We had a lot of both this weekend. The great ciabatta bake day was a pretty simple affair. No-knead ciabatta is mostly about leaving dough in a bowl to bubble on its own—it’s the perfect lazy man’s bread. So bake day was just about doing something easy eight times in a row. Each oven was baking at around 550, each ciabatta was in for 27 minutes, by around the eighth loaf I had a pretty good system down where I’d prep the next loaves while the first were baking. By sunset I had this stack of sixteen on my counter. If I had a huge oven and some large plastic tubs for proofing the dough I could make a hundred almost as easily. Not that I’m volunteering.
There was more than just ciabatta in the Handmade kitchen this weekend. Since the heat wave broke last Friday I’ve been feeling more autumnal. Orange leaves filtering down through skeletal branches, sweaters under jackets, brisk wind and clouds scudding across the sky, these are some of the things we don’t get here for fall. It’s Southern California, and fall means rain, green hills, and the smell of wet eucalyptus. So I wanted to make a bread that made me taste fall, from spiced cider to crackling fires. What might it have? Whole wheat, walnuts, nutmeg, cinnamon, pumpkin, ground cloves, molasses. I call it Harvest Wheat. It smelled fantastic in the oven, like pumpkin and pecan pies baking on Thanksgiving morning. It came out moist with a hint of spice, and the walnuts add great texture. This may be on the Thanksgiving menu, if I can convince my wife.
On Sunday, after the ovens cooled and I took of my apron, we were invited to a farm to celebrate the birthday of one of her classmates. First of all, awesome idea and major props to the parents. I’d much rather have kids on a farm seeing animals and riding horses than penned in a strip mall Chuck E. Cheese while some minimum-wage drone sweats in a polyester mouse outfit and hands out various forms of high-fructose corn syrup. Immediately upon arrival we were off to the animal pen to feed the llamas, donkeys, sheep, and goats. Listen, I’m sorry if you love goats, but I have yet to see one that doesn’t have an idiotic expression. Which makes them endearing but certainly kills their credibility in the barnyard debate team finals. The sheepdogs always win those anyway.
Were there horses? Sing it, sister, there were horses. You should have seen the kids’ excitement when the horses were brought out and saddled up. It makes you optimistic of our future: children take to the farm like fish to water. TH got to ride Ronni for a few victory laps around the corral. That’s my girl, riding like an old pro.
For me, I was reminded how fundamentally good it is to be on a farm. The smell of horses and their inquisitive faces peeking out of their stalls when you call their names, cows lowing in a field, the simple pleasures of shade under a tree on a hot dry day, these things refresh the soul.