There was a fascinating segment on Words and Music on BBC Radio 3 this week, in which the conversation focused around the use of hands in our everyday lives. The speakers touched on the topic of working with one's hands for both practical and creative purposes.
My hands have recently been busy wielding secateurs in the garden, as I've cut back the sword-shaped leaves on massive clumps of New Zealand flax. I have also used them to grasp a pen and write notes and shopping lists. I have held the hand of my beloved Peter, and waved goodbye to my darling son as I dropped him back at his home after a lunch catch up. Among my favourite activities, I used my hands to make dough; the kneading and rolling of which I found to be most pleasurable.
CRUSTY CHEESE AND CHIVE PULL APART LOAF
500g strong baker's flour
2 teaspoons dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon (20 mls) unsalted butter, softened (for brushing)
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
12 sprigs fresh chives, finely chopped
100g cheddar cheese, shredded
extra shredded cheese, to sprinkle over before baking
Grease a deep, heavy-based loaf tin (21 x 10. 5 x 6. 5 cm) and set it aside.
Combine the flour, yeast, sugar, sea salt, water and oil together in a large bowl. Mix together with your hands until it forms a soft dough. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes or until it feels smooth and elastic under your hands. (Should the dough feel sticky, dust lightly with a little extra flour. If it's a little dry, add a teaspoon or so extra lukewarm water).
Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise in a warm corner of the kitchen, until it rises nicely, and doubles in size. Meanwhile, Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured board. Knock down the dough with your fist, knead it briefly, and then roll it out to a neat rectangular shape, about 1cm in thickness. Brush the dough with the softened butter, and then sprinkle over the garlic, chives and shredded cheese.
Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the dough into long strips of even-sized widths. Pile the strips on top of one another (see my images below). Now, cut through the pile of long strips into smaller pieces, perhaps around 8cm in length. It doesn't matter if they are a little uneven. Place these strips, cut-side down into the prepared loaf tin (see my images below), squashing some in around the edges and sides of the tin.
Cover with a clean tea towel and place the tin in a warm corner, until it rises again, around 20 minutes or so. Finally, brush the loaf with any remaining melted butter and sprinkle with the extra grated cheese. Then, pop the tin into the oven and bake the loaf for 30 minutes until it's golden brown and crusty.
Remove the tin from the oven and allow the loaf to cool slightly, before pulling it apart and devouring it! Serves 6-8.
It's your turn now, dear readers. What good things have you created with your hands lately?
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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- Liz Posmyk
NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.