Sybil Kapoor’s Simply Baking is a great book, especially for the novice like me.
One of the main reasons it’s a hit here is for its oatcake recipe. Oatcakes are a personal thing, someone once said, and it’s very true – my oatcakes have always been a source of deep personal disappointment.
But, the recipe in Simply Baking has changed all that, and I can now produce hard crunchy oatcakes that I can, ever so slightly, slightly burn at the edges as needed, and serve up in weird randomly cut triangles of any size. Maybe with oatcakes, you need to wait for the right recipe to find you, and Sybil Kapoor’s recipes seem to have more than a bit of flex for the amateur.
Of course, you could also follow the actual instructions, and use a round cutter, less salt, etc. but that just wouldn’t be oatcakes hereabouts. My crunchy adaptation is great, but I’ve only managed it thanks to the clarity of the recipe which does allow for tinkering, and a wee bit extra salt is perfect. Totally delicious. Especially with a good chunk of cheddar, or something like the wistfully earthy Peat Smoked Salmon Pâté from Hebridean Smokehouse. Now, wait till late at night, light a fire, and go for that combo with an extra bite of peaty medicine from a deep Laphroaig warmed on the stove, and you’re away.
Of course, Simply Baking isn’t just about eating oatcakes with salmon and getting sozzled in the kitchen, good though that is. Hundreds of years of British baking, inspired by the National Trust properties, are in here. Some recipes are just to be looked at and envied as recipes in themselves for me, because they’re too hard at the moment and have a typical baking lack of amateurishness, but many others are really friendly and approachable and fun to mess up. Nectarine slices, walnut cake and cookies are in here rustling on the cooling rack with more complicated breads and puddings that I hope I’ll try someday, but perhaps know my own skills better!
I picked up my copy of Simply Baking at an absolute bargain price, and must have eaten half a National Trust stately home in oatmeal since. This is a very fine book.