On Thursday, as part of my staycation experience week I decided to be a Baker. Nothing very unusual there, this is something I do regularly and although I enjoyed the experience I didn't think there was very much to share with you all, so decided not to write about it.
The next day I went out with Doug and Monty for a walk and got to discussing my earlier post from The Turner Gallery. We talked about how you can look at something and not really see what is in front of you unless you look more deeply and take moment to think.
A leaf on the pavement is just another leaf until you really look, See the veins that run through it and as you look closer more tinier veins that carry nutrients to its tip. What wondrous symmetry natures programming has put in place to repeat this form over and over again and the texture and colour as you gently rub your thumb over its surface is not fully acknowledged untill you make a conscious effort to see it. We talked of how the simplest of things give you pleasure but often experiences and opportunity are taken for granted. So I am going to share my baking with you.
10 oz of self-raising flour,I sieve this vigorously into a bowl, gentle clouds billowing above and covering the kitchen worktop, hands, in fact anything within its range with a fine dusting, getting finer towards the edges like a soft powdery illustration of a nuclear fallout pattern. Quite appropriate really as hubby always says the kitchen looks like a bomb has hit it after I have been there.
5 oz of margarine straight from the fridge cold and tacky in my hand. I cut it into pieces which create little craters as they plop into the flour, forming their own little cloudburst of wheaten smoke.
The salt hard and crystalline, sparkling in the sun that shines through the kitchen window goes in next, 1 tsp. Then in with the hands, the flour cold and soft at the same time on the backs of my finger as they plunge into and under, reminding me of the soft down on my Mothers cheek as I gently stroked it to say my last goodbyes. Cold and Hard usually go together like Ice, cold and soft i find unusual. I select the first pieces of fat to be gently squeezed and rubbed between my fingers and thumbs, Like Fagin testing the quality of a silk Handkerchief newly picked from a rich mans pocket. The flakes that flutter gently down from between my fingers getting smaller and smaller as I plunge my hands again and again into the now warming flour, repeating this motion until only small fine crumbs are present in my shiny metal bowl. I am unable to complete this task without making a chewing motion with my jaw, like a cow chewing the cud. Why I do this is a complete mystery but I always have, a reflex, like opening you mouth as you try to spoon feed a child, irresistible. Luckily baking is usually a solo pastime so there are not to many witnesses to my Kitchen Gurning.
Water is then trickled in like little rivers in a barren white sanded desert. I do not know how much, just how much is enough. My favorite tool for this next bit is my grey handled knife which I swizzle around the bowl, enjoying its scraping metallic tune, until no water can be seen and the crumbs are all clumped together in moist little boulders in the bowl, a cratered, free form lunar landscape. Back in with the hand, only one this time. my Fingers swizzle the same way my knife did I hate the way that the dough attaches itself to my fingers. I use only one hand for this as I need to have one clean hand to turn on the tap to wash it off. Gently I gather the clumps into one soft but not wet ball and use it to mop up any stray bits of dough that are left in the bow,l slightly turning the forming pastry until the bowl is clean and the dough is smooth. As I pick up the bowl to make way for the rolling I notice an un-floured void where my bowl had stood. perfectly round and unnoticed until this moment, it cries out for a smiley face to be drawn inside but i resist the urge. Were I to walk away with my bowl and desert the kitchen like the Mary Celeste it would be clear what homely task had been taking place here.
The first 2/3 of the dough I roll out to line the pie plate, my favourite Pie plate, a tin plate, Black enamel speckled with white the kind you might find on a camping expedition. Mine is quite deep with a small rim so as not to make to bigger crust, the same Tin Plate i have used for twenty years or more to bake pies for my Family. it is like an old friend its familiarity cheers me as I hang the rolled pastry over the rolling-pin and place it gently over the plate allowing it to settle into the dish and over hang the edges. I flour the worktop again flinging the flour around with free abandon, there's nobody here to witness the disaster zone that my kitchen has become, before rolling the pie lid. Succulent chunks of chicken and white sauce are placed in the pie the light catching it like a sunlit milky pool. Two rashers of Bacon snipped into pieces are added like little pink fishes to the pool while lily pad slices of Mushroom float upon the top. Right, ready for the lid now, softened in the warmth of my Kitchen, it resists being placed and crimped atop my sumptuous filling.
Fresh from the Coop a big Brown egg. I crack it sharply on the side of the cup before prising the now broken shell apart and emptying it in. it sits there in the bottom of the cup, golden-yellow yolk plump and proud floating in its thick viscous snotty egg white. This I beat with a fork ,watch the sunny yolk leak out into the albumen before combining into a honey coloured liquid which will turn my paisty looking pastry into a Bronzed sun-kissed creation that will tease the senses before being gobbled up with pleasure.
Baked to perfection My Chicken Pie emerges from my decrepid old cooker as proud and hansom as its pre baked aroma has promised. wrapped in a familiar red and white tea towel I carry it down the street before presenting it to my son and his family for Dinner.
A dinner we sit and share together, this is a special time as they have just brought home their new baby, our grandson. My old Pie plate, beautiful Baby Max and Chicken Pie. Simple pleasures not taken for granted by this Nanny.
(isn't he adorable? I can't take my eyes off him)