The sky - cloudy. I know not of the weather that is to come, it be sweltering or stormy. My surroundings are enshrouded in a foggy mass that reeks of burnt sulphur and smoke. It's rather bleak, I admit. The muggy sky is far from picturesque, a scene fit in a post-apocalyptic movie.
But it definitely does not reflect my mood, despite the sky that's a sight for sore eyes (sorry 'bout the pun). I trudge, though with a light heart, down the familiar concrete path. After all, it's Friday, the day I've been anticipating most eagerly since Monday. But today, I bypass my house, walking past the familiar gate to the new complex, sitting there like a present waiting to be unwrapped.
I have yet to explore, so on an adventure I embark.
I roam the walkways, still new with their dusty surface and other curious venturers who traverse them for the same reasons I do. I walk about, blissfully ignorant of the sweat that makes my collar cling to my nape and the load on my back that makes the strength needed for every step seem to be multiplied tenfold.
My stomach rumbles. Lunch.
I make my way to a café, a diner with a warm ambience and the fragrances of cooked food lingering in the air, mingling with the quiet chatter of diners. I greet the cashier with a smile, order my soup, and make my way back to my seat with a steaming bowl of carrot-orange (color) pumpkin soup with sprinkles of parsley. The green bits of parsley are soon mixed with the black of coarse pepper, and I inhale deeply before digging in.
The bowl is drained quickly, bread used to mop up the stubborn dregs that remain at the base of the bowl. My right hand advances towards the plate of bread, the other holding David Sedaris' Naked. The right discovers that the plate is bare (heartlessly so), and so I pack up, purchase a pastry or two before hearing the bells jingle with my parting footsteps.
It's another twenty minutes that I spend there, for can't help but stroll the supermarket aisles, fascinated by foreign products. I return home with my pastries, bananas, oats, an energy bar, and a jar of Fauchon spread. There goes my budget, oh well.
The rain tumbles down now, in a shower I'm certain will be shortlived. The groceries are unpacked, my bun was eaten, and this post written (as well as somethings that's pretty exciting but I can't say shhh).
And now, bread.
The below two recipes were made with the time-constrained soul in mind (after all, when are we not constrained by time?). Quick and with little fuss to be made, no-knead bread is the answer. Last year, I baked a loaf of this bread that I'm sad to say, was largely unsuccessful. Hence, I've devised a cheat's method for all you poor dears out there who like me, sadly lack a dutch oven.
And so bread it is - loaded with spice and gooey figs, sultanas as well as dates. It's for the sugarfree junkies out there, vegans, bread lovers, and the everyday person alike. Enjoy!
No-Knead Spiced Bread
makes 1 21-cm loaf
3 c bread flour (450g)
1 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 c water
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp clove (optional)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 c dried figs (4-5)
2/3 c pitted medjool dates (4-5)
1/3 c raisins / sultanas
1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl, then add the water and stir till a sticky but even mixture is formed.
2. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm, draft-free spot for at least 2 hours.
3. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and shape it into a 20-cm disk.
4. Flour the bowl and return the dough to it. Cover and let it rise for another hour.
5. Preheat the oven to 200c with a ovenproof casserole / dutch oven (see below for notes if you don't have a round one) for 10 mins.
6. Tip the dough into the casserole and cover. Bake for half an hour.
7. Remove the lid and continue baking for another 20 mins, until golden.
8. Let it cool for 30 mins before slicing. Enjoy.
If you don't have a round casserole, you can place a cake pan IN the casserole and bake the bread in the pan like I did.
And now, bread always needs a spread.
The two packets of pre-roasted chestnuts sit on the dining table most invitingly (we have a continuous supply on hand). My hand, the left one this time, stretches out and grabs them. The contents go into our ancient food processor along with the seasonings. I blend. Blend and blend. Blend till the processor's overheated, cools down, and blend again. My hand grasp the small piece of equipment while my eyes are fixated on the blender. C'mon, I say, c'mon let the oil flow. But it doesn't.
Then it strikes me.
There is no oil to be released.
So water swooshes in and saves the day.
My end result: a creamy paste, mild in flavour with a not too oily disposition. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Maple Cinnamon Chestnut Butter
makes 1 large jar
300 g pre-roasted chestnuts (2 cups)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sal
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 c water
1. Process chestnuts in a food processor to a floury consistency with salt and cinnamon.
2. Add in maple syrup, then water in tablespoonfuls. Process some more until a creamy / pasty consistency is reached.
3. Transfer to an airtight container and keep in the fridge. Lasts for about 10 days.