Kelli Marks of Sweet Love Bakes has been a friend of Rock City Eats long before there was a Rock Eats or Sweet Love Bakes. After a successful run with her own brick and mortar location of Sweet Love she has returned to baking individual orders.
After seeing a number of people take interest in baking during the pandemic, she decided to take her 20+ years of baking experience and share through her first solo cookbook, Easy One-Bowl Baking. We wanted to get to know a little more about the book, the process of creating it, and a taste of what to expect when it releases in paperback on August 13th, and in ebook on August 3rd (which you can preorder here).
Tell me a little about what led to writing this book?
It actually started almost exactly a year ago right now. I announced on Instagram that I was going to start working on a book filled with Sweet Love recipes. Literally the next day I was approached by a publisher asking if I was interested in writing a cookbook for them. I of course said yes and as quickly as I had started the Sweet Love book, it was on hold. That first book was 75 recipes and was slated to go on sale in November 2020. Unfortunately it was 2020 and that book ended up being shelved. They reached back out in February with a new book idea and Easy One Bowl Baking was born. I was able to reuse a few of the recipes from the first book in this one.
You decided to focus on easy one bowl recipes, explain a little about the thought process of making these more approachable.
A lot of people jumped in to baking last year with all the time spent at home. Baking has always gotten a bit of a bad wrap in that it’s complicated. But I think that’s a lie told by Big Pastry Chef to make us feel superior. (LOL) There are times when it really is important to follow baking rules and other times when you can cut those corners. I’m using my almost 20 years of experience and trial and error to let you know when you can.
You have been in several cookbooks before, but this is your first completely on your own. Talk me through the process of deciding which recipes to use, and any challenges in building the cookbook.
This is my first solo cookbook (but, don’t laugh, I have 5 ideas that I’m planning in the future) and the hardest part was that I had to be kept very strictly on the “one bowl” idea. I remember working on the Butter Pecan Dulce De Leche Coffee Cake and I wanted it to have a layer of crumble in the middle. But that would have required a second bowl and was promptly told to change it. So I added a layer of canned dulce de leche in the middle so that you could just reuse the bowl and only have the crumble on top. For someone who regularly fills a kitchen sink with baking pans it was quite a challenge! So the recipes I created are simplified versions of things I typically do. Like it’s still my bread recipe and my biscuit recipe, but I knead them in the bowl instead of on a counter to reduce need for cleanup.
I know you mentioned in the acknowledgements that Brad had to taste everything multiple times. How often did you adjust an average recipe and at what point do you make the decision to call it complete?
Everything was baked at least twice. During the first book, I had a cracker recipe (it didn’t make it over to the new book) that I tested about 10 different iterations of. I checked baking time, baking temperature and thickness of the cracker. But I had never made crackers before. With many of my other recipes I was able to cut down the number of test runs because I was basing it off of a recipe that is tried and true for me. For instance, people who have been to Sweet Love might remember my matcha cookies, as they are based off my classic sugar cookie recipe.
Is there a favorite recipe or two in the book that is special to you?
Definitely my Big Ol’ Biscuits. They’re thick enough to hold up as a sandwich but soft enough to just enjoy with a drizzle of honey. And I really love the Blood Orange Ricotta cake. The flavor is just different enough to be surprising and it’s gluten free.
What is next for you in the cooking world. Any more cookbooks ideas, plans for reviving sweet love as a full time gig, something else?
I am really enjoying creating recipes. This is a whole new way to share my talents. I do have a part time job writing for CALS, so recipe development is something that I can do without a harsh (event centered) deadline. So I do plan on continuing writing cookbooks. Once the push for this book dies down, I will go back to working on Sweet Love: The Classics with my friend Wendy Kelley photographing it all.
Is there a recipe from the book you can share with us to get a feel for the book?
Yes, one I can share is the Salted Hazelnut Babka. It is a great version that I prefer over the traditional chocolate version.
Salted Hazelnut Babka
Makes 1 large loaf
Prep time: 20 minutes, plus 3 hours to rise Bake time: 35 to 40 minutes
Can we all agree that “babka” is just fun to say? I am, of course, familiar with this classic Jewish baked good because of Seinfeld. In one episode, there’s the chocolate babka and then the “lesser babka,” the cinnamon one. In my view, there is even a superior babka, the salted hazelnut babka. The salt intensifies the chocolate-hazelnut spread in a way you never knew was missing. This one has a long rest time, but that just means you can knock out a few episodes of Seinfeld while you wait.
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream, warmed
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup (99g) granulated sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick, 56g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
3 2/3 cups (440g )
all-purpose flour, plus
additional for dusting 1/2 teaspoon table salt 1/2 cup chocolate-
1 teaspoon coarse salt,
such as kosher, Maldon, or sea salt
1. Line a 10-inch loaf pan with a parchment-paper sling (see Technique tip on page 47).
2. In a large bowl, combine the warm cream, yeast, and sugar. Allow the yeast to bloom and bubble, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the butter and eggs. Using a hand mixer, mix to combine. Add the flour and table salt. The dough should be uniform with no lumps. Briefly knead the dough in the bowl to pull together any stuck bits. The dough should be wet, but not sticky. Form the dough into a ball and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place and allow to rise for 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in volume.
4. Once the dough has doubled in volume, dust a clean work surface with some flour. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a large square, about 20-by-20-inches and about 1/4 inch thick. Cut it into two rectangles, with the short end facing you.
5. Using a spatula, smooth the chocolate-hazelnut spread over both dough rectangles, and sprinkle the coarse salt over the surface.
6.Starting on the short side of each rectangle, roll each up like a cinnamon roll. Cut one log down the center lengthwise, revealing all the layers. Gently “braid” these two pieces, allowing the cut portion to be seen on top. Repeat with the second log. Place both in the loaf pan, one on top of the other. Sprinkle the top with more salt.
7. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise again for 1 hour.
8. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
9. Bake the loaf for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is brown, the hazelnut spread is crackly, and bread separates from the edges of the pan.
10. Allow to cool slightly before slicing to reveal your lovely swirls.
TECHNIQUE TIP: If you don’t have a large loaf pan, your bread might try to escape. Either take your chances and place the loaf pan on a sheet pan, or only use three-quarters of the dough and make mini babkas with the remainder.
Easy One-Bowl Baking is available in paperback on August 13th, and in ebook on August 3rd. You can pre-order your copy here.