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  • My love affair with bread

    I have a love affair with bread, it’s definitely a weird one but I realized this last weekend how universal this weird passion for people is. I can talk comics to my partner for hours , genuinely see the nerd in him come out when he gets talking about story arcs and the value attached to these books. He took a full 20 minutes to explain to me what a variant cover was and why they are rare. It’s like Easter eggs in your favorite Disney film, coming back to them years later and finally getting the subtle joke. We either love it or have become more confident in ourselves to say how much we hate it. We went to friends for lunch and my friend’s dad popped by to pick up something left. He sees me and gets very excited as he knows about my bakery and knows I make sourdough. We chatted like old friends about the types of flour we use and the beautiful places they come from. We chatted about hydration and crumb and how there’s nothing more satisfying than having a bread work after you thought it had flopped. I brought bread from the bakery as a gift and my friend insisted we all eat it with lashings of butter. He is a 60 something little Slovak man and struggles to sometimes find the English word he’s looking for to describe what he’s saying but we both speak bread so I knew exactly what he’s trying to say. This man was like a ray of sunlight with his enthusiasm and it really put a brightness in my day. I had had to try and manually get out of my gate with loadshedding that morning to get to a cold and dark shop. Boil water so I could make dough for the day, then proceeded to knead and mix my doughs, in the dark, on a very cold Sunday morning. It was super bleak. My hands hurt from rolling dough the day before, so not only was I miserable, I was in a lot of pain. In those hours you really don’t think what you do is magical. This bright gap in my day fashioned by a magical human really picked up my week. I’ve been questioning more and more what I do as I’ve been incredibly depressed. I still have a lot of pain from my surgeries and now with winter my old injuries are starting to surface. Add loadshedding, cash flow issues after the renovations and you’ve got a very dreary trifecta. I haven’t quite been able to find someone that I can train to make my bread so I have been making all the bread for the store, so no days off. I know I know, “that’s what owning your own business is” blah blah blah. I’m close to burnout but it’s such a tricky situation because why would I hand over the reigns to someone that doesn’t feel like I do about bread. I’m not sure I’ll ever find that person. Owning your own business is tough, but if I didn’t love my bread this much I really don’t think it would taste the same. We have a rule in the kitchen that you’re not allowed to bake if you’re upset. All of that energy goes straight into the cake and you will taste it. Or your entire cake will flop. I burnt an entire bread order one day because I was dealing with a problem that I didn’t have the capacity to deal with. I was exhausted and it pushed me right over the edge. Sadly, there’s no space to feel in a kitchen. When the pressure is mounting and you have ten or so deadlines per day there isn’t time for a cry or a moan. You’re there to work and get your orders done. But I love baking when I’m upset. It switches off all the anxiety from the day and I can forget about it while I do something that involves me fully. My world consists of simple things I can control. Ingredients, method, skills and chemistry all working together to provide something beautiful in its simplicity. A sponge cake bouncing back when you press it, a cookie rising and falling in the oven to get a perfect chewy bite. The smell of cloves and burnt butter. It’s a sanctuary. My senses feel at peace. More and more people are admitting to how sensory they are and we’re only now starting to accept that some people cannot deal with all of it all the time. We put in our headphones, we look for quiet spaces, we try and dissociate in whatever way we can because sometimes the world is just too noisy. My go to bake when the world is too much are these fabulous chocolate chunk cookies. This recipe has been rewritten so many times just to get the consistency right and balance of it right. Some might laugh because it’s just a cookie, how hard can that be? I have struggled to find anyone that can make these like me. If your butter isn’t creamed to the right level, your flour is not absorbed correctly, which makes your dough dry, which makes the cookie tough. If your butter is too cold or your sugar too fine, the dough doesn’t cream. On and on it goes. If there was ever a recipe to describe how I bake it would be this one. The level of Obsessive Compulsion that this requires, the fact that it’s just a part of my make up is so perfectly matched. I’m not an easy person to work with as I like things just so, things must be clean and packed away where they are supposed to go. I’m certain my level of perfection drives many people away that I train, I know people find it hard to work with me. Instead of seeing this as something I have to fix, I’m going to look for those that see it for what it really is. My utter passion for what I do. Yes its soppy, but my love for this side of me will never waiver. If I stop loving what I’ll do, I’ll quit. I wouldn’t feel like I’m doing the profession any justice if I wasn’t all in. Chocolate Chunk Cookie Recipe 200g Butter 1/2 cup caster sugar 1 cup brown sugar 2 tbl golden syrup 2 free range eggs 1 tsp vanilla 2 1/2 cups cake flour 1 tsp bicarb 1 tsp salt 2 cups chocolate chunks (use Bournville, cut into big pieces) Cream soft butter, sugars and syrup until light and fluffy Add eggs and vanilla Add sifted dry ingredients and mix until just together fold in chocolate chunks, roll into balls and bake at 180C for 10 min (should make 24) profile photo by

  • Soup for the Soul

    Eating has always been a lifeline for me. I have such vivid memories attached to flavours and I think that’s why we make the foods our parents and grandparents made because they feel like home. Food tastes better differently to everyone because it’s not just how your tongue tastes it but how your memory absorbed it. Soup is a big one for me as I still make my grandfathers “vegetable” soup with beef shin and pasta. It reminds me of being a child on the plot. Playing in the veld with icy toes because the dew wet your shoes. Then walking back to the farmhouse with the sun on our backs in the evening. The smell of that soup takes me back to their house when the fire was burning in the old coal stove and the scent permeated the air. The softness of my Ouma’s hands as she ladled into our bowls. Crusty thick bread and so much butter. Soup is a theme in my life, I would look for soup wherever I went. It gave me a little bit of home when I was far away and California gave me some great food memories. Creamy tomato soup with grilled cheese toasties at a Motel in Calabasas. Which meant great views but tiny rooms. I sat outside at a picnic bench with my soup (microwaved in the lobby) a sandwich and breathed in the frozen air off the mountains, the Malibu Hills outline just a blue strip in sky. Wonton soup from Whole Foods, in a tall weird clear container. Delicate prawn wontons floating in a clear broth with bak choi, spring onions and Chinese spinach leaves. I grew really fond of their Asian food offering as they nailed the flavor profile. We didn’t always have a kitchen and eating junk food there is a slippery slope. You can so easily get sucked into terrible habits when a salad is more expensive than a sandwich, you’ll always take the sandwich. Whole Foods became a haven, the food was pricy but always worth it. Matzo ball soup from a Jewish deli. Our sponsor and friend had us over for dinner, He was just getting over a cold and the only thing he wanted was this soup and it had to be from Brent’s deli in Westlake Hills. So we told them to order for all of us and we would pick it up on the way there. The place was madness and had a que out the door, it was in this weird, out of the way, strip mall. Completely unexpected but dinner was just amazing. We sat at their kitchen counter, we were all given spoons to taste each dish. Hot Pastrami with sauerkraut , Beef and lentil soup, and to my utter surprise, one of the best soups I’ve eaten. That Matzo ball soup tasted like a mom had made it. Our host was sent back home with it, telling us stories of his childhood in New York. Vegan Ramen from a foodstall at Grand Central Market, which is a trip in itself. It’s in a historic part of Downtown Los Angeles, it’s a fresh market with old school butcheries and grocers as well as hosting renowned eateries like Eggslut and Ramenhood. It was my first experience of Ramen and it was really bizarre. The egg was made from plant protein in the shape of a real egg, barbequed eggplant that tasted like pork, mushroom broth and handmade noodles. This might sound super gross but it was such an experience. Sitting in the busy market at a bar, experiencing all these sensations with all that noise around you. Pork Tonkotsu Ramen from a restaurant in Venice Beach, with master stocks boiling away in front of you as you eat at a tiny counter facing the kitchen. That was all they served, and there were people on a waiting list just to get thirty minutes inside to eat their soup. It was incredible. Lastly ,but not least, Pho from a strip mall in San Diego. We had had a long day driving from Woodland hills, we were visiting a friend and my partner had a meeting. It was an exhaustively hot day and I felt like I needed something nourishing, maybe tasting a little home made. I saw a sign for Pho close to our hotel, walked across and ordered, of which I pronounced wrong and the cashier had a chuckle at me. It was pricy and I wasn’t sure that this would be worth it. I was handed a massive container of clear broth, thin raw beef wrapped in paper, cut up limes, jalapeño, coriander, ginger, amaranth and Thai basil. Then handed another bowl of noodles. On the table of a hotel kitchenette, I sat and feasted with all my little containers. Trying different garnishes while leaving the beef in the scorching broth to poach. It was such a new but wonderful experience and gave me the confidence to order it out. Pronouncing it properly now I hope. I was very lucky to be able to eat at so many places in LA. Finding eateries on Instagram and trying to figure out how to get there, checking if the area was okay to drive to. Did we need to bus or Uber? Then looking up the reviews on Yelp to make sure it wasn’t dreadful and a waste of time. Finding so many unexpected and wonderful spots, it was a food adventure where I knew I would be eating something that was good for my soul. Take me a home for a little while. I wanted to include my Oupa’s soup recipe here as it means a great deal to me. Spreading joy in food is why I love eating and making soup for people. This kind of food is what is passed down through families because it’s easy and can feed loads of people you love. Oupa’s “vegetable” soup 2 shin bones A little olive oil for browning Soup pack from Impala grocer ( celery, carrots, turnips, parsley ) About 4 tablespoons of Ina Parma’s beef stock Water to cover About a Handful of Pasta (what ever you have, Oupa always used macaroni) Peel and chop vegetables in similar sized cubes and set aside Heat a little oil in a large stock pot and brown shin quickly both sides Remove beef and add a little water to deglaze the pot, fry vegetable with a bit more oil until they start to smell good Add the beef, water and stock and simmer on low for about 3 hours. When the meat has fallen off the bone add pasta and cook for a further 7 minutes. Add more hot water if there isn’t enough to submerge the pasta. Serve hot, enjoy, smell and taste a little moment of my history PS. Always pick out the sad looking veg. If it’s not fresh it’s bitter.

  • Onward and Upward!

    So it took us 8 years to put walls in our kitchen. I laugh because this wasn’t even a hint of a possibility last year this time. We have never had investors. We’ve never had cash injections. We’ve had the ability to save a little spend a little. It only gets you so far though. COVID hit as we were starting to get busier in our café and then it didn’t feel like we were going to make it through that whole debacle never mind trying to expand our business, or even save a little to do some improvements. Things got progressively better after that mess. We’ve been getting busier and busier. We decided to formalize the business and separate it from ourselves. If you own your own business you’ll know what a massive step that can be. We started focusing more on our goals and less on the present worries My situation personally dramatically changed. I had just come out of a very toxic relationship where it felt like every penny I saved would be used for bettering their situation and never mine. I met a person who has a business mind like mine, who insists we split every cost in half. He’s been a a huge catylist in changing my mindset, he’s helped me become grounded. Being told you are worthy and can accomplish big things helps you to believe in it. Stepping back and looking at what me and my mom have accomplished is pretty great. I’m not trying to toot my (our) own horn but we’re proud of our place and we thought it was time to give her a fresh coat. The walls on the kitchen have been in the pipeline for a very long time. The walls around our scullery were planned from the beginning, but other costs were always prioritized before that. It’s a small thing but the anxiety that comes with a noisy scullery and a quiet café is quite immense  We had become a little famous for changing our store around and hearing customer after customer walk in and say “you’ve changed it around again!” became commonplace. We don’t mind, it’s awesome that people notice those things. So to appease everyone, this is the store layout forever now, may the ever-roaming furniture take a bow. We have a plan for a display cabinet coming in, a lovely glass box that holds all of our cakes and pastries. A real counter that wraps around the coffee machine and till. Then we have some clever furniture coming in as soon as we have a bit more to spend. It’s really exciting and we’re thrilled that you can be part of all of this. We can only make these goals real because of all of you and your continuing support. This is stage one of two but this was the big one and ,oh boy, I’m so thrilled its nearly done. Many tears were shed, of happiness and stress in this last week. I don’t think building is fun for anyone. I think it’s always a thing that tests your patience ( and as some of you know I have very little of that) It’s like a painful state you have to go through in order for it to get better. It’s not exactly as I wanted it (one room is smaller than it should be) insert rolling eyes here. But we’re thrilled she came out prettier than what she did going in and that’s a huge win in 6 days. We look forward to this new chapter with you and we hope you spread the word about our fancy new place. We love it and we hope you do too. Onward and Upward! PS. I’m sorry for the lack of blog posts, you can’t write when your head isn’t right <3

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