Making my Grandmothers Proud : Baking Bread Effortlessly

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There are days, when my household just runs out of bread…for all different reason, usually just as life happens. In those times, when I did not plan, I did not researched or did not source in advance, I have to simply allow the flow to drive my baking hands, to take over my baking mind, and then…I do really bake from my heart. Effortlessly. From whatever I can find in my secretly guarded larder. And then… I don’t even always measure….

“What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance.  They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life.  And, most importantly, cookies.”  – Rudolph Giuliani

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My grandmothers were true white witches, they had most definitely known magic. I can still hear them with my loving memory-filled ears, when I used to ask them for a recipe…They would have listed all the ingredients, all the techniques, and when we faced the sensitive question of “how much”, they kindly answered: “You know, just thinkingly…” Well, I know now, and I wish I could tell them whilst expressing my thankfulness for teaching me to bake from the deepest feelings of the soul. I can not, however, all I have left is a couple of kitchen towels and memories, filled with the remains of their wisdom, love and wild yeast…

“I am not, of course, telling you for one second that your teacher actually is a witch. All I am saying is that she might be one. It is most unlikely. But–here comes the big “but”–not impossible.”
― Roald Dahl, The Witches

Ingredients
200 g brown flour
100 g white flour
50 g rye flour
50 g rice flour
100 g chestnut flour
30 g fresh yeast, crumbled
300 ml water
50 ml white wine
100 g roasted cashews, finely chopped
2 tbsp melted lard
2 tsp salt
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Preparation, as my grandmothers used to do it…
Do not worry, just put it all in a big bowl. Have a chat, laugh a lot while you mix and knead thoroughly. Scrape it all from your hands and the side of the bowl and form it into a ball. Make time to give love to someone while you let the dough rest under a heavy kitchen towel. When it is “thinkingly” judged as ready, turn it onto a floured tabletop. Shape from the heart based on the day’s events and feelings, and have a strong, fresh coffee while the bread is rising. Bake it in a hot (you know, thinkingly hot…) oven and bake until sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Most importantly, share it with true love.
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“If God had intended us to follow recipes,
He wouldn’t have given us grandmothers.” – Linda Henley

4 thoughts on “Making my Grandmothers Proud : Baking Bread Effortlessly

  1. Another great write up, you really do have a great way with words. My sisters have interest in cooking and baking, but just not the magic (or witchcraft, which I love the way you used) as my mother and grandmother. Where they just get lost in the process without as much as a measuring cup and many times without a recipe…when a recipe was present, it was covered in flour and used mainly as a companion instead of as the ‘Ruler’ to be follow at all expense.

    Laozi (of the Dao de Jing) always said that letting things flow is where you get the best results, and he believed the same with leadership. A leader/ruler should give the population the freedom to experience it all, so when it comes to action they act without fear. From your posts, I think the same is true for the baker…the best results come from just doing what comes natural, a love for life.

    One thing that is true today, the art of baking is one that is more treasured today…as there are fewer ‘white witches’ out there now than ever before. At least that is what I think…do you think it is true?

    Good news, in Hong Kong, I have found a great shop that while they still produce endless amounts of flavorless cakes and pastries, actually make a simple whole-wheat bread that actually has flavor. Toasted with butter, I get a little taste of heaven over here! Cheers!

    • Randall, thank you for the compliment and for describing my activity with Laozi’s thoughts: “The master observes the world but trusts his inner vision. He allows things to come and go. He prefers what is within to what is without.”

      I do agree with you regarding the true white witchcraft ability: it is a rare gem nowadays – this is why I treasure mine:-) For me, however, it needs no effort to follow my amazing ancestors, given their eternal wisdom. The simple lesson those robust, unshakable – still ladylike – women, my white witch grandmothers taught me was going through life with respecting myself and others. In my understanding it applies for the baking: I respect myself by creating something exceptional with my name stamped on it and respect others through the way I serve it. In the meantime I also respect all parties by admitting to mistakes if I made them. As Laozi said: “Perfection is the willingness to be imperfect.”

      I am glad you have found good bread, I wish I could share mine with you. J.

  2. Observe the world and trust your inner vision, not easy. Probably what separates a good baker from a great baker…you know what and how much to add even if the recipe says otherwise 🙂 Hope to share some of your great creations at some point in the future. Cheers!

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