Friday, November 27, 2009

Knead I say more...(some thoughts about bread)

I am by no means the best bread baker in Twee Riviere. It is sufficient to me that I do bake bread most of the time. It took me a while to figure it all out - the yeast, the tepid water, sugar or honey , to salt or not to. I read up various recipes and eventually settled on one - I forget whose it is, Nigella or Jamies or someone else.

My little gas oven was a challenge as well, as it really only has two temperatures, cool or hot. But, six months later I serve two fresh loaves every second day - and they always are well received. Here I could buy what we now call 'shop bread' but I try not to. Bread must be baked.

I like to work in my kitchen with my door open, at least the top half. Then I can see the two oak trees and the dry stone wall. I work on my table top with floury hands, kneading the dough until it springs back and I feel that it is ready for the pans. I set the pans to rise in the sun or on a heater and wait.

The smell from the oven alerts one to the bread being ready and the loaves are placed, steaming and covered by a cloth on the kitchen table. The first loaf never lasts long, and is eaten quickly with butter melting and homemade jam.

I have a friend who bakes 50cm dense wholewheaty loaves that she serves with her freshly churned butter, homemade cream cheese and preserves. Two or three slices fill the most starved of adolescences (and she has a few!). I love to join them at the long wooden table in their dimly lit kitchen, next to strings of corn and onions hanging from the ceiling. I love to eat that bread. I sit quietly chewing, snipping a blade of chives absentmindedly over my cheese. Hhhum...

A couple of people have delighted me by serving steaming challah bread (kitke) at the shabbat meal - which a few folk celebrate here. A long plait, shiny and golden ,it emerges from beneath its cloth after prayers, to be passed hand to hand. I break off a long chunk always and then feed myself ripped of pieces spread with butter. Yum...

I guess this is a good place to write about my other musings about 'our daily bread'.I have found a new understanding about Christ being just that in our life here in the Langkloof. I have participated in many communions - little melt in the mouth wafers, stale squares of white bread that have to be swigged down with tepid red grape juice, torn up matzos with heady red wine...

But none of it compares with the taste of Christ I have experienced here, in this life of faith and provision over the last six months. I have lived off Him here, in every mouthful of precious bread, in all its varieties. He has been the most nourishing and the most satisfying and I am grateful for that.

The bread experience has even extended to some folk having mastered using black Dover stoves - a sweaty business with an orange flame burning within - but warming of course in winter. The trick is to keep turning the bread pan - so that one side does not burn.The bread is crusty and solid and smoky.

Once we shared bread with friends on their veranda with the Kouga mountains as our backdrop. They ate my bread and we ate theirs and licked our lips appreciatively of each others newly learned expertise.

I am learning to make bread in a big black pot, cooked in a fire in an outdoor kitchen - camping style. These days we do not camp much and its good to make a fire in our front garden, with the glowing coals under the moon and the Syringa tree.

We cooked rotis out there once, when we ran out of gas and I had to complete my Indian curry in the black pot on the grid. The rotis puffed up and bore the marks of the grid criss cross over them. We make rotis often, and wrap them around bean curries and I remember working with Asian communities a long time ago.

That's really what bread is to me. Thinking back to Kalk Bay, ciabattas at Olympia Cafe. And now, my day old bread, toasted with some of my own homemade Marmalade can really not compete. But I know I am living a memory.

My daughter Georgia finds dough to be the most delightful thing in the kitchen. She always volunteers to create bread of some sort. Left alone, she rolls out flat bread which we cook in a pan over the gas flame. She is sprinkled with flour, as is the table, chairs and floor....

And so daily the provision of bread continues - I look forward to mastering fruit breads, crispy cracker breads, round breads made with rye and sweet cinnamon breads. The Langkloof is a great teacher, and me, a generally willing learner in this schoolroom with Him.

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