Jane Dunn: “With cooking, you can fly. But baking is a science ‘
VSchocolate pancakes with cheese. Pina colada cupcakes. White chocolate biscotti. Chocolate and cherry babka. Bakewell blondies. Such pastries – are you too rocked in a confectioner’s paradise?
This is the model for culinary writer Jane Dunn’s first cookbook, named after her blog, Jane’s pastry. Sweet treat after sweet treat; each one promising comfort, gluttony and nostalgia.
The 28-year-old has been blogging her pastries for about six and a half years, creating recipes designed for all skill levels – which is why she wouldn’t dream of judging you for buying ready-made caramel (that involves much less likely to scorch your fingers than melted sugar), and happily recommends decorating your no-bake millionaire cheesecake with bites of store-bought millionaire shortbread.
Jane’s pastry the cookbook presents its easy-to-use chocolate worship philosophy in paper form – and “you can get it dirty!” Dunn says, which means you no longer need to coat your phone in flour when you move on to the next step in the recipe.
Eliminating the fear around baking is something that underpins Dunn’s pastries. Each comes with customizable elements, so you can amplify flavor combinations, swap the ingredients you have for those you don’t, and avoid having to go to stores at the store. middle of the mix for a missing item.
âI tried to cover all the bases so that people could just have fun and not be afraid,â says Dunn. âWith cooking you can sort of wing it most of the time, but with cooking it’s science. So you have to get it right most of the time. She hopes her astute comments and reassuring advice will alleviate any oven issues. Her honesty around her own cake mishaps also helps (âI dropped whole cheesecakes and that was pretty heartbreakingâ).
Dunn grew up in Hampshire loving baking, a fascination passed down to him from his late grandmother. âMy mom always tells me that I’m so much like her,â she says, pointing out the pleasure one can have in turning flour, butter, eggs and sugar into something spectacular and shareable. âI love seeing people’s faces – nothing is better than arriving at a friend’s house and bringing cookies. If someone is having a bad day, a good day, or whatever, they’re going to say ‘Ohh!’ And then suddenly everyone is in a different mood.
Realizing that his initial plans to study graphic design or architecture in college weren’t going to come true, Dunn embarked on a six-month ‘crash’ cooking class in Devon, with a view to working on pastry in restaurants. Cooking school helped her realize that âI want to do this with my life, completely and totally,â she says. But the industry is tough, and while her peers have gone to the kitchens of superyachts, Rosette and Michelin-starred restaurants, she found she “wasn’t a big fan” of the lifestyle and started to blog instead.
By April 2020, she had reached around 200,000 subscribers, but as the first lockdown led many of us towards banana bread and comfort baking, more and more people began to discover her blog. âI don’t think I could have imagined it. It was surreal, âshe says now, with three-quarters of a million Instagram followers under her belt. âEveryone was cooking so many things every day. It was amazing to see him. I was getting comments from teachers saying, âWe did this in class on Zoom! “It was the cutest thing,” she recalls.
Dunn – who takes inspiration from legends Mary Berry, Nadia Hussain, Nigella Lawson, and Delia Smith – hopes our renewed appreciation for baking doesn’t falter. “I would like to see him grow up and people fall more in love with [it]. “
Oddly enough, Dunn admits that she (horror shock) actually prefers salty foodâ¦ “Maybe, probably because I have so much sugar in my life every day, I love salty food,” says she laughs. âI like the salty. But cooking is better to share. Pastry is best to bring to a party. The occasion factor, the way baked goods are used to celebrate and decorate an event, is what his recipes revolve around, “so for me I like salty foods, but I’m always happy to bake something. . “
What she finds problematic is when sugar is demonized and when people make comments that link food to guilt and judgment. âI have suffered from an eating disorder in the past,â she notes, âso I find it quite difficult when people make these associations. “
Comments like “it’s diabetes on the plate,” she says, are unnecessary, potentially dangerous and “can be offensive to people with diabetes, whether it’s type one or two.” . It’s also unnecessary when âit’s all about balance, at the end of the day. My recipes are designed for an occasion, not something you eat every second of the day. As part of a balanced diet, it’s perfectly reasonable to enjoy a weird slice of cake – âeven if it’s full of sugar,â Dunn says, âwhich in my opinion makes it taste wonderful. !
“[Sugar] exists, people benefit from it, âshe continues. “And that’s what you should do with food, whether it’s low in calories, high in calories, salty or sweet.” It is when someone has the opinion that “the food is scary” that things may have turned upside down and professional support may be needed.
Dunn’s pastries focus on bringing joy, and as you can imagine, drop into his kitchen and you’ll find an incredible stash of sweet treats. She buys her baking chocolate in huge bags and then, because her baking requires it of course, she “will go down to the supermarket and buy 10 Terry’s Chocolate Orange, five giant Toblerone”. Her friends and family believe she has the best snack closet ever, which is fortunate because they – and her local cafe – help her keep cake waste to a minimum. âSometimes people think I do it and throw it away. No no no! My friends and family love me because I always have cake available.
So what’s next for Dunn? âI just want to roll with it and see where my baking takes me,â she says. âI’m a normal person, I relax and I bake cake. But at the rate at which it has increased, I think to myself, how far can it go? It’s just cake! But it’s so much fun. Dunn seems ready to ride this icy wave and take us with pleasure.
‘Jane’s Patisserie’ by Jane Dunn (Ebury Press, Â£ 20; photograph by Ellis Parrinder) is now available.