I recognise the type as soon as she walks into my kitchen. In the three years I’ve been running my occasional bread baking classes there’s been a few like her. Forty something; part of the Nicola Horlick “you can have it all” generation; she and her husband have both been banking million pound city bonuses for a few years; they’ve sold their huge loft apartment with its view over the Thames and moved to the country in search of the fantasy of “a small country living.” The kids she had in her late 30’s are off at boarding school and since they left she’s made blackberry jam, picked Elder Flowers for champagne, done two or three sessions of basket weaving with the crazy woman in the village and now it’s my turn, with my one day “Need to Knead – introduction to hand made bread” course.
The idyll of the country life is fading for her a bit. It’s ‘nice’ of course. The village is nice, the neighbours are nice, the “fucking countryside” is nice and yes, she loves the dogs but, for fuck sake, every time she wants to go into London she has to find a fucking dog sitter. I know more about her than she can possibly imagine even before she’s put on her apron and done the little “Who am I and what do I want to get out of today’s course?” speech.
But it seems an odd speech today; mostly because the group of six women from a horticultural society on the other side of the county have cancelled. Not just that but, almost uniquely, today’s course is entirely devoid of the “fifty-something-retired-male-whose-been-bought-a-baking-course-by-his-wife-who-can’t-stand-him-moping-around-the-house” who for three years has formed a profitable backbone of attendees for my courses. The fact is that today’s course has an attendee list of exactly one. That one is Mrs “I’m-bored-now-I’ve-moved-to-the-country-perhaps-I-should learn-to-make-bread,” a species only marginally less common than the male retiree. I offer a refund but she’s here now and wants to learn.
It starts innocently enough with the basics; flour, yeast, water and salt beginning their transformation into a classic, white cottage loaf. We mix, knead, rise, knock back, shape, proof and finally bake. The ancient rhythms of making bread work their magic and her prickly exterior relaxes a little. We talk in the many gaps afforded by the routines of the day.
While the first loaf is rising we start on a second. This is different entirely; it’s going to be a chocolate brioche, a sweet confection that is none the less a ‘proper’ bread made with yeast. The dough with its eggs, butter and sugar is beautifully tactile and is a joy to work with.
I let her weigh out the ingredients, watch her mix them into a pile in the bowl.
“Surely you can’t work that with your hands” she says, gesturing to the sloppy, sticky, unformed mound of wet dough.
I show her how to pick up the mass in her hands, slap it on the counter, stretch it back towards her and fold it over on itself, trapping air in the body of it. At first she finds it difficult; the dough doesn’t want to be handled at this stage, but as her confidence builds and the gluten in the flour starts its magical transformation, she picks up the technique. The exercise brings a sheen to her skin as her body learns the rhythms of this ancient French kneading method that predates mixers and dough hooks. I can see she’s enjoying the physicality of it, the movement, the hard slap of the dough onto the counter, the pulling, stretching, folding. Gradually the dough comes alive; becomes smooth, elastic, malleable in her hands. Working it, feeling it move over her skin becomes a sensual pleasure. When she’s finished she’s breathing deeply and there’s a spark in her eyes that is all enjoyment, perhaps even excitement at having discovered these new pleasures.
While the dough rises we pause, have coffee, chat. She’s a confident, attractive woman and, whereas earlier, she had been all prickly reserve, the joy of working with her hands has made her bubbly and open.
After an hour the dough has risen into a beautiful glistening mound, which, once turned out, has the size, the shape and the soft resistance of a well rounded bottom. I find it impossible to look at it and not see it as exactly that. I wonder if she sees the same thing.
“Now we’re going to knock the dough back. I want you to slap it firmly”.
Her quizzical look tells me she is suspicious I might be playing with her, but she isn’t sure enough to take issue with it. She plays along and slaps the dough on one side. It sinks a little.
“Slap it all over. Slap it until it’s lost it’s shape and is flat and even”.
She plays the game, looking straight into my eyes as she relies on touch alone to slap the dough. Her slaps are rhythmic and firm and sound out across the kitchen and into the garden beyond. The excitement in her eyes is palpable now and can’t be explained only by her interaction with the soft, pliable dough
She turns slightly away from me and leans forward over the marble work top, weight on her elbows, head turned so she can hold my gaze. I can see what she wants and it’s written all over the tightness of her jeans. I slap her, rather tentatively, once on each side. She stands again, loosens the jeans and slips them down revealing pretty, lacy panties that serve only to highlight the shape of her fine, gym toned bottom. Leaning on just one elbow this time, she slips her hand into the panties, rubbing herslf slowly while I start to spank her. At first I’m hesitant but her responses are beautiful; a little yelp as my hand lands followed by a deep breath of arousal. I slap her harder, faster not caring that the noise of it will be out in the garden. Her bottom reddens under my hand and she starts to moan softly as her orgasm builds.
She grabs the oversize mixing spoon from the worktop, thrusts it back to me. It’s long and heavy, strong enough to mix a large bowl of stiff dough.
The first smack leaves a goose-egg sized mark; deep angry red, white at its centre. It stands out from the general redness from my spanking. She gasps. I hit her again; another oval; another gasp. I giver her four blows, hard and fast. I can see her face crumple after the fourth blow, crying now with the pain of it, with the brutality of it. I take the fact that she’s still stroking her clitoris as consent and beat her repeatedly with the spoon, each blow adding a new oval mark until they start to merge into a large angry bruise on each cheek. She’s gasping from the impact, gasping from the arousal; her gasps grow louder and come faster until she’s falling into her orgasm, crying, moaning, shaking with the release of it.
The silence in the kitchen is palpable as we both try to absorb what just happened; her still bent over the worktop, crying quietly, breathing deeply; me standing alongside, one hand resting on her back. The dog walks in from the garden, sees us and adopts its quizzical face, head to one side, one ear raised. She catches sight of it and suddenly we’re in each others arms, laughing in response to the dog’s hilarious, questioning face; kissing, touching, biting; our hands and lips all over each other.
Later we shape the bread, pouring thick chocolate over the dough and rolling it up into a long twisted sausage that, once it’s had its final proof and been baked, she’ll take home. “Look what I made!” she’ll tell her husband when he returns from the golf club.
I am looking forward to my next course which is titled “sourdough for beginners.” I suspect it will be run on at least one date that won’t be on the website and will not appear on my “local baking courses” advertisement in the window of the village shop. With no advertising it’s quite possible that only one person will show up.
This was written for a competition set up by the wonderful Exhibit A and built around the Great British Bake Off. The title options were baking challenges from the current series.
And for those who are interested in the “slap and fold” technique this is iconic baker Richard Bertinet who taught me the technique at his cookery school in Bath. He has more baking knowledge in one hand than the there is in the whole of Paul Hollywood.