This is a little more painful to write about. Fast forward one more year. I am now a third year senior at Fareham Park Comprehensive School which now has some newer buildings. The dance and drama studio is built. The music rooms are ready to go. The gym is built. We have an all weather pitch, a track, tennis courts and many more facilities for physical education. We have a building for art, woodwork, metal work, sewing and home economics. A far cry from the one building and a couple of modular classrooms that we had two years earlier.
Now that we have a home economics room, we have cooking on the schedule. This is definitely not fun for me.
The time that stands out most is the day that we made bread. I have little recall of anything else so I assume this is the one time that we cooked and the rest was book work, but I could be very wrong there.
A prelude to the bread story are the images of crowded hallways and stairwells where all the students of the school were changing classrooms, using the toilets, getting stuff out of their lockers. The stairs in particular were a source of consternation. Those girls would wait for me at the top of the stairs, As soon as I started on my way down, they would home in behind me and start to push me down, all the time laughing their heads off. It was hard to keep upright and not slip. I hated it. I had no idea what to do to help myself and to get out of the situation. It may only seem like a little thing, but I felt helpless. There were no teachers around.
These girls were in my tutor group and they were also in my cooking class. Cooking became a big nightmare. There the girls would use wooden spoons to hit me when the teacher wasn’t around. They would laugh in a mocking way. Any type of reaction exasperated the issue. I felt stymied. Powerless.
So it was in this atmosphere that we had to make bread.
There are just a few things that I remember about this bread-making activity. I remember the mixing bowl. I remember the yeast. This wasn’t dry yeast. This was fresh yeast. I remember that it looked dark and grey and pretty gross. We had to add it to our flour and use our hands to mix the dough mixture together. Then we had to knead it until the yeast was all absorbed.
As I write this with an adult’s perspective, something feels off about that yeast. So I read around and now understand that fresh yeast should look firm and moist, cream-colored and cool to the touch. If it is crumbly, dryish and dark in places it is stale. Apparently to use it, it must be added to liquid and mixed into the dough straight away. Here is what I also found on the internet concerning fresh yeast and the processes to activate it:
In this article it demonstrated that yeast needs to be broken up into smaller parts. I was told to put my yeast and water straight into the bowl. I don’t remember it frothing up. The teacher was hurrying us along. I was taking longer than the others – not a natural cook, I’m afraid. I was kneading away. The yeast was not becoming absorbed into the dough.
I think the teacher was pretty frustrated with me. She didn’t listen to my explanation that the yeast was not amalgamating with the dough but she did come and help knead the dough and got it in the pan.
At last the lesson was over. What a relief. My bread looked really pretty. Despite the events of the day and the ongoing bullying, I was pretty chuffed with my success at cooking this bread.
At home, I was so excited as we were going to eat my bread as an accompaniment to our dinner that evening. I eagerly watched as my mum cut into the loaf.
“Eww! Yuck!” My Mum exclaimed as she cut the loaf in half.
My heart sank. “What’s wrong?” I mumbled.
“Look!” She said. She turned around from the kitchen cabinet where she was cutting, holding the two halves of the bread in her hands. I looked. Inside each half of the loaf there sat a dark gray piece of yeast. My mum started to laugh. I let her know how I had trouble mixing that yeast into the dough and how the teacher had helped me. I then laughed with my mum although my insides were empty.
When I could, I left the room and went upstairs to my bedroom where I closed the door and cried.
My daughter is a master bread maker. She makes the most gorgeous and succulent bread. Her favourite receipe is found at https://weareeating.blogspot.com/2008/01/whole-wheat-bread.html?m=0
Here is the receipe that my friend gave me a few years back. I usually use this one when I make bread now:
10 cups whole white wheat flour;
2/3 cup honey;
6 cups of water;
2 tbsp yeast (dried!);
2 tbsp salt:
3/4 cup oil;
2-3 tsp gluten;
2 tsp lecithin.
Optional: 1/2 to 1 cup ground flax seed substituted for 1 cup whole wheat flour.
I usually use a bread maker these days. I adapt the quantities of the ingredients accordingly (I do like to add the ground flax also) and follow the instructions of my bread maker.
(First published in Roaming Brit on 15th May, 2018)