We started our annual beach holiday this year without much preparation, unlike previous years. It has been a very busy year, and so when we arrived at the North Folk Island Pine Tree-lined boulevard right next to the beach front, looking for our holiday unit, we were exhausted. There was a feel of South of France here at this little north facing beach in the south of Queensland, bordering New South Wales.
After a quick lunch, it was time to be off to the beach ....
On the 1st full day at the beach my son didn't surface until after 11 am. I said to his Daddy that as soon as the young man woke up, he's going to want food. Sure enough, the first thing that he said when he emerged was, "Pretty hungers; pretty hungers."
The wind was howling after we had our brunch, no good for the surf, so the Daddy took the opportunity and went out with the daughter to get her surf board fixed. He asked if the boy would want to come along. Why would he? - There was chocolate milk and Tim Tam in the fridge; plus, there was cricket on the TV (Australia vs. West Indies)! As they say, "You can lead a horse to a drink but the pencil must be lead."
I purposely brought only my starter and a selection of old, almost expiring, flours with me, but none of my usual implements for making sourdough bread. When I found out that the unit wasn't even equipped with measuring cups, I thought to myself that I should have at least packed my scale. No matter. Early evening as I was refreshing my starter, my husband was making a celery/onion sauce to go with the meat pies being warmed up in the oven, and my children helped setting up the table. Thirty-six hours later, these were my first holiday sourdough breads:
Evidently I mixed the dough a bit dry to achieve the nice openings on the surface but somewhat dense interior. The flour I used was Laucke's multigrain bread pre-mixes with no commercial yeast. I promised myself that the next sourdough I made would have a lot more hydration for more open crumb, as below:
I never envy commercial bakers' job but I often wondered why making sourdough bread was such a satisfying act and I think I got the answer during this holiday. Whether or not we are happy with our sourdough and whether or not it is a piece of crafty work of art, no one can deny that there is a creative spirit in the making of it - the bread comes out differently every time! It is like allowing a piece of us emerging and taking shape. It is a means for expression.
An Aussie participant in the SFBI courses that I took back in August told me that American all-purpose flour is equivalent to Australian plain flour that is available from all supermarkets and is used in pastry baking. He is a very accomplished baker and works with Leon Bailey, the Australian master-baker. The protein level of plain flour is roughly the same as in French style flour. I experimented with 1/2 wholemeal plain flour and 1/2 plain flour and was quite happy with the result:
On many a night my husband cooked dinner and my children did salads and set the table while I sipped on my Chardonnay (they must have been secretly reading my blog where I said I don't know why housewives get excited about holidays). One night my husband asked me to try Henschke's Pinot Noir that he was drinking. I took a sip and said it's too young for me and that it would be good for many years to come. He said, "A bit like me-self?"
Half into the first week of our holiday I was already getting into a good routine of morning and afternoon exercises. I thought of a book that I once read, Running High; how true, the wonders of endorphins.
As the week progressed, left-over sourdough was piling up in the freezer. I've always loved the Italian Panforte and I also absolutely adore Stained Glass Fruit Cake, but I did not feel like any pastry making. Perhaps I was a bit conflicted but, anyway, I used some of the left-over sourdough bread and made a Christmas Stained Glass Panforte, the only festival baking that I made (actually no baking at all, just cooking the fruits with the left-over sourdough and letting them set with the nuts):
Very morish with a cup of homemade latte
When I was little I read stories that ended with "Happily living ever after;" and when I was a bit older I knew that they were fairy tales but I wondered what it was like. Beach holidays can hardly be a Chinese thing and no exception to me. But this time I had one of the better beach holidays that I could remember. I think "Happily living ever after" is entirely possible if one just lives in the moment ... like a new born baby.
And thus we finished the two weeks' beach holiday - short enough for me to take, and long enough to make a difference. Yesterday my kids helped me with the Christmas tree. I have missed the many little figurines that happily adorned our Christmas tree for nearly a whole year and I am very pleased to say Hello to them again:
One of the clowns
One of the fairies
Wishing all of you home bakers out there a Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year!