The Aroma of Baking Bread
I recently completed my move to East London. As much I was looking forward to discovering a new part of the city, the thought of packing up my life’s possessions (yet again) was hanging heavy over me.
After two endless days of bubble wrap, packing and unpacking our new place was starting to take shape. We had somewhere to sit, but no Internet, Vietnamese takeout was our new best friend, and I still couldn’t find my socks.
Ever since my first move — I was in Grade 1 — I have felt unsettled in new places. This time, 35 years later, was no different. After several sleepless nights, the weekend finally arrived. I decided that some bread-making therapy was in order, knowing that the smell of it baking would surely make me feel at home.
I decided to make baguettes, as I find the rolling and shaping therapeutic and comforting. As with most good French bread, it starts with making the poolish. I combined flour, yeast and water, and popped it into the fridge overnight.
Rolling a baguette seems like second nature now, but I can remember my first time like it was yesterday. I had a master bread-maker teaching me, and I was utterly hopeless, fumbling around – I’d compare it to the first time you try to drive a stick shift, and stall the car every time. It wasn’t until I completed a stage (that’s the culinary term for unpaid work experience) in a bakery, rolling hundreds of baguettes in a single night, that I was able to hone my skills. It felt so good!
But back to my bread. I was up at the crack of dawn to bang them out: I fired up the oven, spread the flour, and started to mix and knead. Within a couple of hours, as I sipped my builders' tea and read my newspaper, that familiar aroma filled my new kitchen. To me, there is nothing more rewarding than inspecting the finished loaves and picking out my favourite for breakfast — it’s not necessarily the most perfectly shaped one, but it's always full of character, and crusty and chewy, just as it should be.