Autumn’s stealing in and bringing with it my favourite time of year. If spring and summer are cotton – joyful, light and simple, then autumn and winter are cashmere – cosy, elegant and complex. The trees banish their leaves to the soil beneath, food for next year’s growth. The darkness slips in a little earlier each day, a thief seeking to heist the light.
Now that I live in Australia, reality’s different to my childhood autumns. Reds, browns and the weeping bark of silvery eucalyptus trees dominate this land’s skyline, with temperatures never dropping low enough to need the comfort from layers of added warmth. It took me some time to forgive such mild offerings to my European blood. Now, a few years later, I’ve come to love the mostly dry, mild-weathered autumns that strengthen the roots my feet have gradually grown in the soil beneath. It’s a reminder of the things in life that really matter and a nudge to take the time to burrow deep.
There’s a natural settling down of my energies during this time, like the hibernation of evolutionary ancestors long gone still reverberate through my cells. I subconsciously allow my world to quieten. Meditations are easier to find, pauses in moments of agitation or doubt more natural. Stillness and silence feel like an organic honouring of the time. I ask less perfection of myself and hold onto fewer expectations. It’s like my soul has settled down next to a fire and spends its time revelling in the logs gradually melting to embers and ash.
Fruit is exceptional during Australia’s autumn. Cumquats, figs, persimmons, quinces, pears and apples are all dropping from the Australian trees and into our waiting mouths. Being predominately a baker I feel especially blessed in this season, a time of year seemingly created just so we can crank up the oven and pour out doughy offerings of baked goodness.
I bought some beautiful organic apples from my Green Mumma supplier last week (her of the incredible pears in my Pear & Hazelnut Cake) and have finally found and bought a buttermilk in Victoria worth raving about, thanks to the Myrtleford Butter Factory. It seemed entirely appropriate to honour these two ingredients with a bread that sings of both.
This loaf, that I’ve adapted from the fabulous The River Cottage Bread Handbook, is simplicity itself. No kneading, no proving, no fancy bread flours. It’s an ideal weekend breakfast, taking about 40 minutes from sleepily pulling out the ingredients to tugging on hunks of warm, fresh from the oven, bread. The apples and treacle add a rounded sweetness of texture and taste. Meanwhile a good quality buttermilk adds a hinted undertone of creamy sourness that makes this a truly worthy addition to any kitchen.
- 500g wholemeal plain flour
- 10g salt
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 200g nuts, roughly chopped (today I’ve used almonds, pecans and hazelnuts, but only because I didn’t have any macadamias, which are divinely delicious in this bread)
- 325ml buttermilk (if you can’t get good buttermilk, thin unflavoured yoghurt is a better option than the horrible, fake buttermilk from supermarkets)
- 1 heaped tbl sp of treacle / molasses
- 200g apples, peeled, core removed and cut into fingertip size pieces
- A sprinkling of rye flour (optional)
Pre heat over to 200˚C / 400˚F
In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder
Add the apples and nuts and mix well
Make a well in the centre
Combine the buttermilk and treacle together and pour into the well of the dry ingredients
Knead as briefly as possible, the less you knead the lighter this will be – you really want the mixture to be only just combined, should take no longer than a minute
Divide into two and shape into rough rounds
Pat to flatten until about 5cm high
If you like, and have any to hand, flour the loaves with a little rye flour and place on a baking tray
Cut a cross on the top of each loaf, almost through to the bottom and lightly stab all over
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the base
Allow to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack and, if you can, eat while still warm either dipped in delicious foods or with lashings of top quality butter