I had a go at cheerleading the other night. Yes, you did read that correctly. And no, I was not a natural!
My friend Elaine, whose daughter is in the same year as mine, had the brilliant idea of setting up a group of ten mums to try new experiences. Every month or so one of us is responsible for organising an “event”. The original reasoning was there are plenty of things you always wish you could do but never actually get round to. There is no “opting out”: once the date has been agreed we have to pay our share and agree to take part, before we even know what we will be doing.
There are a few rules: it can only take up a few hours, cost no more than around £20 per person, and nothing life threatening or too scary! The last one was brought in after we did indoor skydiving for one session followed by kneeboarding for the next…
It has become more an opportunity to do things you never thought you would do (or would agree to do under any other circumstances or are likely to do again!). So far we have recorded a cd of us singing; had a tap dancing lesson; been indoor skydiving; been kneeboarding and had a cheerleading lesson.
I am not the most confident person in a group, I am beyond useless at sports, can’t sing and have very little coordination so some of these would definitely not have been my idea of fun! The singing led to a few sleepless nights for some of us but in the end it turned out to be less humiliating than I had expected. You can stand a reasonable distance from the microphone (so it can’t hear you) and let the karaoke queens take charge. The cd that we now all own won’t be hitting the charts anytime soon and no, it’s not on YouTube!
Tap dancing: again, (slightly) less humiliating than I had expected but I had definitely had enough by the end of the lesson. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the indoor skydiving but absolutely loved it and while I wouldn’t actually pay to get into a wetsuit and be dragged around a lake again, I can say that I did really enjoy the kneeboarding too. And even though I didn’t manage to conquer the corners I was a lot better at it than I thought I would be.
Cheerleading is a slightly different story. It just reminded me how useless I have always been at following routines. Even step aerobics was a step too far for me. I can (sometimes) get the arms or the legs but rarely the arms and the legs at the same time… I won’t be signing up for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleading Squad in the near future. How do they even remember those routines? Just watching Strictly Come Dancing gives me panic attacks as I know I would be the one person even the nice judges would be forced to be rude to. But at least it wasn’t pole dancing, which apparently had also been considered!
So after the cheerleading session we had dinner together and I took some fougasse to share. Fougasse is one of the things that has been on my list of things to make for ages and like pitta bread is much easier than it looks.
I used Paul Hollywood’s recipe but made twice the quantity listed below and it made three fougasses. The recipe calls for a mixer and bread hook and as the dough was so wet I would highly recommend doing it that way.
250g strong white bread flour
5g dried yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
Semolina for dusting
Put the flour in a mixer bowl and add the salt to one side and the yeast to the other.
Add two thirds of the water and the olive oil to the bowl and mix on slow speed using the bread hook.
Slowly add the remaining water. When all the water has been added, turn the speed up to medium and continue to mix for around 7 minutes. The dough will be elastic by this point.
Paul Hollywood says to use an oiled, square-sided 2 to 3 litre container for proving the dough. I doubled the recipe quantity but forgot that the container size therefore needed to be bigger and used a 2 litre tub. It didn’t seem to matter though.
Leave for about an hour or until doubled in size:
Tip the dough out onto a surface sprinkled with flour and semolina. Halve if necessary and flatten out into a sort of triangle or oval shape.
Line a baking tray or trays with baking parchment and carefully lift the dough onto it.
Using a pizza cutter, cut large slits in the dough and then stretch to widen the hole. Otherwise it will close up when it rises.
The shape is supposed to resemble an ear of corn. I’m not sure that mine did!
Put the tray into a clean plastic bag and leave for around 20 minutes to prove again.
Set the oven to 220ºC. When the oven is hot bake for around 15 minutes or until golden brown and the base sounds hollow when tapped.
The recipe in How To Bake has the addition of dried oregano sprinkled over the top but because I didn’t know exactly what we would be eating the bread with, I decided to leave that off.
This is a great “tear and share” bread and that is exactly what we did with it. And the meal made up for the cheerleading – it was a great evening with friends.
Next time we are llama trekking. Yes, I know.
I still have to decide what to do for mine. Watch this space!