Step up, step down.

It’s been a nice run of clear days both weather and mood wise. Yesterday was a classic good family day with cooking, husband manfully unblocking a drain and a great visit to the park with some friends in bright sharp sunshine. There was an amazing hiatus after tea when 4 children aged between one and four all played equanimously together, an occasion worth note in most parents’ blogs. Today has been cloudied somewhat by the precipitation of bureaucracy but the kids cheered me up with a new dance routine and a silly song so all is cool. The “step up, step down” of the title refers to Florence needing (being somewhat lanky) to bend down to get under a railing on some steps, and as I exhorted her to take care she began to chant: “step up, step down, duck!” Not many repetitions in, the “duck” was replaced with “quack” and soon Theo joined in, closely followed by me. As our neighbourhood is so entertaining, we have handy cctv cameras in the park and it is gratifying to think that just maybe the sight of two children with Mummy stepping up, stepping down and ducking with a quack and a duck movement amused someone stuck in an office somewhere.
Sadly, I have no photographic evidence of this so you’ll have to take my word for how amusing this was at the time.
For the last few weeks, my bread has become more hardcore. I can’t blame the oven (Miele, sleek, unimpeachable), perhaps the yeast has been at fault or my lazy kneading of the dough, or the general cold spell. However, Doves Farm spelt flour has saved the day like a knight on a wholemeal charger. A 2:1 ratio of Doves Farm (DF) to Whissendine (WW) uber-worthy flour has resulted in an almost mainstream loaf. For this recipe I unashamedly mix my measurements, stick with it. Take 1lb Doves Farm wholemeal spelt flour and half a pound of WW wholemeal spelt flour, place in a large bowl. To this, add two teaspoons DF quick yeast, one and a half teaspoons fine sea salt, two tablespoons sunflower oil. Next, roll up your sleeves and those of your assistant, add 500ml hand hot water and mix. Until recently I have been an unreconstructed ‘hands-in-the-dough’ baker, but recently my Grandmother has got me a hand mixer with dough hooks and I can’t resist the lure of a good gadget. Whichever method you favour, combine all the ingredients until you have a consistent dough ball. Blow lots of kisses at the dough, cover and leave for at least an hour in a draught free spot. When you come back, the dough should more or less have doubled in size and look different in consistency. Now, flour your surface (a good granite worktop is best, but this is definitely a luxury) and knead the dough for a couple of minutes before chopping in half. Knock back one lump of dough with traditional kneading motion for about five minutes, adding more flour as necessary. The loaf should feel alive; if it doesn’t, perversely, a good punching can sometimes revive it. At the very least it’s a good outlet for some frustration etc. Knead the second loaf, place both on a lightly greased baking tray, blow kisses at the loaf again, especially if you’ve beaten the crap out of it, and gently cover with a tea towel. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220C (gas 7 I think) which should take the 30 minutes required for the loaves to prove again. Uncover and put in the oven for 35 mins at which point the loaf should feel hollow when tapped on the bottom. Resist the temptation to eat immediately as the bread actually tastes better after cooling for quarter of an hour. If your kids will eat the crust on this then they probably have hair on their chests already.

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3 responses to “Step up, step down.

  1. I have one thing to say – paragraphs…

  2. I have to apologise for the pedantic nature of the above comment – I was half way through a bottle of red, and my true colours (an indistinct grey) were showing.

    We were told by our gran that eating the crusts would make our hair curly (as opposed to having it grow alarmingly on our chests) At which point my cousin hurled the crusts to the floor yelling – it’s all your fault.

  3. It’s a fair comment, but after a large g&t I can ramble for England. I did manage a semi-colon in my defence.

    I ate lots of crusts but still ended up with straight hair.

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