Yes, she offers recipes that are gluten-free, vegan, and made with foraged ingredients, but her book doesn't fit any one of these schools of thought. Claire bakes for flavor." —Meredith Swinehart, Gardenista
About the Author
CLAIRE PTAK, a California Native, worked as a pastry chef for Alice Waters at Chez Panisse before moving to London. She staged in restaurants including Moro and St. John before starting Violet, her cake stall on Broadway Market. Claire opened the Violet bakery in 2010. Claire is also a food writer and stylist whose work includes Ottolenghi’s Guardian column, as well as writing for Observer Food Monthly, Jamie Magazine, Kinfolk, and Vogue. She has written three cookbooks.
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The first recipe I tried was the caramel shards used in the Butterscotch Blondies. Working with sugar is difficult and the book calls for no candy thermometer. One recipe went acrid and burned within seconds - the instructions urged taking the sugar to very dark territory which I eventually had to abandon to end up with an edible batch. The blondies themselves went off without a hitch and were definitely delicious.
Next, I made the caramel sauce in preparation for making the Devil's Food cake with Salted Caramel Icing (more on this later). I have a lot of experience in baking, including sugar work with thermometers, but had never made caramel. Everything was going well sans thermometer until I followed - to a T - the instruction to add the hot cream "immediately" to the sugar mixture once it reached done. D I S A S T E R. I didn't know that the entire thing would bubble over and nearly explode in my face - keep in mind, the heat is off but the sugar - hotter than boiling water - retains a huge amount of heat and cooked the cream into an explosive bubbling mess that was all over my stovetop. The batch was completely derailed but I had enough time (and materials) to try again... so I did and then S L O W L Y added the cream bit by bit to the hot sugar as I incorporated it to create a smooth, explosion-free caramel. Success in the end but after MAJOR WTF moment / half an hour cleaning the stove.
At this point I was pretty pissed but I figured as the blondies had been great, maybe it was just the sugar work pieces of the book that lacked proper instructions. Wrong.
In preparation for a party I'm hosting tomorrow, I've just finished making the Devil's Food Cake - per the book - the night before, so the "crumb has a chance to settle." I'm seriously having the hugest WTF moment right now after taking the cake out of the oven and finding a completely collapsed center. Trust I followed directions exactly and have never in my nearly 20 years of baking EVER produced a failed / fallen cake. The center failed to rise on the cake leaving an inverted dome shape at the center. Dude... this was like, going to be the centerpiece of my party tomorrow? I looked into reasons cakes fail to rise (ironically even in years of baking many gluten-free recipes, I've never had this problem) and one major reason is low temperature. Weirdly, the book calls for cooking this cake at 320 F. I doubted it but went ahead with following the directions exactly. I've put the cake back in at 350 and am hoping to achieve some puff in the center but not feeling that's likely at all. I'd already cooked the cake for well over the upper limit of the recommended time. I know my oven and 2-5 minutes on top of the upper limit of recommended time is standard for baked perfection - this cake already baked far more than that and still failed to rise.
If you check the Amazon.co.uk reviews of this book, you'll find a negative review with a string of comments attached where other bakers also struggled with the Devil's Food Cake recipe and had the exact issues I did. I don't think that could be a coincidence.
Seriously disappointed and it bums me out to even write this review as after all of this, I'm still a fan of Claire. I love her styling and the treats at Violet are so good. But as a veteran cook and baker who has never struggled too much with the craft, to experience epic failures so far on three recipes out of four is terrifying / leads me to want to sell this book only a month after having gotten it. SAD!
I've only tried one recipe so far, but it came out so good that I had to come here and give the book a five star review. The Chewy Ginger Snaps. I made them exactly according to the recipe, and they came out looking exactly like the picture. And they are SO GOOD. Not too sweet, complex spice flavor, and chewy. Looking forward to trying more recipes once we eat all these cookies.
The recipes here are presented in both weight and volume, which I appreciate since I prefer to use my kitchen scale when baking.