Sunday, 20 February 2011


Easy Like Sunday Morning ... coffee and croissants. 

According to Lionel Richie, this is how weekends should pan out, even if it's a rainy morning at home in Cambridge rather than a sun-dappled Californian cafe.

But the folds of dough  rising in the oven and releasing their rich, buttery, sugary aroma into the house do have their roots in the US, albeit NYC on another cold, rainy morning last winter...

Footsore from too much pavement pounding, we turn into the nearest welcoming doorway when the drizzle starts in earnest. This, serendipitously, turns out to be no ordinary cafe, but a tall converted industrial space run by The Housing Works in Soho, Manhattan, which supports the homeless and victims of AIDS. It does so much more than serve coffee.

It is busy: cool, urban style-meisters lounge over their espressos, dressed knife-sharp, tapping languidly at their Apple devices (no PCs here), and admire their reflections in the screens.  We gather our coffee and slink towards a corner table. 

This is not only wi-fi heaven: floor-to-ceiling shelves house an eclectic collection of second-hand books and it is here we find (and lug back to England) Daniel Leader's wonderful sourdough manual Local Breads.  Far from being local this is the story of his searches across Europe for real bread, loaves crafted by artisans, men with flour on their hands and sweat on their brows.  It transforms our sourdough culture -

       ... so for the last couple of days (following Daniel Leader's instructions) a bubbly, flexible, sweet-sour-smelling dough has been maturing.  This morning it has been rolled out, cut into triangles, spread with almond paste, folded, brushed with a sugar glaze and dotted with flaked almonds, and hustled into a hot oven. 

Now, although it's not Lionel Richie on the airwaves but The Archers' Omnibus, the coffee is dripping and the newspapers have arrived.

It's time to open the oven...

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