#0021: Mum's The Word
Updated: Jun 2
I inherited my love of rye bread from my mum.
Born into a military family, mum travelled the world as a child, staying in each place just long enough to lay down roots before moving on. It must have been tough to repeatedly say goodbye to friends and houses, not quite knowing what will come next, but she came away from it with amazing stories and an exposure to cultures she otherwise would never have known.
Perhaps I didn't just inherit her love of rye bread. I like to think mum's stories of far-flung, exotic places stoked the flames of adventure in me too.
Family legend has it that, feeling a little worse for wear the morning after a night in the pub, my grandad, a bomb disposal officer, didn't set the exclusion zone for some undetonated explosives sufficiently far from the nearest village.
That was the day the church tower came down.
Shortly after, the MoD stationed the family to Singapore, for a whole new chapter of adventures. Out of sight, as they say, out of mind.
Mum's stories of Singapore would make my mind spin as a child. Month long ocean voyages. Mango trees in the garden. Daily swims in the shadow of Raffles. Monsoons that would begin and end like clockwork. For a young boy growing up in a Lancashire mill town, these were tales from another world.
Before then, though, the family lived in Germany. My nanna used to claim that when mum was playing with the local children in the next room, she couldn't make her out from the native German speakers. Mum, of course, denies this entirely, but I maintain that the occasional word still pops out after a gin or two.
When the family moved away from Hamburg, they took two newly-forged family traditions with them. Pickled gherkins with everything, and our deep-seated love of rye bread.
Over the past year or so, I've tried out a few different recipes with rye flour but, so far, this one remains at the top of my list. The recipe borrows from the Saaristolaisleipä of the Finnish archipelago, and from the Russian Borodinsky, but is adapted so that it can be made using ingredients which are easily available here on the Secret Coast. It's lighter in both colour and texture than the dark rye breads of Germany and Denmark, and the flavour is much more complicated. It's pretty sweet, so is great as a quick snack, but also goes very well with gravad lax.
Start by gently heating 250g of milk until it's just warm, then stir in a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice and leave it to stand for ten minutes. Once the milk is slightly thickened and a little bit curdled, whisk in 3.5g of yeast, 50g of skyr and four tablespoons of golden syrup.
At this point, it's starting to smell amazing, so breathe deeply, then mix in 200g of dark rye flour, 125g of wholemeal bread flour, 75g of porridge oats and 3g of freshly ground salt, and stir it until thoroughly mixed.
Line a greased loaf tin with baking paper and throw a small handful of coriander seeds into the bottom before spooning in the mixture. It will be soft and quite sticky, so press it gently into the tin, to make sure it's well packed in, and wet the spoon to smooth it over. Finally, sprinkle some crushed coriander seeds on the top, then cover the tin with a clean tea towel and leave it to rest for a couple of hours, before baking it in a pre-heated oven at about 150°C for one hour.
Whilst the loaf is baking, prepare a simple glaze by dissolving a tablespoon of golden syrup in three tablespoons of hot water. After the hour is up, brush the loaf with the glaze, then bake it for another forty-five minutes.
Once done, remove your loaf from the oven, brush it with another coat of glaze, lift it out of the tin and transfer it to a wire rack to let it cool.
And now you're in on my secret family tradition. Remember, mum's the word...