Afternoon Tea At Bramble Cafe
by Mat Follas (Ryland, Peters & Small, £16.99)
'These are tried and true recipes,' says Mat Follas.
'They are the same cakes and biscuits we serve in the cafe, the same jam that's here on the shelf in front of me. You can find recipes for many of them elsewhere, but these are the ones I use, the ones I've tweaked and adapted. They're my own versions.'
This collection from former MasterChef winner Follas - now the chef-patron of Bramble Cafe & Deli in Poundbury, Dorset - does, indeed, read like a roll call of classic baking recipes: lemon drizzle, banana bread, Victoria sandwich, sticky gingerbread, cheesecakes, treacle tarts, shortbread and profiteroles. Even rice crispy squares.
They may look familiar, but each is shot through with Follas's hard-won understanding of his craft.
'I bake at a low temperature,' he says. 'I've only got a couple of domestic ovens in the cafe and if you open the door of a 180°C oven, it will drop to 140-150°C and your cakes will crash. So I bake at 140°C. More margin for error.'
Follas's favourite recipe, his chocolate brownies, exemplifies his restless approach. 'I started with a really good brownie recipe from New Zealand,' he says. He grew up there before moving to the UK in his twenties. 'It's one I had in a notebook from 30, 40 years ago, then developed it. I've taken ingredients out, so now
it contains fewer ingredients and tastes better.'
The result of this experimentation is an amiable and sensible collection of classic recipes that never seeks to daunt readers with technical wizardry but whose comprehensive scope makes it, quite possibly, the only baking book you'd ever need - whether you're a home baker or budding cafe owner.
'Back when we were opening the cafe, I struggled to find a book with 50 basic cake recipes,' says Follas. 'But now, if you wanted to open your own, without meaning to sound bigheaded, my book will get you up and running for your first six months quite happily.'