I am a sucker for letters, old notes, postcards, greeting cards, newspaper cuttings, travel plan notes, my old diary entries, photos cut out from magazines, wrappers of gifted chocolates and also dried roses and other flowers.
I found all of that yesterday while cleaning my cupboard. When I got married, I had discarded a lot of stuff. Some which was awkward and some irrelevant. But still there are two big folders full of such ‘junk’. And I love it.
As kids we were encouraged to make cards on our friends birthdays, write little notes for special occasions etc. and I guess the habit stayed on. Might have even taken a different route, at times. I remember the first love letter I got was when I was 13. I vaguely remember the guy, but what I prominently remember is the way it was delivered to me. Through a long chain of friends. And then I had to hide it, fearing my mom would find out about it. And eventually I threw that letter away, because of the very little sense it made. Now when I think back, I feel I should have kept it. For the letters’ sake. And for posterity.
I also have an insane amount of newspaper clippings. I followed 2-3 writers very diligently then, and back in those times, newspapers were not available online. I know it sounds archaic, but that’s the truth. 12-15 years back, you had to wait for Tuesday for your favorite author’s article and it was available for just that day, if you didn’t cut it and save. Or the next day it would be gone as a packing for lunchbox. So I have loads of crap from Sapna Bhavnani, Cyrus Merchant and others who I am embarrassed to admit now.
And then there is an equally crazy number of greeting cards. Many a times, cards gifted by me and my brother to my parents, have come back to my folder. And I have preserved them. One day I will return them back to my parents but till then both of us are satisfied knowing that they exist. The birthday cards are sometimes funny, sometimes with roses and sometimes very emotional. Wholly depends on who gave it, and when. Because even if people remain the same, the relationships go through a curve, before stabilizing (if they ever do).
Then there are letters from my close friends and the diary entries. Those letters and diary posts address some of the most confusing, problematic situations of those times. Namely fights with parents (remember it is the teenage that I am talking about, not that I didn’t fight with them later on, but teenage was the best (sorry, worst) ). Every older me feels how stupid the younger me was, based on the letters and the diary entries. And on several occasions I have loudly exclaimed in my head – “Did i write THAT?”. But the ink on paper clearly says I did. And I am sure, tomorrow when I read my blog posts, I will be wondering to myself “Oh, how naive of me!”.
The best two things which I found were two postcards. One from my best friend from Malaysia, where she said how she missed me the most when she was having fun (isn’t that strange? You generally miss people when you are sad) and the other one was from another friend trekking in South America. Where he calls me a hippie soul like himself. (I cherish that comment so much, because I am generally known as boring). These two took the time out on a vacation and posted the cards, what more could I ask for?
—————————————————————————————————————————————————————–White Loaf Bread with Poppy seeds
Makes two 9-5 inch loaves.
This recipe has been taken from The Bread Bible. The book talks in detail about making bread and its intricacies. If you are seriously into bread, go buy it. I picked up the white loaf to experiment and master the skills of bread baking. It is the most basic of breads, but it’s excellent for breakfast.
I have adapted the recipe to suit Indian hot climate and the humidity. if you are in a colder climate, restrict to 5 and 1/2 cups of flour, if in a hotter climate use 6 cups. Also, I used instant yeast in place of dried yeast and made adjustments accordingly.
What you will need :
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 3/4 tablespoon instant yeast
- pinch of sugar
- 1 and 1/2 cup warm milk
- 1 stick/ 1/2 cup/ 110 gms salted butter
- 1 tsp salt
- 6 cups all-purpose flour divided in 2 cups + 3 cups
- 1 egg + 1 tablespoon milk for the egg wash
- 2 tablespoon poppy seeds
What to do :
- Pour warm water in a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast and sugar over the surface. Stir to dissolve it and let it stand at room temperature until foamy, about 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, whisk milk, butter, salt, 2 cups of flour and the yeast mixture. Beat hard to combine.
- Then add remaining flour; 1/2 cup at a time, beating with a wooden spoon after each addition till a shaggy dough that clears the side of the dough is formed.
- Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead for 3-5 minutes until dough is smooth and satiny and springs back when pressed.
- Place the dough in a greased deep container. Turn once to coat and cover with a plastic wrap. Let it rise at room temperature to be doubled in size. About 1 and 1/2 hours.
- Gently deflate the dough. Turn it onto a floured surface. Cut it into half and you can refrigerate one half in a plastic wrap for using after day or two.
- Grease a 9-5 inch loaf pan. Form the dough half into a standard loaf. It will come upto about less than half of the pan. Cover with a plastic wrap and again let it rise for 30-45 minutes, till doubled.
- Pre-heat oven at 190C for 20 minutes. (See note)
- For the egg glaze, beat the egg and milk together. Brush on the loaf and while it is wet, drizzle a tablespoon of poppy seeds on top.
- Place in centre rack and bake for 35-40 minutes till the loaf has browned on top. Tap on the dough (careful it is hot), to see if it sounds hollow.
- Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool before slicing.
- Spread a layer of cheese or some butter and jam and have a fresh home-made (by you!) slice of bread.
- For baking a bread, it is essential that you pre-heat oven for at least 20 minutes. Breads react very badly to cold temperature.
- You will have to judge the amount of flour required on the stickiness of dough. But generally 5 1/2 to 6 cups is perfect.
- It’s not that difficult. Don’t get intimidated. I can say that because I was very scared for a long time to bake bread. But its easy. And feel the dough, smell the yeast and hear the hollow sound of baked loaf and you will be fine.