I’m a Newfie. And I take a lot of pride in everything that word represents. But I’m also young. And I grew up in an airport town. With a Cape Bretoner father and a mother who somehow never inherited the traditional skills from her mother. I always felt a little shafted by my family’s lack of stereotypical Newfoundland roots. Sure we went berry picking & camping every summer and skiddoing every winter. But we didn’t own a boat or go cod fishing, dad never hunted or trapped, mom didn’t know how to knit, and we never owned a cabin or listened to Jiggs N’ Reels on the local radio station.
Since graduating high school I’ve made it a little mission of mine to learn and develop some of these skills. A colleague at work taught me to knit. My pop took me fishing, and my cousin later brought me cod jiggin’ and taught me to properly gut a fish. I tackled preserving on my own and I recently did my firearms course and snared my first rabbit.
But there’s one thing every proud Newfoundland woman should know how to do: bake a mean loaf of bread. And today, I tackled just that….with a little help from the Bread Maker my mother kindly gave me for Christmas this year.
I flicked through the user guide and settled on the only recipe I had all the ingredients for: Date & Nut bread. Soak dates in hot water. Check. Pour in bread maker. Check. Add remaining ingredients to bread maker. Eggs, Flour, Brown Sugar, Butter, Vanilla, Baking Powder, Salt, Vanilla. Check. Check. Check. Check. And now the hard part. Turn on the bread maker and walk away.
As easy as it all sounds, I was still a little on edge. According to the instructions, the bread machine would eventually beep, at which point I’m supposed to add the walnuts. I stuck around the kitchen for a while, paranoid I wouldn’t hear the beep. Dishes done, kitchen cleaned I was getting a little restless. I took another look at the display window, there was still 1 hour and 17 minutes left. Ok, I thought. Maybe at the end of the timer it beeps, I add the walnuts and then the timer resets for the baking time. Off to the shower I go.
I finally hear the beep when the timer runs out. Loaf of bread is done. Well almost….
Ok, so I didn’t get to add the walnuts, I guess I could live with that. But the soggy top just wasn’t going to do it for me. Pushing all pride aside, I call the toll-free number on the user guide. The only remedy is to remove the loaf from the bread maker pan, put it in an oven safe pan and finish it off a conventional oven.
Right, no problem. Except for the part where you have to tip the pan upside down to get the loaf out, thereby causing the non-cooked centre/top to splatter all over the wire rack. Salvaging it as best I could I turn it upright and let it settle. Before I can put it in the oven, I have to remove the kneading paddles that can sometimes get stuck in the bottom of the loaf.
Turning to the trustworthy user guide, I follow the instructions again. Turn loaf on side. Pull paddles out. Easy! Well, not exactly. Maybe cause the bread wasn’t fully cooked, or maybe cause the walnuts were missing, whatever the reason, my paddles wouldn’t come out. I had to cut them out with a pairing knife!
Ok, so this ain’t so bad. I take my loaf of bread with two gaping holes in the bottom and a soggy top, put it in a bread pan, into my oven and hope for the best. 20 minutes later, soggy-top free, I place the loaf on the wire rack to cool, just in time for lunch.
At the end of the day, no one missed the walnuts. No one cared about a few holes in the bottom. That bread took a mean beating at lunch as everyone around the kitchen table raved about the taste. Boo-YEAH!
Success? SURE! It tasted great after all. A few quick scribbles in the margin of that recipe and I’m ready to take on the bread maker again. Presentation will come, I’m sure of it. After all, practice makes perfect. Until then, I’m happy to be that much closer to checking off another item on my Life Checklist.