It’s easy to lose the habit of cooking. It can seem like something you do on TV and get judged for. It‘s been over talked, over examined. Yet to gather together a few ingredients and make something simple for friends and family can bring such delight.
Away from it all in the country, baking becomes an event. Something that is remembered, talked about. Rob and Leigh’s scrumptiously moist friands; now a sense memory bound up with a certain 80s German jigsaw and minty cocktails.
My ideal is to bake a beautiful loaf of bread and bring it out for a really simple lunch. To have the whole house heavy with the aroma of it. A few dismal attempts following recipes has led me to ask Carolyn, a dear friend and master bread maker, for a lesson.
Carolyn’s method of teaching is to have one lot of dough rising in a warm place while she shows you how to start another one from scratch. Then she puts the first loaf the oven and gives you the other one to take home and cook yourself. She makes bread with a minimum of materials – no dough hooks or bread makers. Just a large bowl & wooden spoon. Ingredients; flour, water, yeast and salt.
She tells me interesting and unusual tips that I have never read in books. The temperature should be 200 degrees but all ovens vary. To check it you put a piece of newspaper in the oven and if it goes the colour of a pine chopping block- then it’s just right.
She warns me not to leave the bowl of dough rising near furniture as it can go over the sides. Back home the next morning, like a small creature, some of it had escaped and landed on the floor of the kitchen. I put a pan of water in the oven to make the air moist, but I don’t get the heavenly bread smell & my loaf is somehow too hard and yet undercooked. Hmm… well, it’s a start. I’ve been initiated into the ancient ritual of bread baking.