On a lovely spring day it is sobering to think that loads of people are in prison and cannot get out to enjoy the blossom, sunshine, and hilarious reawakening of the bumble bees as they buzz drunkenly around the garden trying to remember how to fly. Selfishly, I did not let that reflection ruin my day and I buzzed down to The Clink with the top down on my little car, sunglasses on, and Jacki O headscarf flapping behind me. The instructions had been sent and I knew Stuart would have an advance party of sponges, predoughs, refreshed sourdoughs and soaking fruit to greet me. Hot Cross Buns, Yummy Chewy Loaves, Bicycle Bread, Italian Olive Oil bread, 100% rye, rye and spelt…it was all happening yesterday in a sourdough kind of way.
The Hot Cross Buns made their second appearance by the till for the take away snack crowd. Because they are sourdough they last a day or two (versus normal ones which need to be eaten as quickly as possible) but these did not get a chance. A delightful party of diners (a brother and a sister with their respective wife and husband) bought the whole box to take home and, after some conversation over the bread, encouraged us to set up a bakery in the prison and start selling loaves through the restaurant and to Waitrose. Al, Chris – over to you! It is always so encouraging when customers love the bread. They chew and chew and almost always exclaim, “this bread has flavour!”. What is gratifying is that many of the men who work in the kitchen can now explain to the customers why the bread has flavour and how it is made. Yay!
The 8 kg bag of spelt (spelt was brought over to Britain by the Romans so Al likes it) was put to use with rye and spelt bread with molasses and raisins (it was rising in the fridge when I left so I don’t know how it turned out) as was the 100% rye, but the olive oil bread was gobbled up (we made it into a circle of little buns) as were the Yummy Chewy loaves – rye sourdough and whole wheat – which OJ decided was his pick of the day’s crop. The bicycle bread was really like a flat tyre in spring because it was actually too wet but it had a charming home made look about it and, as ever, it’s all good toasted.
Here is what I like:
1. I am now exchanging recipes with some of the guys who work in the kitchen. The banana jam recipe, the banana bread recipe, all the bread recipes, cookie recipes….it’s hilarious.
2. I am now part of the furniture. They know me, I know them and so they are talking to me now. A great deal of hilarious innuendo was going back and forth when someone remarked that OJ needed to be more gentle with the bread. His response was that a man needs to be a man at which point I chimed in that all men needed to handle certain things gently in order to be true men and everyone fell about laughing – so that was nice.
3. They are really interested in the bread. We don’t always have a lot of time, but they want to talk about it and learn about it – what makes the loaves different, how the flours are different.
4. There are men in there from all over the world and I do love to talk international bread when I get a chance. So far I have learned about Nigerian bread, Jamaican bread, and also had American and French bread moments.
5. There is always an opportunity to brag about how good the Canadian ice hockey team is, especially when compared to that rubbish team due south. Hoot Hoot.
One of the team has been released and is now working at a top London restaurant – evidence that The Clink is working. We wish him all the very best of luck.
And now, for some spring-inspired Haiku:
Blossom makes me smile
It makes even the suburbs
And finally, the recipes:
Yummy Chewy Loaves
30 g rye sourdough
90 g water
160 g wheat or spelt flour
knead contents of day 1 together with:
1 kg wheat or spelt flour
600 g water
25 g salt
Let rest for 1 hour.
Stretch and fold and let rest for 1 hour.
Shape and tin/basket and let rest for 2 hours.
Bake at 230 for 10 mins and 200 for 30.