The incredible cookbook author who happens to be self-taught

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The incredible cookbook author who happens to be self-taught

Faaiza Omar is a culinary force to be reckoned with. After training herself in the art of baking and pastry, she’s become an expert resource in the field. She’s also just released her first book, My Sweet Life, which is packed with her genius recipes, tips and stories. We caught up with her to find out more about the book and what advice she has for aspiring home bakers.

For those who don’t know, Faaiza Omar is the ultimate inspiration to all home bakers everywhere. Not only is she self-taught, but she’s consistently worked to perfect her craft and this book is the incredible result of that. If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at lamination for croissants, or intricate layered cakes, or even macarons, this is the book to guide you.

1. Firstly, congratulations on My Sweet Life! Can you tell us a little more about the book? What was your inspiration behind it?

Thank you! I have always dreamed of compiling a recipe book, with my favourite flavours and recipes, inspired by my travels and the exotic flavours I’ve encountered along the way. With this book I aim to bridge the gap between the pastry chef and home baker.

2. Let’s talk about the recipes in the book. Can you tell us some of your favourite recipes in the book?

The rose-and-cardamom tart is my absolute favourite. The combination of pistachio, rose and cardamom is very typical of Indian and Middle Eastern sweet treats. This tart was inspired by the spice souks of Dubai.

Which would you say is your favourite easy recipe?

Coffee pecan crunch cake. It’s a simple vanilla sponge cake, with a coffee-and-pecan filling swirled into the batter. It’s so easy to put together, but the end result is impressive.

Is there one you feel most emotionally connected to?

My coconut cake. I discovered this cake in Dubai, I couldn’t wait to get back home and re-create my own version. It has been a favourite among everyone that has purchased my book.

Which is your all-time favourite treat?

Peanut butter brownie cheesecake – it’s every chocolate-lover’s dream. A moist brownie base with a peanut butter swirled cheesecake, topped with a chocolate ganache. Next-level decadence.

3. As a self-taught baker, you’ve developed incredibly fine pastry skills. Can you tell us about where and how you developed these skills? Was baking always something you wanted to do?

Growing up, I wasn’t fond of baking. I preferred playing outside, and delighted in pranking the neighbours. I have memories of raiding my granny’s sweet cupboard and have always preferred sweet over savoury. I’m mostly self-taught, I have attended many masterclasses with pastry chefs in Paris to improve my skills and keep up with trends. We host an international chef annually at our pastry school here in South Africa, too.  My sister and I began The Stylish Baker Pastry school three years ago, which originally opened because there was a high demand from bakers to learn advanced French pastry techniques. We host patisserie classes countrywide.

4. What advice do you have for other aspiring home bakers?

Keep trying, don’t give up. I’ve had many failed attempts, for example the macaron. I persevered until I perfected it. Practice makes perfect.

5. It’s been a very tough year with much uncertainty. How did you remain inspired and focused on your work?

I used the lockdown to focus on my brand, where there were no distractions.  I enjoyed interacting with avid bakers using my social media platforms to host live bake-a-longs and developed recipes using readily available ingredients. Some of the recipes I developed under lockdown include my Turkish delight panna cotta, mango kulfi, baklava pavlova and my no-churn caramel and pecan ice cream

6. What else have you been working on? What can we look forward to seeing you do next?

For now I’m just focusing on promoting My Sweet Life, as well as hosting my virtual masterclass series. Due to Covid restrictions, we’ve decided to host a few classes through Zoom. You can find the details on my Instagram or on the website. We’ll cover everything from croissants to entremets (layered desserts with different textures)

7. As we look forward to the end of the year, how will you be celebrating the holiday season? What will you be cooking and baking?

This year will be different as we usually travel to the northern hemisphere over Christmas and New Year. This year we’ll be staying at home. I’ll use this time to bake up a storm.

Keep up with Faaiza by following her on Instagram.
Find more of her recipes here.

Jess Spiro Article by: Jess Spiro

Jess Spiro is a freelance food writer, chef and restaurant critic based in Cape Town, who can often be found in search of the next great plate of food. Follow her on Instagram @jess_spiro to see what she's eating.

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