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What the hell am I going to do?! Bake.

We’ve all had a challenging year, but for our Regional Food Service Manager Jon Harding, it’s been a year of shielding too. Faced with a year at home, Jon rekindled his love for baking.

I remember the phone call I received on a sunny Sunday morning last March from my specialist, telling me that due to COVID I was to shield and not leave the house, but also that my wife and daughter would have to stay in too, unless shopping.

Should I Decorate the house? No, my wife was still working from home and the decorating shops were closed. Do the garden? Sure, but this was only on days it was nice (although we did lay the patio we had planned and I now have a herb and fruit area). Go stir crazy? But then I thought about a passion I have always had, but very rarely used; baking!

We found my old mixer that was falling apart from years of sitting unused in a cupboard and I got baking. Mostly bread, but I did venture on to some sweet treats too! Gone were the days where if we fancied fresh bread me or my wife would pop to the local shop for a loaf, now in the “new normal”, I would get up and a bread dough would be thrown down instead.

I found apps (my favourite is one called Kneady) and old recipes that interested me, for breads forgotten or for breads that took days to make. The wood-fired pizza oven and BBQ would be burning, to give different crusts and tastes to the breads or on rainy days we’d stay inside. I relived my youth by recreating a Jewish style bread I would only have when visiting my Grandfather; going to this amazing local Jewish bakery.

Then to salting my own beef over a week and making fresh salt beef bagels, which I hadn’t had since I used to go to Brick Lane in London, leaving the clubs at silly o’clock in the morning.

When it came to Christmas, rather than buying presents, we made our friends and family a selection of baked Christmas goods, I even went back to my days of tempering chocolate and sugar work. I steered clear of sour dough, as ingredients were short and the waste was too high, but mastered a French style bread that takes three days to prove in the fridge, I can honestly say, that if you put it next to a loaf of sour dough you would know no difference.

So now, even as we hopefully come out of this, I know that my days of popping to the shops for a loaf of bread are gone. My mixer, which my wife and daughter kindly upgraded (they said my one was an eyesore and sounded like it was going to fall apart) sits proudly on the side, ready and waiting. Even tonight as I write this, a bread dough is proving, for a chunky chili topped with cheesy garlic dough balls.

I’m grateful for many things this year, but one of them is none of my family have a sweet tooth, so giving away the sweet treats was easy. Otherwise, I really don’t think we would have fitted back out the front door. I’m also happy to report, that at just turned 18, my daughter now has a love of baking too!

Read more about the Kneady app by clicking here!

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