Tuesday, 6 November 2007

A loaf of bread

Today I pulled back slightly from the abyss of chaos and managed to wrap up the certification documentation for the school project and the website development document. Yet I didn’t manage to write any more of the book even though the Jaeckels were dancing around in my head clamouring with ideas and words. With my mind on the Jaeckels, the fact that I was hungry and it is chilly today after rain, I spent some time thinking about bread and baking.

I love bread and bread-making and like to read about it. Recently it was the 5 year anniversary of the death of the famous Parisian baker Lionel Poilâne. On this anniversary, much has been written about Poilâne and the bread his eponymous store still sells. Poilâne was famous for his rustic French loaves made only from wheat, leaven and salt. I paid attention to the descriptions of his bread because it is the kind of bread that the Jaeckels would have made in their bakery. Fascinatingly, Poilâne argued that the baguette that is to many people a symbol of French bread is a modern invention that has colonised popular imagination. He believed that the rustic rye and sourdough loaves that were his specialty are more representative of true French and European bread.

The Poilâne bakery sells sourdough, rye, current and raisin loaves, walnut bread, and butter cookies. Compared with modern Australian bakeries, this is a very small selection, but it is typical of a bakery producing labour-intensive hand-made breads. I’ve been looking at the breads for sale on the website and imagining the Jaeckels producing loaves such as these. I’ve also been dipping into notes I made earlier this year about wood-fired ovens and the process of using these. I’m trying to work out what kind of oven would have been available on board ship. If you remember, Michael Jaeckel works on board ship as a baker, receiving a salary and also fulfilling the requirement for all migrants to assist with on-board duties. And now, I’ve made myself hungry again …

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