“Thirty eight only? No, no, make that forty two at least! I’ll look like so old fashioned if it’s only thirty eight!”
So you come home a week later with the coveted “forty two” to be greeted by an old fashioned aunt who cackles looking at your ankles, “Haha, you don’t need to buy any brooms for the rest of the year,” to your mom!
What did you think we were talking about? Asking for “pass marks” from a teacher so you wouldn’t have to face irate dad to get your report signed? Specifying length of haircut to the hairdresser? In millimetres if you were a boy those days!! Inches if you were a girl!
One of the great “cultural” indicators of the rollicking 70’s – the bellbottoms – and their width thereof! Readymades were not available easily those days so if you wanted something like a pair of bellbottoms, you had no choice but to go to the tailor – who also happened to be your family tailor – who stitched everything from your mother’s sari blouses to your dad’s officegoing shirts to the baby’s clothes and your school uniforms! Specialist he was not!
You went to him with your treasured blue denim length – bought at great personal sacrifice – having had to run the gamut of grandparental disapproval, neighbourly advice (unwanted of course!) on how your parents were spoiling their children by allowing them to wear these clothes of the decadent seventies (and how these would lead on to the highway of drugs and drink and everything else undesirable!) and of course, having to wait for a festival to come up – buying clothes at any other time was quite decadent! Sometimes this neighbourly interference was a blessing in disguise – with the neighbour managing to set the parents’ backs up so, out of sheer cussedness if nothing else, they would allow you to get your heart’s desire!
Clutching your treasure in a Nalli bag (yellow square bag with red print on it – every self-repecting household had one at least – used to carry everything from drumsticks to food parcels to cloth to the tailors!), you went singing all the way to the tailor, who would proceed to take your measurements and offer helpful advice – “Twenty eight inches is what everyone is wearing, sir!”
“Oh yeah? Did my mom bribe you on the way to the market? Twenty eight indeed! Make that forty two at least!” you order in a lordly fashion.
You might think you’ve won the battle but you could not rely on the tailor – what if the parent countermanded your instructions?! And so, you checked on him every other day to see that he cut the width of the “bottoms” correctly so you could definitely swish your way into class on Saturday, our “civil dress” day – the one day of the week on which the rule about uniforms was relaxed! Definitely cock of the walk!
The decade was all about biting off more than you could chew – the “bell bottoms” and “elephant bottoms” (even more courageous versions of the above!), why do we always have to have boring home-cooked food? Why can’t we have Punjabi food? Or even, horror of horrors, Chinese food! We read Harold Robbins in protest (against a terrified parental tirade and warning lecture not to become a good-for-nothing like Danny Fisher!)
Right now, in my fifties, I am tempted into the same – biting off more than I can chew business – in the kitchen occasionally!
Inspired by a baking group on facebook, I create this apple and cinnamon very fancy bread, making a crucial mistake in the shaping without realising it – turning it inside out basically!
But it is a totally divine bread – so here goes:
BEAUTIFUL APPLE CINNAMON BREAD
Making the Frangipane
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla, liqueur, or flavored liquid of choice
2 tablespoons flour
Cream together butter and sugar in a medium bowl until light and soft. Gradually mix in the egg and the egg yolk one at a time. Stir in the tablespoon of liquid. Stir 2 tablespoons of flour into the ground nuts, then mix into the batter. Set aside.
Making the Bread
For the dough
- 1/4 cup water
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 medium egg at room temperature
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 sachet active dry yeast
- 3 cups flour ( I used 1 of whole wheat one two of plain)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Between the layers
1/4 cup butter, softened
4 tablespoons cinnamon mixed with 1/2 cup sugar
3 apples, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter
In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add water and milk. Bring the mixture to a warm room temperature. In a bowl, whisk together the water, milk, butter, egg, sugar and yeast. Set aside to foam for about 5 minutes.
In another bowl whisk together the flour and salt. Stir the liquid ingredients with the dry ingredients and knead on a floured surface for about five minutes until you get a smooth dough.
Place the dough in a bowl you have brushed with some oil and cover it with a wet cloth and leave it in a warm place to double in size (about 2 hours).
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Remove one large egg sized piece of dough from the mound and set aside. Divide the remaining dough into four equal parts. Roll each of the four parts into a circle about 9 inches in diameter.
Spread the first round with a quarter of the butter then sprinkle with about one-third of the cinnamon and sugar. Place the second layer of dough on the first layer, repeat the spreading and sprinkling and then do the same with the third layer. Top with the fourth layer, this time only spreading it with butter. Trim the edges to create a perfect round shape (easiest if using a round plate 8 inches across as a guide). Save your trimmings.
Using a sharp knife, make cuts that divide the dough into 8 triangles, leaving a half inch of dough intact at the edge.
Make slits that go 2/3 of the way in the middle of each triangle. The cuts should not reach the base of the triangle nor the tip as you can see in the picture. Pull the tip of each triangle through the slits as seen above. Score the surface of the dough on any plain doughy areas to create greater detail.
Preheat your oven to 400°F.
Roll out the egg sized round of dough to fit into the center. Spread frangipane over the center round (you won’t need to use it all). Press the apple slices gently into the frangipane, overlapping slightly in a spiral pattern. Use your trimmings from when you rounded out your dough to created a little spiral flower centerpiece.
Brush the dough with milk. Sprinkle the apple section with a teaspoon of sugar.
Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350°F and bake until the under side is golden brown and the top is as brown as you want it. Turn off the oven and let it rest in there for up to 30 minutes so your frangipane sets up and the apples cook. You may also choose, as I did, to cover the bread areas with foil and broil the apples section briefly so it browns. (I will also note that I baked my bread on a preheated pizza stone, because it’s the only pan I had large enough for this bread. This may have helped brown the bottom of my bread, which happened beautifully).
Take your bread out of the oven and and brush with melted butter while still hot.