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My secret baking ingredient

From aubergine to activated charcoal, Soho House & Co pastry chefs share the weird and wonderful ingredients that give their recipes an edge

Aubergine – Radoslav Ivanov, Soho House Berlin

My favourite combination at the moment is aubergine with dark chocolate. I first came across it in Italy as melanzane al cioccolato (aubergine layered with ricotta and chocolate, served with rich, dark chocolate sauce). These days with high demand for healthy/vegan desserts I’ve been working on recipes and soon we’ll have it on our menu in a moist chocolate-aubergine cake or as a sorbet.

Vinegar – Gabriele Leo, The Ned

One unusual ingredient that I like is vinegar. It helps to cut the sweetness of a dish, lifts fruit flavours and adds acidity. You can use cherry, raspberry or Cabernet vinegar but my favourite is calamansi vinegar, made of a sour citrus fruit. At the moment we use it to marinate fresh apricots that are served with a honeycomb parfait, honeycomb pieces and anise cress. We also use goji berries in our matcha raw brownie at Kaia; they provide crunch and a bright red colour, as well as being a superfood.

Malted milk powder – Eric Estrella, Soho House Chicago

I like to use malted milk powder in some of my recipes like white cake mix or ice-cream base. I don’t think people know what it is when I add it, but it adds a bit of richness and complexity without being overwhelming.

Activated charcoal – Zuzana Laczova, Hoxton Grill

I’ve experimented with all kinds of ingredients, from olive oil ice cream to blue cheese panna cotta. At the moment I like activated charcoal in pancakes: the black colour looks cool and it’s detoxing. I’ve also tried a charcoal crème patissière in strawberry millefeuille.

Mayonnaise – Kirsten Pettit, Soho House Toronto

When I was younger my mom would make chocolate cake with mayonnaise. It takes the place of the vegetable oil found in many chocolate cake recipes. You do not taste the mayo flavour at all, it just makes the cake super moist and decadent.

Goat’s curd – Rhys Couldrake, Babington House

Goat’s curd has a subtle flavour and is very creamy, but I played around with it without much success until I tried an ice-cream recipe. As peaches were in season I made it into an Arctic roll with a fresh peach jam and a thin genoise sponge, served with roasted peach. At Babington House we also infuse ice cream with pink peppercorns and bay leaves from our garden.

Freeze-dried balsamic – Noubar Yessayan, Soho House West Hollywood

I use freeze-dried balsamic vinegar chunks in one of my desserts here. Paired with strawberries and chocolate cremeux, it adds a crunch and acidity that is very unexpected and shines through the rich, sweet flavour.

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