Saturday, 27 October 2012

October 27th - Bread of life

Dear Nigel,

It's been a little while since i was in any kind of regular routine of bread making, and it's amazing how quickly you forget the little things that make it special. Like the smell of fermenting yeast and dough - instantly memorable yet forgetable. And the weight. Hold a homemade loaf in your hand and the comparison is stunning. Weight for weight you are paying a small fortune for fresh air when you buy an ordinary loaf from the supermarket. Even the artisanal bread on offer seems somehow insubstantial. It's not that I'm in the habit of making rock-hard doorstops, you understand, but homemade bread is generally denser and more chewy and you need less of it to feel satisfied.

We had the first proper hard frost today followed by a blue blue sky with copper beech trees glowing in the sunlight - a sight to rival any Autumn in New England.The Lebanese lentil and chickpea soup i made is left uneaten by my lentil-hating, chickpea-hating sons. Bet you don't have this trouble when folks come to lunch! The second row of logs are stacked and we are ready for all a hard winter can throw at us.I am finding all those junk mail catalogues very useful as firelighters.

You, too, have been using lentils to make supper, but green ones rather than the ordinary red ones i poured into my soup.Your supper is a simple dish of boiled green lentils with red wine vinegar, olive oil and parsley, eaten with slices of ash-rolled goat's cheese. It's probably a good thing you have no inclination to invite my sons for supper, unless you have a very hungry dog to polish up the plates.

I am very taken with your Raspberry vanilla ice-cream cake (pg 316) which relies on nothing more than bought sponge cake, bought ice cream, Raspberries and icing sugar, which is then moulded back and refrozen as a cake.The result reminds me fondly of those simple jam and cream sponge cakes that my mum sometimes bought us for Birthday cakes and that we ate half-frozen with the cream still solid at the centre, rather like those arctic rolls which also hailed from that era and are no longer eaten. A variation you suggest would be to use brioche or panettone instead.

This would be a good recipe for the dark days of January when there is usually a panettone sitting around in a tin wondering what to do with itself. They have an amazing life-expectancy, those crown shaped loaves. I've occasionally come across one lurking in a tin six or more months later, still looking like it could be used, if you dared.Whatever they are embalmed in, i don't know, but if it could be bottled as an anti-ageing formula, some little baker in Italy would be very rich. I love the colourful  tins the Panettone come in. Each year i add one to my collection at the start of my preparations for the Christmas season. Sometimes, when there is so much rich food and chocolate on offer, you start to crave the  plain and simple as a kind of rebellion against mince pies. These are the days when you head out into the hills for a walk when all around you are sunk into sofas and glued to the box. Ahh, the family at Christmas; another tale.


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