Twenty four degrees Celsius, sixty percent relative humidity, and just a few clouds shading the grounds of Zen Organic Farm for our baking day. Nope, I haven’t gone on a new path of interest to become meteorologist, but I had to emphasize on how much of a great day it was. Of course, it wasn’t my first time baking on wood fire, actually I am totally in love with it. The essence of the fire fumes in the baked breads and tarts, the sourdough smell after baking, the sunshine and the breeze making it just like if I was baking in a dream.
If I could pack everything I love about baking in a dream, then it would have been just like that.
We brought to the farm an hefty amount of sourdough, organic flour and all the trimmings needed to knead our focaccia and our cream tart. I didn’t plan more than that as everything else would depend on what was fresh and in season at the farm. There was pumpkin, savory herb, rosemary, figs and fresh blossoms that particularly attracted me. So the pumpkin and rosemary ended up on the focaccia with rosemary, olive oil and Maldon salt while the figs and the edible flowers ended up on the cream tart.
The idea is to be as down to nature as possible, thus kneading by hand – I almost fainted – and for that I thank the inventor of dough mixers, but still, we were all working it out by hand for the day! Once the dough was finally on the way, we first coated the pumpkin slices in olive oil and we’ve roasted them in the very hot oven. As always with wood fire oven, we bake items that need strong heat first, then with a more mellow heat we baked the focaccia topped with the pumpkin and fresh rosemary (which I finished with a fresh touch of lemon zest from the Microplane). Finally on the lower heat, we’ve baked the cream tart, a very simple shortcrust made on the spot, a mix of milk, cream, sugar, egg and flour for the filling and once it was baked, we’ve added the fresh figs and the edible flowers on the top.
The people that were attending the baking session had time to walk about in the lush gardens, picking the occasional eggplant or fig that were looking too good to be left alone there. In between the hard work, Joey from Zen Organic farm had prepared salad and other goodies made with the delicious produces from the farm. As night was falling slowly on the New Territories, we were all exhausted, smelling of roast and fumes, with blackened fingers and the occasional mosquito bite, but what a day… To be in harmony with nature and to bake simple delicious preparation is a pleasure like no other. Perhaps I could have done a class teaching the making of a mango mousse cake, macaron or other boring pastries, but instead I have chosen to make something exciting, something with a feel of real food, something with genuine authenticity.