“The Cardamom Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East” by Chetna Makan, Mitchell Beazley, $29.99, 240 pages, hardcover
If, like me, you’re a fan of “The Great British Baking Show” on PBS, you’ll remember Chetna Makan, the amateur baker who reached the semifinal in 2014. A native of central India who worked as a fashion designer before moving to the United Kingdom in 2003, Makan won raves from the baking competition’s judges for her unique, spice-infused recipes.
Now, Makan has written a cookbook, “The Cardamon Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East,” in which she shares 100 of her favorite recipes for both savory and sweet baked goods and accompaniments.
While she grew up eating good home-cooked food, Makan says home baking is not very popular in India and her home didn’t have a built-in oven. Still, her mother and later Makan did bake birthday cakes in their basic tabletop oven. When she moved with her husband to the small town of Broadstairs in Kent, England, she discovered the concoction of cake, strawberry jam and fresh cream known as Victoria sponge – and she soon was baking cakes for family and friends. It was friends who encouraged her to try out for a new television show, “The Great British Bake Off” (as it is known in the UK).
“When I started practicing to take part in Bake Off, I discovered that many classic European bakes taste a bit similar, at least to my palate,” she writes in the book’s introduction. “This led me to think of infusing my recipes with Indian flavors to set them apart.”
“The Cardamon Trail” is a cookbook written for the British public. American readers will have to deal with flour and sugar being measured in grams and ounces, not cups. However, teaspoon measurements are used. And, of course, there is the issue of British terminology: for example, caster sugar for superfine sugar, and icing sugar for confectioners’ or powdered sugar.
The book is beautifully illustrated with full-color photographs.
The author also includes information on 11 of the most popular Indian herbs and spices and suggests how to combine them with foods and other flavors.
This is a terrific book for anyone who enjoys Indian food and for the home baker who wants to try new flavors for home baked goods.
Cheramie Sonnier is a food writer and columnist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow her on Twitter, @CheramieSonnier.