Work moved along steadily at the bakery. The first goal I set for myself was to taste one of everything that was produced there; and the first on the list was the cinnamon buns. My friend, Lisa from Leominster, had told me about these. She didn’t know what their correct name was, she was only able to describe them to me. “Sweet and soft and sticky and full of cinnamon; melts in your mouth when you bite into it and oh so nice!” is what she had said to me. “You must try it.”
Well, that week when Liam whipped the buns out of the oven, slid them off the baking tray and onto one of the metal tables, Alex asked me to glaze them. My mouth watered as I did the job. “Can I taste a bit?” I asked, once the last handful of sugar had been generously sprinkled on.
“Oh, have one,” Liam said.
A whole one? I did not need a second bidding. It was about 6:30 in the morning and I was a bit hungry. All the buns were stuck together so I eased one away, lifted it to my mouth, ate it up with my eyes: the sparkling black molasses glaze slathered over it, holding fast the layer of white sugar that was glued to it like glitter. It was almost as big as my face. I closed my eyes and took a gigantic bite. My teeth squelched into the spongy dough. The rich flavours waltzed on my taste buds: the molasses, the sugar, and the cinnamon, no doubt enhanced by the butter.
“Mmmm,” I purred to myself. I chomped away with a smile before letting the bolus roll down my gullet, and it wasn’t long before the whole bun was gone.
That cinnamon bun was so far superior to any other I had ever eaten. Certainly, when I was in Jamaica, and whenever my mum and I were out doing errands and we ended up being out much longer than anticipated, she would sometimes stop at the supermarket to pick up a quick snack. I usually opted for a few ripe bananas. Hers was often a prepackaged cinnamon roll, and the very sight of it was never tempting enough for me to have one. In fact, I once tasted a bit and wondered what she saw, or rather tasted, in it. I daresay, nothing. I wished she was here right at this moment so she could have one of these king of cinnamon buns too.
Being somewhat of a healthy food fanatic, rich pastry is not something I go for very often. I much prefer low fat, low sugar, low salt foods simply because I can eat more without feeling guilty or without ruining my health. But eating an Alex Gooch cinnamon bun is something everyone ought to do at least once in their lifetime.
Next on the to die for list of must tries were the brioche buns. We didn’t make them everyday but when they too were slid out of the oven and onto the metal table, I knew another sampling session was in the offing. The brioche reminded me a bit of the cinnamon bun in that it was pastry with a whole load of deliciousness rolled up inside. It didn’t have cinnamon or molasses but tangy berries offset with sugar, and it was couched in a buttery bed of pastry.
Then there was the focaccia. I struggled at first to get the pronunciation right. (Dear reader, focaccia was not a thing I was familiar with before this point) My mouth kept wanting to go wrong every time I had to say focaccia. I would hear myself saying “fock-a-sea-ah”, knowing that it was wrong but somehow not able to get the syllable in the correct place. It sounded half like a swear word. Whenever I had to say it, I would try saying it slowly, but it didn’t work. And then I told myself to simply remember that the middle bit was pronounced ‘catch’. Problem solved! As long as that middle bit was correct, the rest just seemed to fall naturally into place: ‘fo-catch-ee-ah’.
The focaccia was its own brand of savoury deliciousness. A decadent garlic bread, you could say. It was a staple of the bakery most days, and like the other things, I tasted it once and filed its memory among the pleasant ones in my mind.
The more regular loaves were great too. I found it a bit more difficult to distinguish among them all but suffice to say, whichever loaf was chosen in the wee hours of the morning to be sliced up for our bakery breakfast, it was a treat to indulge. Sometimes, depending on the weight of the night’s bakery schedule, if there was an empty oven deck at breakfast time, we’d pop slices of bread into that deck and let it toast. (Dear reader, can I tell you, there is nothing like the taste of freshly baked sourdough bread, that is then toasted and slathered with organic butter or honey or simply topped with a fresh salad as I sometimes took to work with me.)
Once, when most of the bread had been loaded into the vans, and the bakery door was open, letting the daylight in, a man stepped in, having arrived to collect his order. He found me munching away at a slice of toast that had just come out of the oven.
“One of the perks of the job,” he quipped.
“It’s the reason I come to work,” I joked back.
Well, there are a few more reasons that I come too. Altogether, though, I can safely say I am falling in love with bread again. When I lived in the UK previously, I had stopped eating bread for more than a year because I discovered that regular bread from the supermarket just didn’t sit well with me. I had started to take that semi bloated feeling as normal, until I noticed it wasn’t there, and that my whole system felt much better, when I happened not to have bought any bread with my groceries one particular week.
Once too, I made the disastrous mistake of eating a whole Tiger Bread from a notable supermarket in one sitting. (Gentle reader, let’s just say I paid the price for that.) I never made such a mistake again!
But no matter how much sourdough bread I eat, especially if it’s a spelt loaf-I’m supposed to eat spelt for my blood type and not wheat-I never ever get the unpleasantness associated with under-baked, additive laden supermarket bread. And as much as I love bread-I have always loved bread-if I can’t get hold of sourdough bread, or some version of properly prepared grain, then I’m afraid for that period bread will have to be off my menu!