We started our annual beach holiday this year without much preparation, unlike previous years. It has been a very busy year. We searched the beach front boulevard, lined with North Folk Island Pines, looking for our holiday unit. Despite our excitement at arriving at the beach, we were all so exhausted, we took a long nap. Exactly what beach holidays are for. There was a feel of South of France here at this little north facing beach in the south of Queensland, bordering New South Wales. After a late lunch, it was time to be off to the beach ....
On the first full day at the beach, our son didn't surface until after 11 am. I said to his Dad that as soon as the young man woke up, he's going to want food. Sure enough, the first thing that he said when he emerged was, "Pretty hungers; pretty hungers."
After we had or brunch, the wind was howling and no good for the surf, so the Dad took the opportunity and went out with our daughter to get her surf board fixed. He asked if the boy would want to come along. Why would he? - There was chocolate milk and Tim Tam in the fridge; plus, there was cricket on the TV (Australia vs. West Indies). As they say, "You can lead a horse to water but a pencil must be lead."
I purposely brought only my starter and a selection of old, almost expiring, flours with me, but none of my usual implements for making sourdough bread. When I found out that the unit wasn't even equipped with measuring cups, I thought to myself that I should have at least packed my scale. No matter. Early evening as I was refreshing my starter, my husband was making a celery/onion sauce to go with the meat pies being warmed up in the oven, and my children helped setting up the table. Thirty-six hours later, these were my first holiday sourdough breads:
Evidently I mixed the dough a bit dry to achieve the nice openings on the surface but somewhat dense interior. The flour I used was Laucke's multigrain bread pre-mixes with no commercial yeast. I promised myself that the next sourdough I made would have a lot more hydration for more open crumb, as below:
I never envy commercial bakers' job but I often wondered why making sourdough bread was such a satisfying act and I think I got the answer during this holiday. Whether or not we are happy with our sourdough and whether or not it is a piece of crafty work of art, no one can deny that there is a creative spirit in the making of it - the bread comes out differently every time! It is like allowing a piece of us emerging and taking shape. It is a means for expression.
An Aussie participant in the SFBI courses that I attended back in August told me that American [b]all-purpose[/b] flour is equivalent to Australian [b]plain[/b] flour which is available from all supermarkets and is used in pastry baking. He is a very accomplished baker and works with[b] Leon Bailey[/b], the Australian master-baker. The protein level of plain flour is roughly the same as in French style flour. I experimented with 1/2 wholemeal plain flour and 1/2 plain flour and was quite happy with the result:
Half-way through the first week of our holiday I was already getting into a good routine of morning and afternoon exercises. I thought of a book that I once read, [i][b]Running High[/b][/i]; how true, the wonders of endorphins.
On many nights during our stay at the beach my husband cooked dinner and my children made salads as well as set the table, while I sipped on my Chardonnay (they must have been secretly reading my blog where I said I don't know why housewives get excited about holidays).
As the week progressed, left-over sourdough was piling up in the freezer. I have always loved the Italian Panforte and Stained Glass Fruit Cake. But I did not feel like making any pastries. Anyway, I used some of the left-over sourdough bread and made a [b][color=red]Christmas Stained Glass Panforte[/color][/b], the only festival baking that I made. Actually there was no baking involved; the dried fruits were cooked with the left-over sourdough and then were allowed to set with the nuts - very more-ish with a cup of coffee latte:
When I was little I read stories that often ended with "And they lived happily ever after." When I was a bit older I knew that they were fairy tales but I wondered what it was like. Beach holidays can hardly be a Chinese thing and no exception here. But this time I had one of the better beach holidays that I could remember. I think "living happily ever after" is entirely possible if one just lives in the moment ... like a new born baby.
And thus we finished the two weeks' beach holiday - short enough for me to take, and long enough to make a difference. Yesterday my kids helped me with the Christmas tree. I missed the many little figurines that adorned our Christmas tree last year and am very happy to say Hello to them again:
One of the clowns
One of the fairies
Wishing all of you home bakers out there a [color=red][b]Merry Christmas[/b][/color] and a [color=red][b]Very Happy New Year[/b][/color]!