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The last loaf

February 23, 2021

Some years ago my friend Jane posted a recipe on Facebook for the world’s easiest bread recipe. I’d never baked a loaf of bread in my life. All that kneading just seemed like too much work when you could buy a perfectly good loaf in the shops. The joy of this particular recipe was the fact that no kneading was required.

I probably would have tried it out straight away, but Mike at that time was waiting for knee surgery and had been told that the more weight he could lose before the surgery the easier the recovery would be. When I asked his doctor for suggestions (part of me wishing he’d just hand over a bottle of diet pills), he recommended a Mediterranean diet – lots of meat, fish and vegetables, no bread, pasta or rice. (No pasta or rice? Well, so much for pretty much every don’t-even-have-to-think-about-it dinner recipe in my head.)

Tragically, before the surgery could take place, Mike died suddenly of a massive heart attack. Some months went by before I remembered that Jane had posted that bread recipe. Went to her Facebook page and had a skim through, but couldn’t find it, so I emailed her to ask for it.

As easy as I remembered. World’s easiest ciabatta recipe. Four cups of white flour, a teaspoon of salt, two cups of warm water with a quarter teaspoon of yeast. Mix together and leave for eight to twelve hours, then bake at 425 for forty minutes.

It was delicious, although ciabattas aren’t that great for making sandwiches. I worked out that if you altered the measurements slightly (a bit more than four cups of flour or a bit less than two cups of water) you could get a perfectly nice cob loaf.

After a number of white cob loafs I began to wonder if the recipe could be adapted to make a whole wheat loaf. Checked with Jane and, yes, indeed you could. Bump the yeast up to half a teaspoon and add half a teaspoon of sugar to the mix. Great.

After a few whole wheat loafs I decided to try a bag of Robin Hood multigrain flour. Man, I loved that bread. Not long afterwards, the island grocery store stopped stocking the multigrain flour. Bastards. Now, when I needed more flour, I either had to get the ferry to town as a foot passenger simply to buy a bag in the grocery store close to the ferry or find people who were going to town to shop and would be willing to pick a bag up for me. For a while that was Cec and Joyce. After they moved off island the job was kindly taken up by Jan and Dave.

At some point my baking friend Krys told me you could actually turn the dough out into a bread pan and get an actual loaf. Genius.

All good until last year. First a pandemic, then a plague of pandemic bakers. Jan informed me there was no multigrain flour to be found anywhere. Well, it was a pandemic. First no toilet paper, then no flour, then no yeast. The world was going to hell and eventually I had less than four cups of multigrain flour left. (I’d already been cutting it 50/50 with white flour for a while.)

I gave up and went back to white loafs. They’re fine as far as they go. The bread makes pretty good toast. But it’s just not the same. Late last year I actually called Robin Hood HQ and confirmed my worst fear: they’d stopped producing multigrain flour. Oh My God. Apparently mine was far from the first complaint they’d received about this, so it wasn’t completely impossible that multigrain flour might one day reappear, if not on the island, then in shops in town. I got the impression I shouldn’t hold my breath.

Bored with white bread, I recently went back to making basic whole wheat. Yeah, fine, whatever. Not as good.

Last night, with just a crust of bread left, I opened the pantry cupboard door. There was the Tupperware container with the last of the multigrain flour. It was time.

Added half a cup of white flour and half a cup of whole wheat to the three cups of multigrain.

There it was: the dough for what will probably be my last ever loaf of wonderful multigrain bread. Threw the tea towel over it.

Yes, that is indeed a souvenir-of-Paris tea towel. It’s actually pretty crap at drying dishes, but has been great for years at covering up bread dough.

Went to bed and in the morning, as always, there it is: the risen dough.

Forty minutes later and I’m able to have one of my favourite breakfasts: a still-warm-from-the-oven crust slice of multigrain bread with butter and homemade (not by me) jam.

And here it is. My last ever loaf of my all-time favourite bread. Sigh.

This is not the worst thing in the world and it is most definitely a first world problem. I am not a Rohingya refugee struggling to survive or a Uighur or Tibetan faced with forced “re-education” and cultural genocide. I am certainly not facing starvation in one of Africa’s war torn nations. In the greater (or any other) scheme of things I am an extremely lucky and fortunate individual.

I really do try to keep this in mind as I whinge. Still. Robin Hood deciding to stop making its multigrain flour really does suck.   

From → Blog

  1. Catherine Stewart permalink

    Well, that explains why I haven’t been able to find any for months. Thanks for checking. Always searched during our very limited, very rare trips out of town for dentist or optometrist appointments. Damn. Guess I’ll stop the hunt. Used the last of mine months ago. Wonder if Rogers might make it? Meanwhile, I’ll email or call Robin Hood and whine at them, adding another voice to the protest.

  2. krysross permalink

    If you still have the packaging, you can probably make your own multigrain blend by copying the ingredients. I also used to do a half whole wheat half all-purpose version of that bread with some seven or eight grain cereal thrown in to get that multi-grain texture. Back in the good old glutinous days.

  3. janeshead permalink

    If there’s a Bulk Barn near you somewhere, they have a 12 grain flour – might do?

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