First of all I must confess that pairing me up with a book on baking is a very bad idea. Not because I don’t know how to bake, or am somehow adverse to the idea of baked goods – on the contrary: as a self-confessed cake-aholic the arrival of Alice Arndell’s Bake me Home was both extremely welcome, and extremely dreadful, as I knew that any excuse to try out the recipes for “delicious everyday occasions” would be sure to end up in a semi-glutton overload of sugar and carbs. But in the spirit of good reviewing, I threw myself whole-heartedly into the task of trying out several of the gorgeous recipes.
Alice Arndell, who learned baking from her grandmother and her 5th form economics teacher, eschews healthy baking in favour of decadence, which helped her become a finalist on Chelsea New Zealand’s Hottest Home Baker. She is a food blogger, and also writes on baking and creating crafty projects for NZ Women’s Weekly and Cuisine.
Bake me Home is a beautifully presented book that will take you back to another era of cookbooks and culinary approaches. Think old-school: high tea and cucumber sandwiches at your nana’s house on colourful little Royal Doulton plates with cups of tea. Think pre-anti-sugar-craze lack of guilt at eating the most delicious, comforting morsels – no sugar substitute in sight! Think Julia Childs instead of Ottolenghi, and a re-claiming of the good old Edmonds cookbook, that was once a cuisine staple in most New Zealand households.
The recipes in Bake me Home are helpfully organised into various sections, including “filling the tins”, “wine and cheese with the girls”, “the kids party”, and “afternoon tea with the queen.” Alongside retro favourites such as neeenish tarts, louise cake, pikelets and club sandwiches, are easy versions of banoffee pie, antipasto beer bread, and even a gluten and dairy free version of lime coconut and poppy muffins.
The recipes are easy to follow, and in most cases the ingredients list is simple and does not require you to run all over town to source elusive ingredients – apart from the occasional use of buttermilk, a fridge filled with cream, eggs, butter and sugar should see you right. Personal favourites during my very messy baking attempts include the caramel and salted chocolate rice bubble cake (for the kids, of course), the tipsy truffles (yes, made with real alcohol, which I am sure evaporates during the cooking), and the boozy fruit punch (so there might be a theme here in my selection of favourites).
Regardless of what your idea of a treat is, or what occasion you are baking for, it is highly likely that you will find something to suit you amongst the various recipes in Bake me Home. The vintage quality of the book means that it could also be a great present for mothers or grandmothers, just to show them that their culinary wisdom is still appreciated – but then again they probably already know most of the recipes in the book, so maybe keep it for yourself and enjoy.