When Benjamina Ebuehi spoke these simple words – “just for the fun of it”– during a recent online talk hosted by The Book Larder (watch here), she summed up the reason to bake from her books. To be grateful for and take joy from the act of baking and creating moments for yourself and for others. In her latest book, A Good Day to Bake, Ebuehi offers more recipes that celebrate flavour and gives home bakers further ways to bring calm into their kitchens. In her Introduction she says: “It can be so easy to get lost and caught up in the rhythms of the week, but let the kitchen — however big or small — be a space in which you let loose, slow down and are present.”(9)
When I bought a copy of her first book, The New Way to Cake, I found that, “[w]hile being exceptionally flavourful, these bakes feel steadfast and comforting.”(read review here) Ebuehi takes time to develop recipes that are delicious and perfectly textured. It is almost impossible to think that even though I utterly adore The New Way to Cake, A Good Day to Bake is a “forever favourite” for me (I use this term to refer to the books a person will carry with them across their life into old age). This may be since savoury baking recipes have been included this time and, I’ve found that this book is a great source of brunch/lunch/snack inspiration. Within the first week of this book coming into my hands, I baked a half dozen recipes! None of the recipes are fussy or difficult, and they all make excellent use of pantry staples (this wasn’t a book that I found I needed to shop for extra ingredients).
The book is organized into 6 chapters: 1) herbs & tea, 2) stone fruit & berries, 3) vegetables, 4) best of beige, 5) spice cupboard, and 6) chocolate. Many of the themes present in her first book, continue in her current book — she makes beautiful use of teas and tisanes to bring flavour to her recipes, as is the case with the spices she applies so skillfully when building flavours. Recipes aside, I enjoy reading about how Ebuehi’s experiences lend inspiration to her bakes. It’s clear that she’s looking to share the “therapeutic and comforting” nature of baking with her readers. I found myself leaning into those beautiful, fleeting moments — when the dough comes together feeling silky-smooth after kneading or when a bake is on the verge of being ready to emerge from the oven and the baking scents are wafting through the house. It’s not always about the result, because Ebuehi encourages us to enjoy the moments of calm along the way.
While we’ve loved all the bakes from A Good Day to Bake, one of the favourites is the Smoked Paprika & Halloumi Flatbreads. The smoked paprika is bloomed in melted, foamy butter, and once it’s cooled, it gets added to the dough (which is made mainly from flour, yogurt, warm water, and yeast). When the dough is puffed up and ready, a small round of dough is filled with grated halloumi, then rolled out into a 6″ circle. The flatbreads are fried then served with a side of garlicky tomato salsa. I made these for lunch one Sunday and my daughter insisted on saving one so that she could take it in her lunch the next day. The smoked paprika adds both flavour and colour to the flatbreads. Don’t make my mistake and only make one batch — double (or even triple!!) it so that there is plenty!
Even as I finished writing that last paragraph, I think on all the other bready bakes I made from the book, and they are equally as good as the flatbreads. If my husband had his way, he would have our kitchen devoted to churning out the Chive, Tarragon & Dill Twists (a delicious take on the Turkish simit) and for me, I could enjoy a whole tray of Spring Onion & Comté Buns all on my own. I’m not sure if it’s the combination of Marmite, cream cheese, and comté in the filling or the addition of the finely sliced spring onions but these buns are supremely delicious! We enjoyed them with soup, but I also liked having the leftover buns with my morning coffee.
Speaking of enjoying a morning coffee, one of the best breakfast recipes from the book is the Spiced Bread & Butter Pudding w/ Saffron & Dates! While the recipe is not really meant as a breakfast recipe, I found myself making this one Saturday morning. Milk and cream are steeped with saffron, ginger, and cardamom, which is then used to make a lovely saffron custard. Croissants are sliced in half horizontally, then layered in a baking dish with the custard and roughly chopped dates. Turbinado sugar is sprinkled over the top, which then caramelizes as it bakes and creates a crispness to the tops of the croissants, while the insides are soft and custardy. The fragrance the pudding creates as it bakes is unreal! Such a great use of slightly stale croissants, I’ve got this recipe earmarked as something to make for Easter brunch next month.
For those wondering about the other sweet bakes in the book — don’t fear! Ebuehi has created a whole new set of recipes to fall in love with. Sweet and savoury recipes are offered in perfect balance. While I’m not a big fan of white chocolate, it’s perfection when paired with miso as Ebuehi demonstrates in the recipe for Miso & White Chocolate Cookies. Miso and white chocolate seem to be such opposites as ingredients — one with its salty-umaminess, the other with its creamy sweetness — but I think it’s their diametric opposition that make them the perfect pair as Ebuehi has shown us in this recipe. I appreciate that she offers the choice to bakers — bake 10 big cookies or 16 smaller-sized ones. While the larger cookies are deeply satisfying, my daughter pointed out that if we made 16 smaller cookies, they would last longer (Katie is ever the optimist!) — so we made both! 5 large cookies along with 8 smaller cookies. Great as an afternoon treat with a glass of milk or cup of coffee.
A Good Day to Bake would make a wonderful (and essential) addition to any cookbook library. The recipes are beautifully photographed by Laura Edwards (if you’re unfamiliar with her work, I urge you to check out Aran, From the Oven to the Table, or Dinner in French!) Edwards is one of my favourite food photographers and she does such a wonderful job of capturing Ebuehi’s work. This is a book you’ll want to bake through — even though my review is done, I have a long list of bakes I still want to try. With Pi(e) Day around the corner (March 14th), I’ve got my eye on the recipe for Potato & Cauliflower Curry Pie and since my daughter will be off on her spring break, we have plans to try Ebuehi’s Sour Cream Sage Doughnuts (which were inspired by the old-fashioned sour cream glazed doughnuts Ebuehi enjoyed as an exchange student here in Canada! So how could we resist a nod to our beloved Timmie’s??). With such approachable, delicious recipes I agree with Ebuehi — “every day is a good day to bake.”(9)
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Raincoast Books and Quadrille for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.