I recently had the pleasure of meeting Susie Norris (a.k.a. the Food Market Gypsy) at the Boston Travel Show and she inspired me as much as any of the other international offers with her stories of baking from Boston to Berlin to Burma.
As it was clear that she could have shared stories for days I was happy to see that Norris has recently compiled a curated collection of her recollections and recipes in a new book called A Baker’s Passport.
Arranged by course and also by region, Norris’s book takes travelers on a tasty trip from breads and appetizers to meat-based and vegetarian mains and then on to an extended tour of tarts, pies, and cakes that will remind many of their own family recipes and introduce hundreds of new ones as well. Along the way, Norris shares stories of the road, many of which are accented with images from top photographers and fellow chefs.
If baking is a new hobby, Norris even suggests key ingredients and cooking tools to have on hand before departing on what is sure to be a delicious adventure!
This is a wonderful, all-around cookbook on so many levels. For starters (right after a forward called "Why Baking Matters," in case Anyone could be on the fence about this!), there's a comprehensive intro on "Techniques, Tips and Equipment," which also addresses ingredients like butter, chocolate and eggs. Susie Norris invites you in by explaining away a lot of the mysteries and challenges around baking. She gives advice on terminology and method (that feels like a quick pastry 101 class) and clarifies how the book is organized. For example, one of the most helpful pointers she includes with each recipe is its level of difficulty, from easy to advanced, a convenience not only for those intimidated by baking who don't want to get in over their heads too fast but also for the cook who might, say, want to impress dinner guests but only has time to throw together some gorgeous popovers rather than sourdough cracked-wheat rolls. The range of recipes is impressive, too, covering everything from breakfast to dinner (not forgetting dessert, of course), vegetarian and meat-based, and even includes some basic but very useful all-purpose sauces, gravies and jams that make it easy to mix and match parts of recipes and generally become a more inventive cook. And I haven't even mentioned the international aspect of the book, which feels like a culinary travelogue, much like the excellent blog the book is based on. It's very clear that Susie Norris has traveled around the world tasting, savoring, exploring and hanging out with chefs to bring us this book, and she presents what she has discovered as if in the warmth and intimacy of her own kitchen.