When I asked Allison if she would like to share a pastry recipe on my baking blog, she immediately agreed. The only thing, she added, is that she doesn’t bake. I have to admit I was shocked since she’s such a great cook and I love talking with her, sharing ideas about food. But, as she pointed out, she could do bread! I was sold on the idea. Welcome to the Murphy-McKinley kitchen.
What you notice right away when you enter the house is their attention to the decoration, the love for details. Everything looks like it has been carefully chosen and placed yet it feels cozy and incredibly charming.
That Sunday afternoon, a bright sun was shinning through the big windows of her kitchen, making it feel even bigger and warmer. All around us, some plants, fresh vegetables and colourful fruits were displayed and taking small amounts of place on the counters.
I sat down in the corner of the room next to her youngest son while Jacob was moving around, taking pictures.
As she was mixing the ingredients, we started talking about her experiences baking bread, which started about two years ago.
“I found it a very bonding experience to break bread together,” she explains, as she mixes her water with some salt, honey, and yeast. “Making bread really is a treat whenever I have the time,” she adds.
And time is something precious when you have year-and-a-half old boy running around with his mother’s hairbrush. “I have come to find my brushes in very odd places,” Allison says, laughing as she is putting away another one she just found in a pot in the cupboard. Her second son, four-month-old Francis, is not missing a moment of what is happening in the kitchen from his comfortable little seat.
This could be a full-time job on its own.
Owner of Salon My Place, Allison has her business in the back of her house with one of her friends. Established in Westboro, Salon My Place was created in 2012 and has been building a very positive reputation in the area. The two hair stylists also have a Facebook page that you can look at here.
As I am telling her that she is Super Woman for having two young kids, a business, and still has time to make bread, Allison gets pretty humble.
“ I think marketers are genius to make us believe we don’t have the time to do these things anymore.” In fact, she says, once you know how to make bread it goes quickly. You just have to do it, she adds.
With time, she came to trust herself and her recipe enough to stop measuring her ingredients and go with her “feel”. As she is adding the honey, Jacob notices the nice colour, which makes Allison smile.
“I bought this honey at the garlic festival last summer and it is amazing,” she says. As I have grown to know her, freshness is a big deal for her. “I love independent markets and I try to shop as much as I can in those around the area. I also love culinary festivals during the summer,” she admits. “Over all, I just do my best to buy local, local, local.”
As she is kneading the dough, she makes a point to tell me to not be afraid when doing so. “I once read that Julia Child suggested to knead the dough one thousand times. I tried it, but I didn’t like the result,” says Allison as she adds flour to the dough. “You just want to knead until you get the right consistency, which is not sticky but not dry.”
Once she reaches this point, she drizzles olive oil on top of it, covers the dough with a clean, damp cloth and up it goes on top of the fridge for about an hour.
“You like Julia Child,” I asked her as she was cleaning the counter. “I admire her,” she replies. “But over all, I just love French cooking! It’s my favourite food in the world.”
As her husband Derek makes a bottle for their youngest child, Allison makes her way to her salon where our friend Todd has set up his camera for the filming of a short video. Him and Jacob are doing several videos for a charity event Allison is planning in her salon in the upcoming months.
“It will be an art event,” she explains. “ There will be live art, opportunities for those who will want to produce something to do so, we will have videos projected on the wall with live music, some great food, and we will cut hair, giving the money to charity.”
Allison had the idea while watching CBC and realizing how the recent government cuts will lead to the closure of a disability center in the region. “The story of the two brothers really moved me. These young boys are really struggling, so I thought as part of a community we should do something. As I was already thinking of doing a reception for the official opening of the new location of the Salon, I just decided to make it bigger and to give all the funds towards this cause,” she said.
“And over all, even though we ask for donations, this is more about awareness than any other thing.”
After an hour of filming and talking, Allison punched her dough, that had doubled in size, re-covers it and lets it sit for another hour or so until it is ready to be hand rolled into two baguette shaped figures. Then, in the oven to be baked for about 30 minutes.
Once the bread was baked, Allison invited us to sit at her table for an evening of great food and wine tasting. But that is a story for another day, and for another post. All you need to know is that the bread was amazing and that we had a wonderful day baking with Allison. Thank you again for having us in your kitchen!
To make the bread, you will need:
1 cup of warm water
1tablespoon of yeast
1 tablespoon of honey
2 cups of flour (however this is all about feel)
Salt to taste
In a bowl, mix together the water, yeast, honey and salt. Leave for about 10 minutes or until you see clear bubbles
Add the flour and work the dough until you get a consistency that is not too sticky, not too dry. Allison adds more flour or water as she goes, to balance the consistency of the dough.
Knead for about 4 to 5 minutes with your hands.
Spread olive oil on top of the dough, cover with a wet cloth, and let it rise for an hour.
Once the dough has risen, punch it and work it again into a smooth ball. Leave it covered for another hour.
Divide the dough in to two balls and shape each of them in to a baguette.
In the oven, place the dough onto a pizza stone already heated, and place a pot of water underneath it. This will keep your bread moist.
Drizzle with olive oil and bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown, at 350F.
To enjoy with some wonderful cheese, nuts, wine, or your favorite topping.
So worth it!