Written by Hussina Raja
Our first big bake for the Just Bread subscribers begins. We start the morning with our ritual of breaking bread together, bellies filled we prepare ourselves for the bake ahead.
First, we help Merry and Elsa (Just Bake alumni) with the final shaping and baking of the weekly flatbread order. Jean goes through the Turcoman flatbread process briefly before it goes into the oven. Two minutes later the fluffy hot flatbread is ready and we devour one between us. Touching, tasting and smelling to understand the difference between the types of bread we make.
Kate brings over a large tub of dough she had prepared at 8.30 in the morning. The dough has been resting for about 3 hours.
There are little factors that affect the course of making bread, generally remedied once known. For example, as we enter the winter season, the temperature in the e5 Bakehouse changes contributing to how the dough mixture reacts, so Kate increases the temperature of the water used to make the dough today. On a much warmer day, you may want to add cooler water as the atmosphere provides some of the warmth the dough needs.
Kate cuts off even pieces of dough playfully thrown across the dampened table. The moisture is needed to help shape the dough without it sticking to the table. We leave it now to unwind and strengthen further. Like muscle memory, the steps become familiar the more we move through the bread making process.
In the meantime, we brainstorm a menu for our Christmas event on the 18th, Just Bread breaks bread, a celebration marking our achievements and the end to our bread subscription. It’s also a great excuse for us to share our wonderful recipes from around the world with others. In no time we come up with five dishes – it’s going to be a flavoursome feast!
Kate proceeds to go through the sourdough starter steps again. There are still lots of questions about different types of flour, time and cooking temperatures for attempting this at home.
Over a bowl of Ethiopian inspired soup and focaccia filled with roasted vegetables, we learn about our hobbies. Izzeldin is an avid footballer playing for a local team in South London. Maaz is currently rehearsing a dance performance with a theatre company, while Uzoma impresses us with her maths skills, expressing her keen interest in accountancy. Each week I witness the growth in the group. Now everyone is comfortable with one another you can really see their personalities shine.
With the dough ready to be shaped, we dust the table with enough flour so it doesn’t stick but not too much that it changes the recipe affecting the overall result. We tentatively take the dough in our hands and begin to do a sort of dance with it, pulling and moving it to encourage flexibility before folding each side into the middle, and then rolling it three times over itself. Finally, in a tucking and lifting motion, the dough is sprinkled in flour and placed in a basket. We line the baskets on a trolley and again let the dough settle and expand before the final step.
We have 24 people who have signed up to the bread subscription this week. Everyone pens the name of a person and a personalised message on a bag. Izzeldin writes a message in Arabic while listening to a song on his phone, he explains it’s a sad song about missing your Mother. It shows how far away the group are from their families and what coming together once a week means and feels like for them. Tina, who is visiting from the Refugee Council tells me how valuable the project is for the group as a vehicle for communication, collaboration and confidence building. Each week there is a moment that reinforces the necessity of the Just Bread Project and this is it.
For the final step, we retrieve the baskets and empty them onto trays lined with baking paper. We take a knife scoring a gentle line through the loaf to give it the signature Hackney Wild trademark.
It has come to the end of yet another brilliant session and this week I’m leaving you with words from Maaz and the fruits of our labour.
“A massive thank you all for the last session of Just Bread. The organisers, you’re doing a very good job. This is one of my best learning experiences, and I have been doing many! One thing I learned from the last session is resilience! You have to keep your ingredients well maintained, right temperature, correct amount. Time is a factor too, and most important is to be patient! Bread making is an ART, it’s all about texture, a combination of shape, colour and the taste of course. Making the Hackney Wild bread is way more than a piece of bread, it’s a treat for our bodies that helps us heal and overcome the stress of everyday life. Let’s break up bread together and appreciate the blessing of what we have been given!”
Maaz, Just Bread 2018