July 2016

for the love of bread

“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight…[Bread making is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells… there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.”

Mary Francis Kennedy Fisher, The Art of Eating

 

Nothing healthier (and therapeutic) in these days as baking your own bread – especially when one reads about a study conducted on 38 samples of commercial bread, which found 32, which is 84% with potassium bromate or iodate in the range of 1.15-22.54 parts per million (ppm).

Every family has their set of comfort foods. Bread in our family is a popular comfort food. We are all avid bread lovers and bread is baked atleast once a week in our kitchen. Who can’t be made happier with a thick slice of fresh crusty bread with its still hot soft middle slathered with clotted cream and home made preserve…No one in my family for sure!

Living in a tea estate we always had the luxury of a large kitchen and even larger back yard. I took to the kitchen early on in my marriage especially when my husband’s work took us to places that were so remote that going to the market would mean a full day’s drive. I baked and cooked with gusto using fresh ingredients from my garden, and every other day my kitchen would be enveloped in the smell of freshly baked bread.

I run a home stay now and I still cook with ingredients grown in my own garden and I still follow the weekly ritual of a bread baking day. I make sure my guests enjoy a basket of freshly baked rolls with their meals or a fresh loaf of bread to go with the pepper crusted butter balls and slabs of fresh local cheese.

I had two lovely guests one time who asked to be let in on the secret of baking bread and I happily obliged. Here is the recipe we used and is so simple that my grandchildren also use it when they are home on holidays.

For two medium sized loaves of bread (believe me one is not enough), you will need:

I kilo of flour

30 grams of fresh yeast

2 tablespoons of sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

625 ml of warm water

Method:

  1. Place the flour in a tub or a clean work surface, make a well in the middle. Pour into the middle half the water, all of the yeast, sugar and salt and stir with a fork. Slowly add the rest of the flour to the mixture in the centre and work into a ball.
  2. If the ball of flour feels sticky, don’t worry. Dust your hands with flour and then start kneading the dough into a nice firm and smooth ball. Be firm with the dough and try the push, fold, slap and roll technique till you get a nice smooth round of dough.
  3. Place this dough into a bowl, cover the bowl with clingwrap and leave to rise in a warm, dry place. In another half an hour the dough should have doubled in size.
  4. Take the dough out of the bowl, place on a lightly floured table top and “bash” it literally for 30 seconds to knock out some of the air bubbles in it.
  5. After this, you can shape your dough into any shape you want after adding your herbs or cheese or nuts to it. My grandchildren like to plait it after placing large portions of cheese and herbs to it.
  6. Once done, gently place the bread dough into your baking dish and wait for it to double in size again for another half an hour.
  7. Your bread is now ready to go into the oven which should be at 180 C/350 F/Gas mark 4 for 25 – 30 minutes until its golden brown in colour.
  8. Don’t be afraid to test your bread. Turn it around, tap its bottom and if it sounds hollow, its done, if not, put it back into the oven to bake some more.

Leave it to cool slightly before you ‘break (the freshly baked) bread’ with your loved ones.

Enjoy!

Kalimpong stories

The experienced traveller knows that only through deep conversations with locals can one truly learn something new and hear the stories that give them true insight and empathy to a place and culture that they have visited. When was the last time you heard a good story on your travels? Someone has correctly said that while travelling – only in the home of a local can you have the best conversations and hear the best stories.

Here at our Home, we believe in the power of stories and share them generously with all our guests. There are a hundred stories waiting to be told – there is the story of a famous Russian painter who is said to have fled Russia after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and come to Kalimpong with his young wife and 2 sons. Would you like to hear the story of how two rivers in love gave up their heavenly immortality to meet as mortals at the confluence not far from here. And sshhh ….. did you know Kalimpong was known as the den of spies?

When you come and stay with us, be assured of being treated to a few stories as old as these hills itself, while you sit snug under a blanket around a crackling bonfire accompanied by a gentle breeze and a night sky full of twinkling stars….and if you listen carefully you might hear the echoes of clanging bells of the pack mules from Tibet as they made their way on the ancient silk route that passed by our house.