Sometimes I wish I had a little bottle of what Alice had, labelled 'Drink Me'.I would take a sip and shrink until I fitted into Thumbelina's clothes.Then I would find a swan ,a huge powder white swan and climb on her back .I would nestle down into her froth of feathers and close my eyes and dream as she floated elegantly in the water.
Last Monday evening I spent 3 hours at the home of an extraordinary girl . Roxanne Floquet ,in her sugar pink chef's jacket, showed us how to make the most delicate,dainty and simply beautiful sugar roses. Her wedding cakes are works of art and the sugar piped cookies and petit fours would have made Marie weep with delight !
I rolled and smoothed the little icing petals of my pink rose ,managing to secure it to the icing cone ,slowly building ,petal by petal ,my first attempt !It would take me years to even come close to the perfect ,sweet creations that decorate Roxanne's cakes .I am in awe !!
Sometimes one comes across something one just has to share.I found these delightful images by a photographer I love.Her name is Polly Wreford .I love old teacups and Polly has captured a number of delightful cups filled with the daintiest of blooms.Joyful and inspiring !
Right here actually.Just immersed in the routine of running a home .So, no apologies ! However, my garden is telling me that Spring is here.The Cape Robins are building a nest, the fruitbats are whizzing about the Yellowwood tree and I have more Jasmine flowers than Wisteria this year.I am making jewellery,getting ready for a Tea and Cupcake morning with Nicola from Lafete (http://www.lafete.co.za/) and cooking and baking and just feeling really blessed.My dearest Mom turns 81 tomorrow and how fortunate am I to still have her near.I shall share her day with her complete with a large carrot cake !
I don't have the outfit or the wonderful stone oven that gives Artisan bread its delicious crust,but I do bake my own bread !Here is the recipe from the beautiful cookery book of the Knysna Restaurant Ile de Pain by Liezie Mulder.( www.ildepain.co.za )
I thought I was allergic to gluten and after a long talk to Amazing Baker , Markus Farbinger ( also of Ile de Pain in Knysna) I am not ! I am allergic to all the additives commercially , massed produced bread contains. Artisan bread is made with a lot of love,using stone ground flour with NO additives or chemicals. ( I use Eureka Mills from the Overberg), fresh or Instant dry yeast and TIME .
To make three fat loaves you will need 1kilogram of stone ground white bread flour.Either 15grams of Fresh yeast or a 7gram satchet of Instant Dry yeast.When using fresh yeast it needs to be dissolved in water first,dry yeast goes into the dry flour.
You also need a good Sea Salt,I use Maldon Sea salt.A good salt does add flavour .Get 2 small bowls ready,one for the fresh yeast ( if using) and one for the sea salt. Using 200 mls of water dissolve the yeast in one bowl.With another 200 mls of water ( I use filtered water) dissolve the salt in the other bowl.You will need 4 teaspoons of salt.
Then measure ,in a little jug another 350mls of water.
Get a LARGE clean ,dry bowl out and oil it with olive oil.Your dough will rise in this bowl so it needs to be large.You will also need a clean tea towel to cover the large bowl. I also rushed out and bought a Pink dough scraper ,a flat plastic wedge .It helps to have one of these to clear the dough off the counter at the end.
Of course,mine had to be pink ! Matches the scale ...
First you need to sift your flour onto your work surface. I just use my kitchen counter top which is wooden.Then make a well in the middle of the flour mound.If you are using dry yeast ,sprinkle it onto the flour now.If not,take the dissolved yeast and pour some of it into the well.With a claw like hand ,in a circular motion slowly swirl ,from the middle of the well to incorporate the water/yeast mix.Then add the salted water,then the rest of the water,swirling all the time,round and round wider and wider as the dough starts to form.
This is jolly good arm exercise !!I usually have to ,with my free dry hand scoop the outsides of the flour pile in a little as you don't want your dough on the floor !!
Here is the 15g fresh yeast dissolving in the 200 mls of water.
Keep swirling and mixing until all the flour and water is mixed.You will have a rough unstructured dough mound now.Pat it into a roundish shape and put it into the large bowl.You may need to use a little flour to get the stickiness off your hands.
Here is the rough dough mound in the bowl.Cover the bowl and place it in a quiet place to begin the first rise. After 45 minutes or thereabouts ( this can be a bit weather related as on very warm days the bread will rise quickly). Take out the dough and gently put it on a floured surface.Fold the ends in over each other until it forms a springy ball.Don't overwork it though !
Here is the risen dough .
Folding over .
The dough has to rise and be folded and worked 3 more times,45 minutes each ! I usually write 45 on my kitchen blackboard 4 times and then cross it off after each rise! After the last 45 minutes,cut the dough into 3 pieces 500g each. Pat and round each piece and place them on a baking paper covered board.Cover with a cloth and leave for a last rise of 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 250deg C ,with a baking tray in the oven large enough to hold the dough shapes.Just before you put the dough in the oven place a cast iron pan filled with a cup of water into the bottom of the oven.This makes steam ,which helps the bread to rise.Slide the risen rounds onto the hot baking tray,with a sharp knife cut three lines across the top of the dough for stam to escape ( just score them don't cut too deep) and place in the oven.
Turn the heat down to 220 deg C for 10 minutes. Then down to 180degC for 25minutes.
You will smell the bread baking and give yourself a round of applause.
After 25 minutes you will have 3 artisan loaves.Beware they get eaten very fast and you may have to start all over again,sooner than you think !!
This year has started with turmoil.I have been immersed in holding some of my friends as they face new beginnings and challenges that are sometimes just so,so hard.Perhaps it is our age group,a time when things are shaken up so that we might change and learn and grow.
The end of the forties ,the start of the fifties .
We have those 'power surges' ,those 'fuzzy moments' and the 'very very early morning wake up and cannot sleep again 'moments.
Some of them are having to begin again, alone .Some of them are trying again ,together.But through the tears and the rants and the confusion our girlfriends are there. We listen,we hold each other.We make meals and help with carting their teenagers about. We cry together and then call the 'soon to be ex' terrible names and then laugh 'til we cry again. We stay on their side and beside them.We are the sisterhood.