Golden: Sweet & Savory Baked Delights from the Ovens of London's Honey & Co.

Image of Golden: Sweet & Savory Baked Delights from the Ovens of London's Honey & Co.
Release Date: 
October 14, 2016
Little, Brown & Company
Reviewed by: 

To open the pages of Golden is to be immediately confronted with a dilemma: Keep reading or race to the kitchen?

This flavorful page-turner, written with a warm, light touch by husband and wife Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer, quickly follows the couple’s 2015 award-winning memoir. The recipes, from their 10-table, highly acclaimed four-year-old London café, and brief accompanying stories, take a conversational style to walk a baker through the steps with ease.

Srulovich and Packer’s Middle Eastern food, based on their Israeli upbringing and influenced by Packer’s stint as head of pastry for Yotam Ottolenghi, brings in spices that taste simultaneously familiar and exotic to American palates. Try, for example, the familiar—cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon—perked up with cardamom, fennel, and mahleb seeds in their sweet spice mix, great in little brandy-soaked spice cakes or kadaif baklava with almonds and dried sour cherries.

The book may require a visit to a well-stocked Mediterranean grocery or some online shopping, for such items as those mahleb seeds, date molasses, dried rose petals, and elderflower cordial, but that’s part of the fun for these recipes. Cooks who don’t already own a scale will also need to spend a bit of money, as the recipes go by weight alone.

After a useful opening section of baking and ingredient tips, the authors kick off the day-in-the-life chapter arrangement with “dead of night” base recipes to stock your cupboard, including a terrific section of simple, relatively quick jams (each recipe includes a prep time estimate). Orange marmalade takes a turn with cardamom and thyme; whole-lemon marmalade is perfect for cooks who don’t want to spend time with fussy knife work: Boil whole lemons or oranges till soft, blitz them in a processor, and cook with sugar and water into a sweet jam. Crystallized coconut strips, preserved apricots, flavored sugars, and spice mixes set readers up for the next chapters’ full “day” of cooking and baking.

“First light” brings sweet buns, puddings, cereals, eggs, and savory pastries, including what they term “three strange Yemeni breads.” The tested Fitzrovia buns, named for the restaurant’s London neighborhood, feature a sweet roll dough bursting with brown sugar, mahleb, pistachios, and dried cherries. After baking, they get topped with sugar syrup, which does keep the delicious buns moist, but also pushes them over a line into sticky-sweet. This was a problem in a few tested recipes, such as a chocolate-hazelnut babka that also got coated with sugar syrup; the results seemed just too much—too sweet, too rich—but easily corrected for a subdued sweet tooth.

Mid-morning elevenses bring more sweet breads—ginger and date cake, fig, orange, and walnut loaf, apple cake with lemon and chocolate, super-moist zucchini, golden raisin and pistachio cake, and a few savory-leaning baked goods, such as the salty-sweet, crisp oat, hazelnut and currant biscuits (cookies) that were delicious on a cheese plate.

For high noon, the recipes focus on savory pastries, and then we’re quickly back to teatime sweets—cakes, cookies, and cheesecakes. Working through this chapter will take a happy while; try the chocolate-pistachio cookies (rich and moist-verging-on-gooey if you take care not to overbake), and the lemon drizzle cake flavored with elderflower cordial and using that whole-lemon marmalade. To cover a sunken top, the authors recommend a mascarpone icing, but the cake, moist and strong with lemon, tastes delicious on its own with a simple dollop of whipped cream, if less than gorgeous.

Skipping right past their mention of dinner, the authors zip from teatime to after dark, with traditional desserts, and on to after-dinner treats. Don’t miss the flourless chocolate, coffee, and cardamom cake (quick, though it requires an overnight chill, and a bit tricky on first try to tell when baked just enough), and the almond crescent cookies (kourabiedes), again featuring mahleb. Or maybe you will miss them—but only because there are too many other temptations to try first.