A Simple Baking Cookbook That Isn't Basic

In ‘A Good Day to Bake,’ Benjamina Ebuehi shares approachable recipes that anyone can cook.

March  3, 2022
Photo by Laura Edwards

Fans of Benjamina Ebuehi know her for the complex treats she baked on the 2016 season of The Great British Bake Off (she finished as a quarterfinalist), but her newest cookbook is all about simple bakes. In A Good Day to Bake: Simple Baking Recipes for Every Mood, Ebuehi shares the creative, brightly flavored recipes she was known for on Bake Off and in her first book, The New Way to Cake, but with one big difference: She wrote most of it during lockdown in 2020.

“One thing I noticed during the early stages of that time was just how many people started baking, who had maybe never baked before. They never thought they had time to bake,” Ebuehi said over video chat. She noticed that when we collectively slowed down, there was more time to consider baking as a pastime. And these bakes didn’t have to involve complex technique to be satisfying: “I wanted the book to kind of be a reflection of that simpler, slower time. You don't have to wait for a particular occasion, a birthday or anniversary, to bake something. You can do it absolutely whenever.”

To Ebuehi, “simple” baking recipes aren’t necessarily synonymous with “quick” or “basic.” There are some recipes that take a few hours to come together, and there may be some ingredients readers aren’t familiar with. It’s exactly this attitude that sets A Good Day to Bake apart from so many other cookbooks that focus on simplicity. You might need to set aside an afternoon or check a second grocery store for an ingredient, but the recipes are straightforward in technique and unpretentious in appearance. “To me, simple is something that just feels really approachable,” she added.

Though it may not be the first thing to cross your mind, some of the most satisfying simple baking recipes are actually savory as opposed to sweet. “I think it does give you a little bit more flexibility in what you can do. I like that it can fit quite easily within day to day life maybe a little bit more than sweet baking can,” said Ebuehi.

What’s more, Ebuehi explained, savory bakes (like a Potato & Cauliflower Curry Pie; Roasted Vegetable Dutch Baby; or a Plantain & Fennel Quiche—all recipes in the book) are often meals in their own right, as opposed to something additional to a meal. It’s their very existence that serves to both satisfy the urge to bake, but also answer the question we find ourselves asking night after night: What should I make for dinner?

Many of her savory bakes lean in to vegetables, which have their own chapter in the book. “Roasted, grated, fried or chopped, veg bring such a unique flavor and texture to breads and cakes that not many other ingredients can,” she writes. "From the pumpkin purée incorporated into scones to the fried plantain nestled into the delicate quiche filling, there’s a hearty and earthy sweetness that just feels so homely and grounding.”

This is indeed true in her Squash & Nigella Seed Soda Bread, which is as difficult as mixing batter in a bowl and roasting a tray of vegetables (read: not a challenge at all), yet makes for a stunning, golden-tinted loaf that begs to be slathered in butter and dipped into soup. Again, this bread checks her boxes for “simple”—an easily assembled dough that calls for a bit of time and perhaps-new-to-some ingredients. We can't make any promises, but Ebuehi certainly hopes this bread helps make nigella seeds an “it” ingredient: “They just bring such a unique flavor that I don't think can be replicated by anything else.”

Ebuehi’s Roasted Carrot & Harissa Galette is ready to change peoples’ minds about pastry. “Think of pastry and you think ‘patisserie’ and ‘perfect’ and lining your tart tin,” she noted. “But a galette is something that I do probably more often than those other fancy tarts, because they're just so quick. It's free-form. You don't need a tin. All you need is a baking tray.” Whether you want to bring it to a picnic or throw it together for lunch, if you use rainbow carrots like Ebuehi recommends, this recipe is just as eye-catching as any decorated layer cake.

Of course, you don’t need produce to make a satisfyingly savory bake. In the book’s (delightfully titled) “Best of Beige” chapter, Ebuehi sings the praises of “almost-too- flaky-to-eat-without-making-a-mess sausage rolls.” Her recipe for Spiced Lamb Sausage Rolls was inspired by merguez sausage—check out the video below! Here, ground lamb is mixed with fragrant spices like fennel, cumin, paprika, and coriander. It takes something familiar, like the classic British pork sausage roll, but changes just a couple flavor notes—with no more effort. “Fewer things feel like a big old hug compared to the joyful, belly-warming shades of beige and brown food,” she adds.

One of those baking books that you’ll want to keep in an easily reachable spot in the kitchen, A Good Day to Bake really does have something to fit any baker’s craving. Further, it’ll serve as a reminder to take the time to nourish yourself, even as life resumes to a more hectic pace. “I want this book to help us all remember and hold on to those moments of pause,” Ebuehi writes in the introduction. “Every day could do with a bit more slowing down, a little more stirring, kneading, folding and peering into the oven watching bread puff up like magic.”

What does “simple” baking mean to you? Sound off in the comments.

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Rebecca Firkser is the assigning editor at Food52. She used to wear many hats in the food media world: food writer, editor, assistant food stylist, recipe tester (sometimes in the F52 test kitchen!), recipe developer. These days, you can keep your eye out for her monthly budget recipe column, Nickel & Dine. Rebecca tests all recipes with Diamond Crystal kosher salt. Follow her on Instagram @rebeccafirkser.

1 Comment

Lisa March 13, 2022
Yum, those rolls look divine! I am very inspired to make them!