[This post was written at the end of August, and has just been retrieved from a pile of drafts.]
Riebeek Kasteel, 90 mins north of Cape Town, is good for wine, and for olives. But not so hot when it comes to bread or cheese. I left Cape Town on Sunday with a loaf of gorgeous wholewheat bread from the Olympia Bakery in Kalk Bay. But come Wednesday, I’d finished it, and was adrift in the bread desert of the South African hinterland. (That’s a desert roughly contiguous with the vegetarian/healthy food desert.)
In the bread desert, all you find on the wire racks at the back of the fluorescent-lit dismal small town superettes is the preservative-riddled gluten foam produced by the price-fixing food combines according to the process of “Mr Chorleywood“, my leading candidate for time-travel assassination. Why they bother to put preservatives in this stuff is beyond me – it never lasts any longer than good artisanal bread.
While out for an evening run on Monday I’d nearly had what would have been a very scary collision with a petrified wild pig snagged in a wire fence above a nearby vineyard. Today, I stood in the Friendly superette in Riebeek Kasteel, after selecting a hunk of “mozzarella” that later turned out to taste as if squeezed straight from her tit. Though it was 3pm, and I’d eaten only a modest breakfast, I still could not bear to buy the foam bread. So I took a R4.50 half kg packet of white flour, and a R2 sachet of instant yeast instead.
Back in the small kitchen in the Wild Flowers residence at Goedgedacht, I mixed up the
• instant yeast,
• 450g flour, and
• a cup of warm milk.
I didn’t have any salt – but did have
• the remnants of a packet of over-salty (preservative-free) home-made potato crisps.
I crushed those, and added them, along with
• a finely chopped apple, and
• enough water
to make a fairly wet, sticky dough. Which I left to rise in the warmer for 45 mins, where it doubled nicely. No baking tins here, so I greased the same stainless steel pot I’d mixed it in, and pounded it down in this pot. Turned the oven up to 170 degrees centigrade, and ran up the Kasteelberg to the Goedgedacht prototype fog harvester. Back down, half an hour (?) later; and the arriving party of over-nighting pensioners told me that it had flopped. I turned down the heat to 160, and ran off for another half hour through the olive groves. Then left it to cool for half an hour on my return.
The result was well-nigh perfect: moist, firm, coarsely even-textured, a nicely browned crust, with the apple and crisps vanished into the dough – and no, it had not flopped. Stuck slightly to the pot, from which I cut it out in wedges to eat with butter and olive paste for a rather late linner at 7.30pm.
Who says bread has to be hard work? Or that you got to wait 24 hours for a no-knead loaf (hear me, New York Times?)
The wind arrived at 1.22 am on Friday morning.