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Sweet

A few years ago, my sister (chef to the core) introduced me to Yotam Ottolenghi. I was a little skeptical at first but bravely tried a few recipes. His shakshuka is amazing and the orange olive oil cake, steeped in syrup, defies reason. I’ve added orange juice to a ham-hock soup. And I’ve added fistfuls of freshly ground herbs to salad dressings convinced that no one will be able to eat the dressed salad, only to be stunned by the flavors.

Yotam’s recipes are magical.

And now, joy of joys, comes Yotam’s latest offering, Sweet. I love the Australian connection and I love the recipes. It’s hard to choose which ones to try. Think saffron, orange and honey madeleines; tahini and halva brownies; pistachio and rosewater semolina cake; almond butter cake with cardamom and plums; apricot and amaretto cheesecake; schiatcciata with grapes and fennel seeds; or lemon and blackcurrant stripe cake – my first attempt made with mixed berries instead (pictured above) for Christmas Day. Yotam unabashedly loves sugar, and so do I.

Getting to that picture-perfect cake wasn’t a picture-perfect affair. I’ve learned, just like running a business, that baking can be a little chaotic. What you present to the world does not necessarily reveal the missteps that got you there. The nicks and dents in the cake can be filled in with just a little extra crème patissiere to make it look perfect and smooth on the outside. There was plenty of chaos in our kitchen en-route to that little striped cake.

Still, I’m ever willing to press on. Baking and business both take practice. And the pavlova, the origin of which is a hotly contested topic between Australia and New Zealand, is calling me. Here it finds new expression. Which should I try first? The Cape gooseberry pavlova or the cinnamon pavlova with praline cream and fresh figs or the rolled pavlova with peaches and blackberries?