Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Our daily bread.

Time to take a break from posts about vegetable growing and getting our allotment prepared. Not much of one though, both "All from nothing" and "Meanwhile, back at the ranch", will be the primary focus of this blog for some time to come. 

Bread. Its many forms have become such a staple of the human diet that it could almost be considered as essential as water in the needs of human consumption. In a way it represents the most basic level of agriculture, hearkening to a time when our ancestors took the first steps from their hunter-gatherer lifestyle to working the land around them. 

For this reason I feel that the subject of bread fits in snugly with my blog. 

I grew up in a household where bread was baked freshly on an almost daily basis. My grandmother baked bread on a daily basis. Clare's maternal grandmother baked bread on a daily basis, and her paternal grandfather was a baker who made a living out of baking bread. I imagine that this scenario is the same across much of Ireland. 
The point (which I'm subtlety hammering in) is that a loaf of home baked soda bread is as much part of our cultural identity as a pint of Guinness. 
Or at least it used to be. 

Our generation seems to have abandoned the practice of making their own bread. It's easy to understand why. With the advent of easily available, relatively cheap sliced bread, some would question the point of baking their own.

The answer is twofold: first - it's cheaper, and second, home baked bread is infinitely more delicious than what is mass-produce for the shops (I'll point out here that I don't include bread baked in real bakeries in my generalisation). 

I'm lucky enough that my wife bakes our bread on an almost daily basis (well, she bakes as much as we need, having learned some tricks of the trade off my mother). Sliced pan is a thing of the past in our house. Not that I miss it.
I make bread too, but the bread I make is yeast bread, and between kneading it, leaving it to rise, proving it and then baking it, I find (lovely as it tastes) that it takes too much time for me to do every day.  

A loaf of my own bread

So, to the alchemy. Flour, bread soda, salt and buttermilk are added together (simple, eh?!)

When all these ingredients have been thrown into the bowl, Clare will mix them all up, forming a dough.

She then shapes the dough into a loaf, scoring across across the loaf - this aids its expansion in the oven. 
The loaf is then bunged into the oven until baked to perfection, with a golden brown crust. 
Now, if you can manage , leave the loaf to cool. Then tuck in! Every crumb is delicious.

And that's that! Good no matter what way you eat it (I have a have a preference for it fried (heart-stoppingly good) or toasted). As a "by the way", Clare guesstimates that each loaf costs about forty cent to make. 

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