Baking

Whilst the title could be an allusion to some of the temperatures ‘enjoyed’ in the environs of Sawston over the last week (conditions that, according to our friends at the Met Office, will not continue to be enjoyed over the week that is to come), it is, in fact, a reference to the culinary arts.  Indeed, given the all too frequent downpours which were so much a part of the past week’s weather, a more apposite culinary reference to recent climatic events would have been to steaming or use of the bain marie.

Regular readers – as well as needing to get out more – may well be aware of my love of cake and other expressions of the baker’s art.  I refer here, of course, to the individual or artisan baker here – rather than to the mass produced rubbish that passes for cake in so many commercial outlets.  Now, I am more than capable of baking but, perhaps as a consequence of my inner puritan, tend to feel that making cakes for myself is rather louche – so usually only bake when I am entertaining (yes, I know you dear readers are still waiting for this circumstance to occur).

There are a couple of exceptions to my ascetic home life.  I do make a rather fine (and, to me at least, somewhat addictive) bread pudding – indeed, in my youth did so commercially on a very small scale – using store-bought bread made using the Chorleywood process.  I tend to use Hovis as the primary raw material because a) they use British wheat and b) it amuses me to think of a Yorkshire youth pushing his bicycle up a steep cobbled street to the accompaniment of Dvorák’s symphonic homage to the United States (now, there’s juxtaposition for you!).

I also have a bread maker (a machine, rather than a member of my household staff) and so make my own eating (as opposed to cooking) bread.  Recent scientific advances have led to the creation of a wholemeal spelt fruit loaf which is rapidly supplanting bread pudding in my affections.  This recipe was developed from a model provided by the Panasonic corporation but with a number of tweaks – the most significant of which was substantially upping the dried fruit content and adding nuts.  Nevertheless, I am always on the look out for a new cake emporium…

Last night I was in the packed chapel of Corpus Christi college, as part of the Cambridge Summer Music Festival, listening to pianist Libor Novacek play a programme which (uniquely, in my limited experience) combined Brahms and Liszt.  You will be pleased to know that despite this provocation, I limited myself to a glass of elderflower pressé in the interval.  The concert was stunning – especially the closing Liszt piano sonata (in B minor), though I do feel sorry for the poor chap’s abused fingers.  Conversation with the lady sitting to my left during gaps in the programme yielded the secret of a local, and somewhat hidden, tea room which apparently serves a wide range of excellent, home-made cakes and scones.  Any sort of fine weather which may be delivered by the week ahead will definitely call for a ride out to Grantchester to investigate…

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3 thoughts on “Baking

  1. matathew says:

    An excellent post. Will it be possible to release your recipe for the “Panasonic wholemeal spelt fruit loaf”? It sounds good.

    Based on what I saw in the press today, Premier Foods will be delighted that you have found a use for Hovis loaves, as they had reportedly been suffering from reduced sales as a result of a disagreement with the Tesco management.

    May I make subjective comment on your words it amuses me to think of a Yorkshire youth pushing his bicycle up a steep cobbled street to the accompaniment of Dvorák’s symphonic homage to the United States? I’ve always thought that the themes in this symphony have more of a Czech-Bohemian sound than evoking spirituals or American-Indian tunes. The symphony is perhaps “from” the New World but not “of” it. Britannica.com puts it like this: Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor (From the New World; 1893) remains his best-known work, partly, no doubt, because it was thought to be based on African American spirituals and other influences gained during his years in the United States. Although this may be true to some extent, the music is also characteristically Bohemian in its themes.

    But much of the music was certainly written down by Dvorak while in New York, although mercifully the state was never known as New Yorkshire. And probably never sold New Hovis.

    I discovered recently, to my disappointment, that the memorable Hovis advert was actually filmed in Dorset!

  2. Stuart Ffoulkes says:

    I too had the feeling the advert was filmed somewhere in the southwest. With its combination of African American and Bohemian musical roots and a location in Dorset, one could scarcely hope for more geographical juxtaposition in one 30 second commercial.

    Happily, the contretemps between RHM and Tesco has not affected me – by the simple expedient of not shopping in a Tesco for lo these many years. I would like to (and still might) claim this has a highly principled stand, but if truth be told, there isn’t really a Tesco located very conveniently for me and my velocipede. However, one is about to invade the adjacent and rather up-market village of Great Shelford, moving in next door to my favourite cycle shop (and source of all four of my bikes). In the words of the Kaiser Chiefs (the popular beat combo, rather than the South African association football team), “I Predict a Riot”. Certainly, my resolve to resist the siren lure of the “pile it high and sell it cheap’ grocer will be put to a more serious test in the none too distant future.

    I am willing to share the closely-guarded secret of the Panasonic wholemeal spelt fruit loaf in return for knowledge of how to add an accent to the “r” in the name of the second most popular Antonin – a process which defeated me this morning. According to Google, the great Bohemian, late-romantic composer is beaten to the top spot by French playwright and poet Antonin Artaud – an exponent of the theatre of cruelty and prior to this comment, entirely unknown to me.

  3. matathew says:

    Ah, the “r with caron”. I simply cut and pasted it, but now, older and wiser, I have discovered how to do it from scratch.

    It is represented in HTML as ř
    [or, lest it has already been unhelpfully processed, ampersand hash three four five semicolon].

    And now, in best Life of Brian imitation, RELEASE RECIPE!

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