A Letter of Love for Warm Bread and Honey Cake

Once in a while you come across a cookbook which, in a slow, smoldering manner, really ingrains itself into your kitchen repertoire. Makes you try something new, challenges your so-called limits, educates and inspires. Warm Bread and Honey Cake does all that and more. Richly narrated, nostalgic in parts (but never drippingly sentimental), varied, and thorough, I have enjoyed every page in this restrained and elegantly designed book. Which makes the fact that it won The Guild of Food Writers Cookery Book of the Year Award (2010) a sheer joy.  Now would be the time to say that I have not been asked to promote this book by anyone. A bargain and unexpected find at TKMaxx led me to this gem and I love it enough to want to tell everyone about it.

Those in the foodie community I am part of, no doubt, are rolling their eyes at me banging on yet again, about this one. I have flooded the facebook group with my pictures, I have hounded a kitchen/food clever Dutchman when it came to the Dutch breads in the book and basically have preached fanatically on its merits. What I love is that this is ‘rainy day’ baking/cooking. There is a mood, a yellow cast that comes over;  willing you to put your fingers into warm dough, paying no great attention to the hands on the clock, allowing your mind to be immersed in the luxury of a bake coming together. I think it’s wonderful that in these days of ‘instant‘ everything, here comes a book into my home telling me to chill the heck out. To work with the time given; not against it. It’s not a race. It’s a moment.

Now I can understand that this perspective feels overly romantic. However, routine, routine and routine, can be wearisome. With two young kids and living in a city that personifies impatience, time is fleet footed and I’m playing catch-up. Somehow, and I am not the only resident to notice this, Doha seems to move faster than any other place I have been. Even Mumbai, probably the most congested, sleepless city I ever laid  foot in, has a rhythm, which Doha lacks. So I have to make my own. Since the kitchen is the one place in the house that is exclusively my domain, naturally, that’s where I exercise my sense of culinary cadence, that tumbles along at a slow, steady pace to give majestic results. Like these…..

…and these that I have already featured previously.

Chocolate & Hazelnut Rolls                         Pan de Queso

The author is Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra, with roots as varied as her name is long. Born into an upper caste, Hindu Brahmin Indian family in colonial Guyana, complete with sugar plantations, Gaitri grew up balancing the Caribbean influences of this South American land on one hand and the other, her Indian roots. Complete the picture with marriage to a Dutchman of Jewish descent and you have the makings of a truly international vibe going on in the kitchen. And it isn’t limited to just these places. The Middle East with it’s famous leaf pastries (baklava and such like), the Chinese sweet buns, Hungarian and Spanish pastries sitting alongside a thorough Dutch bread chapter, are all given a good workout. Meaning you get a good dig into the food identity of these far flung places. Welcome to the world of spiced cakes, yeasted sweet spiced breads, traditional plain and filled rotis, nut based pastries and buns. Recipes that are featured here are the ones so indigenous to the places they are traditionally made and eaten, that unless you are willing to travel there, the likelihood of such morsels passing your lips is definitely a long shot. That is, until this book came along. Also, if a historical account of food interests you, as it does me, she definitely delivers on that count too, making this an excellent ‘reading’ cookbook.

I have turned these pages over time and time again. I am sometimes bewildered while trying to decide what I want to bake, simply because the choices are so wonderful. It really is a book, that for me, delivers on every level. Perhaps it’s the earthiness of the spices in the breads and cakes reverberating with my Indian roots, that call to me as much as the thread and leaf pastries belonging to Middle Eastern part of the world that I grew up and now, again, live in. The same juxtaposition of cultural upbringing as the author.

Hypothetically speaking, if my house was burning round my ears, and I had to choose one book to take, it would be this. I have all of Nigella’s books and as splattered, battered and beloved as they are, Warm Bread and Honey Cake, does something Nigella’s or any other of the books I own, can’t. I yearn for the food in this book. And in a world of explosive, constant, here today, gone tomorrow, food fashions and trends, that is surely a thing to cherish.


55 thoughts on “A Letter of Love for Warm Bread and Honey Cake

  1. eat, little bird

    I was wondering when you would post all of the wonderful photos you have taken so far for this book! I would love to try the fruit loaf and, after flicking through the book last night, I have a few cakes earmarked for hopefully the near future 🙂

  2. Jean

    Mmmm, you did like the welshcakes though, Thanh? Lovely stuff, Carrie. I would like a new baking book and perhaps this is it!

  3. complynn

    I have now placed my order through Amazon, but it’s your post and those gorgeous photos that sold me the book. If I love it half as well as you do, it will be worth twice the price!

    1. The Patterned Plate

      Good heavens!! That was fast work! I do sincerely hope, that you enjoy the book, even as a read. I appreciated the writing longer than I did the actual recipes, as it took me so long, for some reason, to bake anything out of it. Now that I have, I can’t seem to stop!

  4. joostpoort

    I actually bought this book on your recommendation, Caroline, and I’m so happy I did. Like you say it’s a slow burner but once it gets going it doesn’t quit. I know this is a book I will be enjoying for years to come.
    Oh, and I suppose I’m the savvy Dutchman 🙂 Thanks for the mention.

    1. The Patterned Plate

      Hahah! Yes indeedy, it is you 🙂 I know what you mean by the ‘years to come’, it feels like a faithful, and patient, friend in your kitchen. Besides, I can vouch for its veracity, only because of you 🙂

  5. Jo Blogs

    Oooooh what will I bake first Carrie?! How can I choose?! Perhaps something you haven’t made yet so we can wax lyrical together over a new bake lol. Thank you ever so much for sending me my own copy of this book – I’ll cherish it as I know how much you love it. How can I fail to love it when you, not one for outpourings of sentiment like soppy old me, loves it so very dearly? Xx

    1. The Patterned Plate

      It’s daft isn’t it, to be so dotty about a cookbook, but there you have it! And yes please, something I haven’t tried would be great…but which one Jodie? How to choose!!!

  6. Nkemdilim

    Oooh! All this talk about Dutch bread reminds of my childhood in Den Haag and Assen. The Dutch don’t muck about with their brood met kaas 🙂 Yummy! Hmmmmmm where is my bread maker? I feel a bakeathon coming up 🙂

  7. Heather @ SugarDish(Me)

    Gorgeous! I’ll take the appeltaart, the coconut tea bread, the krentenwedge… I think I need one of everything. Rainy day baking is the best, whether the rain is pounding on your windows or inside your head. I love everything about this, Caroline!!! (as always 🙂 )

  8. NickkiT

    What a wonderful post, Caroline! I actually had this very book out on loan from the library last year, I did have a read through it but now I feel I didn’t give it the attention it deserves. Your pictures are amazing, everything looks so good. I think I know what I’m asking for my Birthday now!

    1. The Patterned Plate

      I can perfectly understand that feeling Nickki, because it was the same for me. The key to this book is to actually make something out of it. I think because a lot of the recipes in here is so out of our normal repertoire, there is not a lot to compare it to, and we can’t guage. For me, the Duivekater, being something so different to what I normally bake, was a revelation. When I saw that burnished beauty come out of the oven, soft topped, with a tender bread crumb, perfumed flavour, and fantastic taste, that was it. LOVE!

      1. NickkiT

        I don’t blame you at all, that bread really is an absolute beauty. There are so many cookery books out there these days and I think it’s wonderful when you feel that you’ve found “the one” 🙂 I’ve checked my local library online and sadly this book is no longer available but that’s a perfect excuse to bite the bullet and order it 🙂 It sounds like a keeper book anyway!

        1. The Patterned Plate

          I got mine at TK Maxx, do you have one up at Nairn? Or someone in Aberdeen who can have a nosy for you? Think it was £9.99. Mind you, stocks are never constant there. It is definitely a keeper of a book. It is classified as ethnic baking and really, it is that but oh, so special 🙂

          1. NickkiT

            Yes we do have a TK Maxx in Inverness, I pop in all the time. They do have some great bargains in cookery books so I must keep an eye out. Mind you, John was asking me for ideas for my Birthday yesterday so I’ll just show him my Amazon wish list (which of course, is mostly cook books!) 😉

  9. Sarvani @ baker in disguise

    oh my ..you really know how to convince someone about a book.. with praise like that.. i just have to have to check this book out!! u know i really love the books that travel the globe through their pages with their recipes.. makes it mcuh more than just a collection of recipes!!! and if i may say.. from what u’ve written about the author.. with the cocktail of cultures within her.. i see shades of her in you?!?! 🙂

    1. The Patterned Plate

      LOL! Perhaps there’s a sugar crystal sized bit of truth in that Sarvani!
      This is definitely a reading cookbook too, which goes into the history of foods (though not in a dreary, pedantic way). This woman is fiercely intelligent, I think, and that sharpness and ability to absorb, comes through beautifully in her written words. It might not be the book for everyone. But, that’s not something I mind!

  10. Alexsondra Tomasulo

    great post. I am now dreadfully torn between running right out and buying this book and remembering that I am no longer allowed to eat most breads. The photos are exquisitely mouth-watering… hmm. I could buy it and give it as a gift. or since I love bread making,, buy it and give the bread as a gift. I love your unabashed passion!

    1. The Patterned Plate

      *blush* You make me sound like a lovesick teenager! haha! There’s a sentiment I didn’t think I’d visit in a while! This book does have an excellent yeasted breads, cakes and rolls chapter, but it is by no means the only part. Is it gluten you have to avoid? If that’s the case, wheat is pretty much the flour used throughout so in that regard it might not be the best buy for yourself. But that said, sense has never been something that has stopped me from doing what I want!

  11. Katie

    These sound like my kind of recipes! And your description of the book has me sold. Glad to have found your blog recently.

  12. islandfoodie

    “It’s not a race. It’s a moment.” Thank you for this thought (and for the inspiration to bake something gorgeous today). It’s every bit as applicable outside the kitchen as in.

  13. Mike Beaumont

    Caroline, I am, much to my chagrin, a bread and pastry lover. I grew up on my grandmothers homemade creations, and though I was the oldest boy in the family, I was tasked by her to learn to cook, sew, and otherwise learn how to do things that some would consider a woman’s work. But my nana didn’t see it that way. She said never depend on a woman doing what you could do for yourself. I learned much from her over the years, but could never quite get the hang of making fresh bread. I tried, but alas, I still don’t have that ‘touch’. I also had a neighbor lady who’s son I became good friends with. She was of German descent mostly, and could bake breads like no other. My favorite treat she made was poppy seed roll, a delectable creation that, along with a good cup of coffee, was a splendid afternoon snack. I still give it the old college try and sometimes it works, sometimes it more like a flat bread. But I think it’s like you mentioned, a small way to escape the drudgeries of the constant hustle and bustle of the hurried up lifestyle so many of us get trapped in. And thanks for getting my taste buds revved up.

    1. The Patterned Plate

      Mike, what an absolutely lovely glimpse into your life there, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and thank you,for sharing it.:-) Your nana sounds like one very astute, sensible woman and she is right. These are skills that should not be confined to women, it makes sense to know how to sew a button!

      Bread making, of the puffed, sandwich variety, isn’t part of our traditional food whatsoever. Living out of India means you get influenced by other cultures and well, sandwiches were discovered. 🙂 So, it’s not something I have an instinct for, but one thing is for sure – practice, practice, practice. Even then it might not always turn out ok. I tried making a brown bread last week ( my kitchen nemesis I tell you) and basically I could have killed someone if I threw it at them.

      Most of the recipes in this book use milk rather than water. In cake/scone baking, this allows for a more tender crumb and might be what makes all the difference.

      German breads are fantastic and probably the most varied in the world. They do have it down to an art, don’t they? Bread and pastry offer up so much satisfaction and comfort, so you are in good company here 🙂

  14. saffron

    Lovely lovey post!! You have put such a nice description of the book, want to grab a copy right now. The breads look awesome. Do share the coconut tea bread recipe.
    p.s Happy to know the story behind the expression ‘going dutch’.

    1. The Patterned Plate

      Thanks Shalini, the breads were fantastic. All made for great bread and butter puddings too! The book is filled with such culinary backgrounds and histories and that’s why I love it! Well, one of the reasons at least.

  15. bunandbiscuit

    I love the process of baking, especially bread, and actually enjoy the time that it takes. Thank you for sharing this book! I can’t wait to pick up a copy and start reading and trying recipes from all over the world!

  16. Rushi!

    Carrie you have a way with words and I was hoping to get a copy for my birthday but now I don’t think I can wait that long. I wish I knew about the appletaart because I was in Amsterdam a few days ago well on the bright side when I get the book I can try it out 🙂

    PS: All those piccies are making me drool and the choc hazelnut rolls keep calling my name 😀

  17. Pingback: Warm Flatbreads on a Dreary Day « Jo Blogs Jo Bakes

  18. kevinashton

    The Dutch recipes reminded of the great two years I spent cooking in the Netherlands and the friendliness of it’s people. Often Dutch culinary skills get overlooked by the rest of Europe. In particularly their talents with breads, chocolate and marzipan. Boutiques dedicated to this art form, showing off their new windows displays with all the flourish and fanfare of an art gallery opening.

    Cocoa painting, chocolate carvings, faux scrimshaw on white chocolate. Items made from chocolate and marzipan so lifelike you’d swear it was real. Long before the Chic chocolate boutiques of Paris and London.
    Kevin Ashton
    Chef & Food Writer

  19. Pingback: Fruit Loaf — eat, little bird

  20. Pingback: Sugar & Spice and Everything Nice! « The Patterned Plate

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