Where There's Bread There's Life
MY friend has just had a baby: made and grown an actual person; created life.
It's still such a strange thing to think about - tiny cells changing into eyes and fingers and lungs and toes.
I have made bread.
Not quite as impressive but something that sort of seems just as fundamental.
It is made and it grows. It is alive too.
Just about every culture has their own version and there is all kinds of associated symbolism and ideology, which I can't be bothered to go into now (laziness is a sub-theme here as you'll see).
Bread is food at its simplest and best.
Yes there has been a lot of talk about how we're not designed to eat wheat, every other person is going gluten-free and bread sales are falling (though partly due to more people buying pre-prepared lunches or wanting better quality bread, less often).
I'll admit that I too have really restricted my carb intake, but know that I need them (and lots of them) after exercise. And unless you actually have an intolerance it seems cruel to deny yourself. No sensible person surely can resist the crust of a baguette, a charred slice of toast oozing with butter, or a bacon sandwich - the bread (I recommend a bagel) used to soak up the salty, bacony pan-juices...
I've never been much of a bread-maker. I'm not really a patient person and there's all that kneading and proving and waiting. I've made the odd soda bread and a rosemary focaccia but it seems the kind of thing generally best left to the pros.
But the bread I made is the appealingly-named Lazy Loaf from Nigella Express, which, though takes a bit of time in the oven (it goes in cold) requires very little effort. It actually uses muesli, and, having recently bought some flower petal stuff from Waitrose, remembered this recipe and thought it could make a particularly beautiful loaf. It did come out a bit lopsided (probably something to do with the fact I have a fan oven) and you can't really see the petals anymore but, c'est la vie...
It's not the sort you'd make sandwiches with, more one you'd have slicked with salted butter, jam, marmalade or honey; the sort you'd make to celebrate the simple ingredients and the process.
In fact, it just occurs to me, the sort that brings together food, philosophy, loafing, life.
200g good-quality sugar-free muesli
325g wholemeal bread flour
1x7g sachet easyblend yeast
2 tsps sea salt
250ml semi-skimmed milk
Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl then
stir in the milk and water so you get a sort of thick porridge.
Transfer to a 2lb loaf tin and put in a cold oven, turning it on immediately to 110 °C.
Leave for 45 minutes, after which time turn the heat to 180 °C and bake for another hour.
It is a dense loaf but should still feel slightly hollow when the bottom is tapped.
Remove to a rack to cool.