A Baker’s Nightmare

We are now in week three thousand and four of lockdown (or so it seems) and there have been many highs and lows so far, with no doubt many more to come. Every day brings belly laughs, tears, frayed nerves, love and gratitude, fear and anxiety in equal measure. It is a lot to deal with. And then my oven broke.

This felt like the final straw on a camel’s back that was already perilously close to breaking.

When you love cooking, baking and eating and there is not much else to distract you and when you are already coping with the strain of producing three meals a day (every bloody day) with limited supplies and a restricted menu of ingredients to pick from this has not been ideal. It has not, however, been impossible and we are certainly a long way from being deprived or malnourished, but it has made me sad. I love baking – cakes, biscuits and bread – making something miraculously delicious from the many possible combinations of eggs, flour, sugar and butter makes me happy. Having made sure I was well stocked up with flour, yeast and sourdough starter at the first sniff of this crisis, I now can’t do anything with it. We had our last roast on Easter Sunday and then the next day I had half a dozen much anticipated cheese scones in the oven when it went kaput. A lockdown baking tragedy.

When my husband and I first got together he lived in a flat with a cooker with only one ring and a grill pan that worked. This was a deal breaker. Either we got a new oven or I was not moving in. He felt this was a bit irrational and OTT but in the early days of our relationship, he was prepared to tolerate my strange obsession for wanting to eat more than toast with whatever you had heated up in a single saucepan every day.

When we lived in Abu Dhabi I was so excited to find a six ringed, range style cooker, which looked super professional but could only cope with having either the oven or one ring on at a time. Any more than this and the dodgy gas supply would trip the system and you had to restart the whole thing at the meter. The oven burnt everything from the bottom up too, so you couldn’t bake anything and the grill was like trying to make cheese on toast with the flame of a cigarette lighter. There was not a mealtime for many months that did not go by without tears, tantrums or something going in the bin. Again, my husband thought I was being a bit of a drama queen and was happy to ‘solve’ the problem by dialling for another take out delivery.

I adapted though, changed my repertoire, gave up baking bread and didn’t really miss it in the heat of the desert.

When we came back home, the oven that was here when we bought the house a couple of years before we left was still going strong and it was such a pleasure to be able to rediscover my love of baking and cooking again. It has certainly done me good service and owes me no favours. From my ‘Hels’ Bakehouse‘ village bread club days where it would cope with hours of use, baking two to four loaves at a time, to every birthday cake, Sunday roast and mid week lasagne that I have demanded, it has not let me down. However, if it could have lasted just a couple more months I would have been grateful.

Luckily a replacement has now been speedily delivered and is currently being installed by one of the many village heroes who have stepped up to help people out during these difficult times. I will bake again for myself, my family and my neighbours and I will be grateful for it. Thank you to all the people out there who keep on working to deliver, fix, stock the shelves and produce the raw ingredients. Like my oven, my health, the NHS, my freedom of movement, my friends and my family, I will try not to take you for granted again.

Big thank you to local hero, Tommy Reynolds, for all your help getting this installed!

P.s. I recorded some videos recently for a friend to help her make some sourdough (as pictured in my last post). If you fancy giving it a go then here’s the link, but please do not judge me on my lack of professionalism, taste in pyjamas, lockdown hair, dancing to Boney-M or bad jokes. This was never meant to be a public offering!

How to make Hels’ Bakehouse Sourdough

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