Sarah Coates, author, The Sugar Hit!
Never ask for permission to do the work that you love. If you want to do something, just start doing it and work out the details as you go along ...
Salted-caramel chocolate crackles. Choc-chip pretzel cookies. Sweet, sweet cola float ice-cream cake. Is your mouth watering yet? This is just a taste of the outrageously delicious recipes that local gal Sarah Coates whips up for her popular blog, The Sugar Hit! Her style of baking is whimsical, joyous and unapologetic – she knows what’s delicious and she’s not afraid to make it with her ‘no calorie wastage’ policy. Sarah has just released a cookbook of the same name this month, packed full of her favourite and most ridiculous recipes with everything from breakfast delights to midnight snacks. The Weekend Edition caught up with Sarah to talk whipped cream, treat tasting and infinite possibilities.
First of all, I am not sure whether to thank you or curse you – The Sugar Hit! blog is both my hero and my nemesis! How do you come up with your wickedly delicious recipes?
Everything is a source of inspiration – from brilliant Brissie sweet spots, like Chester Street and Donut Boyz, to bloggers and bakers around the world! Every other week I’m hatching a plan to go and learn the secrets of cereal milk from Christina Tosi, or the wonders of beignets at Café du Monde in New Orleans, or pie-baking from Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Shop in Brooklyn, or the magic behind old-world Austrian konditorei Demel in Vienna. The whole word in just one giant pot of delicious ideas, and I whip up whatever my latest obsession is!
Spending your time creating outrageous desserts sounds like heaven. Be straight with us – how many treats to you end up eating over a day’s work?
This is a tough question – take yesterday for example. First thing in the morning I was working on a recipe for a dark chocolate crepe (which will be up on my blog soon), so I made two different batters, and tested them both. That took some tasting. Then I was off on a photoshoot, where I had a few sips of a strawberry doughnut milkshake and a couple of bites of rainbow cake – amazing. And finally, home in the afternoon I made a batch of maple-cinnamon granola and had to sample some of that too. So, needless to say, I have to keep my portions small!
You’ve just released The Sugar Hit! cookbook – congratulations! What can you tell us about the book?
The Sugar Hit! book is a big ol’ round up of all my favourite things. A couple of the recipes are greatest hits from the blog – like my Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookies, and my Blackberry Jam and Custard Donuts – and the rest are all either long-time favourites or brand-new loves that I think the world needs to know about. If you grew up in the 1990s in Australia, then I bet you will see some familiar faces. Updated Salted Caramel Chocolate Crackles, anyone?
Which is your personal favourite recipe in the book, and why?
You know that’s like asking a parent which of their children they like best, right? But unlike children, recipes don’t have feelings so … I think I’ll have to go with the Midsommar Bombe Alaska. I was inspired by the Swedish Midsommar celebration cake, which has layers of sponge, whipped cream and strawberries. I love it because it’s this big, towering showstopper of a dessert – layers of cake and vanilla ice-cream, strawberry sorbet and torched, marshmallow-y meringue – but it’s secretly pretty easy to make!
Some of your desserts look too good to eat (oh but don’t worry, we will!) … Can you please share one cooking or decorating tip with our readers?
My favourite decorating tip is – for any dessert, not just cakes, but everything – leave it messy! There’s nothing that looks more welcoming that a big, blowsy, billowing pile of icing, or whipped cream, or a tumbling tower of berries. If you’re a professional, you have to keep it neat. The joy of home cooking is that food can just be easygoing and welcoming and I think it looks so much better that way!
You have been cooking from a very young age, what inspired your love of food?
There was no one moment for me when food suddenly became my sold interest. I’ve just always been a good eater. I loved to eat from when I was a little one in a high chair (as evidenced by how little food ended up on my face, the walls, the floor – I made sure it all went in my mouth), to watching Disney movies and remembering all the food scenes. Not even important food scenes either, I hasten to add, just any that had food in them. I wish there was a Disney food trivia competition because I would surely win it. So it’s kind of impossible for me to say. I used to go and rent out VHS tapes of Jamie Oliver’s cooking show from the library when I was ten. I loved it! Why? I have no idea.
We hear you have a collection of around 250 cookbooks. Do you have an old faithful that you always go back to?
Firstly, I must say that I love them all. Cookbooks are my biggest vice, and I’m really not picky about it either. But my old faithful is most definitely How To Eat by Nigella Lawson. A more beautifully written, comprehensive love letter to food, I have never seen. It’s just an absolutely brilliant book. It’s actually my favourite book of all time, and not just out of cookbooks, but any book. Ok, I’ll stop gushing about it now.
What’s one of the most memorable meals you’ve ever eaten?
This might sound like a strange thing for a food person to say, but I honestly feel like the thing that makes a meal memorable is very rarely the actual food. It’s the company that makes the meal, man. One of the best/most fun meal times I’ve had lately was just last night, when a mate came over and we ate simple bowls of bun cha (a Vietnamese noodle-y salad bowl – super easy to make) and fleshed out the story for a rom-com we are likely never to actually make, since neither of us is a big-shot Hollywood producer, or even in the business in any way. So much fun. Food-wise, though, I once bought a still-warm pain au raisin at a market in France at about six in the morning and it was maybe the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten.
You’re a pretty big music lover – the book even has a playlist of songs you listened to while creating it. What would we find on your ‘most played’ list at the moment?
At the moment I’m listening to a lot of Van Halen, Vampire Weekend, and Blondie. Key tunes: ‘Jump’, ‘Mansard Roof’, and ‘Heart of Glass’. My key psyche-up song at the moment is ‘Shake It Off’. Tay Sway knows what’s up.
If you could prepare a meal for anyone in the world right now, who would you choose and what would you cook?
I would cook for … Gizzi Erskine. She’s a British food writer whose career is a major source of inspiration to me. She’s got wicked style, and writes recipes that half the time are healthful and moderate, and the other half wicked and ridiculous. I would make us rare steaks with bearnaise sauce, and a healthy pile o’ fries, because I think ma gurl Gizzi would appreciate the old school decadence of it all.
What’s your idea of complete happiness?
My favourite day of the year is Christmas Day – the day of infinite possibility. You could get anything under that tree, you just never know! So I guess it would be good friends, good food, and the knowledge that anything can happen!
Do you have any words of wisdom to share with our readers?
Never ask for permission to do the work that you love. If you want to do something, just start doing it and work out the details as you go along. Life is too short to sit around waiting for permission, or for perfect circumstances. Throw yourself into it!
Only a Brisbane local would know …
… that the Palace Barracks Cinemas is the best movie theatre in Brisbane. Never crowded, great selection of movies, they validate parking, and their olive oil popcorn is the best. Also, they sell booze if you’re so inclined.
Where and when was the last time you ate out?
Last Friday night, at Ben’s Burgers. Had a BB Special with fries and a cherry coke, and it was everything I wanted it to be.
Hankering for more? Get Sarah’s recipe for chocolate-hazelnut ice-cream in brioche here!