Sunday, February 7, 2010

Made by hand

I found this bread recipe that my mother had scribbled down from a woman in her 80's or 90's in Connemara years ago.

I will list out some of the ingredients here in case you can't read it. What I love is the quantities...

1 fist good coarse wholemeal
little palm wheatgerm
2 halves side plate white flour
1 litre buttermilk (2 pint jug)
1 palm little bread soda
pinch salt

I love all the different terms this woman had for quantities. So much is related to hands - a pinch, a fist, a palm... I have my nice little set of teaspoon and tablespoon measures, 5ml, 15ml - this woman had her hands.

The side plate measure I have heard of before. Upon asking an elderly relative about her bread recipe she told me "a saucer of flour" which I had to get her to show me. This measurement seems to have predated a cup of flour.

Several times in my life I've asked people for recipes which they couldn't provide. Years of making cakes, breads and tarts meant they did it by eye and by hand, and as a result recipes got lost along the way. Like my granny's famous apple tart, never to be repeated as we could never get a recipe from her. But even if we had, would it have tasted the same? No.

And I suppose that's one of the things I like about cooking - its a chance thing. Even with a very accurately measured recipe, its different every time. The bread I make is different every time I make it, and there's an element of surprise which goes with that which I love.


Fink said...

This makes me very happy to see! It is a regularly repeated occurrence that I phone my mother from places far away and ask for the recipe for her always fluffy and delicious scones. The details are never clear, things like 'you might crack an egg in there now', or 'add enough flour so that it's only sticking to your hands a little', 'if there's too much dough make a little runt at the end'.
It never worked out well for me, as I struggled to try and get them perfect.
For the first time last week I decided to go by instinct, just follow my memories of her floury hands and gut feeling and lo, of course, from the oven came the most delicious set of scones, runt and all, with crisp golden outsides and springy white steaming warm insides, begging for a coat of butter and jam.

Snag Breac said...

Your comment really made me laugh! The quotes from your mum are classic mammy quotes!
But what is "a little runt at the end"? A runt scone?
Those instinctive scones sound delicious though! Roll on the knowledge in our hands.

Fink said...

Ah yes, the runt is that funny little scone you make of the bits that haven't fitted nicely into the cutter. My mum always gave me this little messy one hot out of the oven and I love it for that!

Snag Breac said...

ahh, I see!
Yes, we all need more runts! (And I make plenty!)

Irmhild said...

I had been trying to get my husband's granny's recipe for bread, but no luck, she just didn't have quantities, and I was never around when she made it...