Sunday, August 31, 2014

Warm Bread and Honey Cake - Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra

The last couple of weeks have been somewhat stressful (floods from an upstairs neighbours unsatisfactory plumbing and all the attendant hassle that goes along with that, trying to renegotiate my mortgage - there are no shortcuts it seems - and a very busy time at work) so faced with a whole weekend off it's no surprise that I woke up with a burning desire to mooch around a bookshop for a few restorative hours. Accordingly I took myself off to Nottingham, which has a much better branch of Waterstones than Leicester has, and had a good old browse. I wasn't after anything in particular but never the less felt an irresistible pull towards food and drink titles. I didn't try and resist it for a moment.

'Warm Bread and Honey Cake' came out about 5 years ago, and I know I've picked it up a couple of times with no special interest but today it grabbed me - which is part of the charm of a good bookshop; it would have been cheaper online but then I've never come across it whilst browsing amazon and at no time does coordinating with couriers appeal to me, even less so when I have the desired object in my hand. Since I last looked at this particular book I've acquired (and used) another of Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra's titles 'Sugar & Spice' which I liked more than enough to favourably predispose me to anything with her name on it. She has had one of those lives which give roots in all sorts of distinctive cultures - perhaps the most obvious sign of which us not the recipes so much as that the measurements are given in grams, ounces, and cups (or sticks where butter is concerned) and whilst that might not sound like a big thing American measurements look exotic to me; it's a combination that speaks far more of international experience than any recipe could. This also sounds like the perfect autumn book; warm bread, honey cake... Longer nights and unpredictable weather beg for such things.

It's also time for a confession; this is the first season of the Great British Bake Off I've properly watched and I'm not really a fan. I like bits of it, I'm a fan of baking, I'm definitely a fan of Mel and Sue, and I'm very much in awe of some of those creations, but they seem ever further away from anything I'd want to bake at home. The same could be said for a lot of the baking books I saw for sale  yesterday (I'm think of Surprise-Inside cakes and Peek-a-Boo cakes especially) all of which were full of things that had a wow factor to look at, but none of which made me want to eat them. Opening 'Warm Bread and Honey Cake' at random I'm confronted with spice cake stuffed with Almond paste - it's a good looking thing in a homely kind of way and the very thought of it is making my mouth water - I can almost smell it - and I can't wait to make it. No wonder I fell in love with it on the spot.

It's a book full of things I want to try, things which look useful, things which might present a challenge if that's what I'm in the mood for, and things that speak of comfort along with long tradition. There are things to read about rather than do, and things to dream of, it is in short a book which mixes practicality with a magical alchemy and one which I intend to spend a lot of time with.


  1. Thank you so much, Desperate Reader! I hope you enjoy it as much as you did Sugar & Spice. Best wishes, Gaitri.

    1. If it's not impolite to day it I think I like it even more than sugar and spice. After a slight mishap I managed to make some very credible chocolate and hazelnut buns. They were very good indeed!

    2. How could it ever be impolite to pay such a lovely compliment? Very happy to hear that the buns turned out all right in the end. They are a great favourite with readers. Happy baking!

  2. It looks like a lovely book - and I want it! I haven't been baking much of anything in the summer, other than the odd pan of brownies for birthday treats. It's just too hot even with the air conditioning. But with a fall-ish feeling in the air, I start to think about flour and cake pans - and chocolate, at least at first.

  3. It's exactly the sort of book you want at the end of the summer to remind you that colder months have their upsides. Absolutely gorgeous.