I had started a post about something different altogether then it started to rain. I was wandering the back roads, Prune on the track ahead of me, off lead, we had no umbrella. Out of nowhere fat, cold drops fell fast and hard, a liquid sheet. Prune looked at the skies, she questioned our luck. It was an autumn shower and I started to count seconds of rain knowing it would be over soon. I counted to 130. That's just over two minutes and it felt like a very, very long time. My shoes were just water and I was cold and Prune was soaked through and we were miserable and it was only 2 damned minutes. I don't really like to comment about world events here because I never feel I have anything adequate to say but there are times when it's all burning up and other things seem irrelevant. I was thinking about how 11 minutes would be a very, very long time to listen to gunfire. How long do firefights last with professional soldiers in kevlar vests? Why do I doubt things go on that long? We seem to have a habit of tearing people, places, apart, either intentionally or not.
There are companies cutting posts in the city nearby and in a county nearby and there will be good hardworking people with no jobs and mouths to feed and more uncertainty and kids' birthdays will be a bit less shiny than before. Cities seem to be either up in flames or drowned or crumbling because the weather seems to think we don't cause each other enough pain already. I was at the supermarket, standing in one of my favorite aisles. The nut butter aisle. Half in a hurry, half indecisive, looking between cashew butter, crunchy almond butter and high eolic peanut butter (smooth), when I saw a box in another shopper's cart. Pampers, the ubiquitous British diaper brand. Diapers. I'd recently seen something online about the Texas diaper bank, in urgent need of donations in the aftermath of hurricane Harvey. I was there making a moral decision about peanut butter and there were parents who were struggling to give their kids even the smallest things they needed. I grabbed the PB and left. It doesn't happen often to me because I'm used to living in the developing world but I was humbled, for once, I just told all my small internal conflicts to shut up for a while. Maybe because I was going back to a working house and the place we live is safe and stable and my parents both had jobs and I had a dog who'd lived almost a year longer than her ordeal, so little miracles did exist. I had another dog who'd just had three gorgeous pups and there was a loaf of home made bread on the table and I'd just bought my fancy peanut butter. It's coming up to Thanksgiving, isn't it? My life is far, far, from perfect. Sometimes I just feel like I've jumped overboard, ditched my life jacket, I'm treading water, a constant battle of wills with the current and no palm-lined shores around. But really, I think that most of us will be able to find something, anything, your four walls, a tedious job that cashes in every month; a brave dog. Gratitude. Not something I'm familiar with, but it was there, and I'll have it back again.
“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.”
― A.A. Milne, in Winnie-the-Pooh
What's it about home baked bread that makes me think of the simpler things? I found this pretty much fool proof recipe in the gorgeous book Panetteria by Genarro Contaldo, it's essentially about Italian baking (this bread is called pane alla farina di spelta e noci in Italian which sounds so pretty) and is so well written and photographed it's totally up there with my favourite cookbooks. It arrived post-Rome and I bookmarked this recipe. I've copied it pretty much word for word because it works perfectly, no adaptations. But the truth is that the last three photos are of my third loaf. I'll say this - if you're after a fool proof, really tasty spelt bread recipe you'll have your loaf day one. But I'll warn you it won't be super instagrammable and photogenic unless you're quite good at baking bread, which I'm not. My first loaf spread far too much while baking to look super rustic and bready... so did my second. There are good reasons for this. Not to lecture in the science of the loaf but especially with a flour like spelt you really have to knead - you need to develop the gluten for it to hold any shape at all. But even if I kneaded more and I shaped the original loaf into a height focused ball it wasn't doing what I wanted. So I read around and I found that many pro bakers seem to use a proofing basket, or banneton, which also leaves the pretty rings of flour and it held the loaf's shape and height. If you're not too uptight you'll get it the first time, no doubt. Otherwise, try the proofing basket.
Ok so I could talk on about bread but there are people here today to cut our trees and they've brought a unimog and a mulcher and I must actually be an eight year old boy because Prune and I are off to the window to watch.
Hugs, gratitude and fresh bread xx
PS. If you're looking for a new tartine idea, I love chunky slices the OG way with smushed avo, chilli flakes and salt, or with a slice of nice cheese (hi dad). Sweet toasts with almond butter and strawbs or Greek yogurt and a drizzle of honey + a sprinkle of cinnamon (so good! But weird I know).
Spelt and walnut bread
From Gennaro Contaldo's Panetteria // makes one loaf
1 3/4 teaspoon (5g) active dry yeast
1/2 tsp honey
generous 3/4 cup (200ml) lukewarm water
2 1/4c (270g) whole spelt flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3c (40g) roughly chopped walnuts
Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Dissolve the yeast and honey in the lukewarm water and leave to proof as necessary (usually around 15 minutes, check the package). Combine the flour and salt, then add the yeast mixture and mix into a dough. It will be quite sticky but that's ok.
Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and and incorporate the walnuts, kneading for two minutes. Shape into a ball and place on the baking tray*. Using a sharp knife, make an incision in the shape of a cross. Cover with a cloth and leave to rest in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 200'C, 400'F.
Bake for 45 minutes, Remove from the oven, leave to cool, then slice. Or if you're ok with a loaf that looks kind of savaged and collapsed, go at it straight from the oven, because there's nothing like freshly baked bread.