Saturday, December 22, 2007

On The Twentysecond Day of Christmas: My Favorite Man and His Favorite Bread

Even though I've had this blog for 3½ years, there's a certain someone I haven't told you very much about. He's one of the most important persons in my life. So why not a word? I guess because the people that are there all the time are also the people you easily take for granted. Not because you want to, but because it's so easy to forget to appreciate the things we have when they're just there, when they become something natural and something that's just part of everyday life. And he is. Part of my everyday life. And boy am I glad he is.

Let me tell you a little bit about M. I met him 8 years ago, at the place where we both worked at the time. We talked a couple times, and I guess I thought things went to slow. So after a night out on the town, I text messaged him. I forget exactly what I wrote, but it resulted in him calling me, while I had a toothbrush in my mouth. We planned to meet for coffee. And the rest, as they say, is history.

This is the kind of man Martin is: After having known me just short of two months, he decided to come with me to London and live with me there. We stayed for six months, no money, lots of work, plenty of adventure. The money we did manage to scrape together, we used on restaurant visits, food, paperbacks, a few cookbooks and movie tickets. We had no radio and no television. We visited everywhere in London we could think of, walking, talking, eating and looking. I guess our love for a lot of things that are still important in our relationship today was born back then. The whole London-concept - the eating, walking, talking, looking, exploring - was re-vitalised when he agreed that surely, we had to borrow a ton of money so we could go on the trip across USA. Because Martin is the kind of man that will listen to any crazy idea I have, think them over and make them even better.

We surely have our issues. Like, he won't let me have breakfast in bed, which I used to love (I grew up on it, for crying out loud!) He makes me spend Saturday mornings cleaning the bathroom and the kitchen while he vacuums the entire house. He rarely stays in bed 'till late, and he won't let me take my down comforter with me onto the sofa. Up until recently, he couldn't remember the exact date of my birthday - in fact, I only got it pummeled into his mind because I for a week straight asked him what date my birthday was, and every time he answered the wrong date, he got just a bit embarrased. None of us know our "anniversary" date, so at least none of us forget. But then, our relationship did evolve over time, there's been a break of a six months time and - well. What's a date, anyways?

But he's also the man that will make me tea in the morning. Or when he comes home from work and I've been stuck inside with my books for an entire day. He's the man that will make me cupcakes in the middle of the night, and entire meals out of the fridge in which I found nothing. He's the man that puts up with my mess, my stress, my too-much-work, my leftover dirty dishes next to the sink and who, back in the days when I worked really late, would snuggle up to me when I fell into bed like a sack of potatoes, too, too late in the night.

He's the man that will put his hand on my head, so I can feel the heavyness of it, and know that he's there. Not just physically, but mentally. The man is my rock, a person I know will always be there, and a person that, even though he doesn't understand me, understands. Because we've known eachother for so long, because with him, I'm just me. Not pretending, no demands of perfection, not more, not less. Me.

Martin knows how to make me laugh, he loves my silly guinea pig as much as I do and he knows what's important to me. He's the one person in the world with whom I share one of my own biggest interests: food. We cook together, or seperately, but tasting, exploring and inventing together. Making fun of each other, suggesting things, growing together. We do have very different approaches and opinions on the subject - but somehow, it all still works out.

And he's the man that will come home from being at a friend's house till late, take a deep breath just as he's entered our home and ask: Did you bake? What did you bake? And minutes later, I'll find him in the kitchen, a big smile on his face, and in his hands, a slice of a freshly baked cake, a cookie or the heel of a just-out-of-the-oven bread. I love that. I love being able to give him that.

Everyday Bread
- from Berlingske Tidende, by Nanna Simonsen

This is Martin's favorite bread - he had one slice and said: "You don't need to try no more bread recipes. From this day on, I want just this bread." It was that good, apparantly. I'm not sure I'll never do another kind of bread, but ever since I made this the first time, it's been baked at least every other time bread is needed. That must say something.

I usually make a double portion, and put the dough together in the evening, then bake it in the morning. It's one of the first breads I've made that actually makes both the crust and the crumb we like: crispy on the outside, hole-y and chewy on the inside. Maybe it's the water-spritzing that does the trick? Oh yes, and the low-level handling of the dough, perhaps.

50 ml. buttermilk
400 ml. lukewarm water
5 g. fresh yeast
3 teaspoons salt
50 g. rye flour
100 g. durum wheat flour
450 g. wheat flour + extra for kneading

Put the buttermilk and water in a bowl, dissolve first the yeast, then the salt in this. Add the rye flour and the durum flour. Little by little, add the wheat flour.
When it's no longer possible to stir the batter, start using your hands. Transfer the dough to a floured counter and knead for 8-10 minutes. Try not to add too much flour. You want the dough elastic and smooth.
Gently shape the dough into a ball, then transfer to a clean bowl. Dust with a little flour, then leave to rise for 8-10 hours in a cool, but not cold place, until doubled in size.

When the dough has risen enough, preheat your oven to 250 degrees Celsius. Put baking parchment on a baking sheet and dust the parchment with flour. Gently transfer the dough to the parchment, essentially nudging it from the bowl onto the baking sheet. Nanna says to treat your dough as if it was a balloon, and I like that analogy. You don't want to loose all the air the long rise has incorporated into it. If you do wish to divide the dough in two, dust the dough with a little flour, then cut in half and gently divide it. Push the dough a little into a breadlike shape, but don't poke it too much.
Make a couple cuts on the diagonal in the shaped breads, then bake in the preheated oven. (no, there is no rising after shaping the bread - it doesn't need it. I was a little baffled at this the first time I made it, but trust me, it works) Before you put the bread in, spritz the oven with a little water, to create a steamy environment for the dough to bake in. Turn the temperature down to 225 degrees Celsius. Repeat the spritzing a couple times while the bread is baking. The bread will be done in about 30 minutes, but keep an eye on it after 20. Leave to cool on a baking rack.


Michèle said...

Aw crap. I just left a comment and blogger made it disappear.. Anyway, I was trying to say that this is a lovely post! And a man has got to love a woman who bakes her own bread.
From one long-term relationship girl to another, I commend you on your 8 years. G and I were together for 10 years before we recently got married.
And finally, I would like to request that after Christmas you continue to post every day because its like the fast track to "getting to know Zarah"!

Eva said...

What a wonderful post - looks like you found just the right man for you! And I love to read about real love stories...
The bread looks awesome and I like the minimum handling-maximum result approach! At the moment, Sydney doesn't really cool down during the night. Do you have any experience what the rising time will be at a room temperature of 25 degrees Celsius?

garbane said...

Beautiful post!

I was really up to trying this bread untill i read "Before you put the bread in, spritz the oven with a little water, to create a steamy environment for the dough to bake in. " Hm.. could give some more details on that? How much water? How do you "spritz" it? How often?

Zarah Maria said...

Hi Garbane! Of course I can - sorry for the vagueness. I use a spraybottle - you know, the kind you can buy for spraying flowers with water? I then fill it with clean water, and spray the oven walls with it. How much is hard to say, but three-four spritzes on each wall, plus top and bottom. I do it just before I put in the breads, and then repeat it after 10 and twenty minutes.
Hope that makes sense, otherwise let me know!:)

garbane said...

Thank you! I will surely try this. Never attemped to make my own bread but this one sounds lovely. I just have to try it! Thanks for posting this!

Shruti said...

just stumbled upon this blog... and really got reading a lots of posts... great receipies... and your lucky to have a guy like M