Life can be all Rush! Hurry! Quick! How lovely it is to be slow. Making slow bread forces me to calm down, step out of the moment, take my time.
It also tastes particularly good.
I baked my first loaf when I was seventeen. It probably wasn’t very good.
I had a big, thick, general cookbook – I wish I still had it! Purnell’s Complete Cookery.
I really wanted to learn to cook. I genuinely didn’t have a clue. Someday I’ll tell you that story. Why I became interested in the bread chapter, I do not know. It jumped out at me so I gave it a go.
Now these were ancient times, also known as the late 1970s. Possibly dried yeast was available in specialist shops on fancy city streets. Not in the industrial West of Scotland. So I did as my book instructed. I went to the bakery.
That’s the actual bakery. Not the shop where I bought German Biscuits and Sugared Rolls. No, round the back where the bread and rolls were baked.
A block of yeast in a twist of greaseproof paper cost pennies. I became a regular customer at the bakery close to my work.
I have no idea where I bought bread flour. Strange to think how unusual such a product was. There was a Fine Fare near my office. (That was a supermarket) Since Fine Fare was the first place I ever saw aubergines, courgettes, peppers, maybe they had bread flour.
Anyway, home I went to bake my bread.
I liked the sound of a brown loaf that included treacle.
From the start I thought it couldn’t be right. Quite a few tablespoons of treacle. The dough was dark, dark brown and very sticky. Having no experience of bread making, I followed the recipe nonetheless. It baked into a nice little loaf, but so very sweet and dense. More like a cake.
I made the same loaf many times with only a little treacle!
Very soon I had bought more cookbooks and tried many recipes. Then a new book was published.
My education in bread making began the day I bought it.
It’s beside my bed now, as I wanted to re read it before baking bread to sell.
And this is what I learned from Elizabeth David: slow bread can be the best bread. Less yeast is required, and you get such good results.
It’s a lesson I have to re learn periodically. Many times I have rushed home from work, mixed the ingredients and left my dough to rise. As I grow more and more tired, I get angry at the dough for not rising quickly. I’ll be up all night! I must add more yeast! The bowl is going on the radiator!
When I get annoyed with a bowl of bread dough, I remind myself that the best place for it to rise is the fridge; and the best time for it to be baked is the following day. Perhaps the following evening!
There’s a time and place for speedy cooking and baking. But it’s not compulsory.
Slow bread is flavoursome bread.
Thank you for reading my blog. Please comment, especially if you have a bread making story.
Everything up till then, captivating. Then downhill all the way. Including “Reader, I married him.” I didn’t even notice the iconic ending when I was twelve. My memory of Jane Eyre is much darker.
The Aunt; the school; the Red Room.
Mainly the Red Room.
Oh, and I adored Blanche. I wanted to be Blanche.
Anyway, the Red Room. I’ve seen films and television adaptations of Jane Eyre. They must’ve depicted it. But the most horrific, the darkest, most troubling Red Room was in my mind.
The Aunt made me angry; the school made my spine tense. But nothing came close to the horror of the Red Room.
Blanche was perfect. I didn’t read the book in the way I would later, as an adult. I read it in pure black and white, as children do. I didn’t see Blanche as opportunistic; I didn’t realise her dislike of Jane came about because she was beggin’ of her, please don’t steal my man.
Blanche was beautiful, as were her clothes. Abusive partner Mr R was used to telling pretty women what to do. We found out what happened to his previous partner once she ceased to be Eye Candy.
The wedding, the brother in law (an actual hero, sticking up for his sister) interested me. Tense and excruciating. Then Jane ran away, and the story ended.
Except it didn’t.
Jane found a family, inherited money, and returned to her abusive boyfriend. Nah! It didn’t work for twelve year old me.
Jane Eyre affected me. I only loved half of it, but that half is perfect.
It’s a reasonable question, and the answer is Partly, yes. They had borrowed it from a friend, and taped it onto our family’s reel to reel recorder. Thereafter it was mine.
So after school I walked home with some friends. It was late November and I was having a birthday party. They weren’t organised, expensive celebrations back then. Basically, school friends came to your house, ate whatever food your mum gave them, played with your toys then went home.
It’s worth mentioning here that I didn’t like many of those “school friends”. I preferred the girls who lived in our street. But the unwritten rule was, invite children who score roughly the same marks in exams as yourself.
So we ate our food, then my school friends wanted my toys. I had a better idea. I fetched the reel to reel tape recorder and played The Paul Simon Songbook.
Probably several times.
My school friends found my toys. They ignored me; I ignored them. Bliss.
This week I heard someone on the radio asking what songs are helping us through lockdown. I’m a cynical woman, so I rolled my eyes.
“Hiding in my room, safe within my womb, I touch no-one and no-one touches me”
A hundred and one memories of playing my favourite childhood song, “I Am A Rock”, from my favourite childhood album, “The Paul Simon Songbook“, flooded my mind. It was part of me, a little girl who liked her own company, had no confidence, but loved music and lyrics so much.
Years later the album was rereleased as a CD. I bought it.
It’s 2020, we’re in lockdown due to COVID19, and Paul Simon’s youthful lyrics feel meaningful once again.
I’m seeing more of my human family than usual – they call it Lockdown. Thank goodness they’re leaving my hair alone!
My favourite thing ever is sitting outdoors in a breeze. I love to feel the wind in my hair. Don’t humans know that cutting my hair = ruining my life? They have zero empathy. I tell them clearly to leave me alone, but do they listen?
Let me keep my fuzzy ears and crinkly beard forever.