Shoogly Perch: No knead for scales as the perfect loaf is produced with guesswork
(OMG! I hear the loyal few gasp. She lives IN A KITCHEN! Poor soul. No wonder she’s losing her marbles).
Perhaps I should have said ‘living WITH a kitchen’, but that wouldn’t be true. I am not so much living with the kitchen as existing in spite of it. I wake up one morning and my microwave is on one counter. At lunchtime it has moved to the floor in the dining room. Later in the afternoon, I go to the dining room to find it has moved on again. I play hunt the microwave. It gets a bit wearing after a while, trust me.
But why am I so obsessed with a microwave oven? Surely obsessions should be about something grander, or more at least more attractive, such as Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Matthew McConnaghenninny, or Ryan Duckling. Now there are some real men. Not that I’m fond of Matt Mac, as I have said before in this very column. He’s all Southern drawl and whips his top off at every opportunity. Show-off. Just not my brew.
At the moment, apart from the barely functioning hob, I have no other means of cooking anything, apart from using the microwave. So it is very precious to me.
Our salad days have been long and golden, but they are now over. Even the home-grown lettuce with the longest season has gone to seed now, and I have had to resort in the last week or two to buying (yes, from an actual, real-life shop! Gasp!) very expensive lettuce in packets. Grim.
Also, I think as a family we have munched our way through our yearly allocation of tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, coleslaw, potato salad, pickled beetroot/onions/gherkins, chutneys, cheeses, charcuterie and, indeed, meats of all descriptions presented in many different ways. The list goes on and on.
Like that native American saying that says you only have so many steps to take until your death, I think you only have so much salad to eat before you shuffle off, and we must have eaten a good few years’ worth this summer.
In contrast, one (and probably the only one) unexpected benefit of a kitchen in chaos is freestyle bread. When I say I make my own bread, that makes me sound like Paul Hollywood, like I know what I’m doing.
Au contraire, mes baguettes, I have no grasp of bread-making by hand. I tried it once, as a hippy dippy teen, with a loaf tin, a couple of kilos of gritty brown flour and some sunflower seeds.
The result was something akin to a brick, which even hot soup (lentil, of course) could not soften and sucked every drop of moisture out of your mouth. I took this as a sign that bread-making was Officially Beyond My Capabilities.
When I started bread-making again, I used a machine and followed the recipe in the manufacturer’s book to the letter, measuring every ingredient to the careful half-gramme. So imagine my utter dismay when I realised I had packed away my scales in the Kitchen Preparation Clear-out, and had no idea which of the many boxes they were in.
Feeling bold (ie. reckless), I took out the machine’s bread pan and guessed the ingredients by sight. The result, a nail-biting 3.5 hours’ later, was a perfect loaf. The most perfect loaf I had ever made. Ever.
Fluke! I hear my small band of readers mutter. Nope, I have since made four or five more loafs, all with the same results. Fabulous, freestyle bread. Produced by me, the loaf murderer. That would dim the cheeky twinkle in Hollywood’s eye.