Edd Kimber explains why the nation is turning to baking during tough times
As the cost of living crisis deepens, you’d think something like baking would be the first to slip out of our budgets – but Edd Kimber isn’t so sure.
Sure, he would say that – he’s a professional baker, after all – but he’s developed a logical theory for it.
“Baking seems to be something that actually increases during economic downturns,” reflects Kimber, 37. “If you think about the last recession we had, baking actually had a resurgence then.
“My theory has always been that it’s cheaper than other things. Let’s say you’re a parent and you have kids to entertain over the summer, baking can be a cheaper activity than other things because it’s done at home, it’s something you can then eat at the end.
“I think in situations like the ones we find ourselves in right now, people like those little treats that are cheaper than other things. So going out to restaurants might be prohibitively expensive for some people right now, but doing a simple dessert at home might be the little luxury we can still afford,” he adds. “I think baking can be that solace in these not-so-great times.”
Speaking of small pleasures, that’s exactly what Kimber – who won the very first series of The Great British Bake Off in 2010 – has dedicated her sixth cookbook to. These are called petit fours.
“Small batch cooking was something we did more and more of in our personal lives, me and my partner,” says Kimber, who lives in northeast London with her partner Mike and their dog Wesley, whom the can be heard happily barking in the background. during our call. “It happened because of the lockdowns – we were living at home, just the two of us and our dog, we were bored, so I was cooking for us, like I always do. We didn’t have anyone to share it with, so I tried to reduce our portion sizes, and it became a very natural way for us to cook.
Kimber soon realized there was an appetite for recipes aimed at a smaller number of people. “A complaint I had from a lot of people was: I love to cook but I live alone, or I just have me and my kids, and we don’t have the ability to share things because the Bigger events don’t happen as often Cookie recipes often serve 20-30 people, when you might have a house of two.
He started developing smaller recipes, with the goal of “making baking as relevant to most people’s lives as possible,” says Kimber. “Because a lot of the time when you’re cooking, it’s assumed it’s a special occasion – whereas baking can be the treat at the end of the week, dessert on Sunday or making pizza for a date. you in love for both of you.. So the idea was to make it a bit more suitable for our everyday life.
Also, it doesn’t matter as much if you mess up a small batch. “There’s less pressure with this style of baking,” suggests Kimber – compared to baking a big birthday cake or endless cookies for a big event.
Despite all that, Kimber admits it was a difficult book to write. “The trick with this one was trying to take recipes that might traditionally serve a lot more people, and scale them down so they’re more appropriate for the book,” he explains. “That was the challenge. For example, one of my favorite recipes, the “emergency cookie” – it’s a single cookie, and I knew I wanted to make a single cookie but I didn’t want to use a “tablespoon of egg ‘ or make it a ridiculously massive cookie.
“So it took a lot of playing with it to figure out how to pull this off and not feel like it was a cheat, but still within the frame. It turned out there was no egg in the recipe, because eliminating the egg for such a small batch made no difference.
Kimber also looked to the past for inspiration. “I love nostalgia, I play with nostalgia a lot,” he says. “A lot of times it’s about trying to reinterpret or recreate something from my childhood, or sometimes other people’s childhood.”
One of the oldest recipes in the book is actually her partner’s favorite. “It’s so simple, it’s like an old-fashioned prune tea cake. The prunes are steeped in tea or just water – if you want you can even add rum or brandy to the liquid that you soak the prunes in, and you make these cupcakes and they’re covered in a little bit of demerara sugar.
“They don’t have any spices, no added flavorings, but they’re so delicious – and they have a really, perfectly chewy texture.”
Kimber doesn’t “think a lot of people will, because it’s not splashy, it’s not in your face, it’s not really exciting flavors,” he says. “But it’s so delicious.”
Small Batch Bakes by Edd Kimber is published by Kyle Books, priced at £18.99. Photography by Edd Kimber. Available August 25.
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