I’m excited to bring you this book review and interview with Henrietta Inman, who recently published her second cookbook The Natural Baker. Henrietta is a professional pastry chef, cookery teacher and all-round beautiful human who knows more than a thing or two about cakes! Bonus – there’s an exclusive recipe from The Natural Baker below, too!
One of the most genuinely lovely people I met during my time in London was Henrietta Inman. She’s incredibly accomplished and talented, yet every time I saw her she was just perfectly down to earth, bubbly and kind. It’s no surprise that she’s already following up on her debut cookbook Clean Cakes with a second book, The Natural Baker.
The Natural Baker is focused on making the most of wholesome, whole food ingredients and turning them into sweet and savoury delights. This book isn’t strictly gluten free or dairy free, though there is definitely something in there for everyone (especially plenty of gluten free things that I have on my list of things to bake!). You’ll find new, creative, tasty ways to use whole grain flours, fruit, nuts, seeds and more.
Inside the cookbook there are some seriously stunning cakes, as well as biscuits, loaves, puddings and breakfasty-things that are lovely for everyday. Henrietta is an incredible cake maker, but she also knows how help you make a casually delicious brunch 🙂
I’ve kickstarted my love affair by making the buckwheat brittle and the baked bananas from The Natural Baker, which are pictured in this blog post. If you’d like a taste of what else is inside, Henrietta has kindly allowed me to share a cookbook recipe with you – Orange, Buckwheat and Olive Oil Cake with Marmalade Syrup. Recipe is below!
And now for a little interview with Henrietta…
1. How has your baking style grown and changed since Clean Cakes?
I wrote Clean Cakes in response to a lot of my customers asking for gluten and dairy free patisserie, but in a delicious and wholesome way – many of the alternatives on offer in supermarkets are very sweet and not very satisfying when it comes to texture and flavour. It led me to discover so many new and wonderful ingredients like buckwheat, chestnut and teff flours, virgin coconut and rapeseed oils, the use of a lot more less refined sweeteners like coconut sugar and local honey and so much more. In The Natural Baker, I use all of these, but there’s an even wider range of ingredients like wholegrain spelt, wheat, rye, proper butter and good olive oil and the option of using light brown muscovado sugar as let’s face it, sometimes we cannot always find coconut sugar and it can be a bit expensive too.
The words ‘free-from’ don’t really come into it, I just ingredients that I love, sometime they might happen to be gluten free! I suppose in a way, my baking has just become a bit more embracing of all ingredients – personally I have no allergies and I think variety is best when it comes to our diets, not to mention how fun and delicious using lots of different and exciting ingredients can be.
The key message behind both books remains the same though – using ingredients for their incredible flavours to create incredible bakes – wholegrain flours for their nutty notes, a mixture of good fats and oils for all their contrasting tastes, brown sugars for their hints of caramel and raw honey for its fragrance, and most importantly, just using enough sugar, whatever type of sweetener it may be, to lift up the other flavours in the recipe and allow them to sing, never to mask them.
2. What are some of your favourite ingredients to work with at the moment?
I’m from Suffolk in the UK and there’s the most amazing company, Hodmedod’s, growing beans, pulses, grains and seeds; they sell them whole, but also make them into flours and flakes – I love to use their yellow and green pea flours in savoury pancakes and breads (they behave like gram/ chickpea flour) and their flaked and puffed quinoa can add lots of other textures to granola, muffins and cereal bars.
So many wonderful things are just coming into season here too – I’m using lots of garden rhubarb in cakes and tarts and asparagus and early spring herbs like mint, chives and parsley, in quiches or savoury cakes. You can find recipes using all of these ingredients on pages 50, 142, 118 and 39 of The Natural Baker!
3. How does an author and chef spend her working week? Is there any routine to it, or is every day a bit different?
Everyday is definitely a bit different! At the moment I am doing lots of teaching in schools in London and around the UK; classes often take place at the weekends so I’ll normally be working then. I’m also doing a lot of supper clubs and afternoon teas, collaborating with many amazing women in food, so some days could involve recipe testing and cooking for these. I also make cakes to order and cater for events so I’ll also be cooking for these.
I’m travelling a bit around the UK this year too for book promotion to food festivals – these often involve demos which I love! Everything involves preparation, spending time at my laptop thinking about menus, class plans, sending over recipes to festival and cookery school organisers, so you’ll find me at my desk for a good part of most days too.
I also work with a social enterprise called Luminary Bakery, teaching women from social and economically disadvantaged backgrounds, how to bake, and Cook For Syria, a charity that raises funds for the children affected by the war in Syria. Then there’s keeping on top of my social media and website! A lot of different things keeping me busy and happy… but I’ll always try to get up earlier to get out in the fresh air for a run, do some yoga, go to the gym or have a swim, it gives me energy and focus for the day ahead, as well as a good breakfast!
4. When it comes to cooking/baking, who inspires you?
Many people! I’d love my own restaurant or café space one day, so other women who have done this before me are huge inspirations like Romy Gill, Zoe Adjonyh, Sally Clarke, Skye Gyngell, Alice Waters… the list goes on. Romy and Zoe, along with great women like Olia Hercules, Sumayya Usmani and Meera Sodha, have introduced their countries’ cuisines to us in the UK and around the world, Indian, Ghanaian, Ukrainian, Pakistani and incredible vegetarian Indian food from Meera especially, as well as her awesome vegan column in the Guardian. Alice Waters is making huge leaps for food in schools in the US, as well as educating children about where food comes from, and Skye Gyngell is always doing the most delicious things to seasonal ingredients, in simple and elegant ways, whilst my friend Kylee Newton who owns Newton & Pott, preserves the seasons in some of the best jams, chutneys and pickles I have ever tasted.
I will always love Jeremy Lee, Fergus and Margot Henderson at Quo Vadis, St John and Rochelle Canteen for cooking with British produce in the best possible way. Samin Nosrat and her new book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, rocks! Then there’s Helen Goh and Yotam Ottolenghi and Elizabeth Prueitt and her husband Chad Robertson who all are great baking inspirations… so so many, it’s impossible to list them all! Anyone who just believes in what they are doing and cooks and bakes with love, is an inspiration to me.
The combination of the buckwheat flour and coconut sugar here create an incredibly nutty, caramel-like, deep richness. The sponge, saturated with a sweet Grand Marnier-spiked marmalade syrup and made with olive oil that keeps it soft and light, is surrounded by finely sliced circles of orange. These become soft and sweet in the oven, while the rinds of the outermost circles get a little burnt and crunchy. The merging of the bittersweet flavours and gorgeous textures is quite divine. It’s also very pretty, with the oranges forming a petal pattern around the edge of the cake. I love to serve this warm from the oven, with crème fraîche. Serves 10–12
- 180g (6oz / ¾ cup) extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the tin (pan)
- 120g (4¼oz / ⅓ cup) honey
- 200g (7oz / generous ¾ cup) orange juice
- about 3 oranges, 550g (1lb 4oz) total weight, plus the finely grated zest of 1 more orange
- 120g (4¼oz / generous ½ cup) coconut sugar 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 90g (3¼oz / scant 1 cup) ground almonds
- 90g (3¼oz / ⅔ cup) buckwheat flour
- 1 tsp baking powder 150g (5½oz / ½ cup) marmalade
- 3 tbsp Grand Marnier, or hazelnut liqueur, or other orange, hazelnut or almond liqueur
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Oil a 23cm (9in) loose-bottomed cake tin (pan), then line it with baking parchment, allowing the parchment to slightly come up the edges of the tin (pan), so the juices don’t leak when baking.
- In a saucepan, bring the honey and orange juice to the boil, then reduce the heat slightly and simmer for 3 minutes to reduce. Turn off the heat. Cut the 550g (1lb 4oz) oranges into thin, 2–3mm (⅛in) slices, discarding the ends, and add to the syrup. Return to a medium boil for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat.
- Once cooled a little, arrange the orange slices in the prepared tin (pan), starting from the edges, overlapping the oranges in a circle, then working into the centre of the tin (pan). Once the bottom is covered, start to arrange the slices (again, overlapping them), up the sides of the tin (pan). Cover with 150g (5½oz / ½ cup) of the honey and orange juice mix, leaving the rest in the pan.
- In a bowl, whisk the oil with the orange zest, sugar, eggs, ground almonds, flour and baking powder. Pour over the orange slices and syrup and bake for 40 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the top is dark golden brown, firm to the touch and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
- While the cake is baking, add the marmalade to the remaining honey and orange juice in the saucepan, trying to get about equal quantities of the more jammy parts and rindy parts of the marmalade out of the jar. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for a few minutes. Stir in the liqueur, then turn off the heat.
- When the cake is ready, remove it from the oven, pierce it all over with a skewer, then pour over the marmalade syrup. Leave to cool for about 30 minutes, then remove from the tin (pan) (the orange slices should be lining the bottom and sides) and serve warm, with crème fraîche. Store in the fridge for 5 days, or freeze for at least 1 month.
- Variation: When they are in season (in late winter), I like to use 2 small blood oranges and 2 Jaffa oranges for the orange slices here.
The Natural Baker by Henrietta Inman is available in all good bookstores and online. Published by Jacqui Small, an imprint of The Quarto Group. Photos of the orange cake are extracted from the book, credit to Philippa Langley.
*I received a copy of Henrietta’s cookbook but was not paid to write this review; all opinions expressed are my own. I just really like the book and its author!