Autumn, Plums and Bread on a Stick

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I watch her run through the leaves with her warmest sweater on and a fruit basket in her hand. She is laughing a bubbling laugh and tells me to try to catch her. I run after her and she starts screaming of happiness. I think about how life would be if we lived here.

Our friends live a bit away from the city. They have a huge house now. It’s the opposite of fancy, but utterly charming. And a gigantic garden filled with fruit trees, fallen leaves and flowers. You can tell that the garden was beautiful and well taken care of, 40-50 years ago. But during these last decades it has slowly decayed. Our friends have, since they moved in, started to bring the garden back to life. But they are not in a rush, this will take many years.

Elsa runs through the leaves in their garden. We pick fresh plums and apples from the trees. And then we make a fire together. Luise wants to show us how to make Bread-on-a-stick, like she did as a kid. She tells us to find some branches that we can use. I find the perfect branch and trim it thoroughly. Luise looks at it and tells me that it’s too thin: “It won’t be able to hold the bread”. “Of course it will, this is perfect” I reply. She brings out a big bowl of spelt & rye müesli dough that she has prepared, and teaches us how to wrap it around the stick. We all sit there in their garden, with our stick-breads baking over the fire, drinking tea, talking about the advanced science of wrapping the bread so it stays on the stick without making it look like a sausage. I notice that my stick-bread slowly is falling closer to the fire. “Damn, the branch is too thin” I think to myself while looking at Luise. She grins at me with her most devilish I-told-you-so-expression.

We break off hot pieces of bread and dip them deep in the plum marmalade jar. Elsa’s hand is all covered in marmalade. She says “oops”, but it’s completely intentional. She sits in the grass and licks the marmalade off the bread, then off her hand. I think about how life would be if we lived here.

It’s getting darker. We say goodbye to our friends and drive back to our apartment in Stockholm. The day after, we decide to head out for breakfast at a new cafe. On the way there, we run into a samba band; drumming, singing and dancing. I watch Elsa’s eyes glitter as she claps her hands and dances to the music. She talks about the samba all the way to the cafe. We eat a wonderful breakfast. They have fresh juices with ginger, good coffee, rye bread with pickled vegetables and delicious salads. On the way back, we find a new playground with a big tree horse that Elsa immediately starts climbing. Soon she is playing with another kid there and I have to drag her off the horse as it starts raining.

I think about how life would be if we wouldn’t live in the city anymore. No more unexpected samba, great cafes and undiscovered playgrounds filled with friends. And suddenly I don’t think about it anymore. Not for now, anyway. Even though we are a bit of a hippy family, we still have our souls rooted in the city. We love it here. But we sure are glad to have friends with gigantic gardens, fruit trees and bonfires.

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Müesli Bread on a Stick
around 8–10 breads

This is not a rocket science recipe. Feel free to experiment with measurements and ingredients. Try apples instead of carrots, cranberries instead of raisins, etc. If you want to try using a gluten-free flour, we recommend adding some kind of starch to it, otherwise the bread won’t stick to the stick (no pun intended).

1 1/3 cup / 300 ml lukewarm water (40°C/100°F)
3 tsp dry active yeast OR 25 g fresh active yeast
1 tsp good quality honey
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
4 cups / 1 liter / 500 g flour of your choice (we used 2 1/2 cup (300 g) fine spelt flour and 1 1/2 cup (200 g) whole grain rye flour)
2 shredded carrots or apples
1 handful organic raisins
1 handful seeds or nuts of your choice

Pour lukewarm water into a bowl. Add yeast, honey and salt and stir to dissolve. In another bowl, sift the flours together and add carrots, raisins and seeds. Mix to combine. Add about two-thirds of the flour mixture to the yeast and water. Use your hands to knead it into a dough. Gradually add more flour until it is soft and no longer sticks to your hands. Do not over-knead, the gluten in spelt and rye is fragile. Cover and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour or until double in bulk.

Meanwhile prepare the campfire (or grill).

Find 6 branches from broad-leaved trees, they should be about 3 feet (1 meter) long and the size of your thumb, thicker is better than thinner. Trim the bark back from the tip of the branch. When the fire is ready, take a handful of the bread dough and form into a log with both hands. Start from the tip of the stick and wrap it tightly around until it sits firmly. Hold the wrapped stick over the hot fire (no flames) and slowly rotate to get it evenly baked and golden brown. It can take from 5 to 15 minutes depending on the thickness of your bread and how close you hold it to the fire. Tap to see if it’s done. It should sound hollow and be crispy and brown on the outside. Let cool for a couple of minutes, then carefully loosen it from the stick. Eat as it is or dip in plum marmalade (see recipe below).

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Plum Marmelade
makes 2 cups / 500 ml

20 oz / 550 g plums (around 12), stones removed
1/4 cup / 60 ml water
1/2 cup / 120 ml apple syrup or honey
1 small organic lemon, juice and zest

Wash the plums and remove the stones. Bring plums and water to a boil, lower the heat and cook for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and add apple syrup or honey, lemon juice and zest and stir to combine. Place back on the heat and cook for 60 more minutes. When done, let cool slightly, then pour into a clean glass jar. Seal and store in the fridge. Keeps for at least a week.

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