Hopefully your turkey comas have subsided and now you’re ready to start thinking about Christmas! No really, after Thanksgiving, I legitimately took a three-hour nap because of all the tryptophan (even though Snopes says this is #fakenews, I fell asleep almost immediately after shoveling down a generous portion of pumpkin pie…so it was either the turkey, or an early-onset of finals fatigue, and I’d like to blame the food instead of my lack of preparations thus-far for my impending exams in a week or two).
Turkey talk aside, I’ve got a new book review and it’s a good one for the holidays! In The Tivoli Road Baker, Michael James takes readers down under to an eponymous Melbourne bakery, where the all-butter croissants and danishes are served straight out of the oven. The cakes on the display counter are drizzled with homemade syrups and frostings – not the kind of confectionary finds you quickly pass over at the grocery store.
Can we talk about the bread for a moment? If you’ve ever had fresh, homemade bread, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The heat just pipes through the loaf or roll as you carefully tear it apart – a little crunch on the outside, a lot of fluff on the inside (the perfect bread composition, if you ask me). This book celebrates a small but mighty Australian bakery and in these pages, shares with you exactly how these mouth-watering morsels are made (and can be replicated in comfort of your own kitchen).
I should forewarn you that I definitely took good bread for grated at a restaurant, as many of these recipes are not for the faint of heart (or rather, you’ll have to be patient for some recipes to rise/set/you can’t make the butteriest croissant in under an hour…you’ll probably have to let it sit overnight and then bake it in the morning). But not to fret, I can vouch that the final product is 110% worth the wait.
So, without further adieu, let’s delve into what’s in this book! In their introduction, Pippa and James explain that their “primary aim since day one has always been to maintain quality in the product.” Their bakery is supported by an incredible network of staff, suppliers, and customers. Access and quality of ingredients is really important to the Tivoli Road experience, so you’ll find in the recipes, you might need two or three different flours, because that’s how they make their recipes so full of flavor.
The structure of the book is very straightforward: Bread, Viennoiserie, Savoury, Pastry, Seasonal, British Bakes, Basics, and Larder. To the average American, some of these terms might look different, but rest assured “Viennoiserie” is synonymous with croissants and danishes, and “Savoury” means “savory” in American English (aka sandwiches, pies, sausage rolls, and salads).
I’d say that this book is a bit more technical than other cookbooks I’ve reviewed, but if you read through the recipe at least once before starting, consult the front of the book for things like “how to make a starter” and “how to mix dough” you’ll be in a better position that I was when I tried my first recipe from this book without doing that (my little pies didn’t bake that well on the first try…much better the second time around when I actually prepped the dough correctly).
I should also mention that if, for whatever reason, the recipe doesn’t turn out like the photo or how you think it should, try it again! Maybe not the same night, but I can almost guarantee that each of the recipes included didn’t happen in one go. All of this coddling aside, this is a really wonderful book if you’re at all interested in making your own bread, pastries, doughnuts, pies, and cakes.
Of course, if you’re pressed on time, purchase something store-bought…but there are some fairly quick recipes in here, like Gingerbread cookies (p. 219). I swear, I’ve always been on the hunt for good gingerbread cookies that don’t taste like they’re 100 years old, and this recipe is HANDS-DOWN my current favorite, because unlike American gingerbread cookies that are made with molasses (not my favorite syrup), they’re made with golden or maple syrup (which, if you’ve never had, I tried golden syrup for the first time as a child in England and oh my goodness, it’s amazing). My favorite brand is Lyle’s, which you can find on Amazon here — Lyle’s Golden Syrup 454g.
In addition to the gingerbread cookies, which I didn’t take a picture of because I actually ate them all before I remembered to photograph them (oops), I also tried these recipes (which I did remember to photograph):
Potato, Mushroom, and Taleggio Pie (p. 143): This recipe is found in the savoury section, because it’s more of an appetizer or entree dish…so this is great if you don’t have a sweet tooth/aren’t into making sugar-based pies and cakes. According to the authors, the filling for this pie was “inspired by a pizza that used similar flavors…(it’s a) winter pie that’s creamy and hearty, with a nice zing from the cornichons.” I’d have to agree; at first I was a bit confused by the ingredients, but it’s literally the heartiest mixture that impressed my taste testers when I told them what was in it (after they tried it, of course).
The authors note that if you’re unable to find taleggio cheese, you can use almost any hard, washed rind or blue cheese with a strong flavor…so don’t worry if your local grocery store doesn’t carry it (which it may not, the recipe can still turn out very similar to the one served at Tivoli Road).
For this recipe, you will have to make two kinds of pastry ahead of time (one shortcrust and one puff); but if you’re short on time, I tried one pie with a pre-made frozen puff pastry from Trader Joe’s and it turned out very similar to the homemade pastry one (just took less time, because I didn’t have to prep the dough ahead of time). You can also make dough ahead of time and freeze it (excellent pro-tip from the authors, so you can still get the homemade taste without having to do everything on the same day).
Heirloom Tomatoes on Sourdough with Stracciatella and Lemon Verbena (p. 123): I tried another savory dish because I’m testing options for Christmas dinner…and this one hit it out of the park. I’d describe this as a modern twist on the ever-popular “avocado toast,” less the avocado. The heirloom tomatoes + homemade verbena oil taste so fresh, you’ll think you’re on vacation.
Pro-tip for this recipe: prepare the verbena oil a day ahead of when you’d like to serve the dish, as it needs time to infuse. You can make this ahead of time & store it for up to two weeks. It’s really great on salads, drizzled over steamed veggies, or even over cooked protein (chicken and fried soy are my favorite).
One of my favorite parts in this book are the “Supplier Profiles,” where Tivoli Road spotlights vendors and small businesses that support the bakery. I really like that this section adds a little “behind the scenes” action to an already well-versed cookbook about the in’s and out’s of baking. In the dairy spotlight, for example, the authors ask about seasonal variation in dairy products and discuss in-depth how butter is cultured (two things I didn’t know about, but now have more familiarity and appreciation for while making recipes that use butter, milk, and cream.
Another great aspect to this book is that the directions are very thorough and the authors provide additional insight into every recipe (like backstory behind its creation and pairing suggestions).
Overall, I think that this is a really cohesive baking guide that covers both sweet and savory dishes quite well. While some of the recipes are a bit more intense in preparation, much of that can be done ahead of time. Also, any skills you’d need to know to execute a recipe successfully are included at the beginning of the book (also, I found YouTube is an excellent source of videos on “how to kneed dough” and “how to whisk an egg properly”), so you’re not alone if at first glance a recipe or two looks challenging.
There’s a lot of variation in the recipes both in the book and available for you to do on your own (e.g. doing the savory pie I tried with different kinds of cheeses, or even adding different kinds of protein). I think this would make an excellent holiday gift (Christmas, Hanukkah, or otherwise), but probably would be best suited to teen/young adult and above bakers (but the final products are definitely kid-approved according to some of my taste testers!).
I received this book complimentary on behalf of the publisher, but all thoughts and opinions in this post are my own. All photography featured in this post is my own unless noted otherwise; please seek permission before copying or reproducing the images.
Purchase this title — The Tivoli Road Baker: Recipes and Notes from a Chef Who Chose Baking
Score Card: Cover Art 4/5 | Content 5/5 | Ease of Read 5/5
Book Stats: The Tivoli Road Baker
Page Count- 287
Binding- Hardcover with color photography