Traffic whizzes by on the South Circular Road and overhead, large cranes touch the sky hard at work developing the new children’s hospital at St James’s. Standing outside The Bakery run by Graham Herterich and his partner Daithi Kelleher, city life is buzzing. But when you step inside, time seems to slow down and a plethora of rural Irish food businesses come to the fore, a setup like you’d find in a traditional country shop.
However, our eyes are drawn to the cake counter first, a proud display of Graham’s bakes, modern creations that are simultaneously oozing in nostalgia. First, his Millionaire Bourbons, two large homemade bourbon biscuits just like the ones you dunk into a cup of tea. Yet Graham’s elevates them to the next level with a Doen Jang caramel and caramelised white chocolate. Sitting proudly beside them is Graham’s take on the classic Mikado, a large handmade shortbread biscuit covered in Irish raspberry jam sandwiched between pillowy marshmallows. Brownies evoke memories of chocolate Kimberly’s or pop in at the right time of year and they’ll taste like a ?Cadbury’s creme egg.
Old and New
This culinary fusion of old and new has become Graham’s signature taste. And ?it’s what is exciting Irish foodies as his first book ‘Bake’ hits bookshelves this week. Graham says, “Baking is a science. If equal parts of flour and butter are required, then ?it’s time to get out the weighing scales. And this is how I learned to bake, inspired and encouraged by great women like my mother Ann, my Granny Flynn and my grandaunt Mrs Tobin.”
However, Irish cuisine and tastes have adapted and changed massively since his childhood days, inspiring him to try new things, to embrace creativity while sticking to his tried and trusted methods. Tea brack is a classic example. Graham says, “Is there anything better than a bit of brack? A good thick slice with an equally impressive layer of butter. The original recipe is my grandmother’s and the tea always had to be cold Campbell’s loose leaf. But I also introduce my own variations such as malted coffee, chocolate and pecan or a dressed brack with St Tola’s goats cheese, raspberries and toasted almonds.”
Curnie cake is another example, the original recipe is inspired by Mrs Tobin but Graham introduces variations such as apricot, almond and dark chocolate; cheddar and marmalade; or green olive, white chocolate and lemon. And of course, no good baking book is complete without a knock-your-socks off chocolate cake. Graham says, “Chocolate and stout work wonderful together and Guinness is often the obvious choice. But there are lots of excellent Irish stouts available now and when I added White Hag Brewing Co. Salted Caramel Pastry Stout which is brewed in Ballymote in Sligo, I knew it was a match made in heaven. In fact, it was the beer that inspired the cake, rather than the other way round. And in a serendipitous moment, the following day, Lisa from the Dublin Liberties Distillery introduced me to their Irish Whiskey and Honeycomb Liqueur. That was it – these two just had to be married in cake.”
These recipes demonstrate that Irish ingredients have been the backbone to Graham’s creativity but essentially, the entire book tells a story of this passion. He is a man who not only walks the walk, but talks the talk and himself and Daithi now dedicate their holidays to touring Ireland, trying different foods and meeting producers. They are slowly working their way down the Wild Atlantic Way, although it’s not a set route. Sometimes they end up in Mayo while other times, they are exploring West Cork.
This appreciation of good food started at an early age and must have been infused into Graham as he ate, slept and grew, living above the family butcher shop in Athy, Co Kildare. It was opened by his grandfather Ernest Herterich in 1942 and was later run by his father. “Growing up, my father was adamant that we knew about the food chain. There was no child’s talk, we were brought to the farm to see the animals and meet the farmer and there was no illusion about where the meat that was displayed on the counter came from. I really feel this gave me a connection to the land from an early age and inspired an interest that continues to this day. In the bakery, I am very specific about where we source our dairy from for example. Good milk, butter, cream are all essential to making the best bakes.”
“The butcher shop closed when I was a teenager, I have often thought if I was a little older and could have helped my father more, would things have been different? But it certainly gave me that bit of entrepreneurship. And I didn’t know it at the time, but perhaps it also gave me the confidence to set up my own local shop.”
The creation of The Bakery came about with a bit of luck and one of those classic combinations in life, being in the right place at the right time. “We started as a distribution company. I was working in a coffee shop chain and I could see that practically everything came through big central distribution companies. If I wanted to order a box of muffins, you didn’t have much choice beyond Cuisine de France. I thought there are lots of independent and small cafes and restaurants that want something a bit more bespoke and handmade. I had put out a few feelers and just around the time that Daithi and I got married in 2012, Spade Enterprise Centre which is in our neighbourhood contacted me to say a space had come available and was I interested. A few days later, my cousin rang to say she knew of someone that was looking to get rid of an industrial oven. A friend then told me about a company who was looking to place a bespoke corporate order. It just seemed like everything was falling into place.”
Another part of the puzzle was that, during this recessionary time, Daithi was made redundant. “While he was looking for another job, I asked him would he give me a hand doing deliveries, helping out in the office etc. Things just kept getting busier and busier for us and let’s put it this way, Daithi never found that ‘new job’.”
But their business partnership as well as their life partnership works. “I’m in the bakery a lot while he is in the office so we have that physical separation,” he laughs. “That’s probably why it works.”
On a serious note Graham says their skills ?complement each other. “I am the creative one, hands on in the bakery and then I’ll come up to the office and bounce all my ideas off him. Daithi on the other hand is the business head. I have dyslexia so it could take me half an hour to write an email. When he came on board, he took over all that business end of things. So he’s accounts, he’s HR, he’s IT, he is everything that’s needed to keep the day to day running of a business going. We have very different roles that really complement each other.”
So a few years later, when a local shop premises became available in Rialto where they lived, they decided the business was ready to take the next step. “One of the nicest surprises we’ve had since opening the shop is the sense of community in the area. Perhaps because we are so close to Dublin city centre, I thought it would be more transient but it has a lovely village feel. My niece Ellen is our shop manager and I love that she knows our customers by name and will have their order on as soon as they walk in the door. And it’s a real family business as my brother Pappy (Patrick) works with me in the bakery.”
Graham’s appreciation for Irish producers means they are proudly displayed on the shelves and in the fridge. You’ll find everything from Cuinneog butter to Killowen yoghurts, Mossfield cheese and St ?Tola to Harry’s Nut Butter, Ballyhoura mushrooms and Achill sea salt. “It’s really encouraged our customers to try new things and many of them enjoy talking to our staff, about serving them and how they can be used in recipes.””
There is now a set of shelves that has been reserved for this week’s big delivery-the arrival of Graham’s first book, ‘Bake’ which he says, is a ?“pinch me” moment. Again, Graham’s timing was on point. “I was thinking about a cookbook for a while, fusing those traditional recipes with modern Irish influences. Kristin Jensen has been working on Irish cookbooks for over 20 years. I contacted her with my idea and she came back to me saying it was a great fit for a new publishing company she was working on called Nine Bean Rows. What I love about her concept is that it is more about just the recipes. There is a whole section that allows me talk about my childhood influences and all the steps in life that have led up to this moment. It made the whole experience so much more personal to me. Food writers Dee Laffan and Ali Dunworth also do great introductions, Dee talking about the modern influences of Irish food and Ali talking about the history of Irish baking. What Kristin is doing with this publishing company is giving a voice to chefs that don’t necessarily have that celebrity status and I’m so excited about where this new part of the journey will take us.”
Nine Bean Rows is a boutique Irish publishing house for tastemakers and storytellers. The company was founded by Kristin Jensen in 2021 and includes the Blasta Books quarterly series of small illustrated cookbooks and Scoop food magazine.
For more information visit ninebeanrowsbooks.com or @9beanrowsbooks
Bake: Traditional Irish Baking with Modern Twists by Graham Herterich is available from 8 September, €25, at all good bookshops and many independent retailers as well as online at ninebeanrowsbooks.com