The new recipe book for over 100 Bad Girl Bakery bakes launched with a book signing in Waterstones Inverness on Sunday
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Salted Caramel Crumble Bars, Pink Grapefruit Meringue Shortbread Tarts or Giant Lemon Drizzles – you might not exactly know what that last one is, but just the name tells you you’re pretty sure you want one.
The bad news, maybe, is that all of the above are definitely treats for special occasions.
But the good news is you can have any one of them today, you can even have a go at making them yourself, as they are just three of the many imagination-firing recipes in the new Bad Girl Bakery cookbook written by the Bad Girl herself, Jeni Iannetta. who was signing copies on Sunday in Waterstones Inverness.
The café run by Jeni, her husband Douglas Hardie and her staff in Muir Of Ord, has become a must-visit location over the past few years, since it opened in 2017, now having morphed over lockdown into a shop that also sells bakery equipment and products as well as the much loved selection of sweet and savoury treats.
Maybe a book was inevitable, but she tells you it came initially as a suggestion to Jeni by the Dundee-based publisher Kitchen Press.
Jeni said: “To be honest with you, when Emily Dewhurst at Kitchen Press approached us and asked if we wanted to write a book with her, we were blown away.
“It wasn’t something we had talked about.
“And I knew nothing about writing a book, so I was saying things like ‘How many recipes would we need?’ and she said about 80 to 100 – and I didn’t think I could pull that together.
“But Emily was very funny and said ‘You will be amazed!’ and of course within 10 minutes we had rattled off a hundred … trying to find a nice balance between flavours, chocolate versus non-chocolate, complicated versus simple and it all just came together.
“The only thing I knew I wanted was a chapter called Cake For Breakfast!”
Even reading that chapter, it is one of the highlights of the book, but there are so many …
Talking to Jeni the day after their book launch in Dundee – where Jeni is from originally, you are immediately aware how generous she is, making sure that credit is given where it’s due among the staff who helped her perfect the book – and the list of acknowledgements in the book is long.
She is also extremely modest and points out she has not trained as a baker or chef, but began as an amateur baker, which will be like so many of the people who are likely to pick up her book.
The book offers hints that the spirit of experimentation is in the lifeblood of the Bad Girl Bakery and that the many original ideas and exciting tweaks on classic basic recipes you find in the book create the environment to keep the business evolving.
“I am not trained and I didn’t go to pastry school or anything,” Jeni explained. “Like everyone else, I started baking other people’s recipes and watching cooking shows and buying cook books. Before I started my career that is how I learned to bake.
“So when the business opened, as you get more confident, you start to experiment with things on your own and as your experience grows you start to understand that basic ratios work and you can adjust the flavours on those and we spend a lot of time thinking about what will taste nice, what is the texture like, is it seasonal, what good produce have we got – and things just kind of spiral from there.
“Sometimes they are just lovely mistakes that happen that turned into really good bakes.”
Jeni laughs: “I knew you were going to ask me that!
“Say you go to make a certain bake and the berries weren’t good or we didn’t have a thing we were looking for, we would go ‘How can we make a twist on this?’ or how can we change the flavour combination and then it might turn out to be better than the one we were going to make in the first place!
“We do spend a lot of time on research, so in the winter when things are quiet all the bakers are given a research project
“I might say ‘Let’s do some work on gluten-free – or doughnuts’. So when it’s quiet we’re thinking about flavour combinations, trying new recipes and that kind of thing.”
As befits the times, vegans and people who eat gluten-free, will find recipes for them in the book, as they would from the shop.
Jeni says: “But those things have to stand on their own as well. If people are choosing cakes from the display, it doesn’t matter if they are vegan or gluten-free or not, it’s just whether they like the look of them.”
The Savoury Chapter has some delicious ideas, but immediately you mention it, Jeni adds: “I can’t take the credit for all that. I have an amazing head chef called Darren Campbell and when I wanted to revamp our savoury menu, I wanted it to match the sweet menu. We sat down and I talked about the kind of things we wanted on the menu and he came up with some amazing things, so credit to him for a lot of the things in that chapter.
“I wrote Bad Girl – with Darren – and I got help with recipe testing from our head baker Toni Davis and baking manager Rachel Knox. It was something the team worked on and I’m really proud of the fact we worked together and achieved that.
“We continue to get such a lot of support and we absolutely couldn’t have opened the business without the help from all the people we did and we are incredibly grateful,” added Jeni.
Jeni just laughs hard when I say to her that now there’s a book, are there any plans for a TV series?“I still can’t believe we’ve got a book, let along anything else!
“Our general manager was in Inverness and she walked into Waterstones and there was a big display of our books and she took a picture and sent it to me and I opened the picture and basically screamed!”
Jeni’s start in the world of baking happened while she still lived far from the Highlands.
“I was living in Dundee and working in St Andrews and I met my now husband who lived in Muir Of Ord and I moved up to be with him and his little boy.
“My background is in arts marketing and I came late in life to baking.
“I had my first job in a bakery in St Andrews for a company called BBs Bakery. Fiona Pratt, who was the owner there, offered me a job which I didn’t have any experience in and I had no background in food, but I started working for her and it started my career in baking.”
When it comes to asking what Jeni’s own favourite thing to make is, she wails a little bit at having to choose – understandably with all these delicious recipes at her fingertips.
But actually, her answer is one that sounds as if it’s been the same since the start.
“Maybe not a particularly exciting answer,” Jeni said. “I mean, generally, if you ask me what my favourite is, it’s always the latest recipe we have just come up with! So right now it’s a bit sticky and spiced and getting indulgent for the winter time, so I might say at the moment Sticky Toffee Pecan Traybake, or something like that.
“But – actually – my favourite thing to make for all my baking career has remained - a brownie!
“I know it doesn’t sound very exciting, but there is a moment where you’ve got your melted butter chocolate and sugar. Your eggs have gone in and it looks like a bit of a mess and you go ‘Is this right?’
“But you just keep stirring it for a bit longer and it turns into this silk-smooth, beautiful chocolatey mixture – and, I have to say, that moment gets me every time!”
The book is available in Waterstones across Scotland, on Amazon, from the publisher Kitchen Press and from the Bad Girl Bakery Shop.
And that reminds me, why is the business called the Bad Girl Bakery?
Jeni laughed: “All of our cakes are indulgent and they are most definitely a treat – I guess they are not the kind of thing you eat every day.
“And I guess the name Bad Girl is gently poking fun at people who frown upon indulgence.
“Everyone’s got someone in their family who, when you reach for a sweet thing, they go ‘Oh, bad girl!’.
“So it’s just gently poking fun at that and acknowledging that these are definitely treats, and that’s OK once in a while!”
Jeni Iannetta will be at Waterstones Inverness today (Sunday, November 21) from 1pm signing copies of her book The Bad Girl Bakery (Kitchen Press, £20). More details: kitchenpress.co.uk Follow the Bad Girl Bakery: Twitter: @bad_girl_bakery Facebook: @badgirlbakery