What a week it has been. It started with transferring all my data to my new laptop computer, and ended with a shared cheese and biscuits lunch at work while we listened to a press conference about going into a snap 5 day hard lockdown and at home my mechanic checked my new car that I had picked up on Thursday. My mechanic loved the car. The computer is great. Lockdown is not too bad for 5 days but brings some degree of anxiety about rising cases and the UK strain of covid19. Today we heard that one of the infected people had visited out local area. And today I indulged in the classic lockdown activity of sourdough baking.
I remember Adam Hills on the Last Leg saying that 1st lockdown was a novelty where you try and get everything right, in 2nd lockdown you feel like you know how to deal with it but in 3rd lockdown you just don't care any more. In Australia where we have managed to keep covid numbers to zero for weeks - or even months - on end in each state, the short sharp lockdown to manage a small outbreak seems to be effective. So I hope in Victoria this third lockdown will be indeed just 5 days and can be considered a blip rather than the slog we endured last year. All going well, it will be bookended by my niece's high school graduation on Thursday and my brother's visit from interstate next weekend.
Victoria eliminated Covid in November, had an outbreak in December, dealt with diagnoses in quarantine among Australian Open tennis players and entourage, and we now have 20 active cases in Melbourne. These numbers might seem small to people living overseas with much higher numbers but as we all know, from little things, big things grow! Despite all of this, the Australian Open started this week and I have watched bits of a few matches. It went from the distraction of a woman in the crowd heckling Raphael Nadal on Thursday to an odd moment mid way through the Djokovic-Fritz match when at 11.30pm the crowd was told to go home so they were not out when the lockdown started at 11.50pm.
I put on the bread last night while watching the tennis and let it rise overnight. I was a little worried after baking some terrible bread recently but this one was just lovely. It rose well and was light and fluffy inside. I used leftover fruit mince from Christmas baking. My mum gave me some fruit bread a while back and I found the last piece in the freezer last week, which renewed my desire to try making fruit buns. I often make enough dough to make 2 loaves or a loaf and 8 rolls. Today I decided to make just rolls to put in the freezer so I can eat them gradually while spending more time at home.
As usual I made my regular overnight sourdough bread dough and added in some extras. The dough was quite sticky but when I cut it up and shaped it into rolls, it was pretty easy to handle. It was one of those lazy weekends where we had nowhere to go and took it easy. I didn't start shaping the rolls until 12 noon.
The rolls were larger than I usually make so next time I might cut them slightly smaller. Writing up the recipe I found I had forgotten that I usually slash my bread rolls though it did not make much difference. But they tasted delicious. These are barely sweet and taken most of their sweetness from the dried fruit. Because the dried fruit in in the mince, it is actually really soft. And as fruit mince keeps well, you can save it to make months after you have recovered from Christmas baking.
The rolls are delicious warm from the oven. Too tempting not to try one or two. I also had one with my dinner and then put the rest in the freezer for later. Meanwhile I have been watching the quiet tennis with no audience applause and reactions. It is odd to see. However there is still the twack of the ball on raquet and the squeak of sneakers on the court. Not to mention the players grunting. Even before lockdown the crowd was more spaced out than usual, mask wearing is not uncommon and there are no lines people calling the ball out. Just holding the Australian Open has been a massive operation to beat Covid but it is not like other years.
Likewise life is still not normal, despite the diagnoses being so low here. There is constant politics about how to manage hotel quarantine for international arrivals, of Australian citizens struggling to get home due to lack of flights, and ventilation. At work we have to remember to check in and out on QR codes, hand sanitiser stations are all over the building and trying to organise a face to face meeting with external visitors is challenging, even before the latest run of community transmission. Going to cafes and shops we are greeted by QR codes and sanitiser. Masks are still being worn in shops and public transport even before the restrictions tightened recently. No wonder lockdown is not quite so odd.
Despite this, saying goodbye to colleagues at work on Friday was odd as we felt like we couldn't really be confident we would see each other on Thursday when the 5 days of lockdown should be up, all going well. One of my colleagues took a project home just in case the lockdown lasted weeks. We've had an infected person visit out local area. I have changed medical appointments, am yet to postpone a tradie and am sad we wont get to go swimming this weekend. But we can still shop and we can exercise (walk or ride) for up to 2 hours a day. It is not so bad but it would be nice to return to a real normal.
More fruity bread baking on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
- Cranberry nut rolls
- Freshly fruited yeast bread
- Malted loaf with chocolate, figs and brazil nuts
- Overnight sourdough fruit bread (v)
- Sourdough fruit bread with poppy seeds
Fruit mince sourdough bread rolls
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe
Makes 16-20 rolls
300g of bubbly starter
400g fruit mince
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1 tbp golden syrup
2 tbsp treacle
3 tbsp olive oil
1 kg flour
fine semolina (or flour or fine polenta) to dust
[A few hours before making the loaf, take sourdough starter out of the fridge and feed it so it gets nice and bubbly.]
About an hour before going to bed (or first thing in the morning) mix everything together. It is easiest to mix everything except flour first and then add flour. Use hands to mix if required. Set aside covered with a tea towel for half an hour. Knead in the bowl for about 15 seconds. Cover with greased clingwrap or a bowl cover and leave at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.
Sprinkle semolina or flour generously onto table or board. Scrape dough out onto this surface. Cut into 16 or 20 pieces. I use a plastic cutter but a large sharp knife will do - and might need some flouring. The dough will probably need some flour to make it easier to handle it.
Gently roll each piece into a ball. Do this by putting the corners as tightly as possible around the bun (without squishing the bun) so the floured/semolinaed bottom of the bun is like a little blanket around the bun. Turn it over so the floured bottom is a smooth top. Toss in flour/semolina to stop it being sticky but treat it as though it is very fragile just using finger tips. Then use your hands to shape as much as possible but don't worry too much if the bottom looks like a scrunched blanket.
Grease or line the bottom of a casserole dish with a lid (mine is enamel). Sprinkle with some semolina or polenta. Place rolls here as you shape them. They can be either close together or have space between - if they are close together they can lose their round shape. Let them rise in the casserole for 30 minutes with the lid on. While the rolls rise, preheat oven to 240 C.
Bake for 20 minutes with lid (or foil cover) on. Remove lid and bake another 10-20 minutes. Bread is ready if it sounds hollow when tapped.
Cool on a wire rack or eat warm. Can be frozen on the day of baking and then microwaved on 30 seconds at 50% power in the morning and used to make rolls for lunch.
Duckworth Lewis Method - self titled