To Nadiya Hussain, baking can be an expression of love and a source of calm. As people around the globe turned to their pantries to ease pandemic stress, the adored British television presenter and author was also in her home kitchen, in Milton Keynes, England. “I think a lot of us did that during lockdown,” she says now, “where we did use baking as our self-care because we were at home a lot more. And I still do to this very day. I will bake because I want to bake and I bake because I have to bake, and the two things are very different.”
The link between baking and love is emphasized in her latest cookbook, Nadiya Bakes: Over 100 Must-Try Recipes for Breads, Cakes, Biscuits, Pies, and More, out July 27. Spanning sweet to savoury, the recipes highlight the warmth and creativity that have brought Hussain admirers on both sides of the Atlantic. Hussain, whose companion series, Nadiya Bakes, is streaming on Netflix, told us what spurs her recipes, her advice for new bakers and the dessert she’d love someone to whip up for her.
As a contestant on The Great British Baking Show, you constructed Fizzy Pop Cheesecakes complete with meringue fizz. Winning the sixth season in 2015 launched your food career. Since then, you’ve written other cookbooks, but Nadiya Bakes is the first one devoted to baking. Why is that?
Because I came off a baking show, at the time, I think everyone around me felt it was almost natural for me to go straight into baking. Before baking, cooking came naturally to me, so it was about doing what felt right. It felt natural for me to go into the kitchen and do cooking as opposed to just baking.
So, when I announced this book, everyone was like, ‘Oh, but you’ve already done that! You’ve done a baking book!’ I was like, ‘No, I’ve done lots of things, but this is solely baking.’ There was this kind of excitement that I wasn’t quite ready for and there was a lot of pressure, I suppose, because I came into this world—into this career—through baking.
The book riffs on classics like molten chocolate cake and hot cross buns, and offers inventive preparations such as Rainbow Veg Pakora Picnic Pie, and Pulled Chicken Doughnuts. Where do you find culinary inspiration?
A lot of my recipes are hybrids. They are hybrids of the way I bake, the way I cook—mixing English culture with Bangladeshi culture—and a lot comes from my travels. It is a combination of the way I was raised, where I was raised, and my own family history and our own cooking practices, and where I’m slightly curious as well. It’s a mixture of all of those things.
Which recipes are you especially excited to share with readers?
I’ve got an amazing, delicious tear-and-share pizza loaf in there that gets stacked like an accordion, with pepperoni and cheese and tomato. It’s this delicious bread that you pull apart. And there’s this gorgeous no-bake banana cheesecake which is made out of frozen bananas and cocoa. That’s one of the recipes I absolutely love.
The dishes range in difficulty from beginner to experienced. What are your tips for novice bakers?
It’s the little things. It’s about finding confidence in the kitchen more than anything else. And that comes by just experimenting. It’s really important to build your confidence and start small. I think about how I got my kids into cooking and baking. Rather than going straight in—with layers of cake and cooling and whipping and making lots of different elements—do something simple.
There are some really good recipes in the book for anyone who is a nervous baker. There’s a croissant pudding in there which is pretty much just putting things together and popping it into the oven. And there’s the No-Bake Bakes section, which requires you to put things together without actually baking.
Nadiya Bakes reflects on the ways love and baking are connected in your life. Is there something in particular you wish a loved one would make for you?
Nobody ever bakes for me because they think I’m going to judge it. I’m not going to judge anyone. One of my favourite things to eat is Eton Mess, a mixture of cream and fruit and meringues, crushed together. And it’s simple. You don’t even have to bake anything!
This creative and stunning dessert pizza from Nadiya Hussain’s new cookbook, Nadiya Bakes, is best eaten straightaway. Get this blueberry and lavender scone pizza recipe.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.