Published By: Bloomsbury
Released On: 28/04/2022
“If you had told me at 14 when I couldn’t even get out of bed with depression and anxiety that three years later I would have written a book I would never have believed you. But here it is – the story of the Orange Bakery. How I went from bed to bread and how my Dad went from being a teacher to a baker”. – Kitty Tait
Breadsong tells the story of Kitty Tait who was a chatty, bouncy and full-of-life 14 years old until she was overwhelmed by an ever-thickening cloud of depression and anxiety and she withdrew from the world. Her desperate family tired everything to help her but she slipped further away from them.
One day, her dad Alex, a teacher, baked a loaf of bread with her and that small moment changed everything. One loaf quickly escalated into an obsession and Kitty started to find her way out of the terrible place she was in. Baking bread was the one thing that made any sense to her and before long she was making loaves for half her village. After a few whirlwind months, she and her dad opened the Orange Bakery, where queues now regularly snake down the street.
Breadsong is also a cookbook full of Kitty’s favourite recipes including:
- The Comfort Loaf made with Marmite, and with a crust that tastes like Twiglets
- Bitesize queue nibbles, doughnuts with an ever-changing filling to keep the bakery queue happy
- Sticky fika buns made with mix-and-match fillings such as cardamom and orange
- Happy bread covered with salted caramel
- Cheese straws made with easy homemade ruff puff pastry
- The ultimate brown butter and chocolate chip cookies with the perfect combination of gooey centre and crispy edges.
Radio 2 has a lot to answer for; every time they feature an author on their Sunday morning show, I HAVE to go and buy it, and this was no exception.
I debated whether to write a review for this book, as a cookbook is a cookbook is a cookbook right? Wrong. I have read an awful lot of cookbooks over the years, some chock-a-block full of recipes such as Jamie Oliver or Mary Berry, and some with a more story-like feel, like Nigel Slater, but I’ve never read a cookbook with as much heart and soul and passion written in every word as this one. Half of the book is a narrative of how the bakery was born, and the other consists of a number of delectable bread and pastry based offerings.
On my first read, I decided I’d note down the recipes I wanted to try, but I soon gave up when I realised I was just copying out the whole book. I wanted to make them all. At first, I was a little dubious as to why they had to spend 150 odd pages writing about their life story, and would it just be something to skip to get to the recipes. But I was proved wrong almost instantly. Sure, as a cookbook you can skip to the recipe half, which is fine. But the first half has so much heart in it that it makes you appreciate what goes into the recipes that much more.
It evoked such a smell and image of freshly made bread that I had to pause reading it to make my own loaf so that I could continue reading with some warm fresh bread with an inch of butter melting slowly into it. It reminded me why I love baking bread so much.
It is a cookbook with the power to make you cry – or it did to me. The difficulties Kitty and her family went through, the difficulties of mental and physical health, financial worries – but bizarrely, it was the power that bread has over people that made me emotional. If you’re not a baker then you may not realise what I mean by that. I bake (unprofessionally), although not as much as I used to thanks to a Neurological condition I have developed, but I still try to when I can. Baking has always been my way of dealing with fierce emotions. When I lost my dad, I baked an absurd amount of cakes and biscuits for the hospice staff; I bake (and eat) when I’m stressed, when I’m sat, when I’m bored, when I’m happy. It’s just my moment to completely forget about everything else and the joy you get seeing someone enjoy what you’ve made is priceless. And to see that written down on paper was what made me cry.
What’s that famous saying? Don’t cry over spilled milk? But you can cry over a freshly made loaf of bread.
There are some photographs scattered around the recipe section of the book, but the first half contains little sketches which I believe are done by one half of the baking team Al. They’re not necessarily professional drawings but they have their own charm. They’re simple and quirky but express what they’re meant to. It means they don’t overwhelm the text but instead complement it.
I think it’s a testament to the recipe writing that the first one I chose to make was The Comfort Loaf – a white bread with marmite in. Considering I cannot stand marmite – like, I dislike it with a passion – this is quite the credit. Marmite is still not my thing – and I did have issues getting the bread out of the tin (my mistake) – just the smell of it coming out of the oven made me smile.
I can’t really put it into words – and not sound corny or sappy over bread – what this book has done for me. I’ve always wanted to put my baking recipes in a book, but as I’ve got more and more unwell, and I’m unable to bake nearly as much as I’d like to, I thought that wasn’t an option, but I’m starting to think that it might actually be the answer.