When we bought our house in France, we discovered that the lanes were perfect for running. One weekend my husband came back from his run.
‘I saw a dead swan in a pond. It’s head is completely submerged, all you can see is its body’. I looked at him in consternation,
‘Maybe we should report it? It could be Bird Flu’.
He nodded. We poured another glass of wine and did nothing.
The following weekend I went for a run and had a look for the dead swan. When I ran back onto our drive I was panting and laughing.
‘It’s not a dead swan!’ I giggled, ‘it’s a plastic swan!’
My husband is a mathematical man; he deals in caution, probability and the science of hedging his bets. Yet that day he was uncharacteristically vehement;
‘Absolutely not, no way. A plastic swan around here? With all these hard-bitten, gritty farmers? No. You’re wrong. You. Are. Wrong’.
There was silence. The breeze sent a tumbleweed past my feet, and close by came the haunting sound of the Ocarina;
ooeee ooeee ooo, ooo ooo ooo,
ooeee ooeee ooo, ooo ooo ooo
We faced each other, legs braced, arms cocked; he was Clint to my Van Cleef. I tipped back my Stetson with a finger and my hand hovered around my holster,
‘How much,’ I hissed, ‘do you wanna bet?’His eyes narrowed and the harsh sun glinted off his spurs. He chewed the end off his cheroot and spat in the dirt. He spoke slowly, menacingly;
'50 says the swan is real’I brushed some dust off the sleeve of my black jacket, and eyed his serape with disdain,
‘50. Quid - not Euros - and if you lose, you leave town for good’
I spat in the dust. It landed a centimetre from his pointed snakeskin boot. His eyes travelled slowly from the boot up to my face.
‘I think you might regret that’
ooeee ooeee ooo, ooo ooo ooo
We retreated to different ends of the house and shortly I heard the door slam and saw him set off for his run. Much later – nonchalantly - I grabbed one of my girls,
‘Come on L, let’s go and get some bread’.
My tyres squealed as I threw the car around the lanes, until at last we arrived at the pond.
‘Do you think it’s real?’ I asked my bemused daughter,
‘Dunno’ she said. We gathered stones to hurl at the headless swan. She was 5 and I am a rubbish shot; it took us ages. Eventually, however, there was the unmistakeable ‘dink’ of a stone bouncing off plastic.
When I found him he was lying on the garden bench. His Stetson hiding his face. His long legs crossed, the spurs on his boots burnished orange by the dying day. I approached him warily, fearing an ambush.
‘The swan’ I growled, ‘is plastic. I think you have something that belongs to me’.
Slowly he sat up, his eyes dark in the shadow of his hat. His face was inscrutable as he peeled off the notes.
‘How long have you known?’ I asked. He lit a cheroot and his eyes narrowed as the wisps of smoke curled around his greying temples,
‘Since my run. I went and threw stones at it. Do I really have to leave town?’
I fixed him with a steely glare and smoothed my moustache menacingly,
‘Not this time, no, I’ll take your horse instead’.
I vaulted neatly into the saddle and he ate my dust as I galloped off into the sunset.
Ooeee, ooeee ooo, ooo ooo ooo
A few weeks later, Mr Ebay delivered my lovely 50 quid scales. I’ve been using them a lot these past few weeks, trying to perfect this graceful loaf. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve tried it, but not to worry, it’s done now. And using my scales is no chore at all; especially as the victory was so sweet.
Some people are good. Some are just bad, and ugly.
Ooee ooee ooo, ooo ooo ooo
Swan Lake Gluten Free Loaf
So after the joy of the Archimedes' rolls, I thought the loaf would be a formality. Yet it has proved quite tricky. When I used a regular loaf tin, the mix would rise way too high and collapse over the sides during cooking, and it only produced a small loaf, not really good enough for sandwiches. So I hit upon using a Charlotte mould to support it as it grows; it does the trick and produces sandwich-sized slices. As with most gluten free bread, it is best on the day of baking, but it does toast well the next morning.
My Charlotte mould measures 14cm across the base, and 18cm across the top, if you use a smaller one, you would have to reduce the ingredients to suit.
300g cornflour / corn starch
200g brown rice flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
1.5 tbsp sugar
2 tsp gluten free yeast
70g dairy free spread
500ml tepid water
- Put the flours, xanthan gum, salt, sugar and yeast into a large mixing bowl and use a small whisk to mix it all together
- Add the dairy free spread
- Add the tepid water and use a wooden spoon to gently combine the water and flour. When combined, start to beat the mixture. Round and round, scraping through the middle, give it a real good going over until all the lumps are gone and the dairy free spread has blended in. It may take anything from 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
- Scrape any mixture down from the sides of the bowl, and place the bowl in a warm place for 20 minutes
- Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, line the base of your Charlotte mould with baking parchment and grease the sides
- After 20 minutes, very gently scrape the bread mix into the Charlotte mould, and smooth off the surface with the back of a wooden spoon. Cover with greased cling film and leave in a warm place, until the mix has risen to the top of the mould and is rising in a slight dome over the top. This could take 45 minutes to an hour
- When the mix is as described above, remove the cling film and put the mould into the oven
- Bake for 15-20 minutes uncovered, until the surface of the bread is golden brown. The bread should be firm to the touch
- Remove it from the oven and carefully tip it out of the mould into your oven-gloved hand. Then place it onto a pizza tray. Cover the surface of the bread with silver foil, and twist it at each end to prevent it blowing off in the oven; it will look like a giant silver sweet from above
- Return the loaf to the oven and cook for another 15-20 minutes, the sides will brown slightly, as will the base
- The loaf is cooked when it sounds very hollow when you tap the base
- Place the loaf on a cooling rack to cool
- Enjoy a sandwich...I like mine topless, like the one below
© Pig in the Kitchen 2007