Farm and Flour
A bread-baking experience that's a page from literature

In 1685 King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes, leading to the persecution of Protestants in France. That same year, a Huguenot family fleeing Europe founded Boschendal in the Drakenstein area, and the estate saw some of the first viticulture in the region. The farm changed several hands over the centuries, at one point being owned by the infamous Cecil John Rhodes. Rhodes turned Boschendal into Rhodes Fruit Farms during the the 1880s when phylloxera wiped out the world's vineyards (see Five Things You Learn in Wine School for more info). 

Now, exactly 330 years later, the wine estate is a multipurpose farm and cozy vacation spot. Their bakery recently offered lessons in bread-baking over a flour-filled weekend extravaganza, which I attended. First up for making and baking: the Seed Loaf.

Oh, the seed loaf: simple, tasty, filled with lots of seedy goodness and dried cranberries; even my parrot was excited for this one. It was also pretty quick to bake. We made our loaves from start to finish in the three hour lesson, which also included preparing the starters and poolish for the next day, along with a wine tasting. Speaking of wines... my favourites from the weekend were the Pavilion Blanc de Noir and the Shiraz-Cabernet, examples of which my parrot was not allowed to try. I think he was happy with seed loaf. 

Apparently the flour used makes a difference. Fresh, stone ground with a high protein content I'm told is preferred, and with the way all the breads turned out, I'd can't say I'd argue that point. After a shining first day, it was off to the Orchard Cottage. 

With The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey playing on local television and a crackling fire burning in the hearth, the evening post-bread-making took on a literary feel. This cute cottage was included in the weekend -- a modern place made farm-style with rustic decor straight from Anne of Green Gables. My nana's kitchen also had a rustic feel to it; it took this Sherlock years to realise it was likely because her home, like this cottage, had no kitchen counters. Counter tops were invented in the 1940s by the Gilbreths, long after Nana decorated. You may know the Gilbreths as the stars of another famous literary work. They were the parents in the memoir, Cheaper by the Dozen

I was also super pumped about this comfy sofa, and the protea-covered bedspread left no one forgetting we're in South Africa.

The only awkward part of the evening was this rather promiscuous-looking pear hanging above the fireplace. Each of the orchard cottages has a different wire fruit I found, and this was Satsuma's (A satsuma, I learned, is actually an orange. My cottage was pear-themed, not sure why). 

Come to think of it, the promiscuous pear wire reminds me of Man Ray's photograph, Le Violon d'Ingres, and violins had me thinking of breakfast. 

In 2007, concert violinist Joshua Bell played several Bach pieces on a multimillion dollar violin to disinterested passerby at the DC Metro in the United States. The event was part of a social experiment conducted by The Washington Post and was documented in Gene Weingarten's Pulitzer Prize-winning article, "Pearls Before Breakfast." 

If Bell's playing was the unnoticed pearl, this would've most certainly been the breakfast. Simple, overlooked, had a million times before yet never quite like this. I wanted to sing from the treetops how good this was (one of the best I've ever had), but I was the only person in the Deli. Maybe 8:30 was a little early...

It certainly wasn't too early for the chickens, though. Their rooster stood at the Deli's door and crowed for a solid five minutes, not that I minded. I loved seeing these birds strutting around in the morning. They say Laura Ingalls Wilder got her start as a poultry columnist. Perhaps chickens have good book vibes.They most certainly had good eggs. After breakfast there wasn't much time to admire the plumage; day two in the bakery meant things got serious. 

I can't begin to describe the crazy schedule of kneading and folding and flipping that was Day 2. Unlike the first lesson (which took place in the afternoon), Day 2's lesson was right in the fray of the bakery's daily schedule, so we got the full experience of how hectic a busy bakery can be. 

The ciabatta (above) was the most fun to make, though an over-enthusiastic flip at the last moment made mine a bit lopsided (bread bottom left). Personally, I think it had too much influence from the orchard's promiscuous pear. 

Pretty proud of my baguette, though. The second one from the top, my baguette turned out really tasty and wasn't too bad looking either. Both the ciabatta and the baguette were far cries from the doughy bricks I used to make, and that's what's most important.