I received a copy of the new Ottolenghi book, Jerusalem, soon after publication, and within a couple of hours I was hooked. I knew this was a book that needed to live in my kitchen for easy, frequent access, as opposed to the rest of my ever expanding collection which reside in bookcases upstairs.
Jerusalem is jam packed with gorgeous recipes, stunning photography and lovely notes on the history and culture of Israel through a culinary context. It is indeed a beautiful book; the cover is printed fabric - it's a lovely touch, though do I worry I'll get dirty in the kitchen.
I've cooked several recipes from Jerusalem but one that has become a firm favourite amongst my sweet toothed family and friends is the Chocolate Krantz Cake. I will warn you, it is one of the longest recipes in the book, but it is not difficult and does not require a great deal of technical skill. It is time consuming and a bit of 'a faff' but great fun all the same. And, the end results make it all worthwhile anyhow, plus the feeling of accomplishment is hard to beat. In fact, it’s impossible to remain modest; ah go on gloat a little.
I have a bit of a 'thing' about baking with yeast. It's a kind of culinary magic which I can't help but be taken in by each time I see it, even though I am now much more understanding of the science behind this so called 'magic trick'. Sweet yeasted baking takes this to the next level. Sweet, pillow-y soft chewy dough, what is there not to love? Not unusually the Krantz dough is made with plain flour, in a similar way to brioche. This is a common theme in sweet baking as it keeps the dough slightly softer and more tender, due to the lower gluten content.
What is surprising is that the dough barely rises when proving and doesn't greatly expand when you bake it. After baking the loaf is drenched with what seems like a vat of sugar syrup, filling most of the crumb. It's dense and sticky, very rich, filled with nuts and bitter-sweet chocolate. It is not a sweet bread, yet it is not cake. Krantz is in a category of it's own and that my friends can only be considered a wonderful thing indeed. As always, I just had to experiment. I made only half the chocolate filling and used that to fill one 'loaf' as directed. With the other half of the dough I filled it with some organic almond butter and some slivered almonds. This resulted in a slightly more 'savoury' feeling dough - perfect, we found for breakfasts or a mid morning pick me up.
Go on, get thee to the kitchen and get your bake on!