New Bread

January 3, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Posted in Dick, Eating and Drinking | Leave a comment
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Erratic shop opening times over the hols (as well as the desire to stay in pyjamas all morning) makes the New Year the perfect time to bake some bread. Inspired by last week’s visit to the Imperial War Museum’s Ministry of Food exhibition, I decided to make the wholemeal bread from Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall’s accompanying cookbook of the same name.

J F-W adapts her recipe from the Vicomte de Mauduit’s They Can’t Ration These, and I in turn adapted this by replacing half of the wholemeal flour with half white (the last time I made wholemeal bread it was a little dense to say the least). As the process of making bread takes around 4 1/2 hours from start to finish it’s worth making this on a day when you are planning on staying in or near your home.

To make two loaves:

3/4 lb wholemeal flour

3/4lb white flour

1 1/2 tsp dried yeast

1 dessert spoon of black treacle or honey

450ml hot water

Mix the flour, salt and yeast together in a large bowl. Dissolve the treacle/honey in the hot water and let it cool to lukewarm before adding to the flour mixture. Mix first with a fork and then with your hands and knead for about 10 minutes.

Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with a damp cloth (or cling film). Leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. This usually takes around two hours.

Turn the dough out on to a floured surface and knead before cutting it into two pieces. Roll the pieces out to fit into two 1.5 litre loaf tins and leave to rise for another two hours.

Preheat the oven to 200°c (400°F)/gas mark 6.

Bake the loaves for 20-30 mins. They are cooked when they sound hollow when tapped on the underneath. Leave to cool on wire racks but try to eat at least some while the bread is still warm, in the style of Dick in Five Run Away Together:

‘”Doesn’t that new-made bread smell awfully good?” said Dick, feeling very hungry as usual. “Can we just grab a bit do you think?”

“Yes, let’s,” said George. So they broke off bits of the warm brown crust, handed some to Julian, who was rowing, and chewed the delicious new-made bread. Timmy got a bit too, but his was gone as soon as it went into his mouth.’

The Ministry of Food tried to discourage the populace from eating new-made bread during the war as slightly stale day-old bread would go that much further. Furthermore, the only bread commercially available from 1942 was the ‘National Loaf’. This was more nutritious than white bread, had added calcium to help prevent rickets, and was widely despised by those who had to eat it (Ministry of Food, p. 23). For children reading Five Run Away Together when it was first published in 1944, the description of the Kirrins’ early morning feast of warm, freshly-baked bread must have been especially mouth-watering.

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New Year’s Resolution?

December 31, 2010 at 10:31 am | Posted in Eating and Drinking, Learning Stuff | Leave a comment
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Sound advice courtesy of the Ministry of Food and the Imperial War Museum. The IWM’s exhibition on digging for victory and rationing is in its last few days (ends Jan 3 2011) but is well worth visiting if you get the chance. Alternatively, the exhibition blog has lots of good photos, comments and film clips.

There are original posters on display (“Spades Not Ships”, ‘Milk: The Backbone of Young Britain’, “Food is a Munition of War – Don’t Waste it”) as well as delights such as potato flower-patterned housecoats and other rationing-themed textiles. Recreations of wartime shops, kitchens and greenhouses sit alongside oral history recordings (recalling life as a landgirl or as a canteen worker for instance), wartime radio broadcasts, propaganda films and ‘food flashes’. There are also lots of songs playing as you walk around the exhibition. My current favourite is Jack Buchanan singing ‘Everything Stops for Tea’. This is also very sound advice, especially during January when the promise of a little treat at four o’clock can help you get through the day.

Happy New Year everyone!

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