i didn’t know that life held anything so ineffably delicious as this bread…
– katherine mansfield, 1908. (from selected letters, clarendon press, 1989)
some of my earliest memories are of freshly baked bread, sitting on the kitchen counter, waiting for us to arrive home from school. one of my older brothers used to cut thick slices, then lather each slice with a generous helping of home-churned butter and some vegemite. me, i’m more of a beefsteak tomato girl.
my mother has always made bread: she is still to this day one of the most amazing cooks that i know.
what she makes is not fancy fare, however she has the astonishing ability to take a brief glance into any pantry and make something delicious, as if by magic, out of cupboards that i would think bare. i guess with nine children to feed, one does get pretty good at making something-from-nothing!
it’s taken me a really long time to realise that this way of showing love for others, through cooking, is one of the most precious gifts my mother could have given me. and she probably doesn’t even know she has… because i don’t think i’ve ever told her! cooking is a way that i can show my love and appreciation for others.
i suspect i learned to cook and make bread by osmosis from my mother, then bread more formally when i was 18 years old as part of a hospitality course. and it’s still one of the things i turn to when words just aren’t coming and i need to take some time out; rest. kneading bread gives my hands something creative to do (that also has a delicious end result), whilst my mind slows down; reverts to a state of quiet peacefulness.
the laurel room, washington hotel, washington island, door county, usa
for the second time this week, as the words refuse to come, i’ve been baking bread. this particular recipe was one i found whilst we were on holiday at the washington hotel in door county, usa. (it’s a lovely place and highly recommended if you want somewhere fabulous to visit: check it out when they’re open again for business).
even though i still don’t have the answers that i’m looking for, i feel like i’m closer to my calm centre; the place inside me where the answers are more easily able to be heard.
* i’ve included the recipe here, so you can give it a go yourself if you’re so inclined
multi-grain honey bread
- 1 1/2 cups hot water
- 1 cup 7 or 10 grain hot cereal mix (1)
- 3 eggs (2)
- 1/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature (3)
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 4-5 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon salt
- in a large bowl, add hot water to cereal. cool to room temperature
- in a second bowl, whip eggs and combine with buttermilk, honey, oil and melted butter. mix with cooled cereal
- combine at least 4 cups of the flour, the yeast and salt, then mix into the liquid to form a slightly sticky dough
- turn on to a floured surface, knead 10 mins, adding more flour if sticky
- cover and let rise at room temperature 1 hour or until doubled in size
- form 2 loaves and place into greased bread pans
- let rise 30-40 minutes or until double again
- preheat oven to 450 fahrenheit/230 celcius/210 fan
- bake 30-40 minutes (4) until dark colour and hollow sounding when tapped on the bottom
- i buy a couple of bags of bob’s red mill hot cereal mix every time i take a trip to the usa as its the best mix i’ve tried.
- if you are allergic to eggs like me, orgran ‘no egg’ is a lovely substitute
- if you don’t have buttermilk you can make your own by placing 1 tsp white vinegar or lemon in a measuring cup, then adding milk to make up to 1/4 cup. stand 5 minutes before using
- time will vary based on your oven. check frequently to ensure you don’t overcook!