How can you not love Heidi? An absolute classic first published in 1881, I loved it because I could so totally relate to Heidi’s love of the countryside and claustrophobia in the city. (I still do.) And Heidi is such an honest character, trying to keep everyone happy and succeeding best when she’s simply herself; naturally enthusiastic and inquisitive, and keen to share everything she has.
Heidi tells the story of a young, orphan girl who is sent by her aunt to live with her grumpy, reclusive grandfather on a mountain in the Swiss Alps. Grandfather distrusts the outside world but turns out to be a gentle soul who grows to love Heidi. But who couldn’t? She’s full of life and quickly makes friends with the goats, goatherd Peter, Peter’s mum and Peter’s blind grannie.
She’s just settled in nicely to her idyllic lifestyle on the mountain when her aunt returns for her and takes her off to Frankfurt to be a companion for crippled rich girl Clara. Of course, the change is huge. Everything’s so different in the city. She can’t see the mountains, the housekeeper is strict, and the food is tricky. The only good thing (apart from becoming best friends with Clara and learning to read), is that the breakfast baps are so marvellously soft. Peter’s grannie would love them – so she keeps them for her, secretly stored at the bottom of her wardrobe.
It’s no surprise that Heidi starts to get homesick: wretchedly homesick. She tries to run away, taking a huge bundle of now stale rolls with her. The crabby housekeeper stops her at the door and Heidi gets told how ungrateful she is. Our cheery little Heidi becomes subdued, pale and weak. And she starts haunting the house. It takes a while, but she finally gets sent home to the mountain – taking with her a basket of fresh white rolls for Grannie.
Be true to your values and all will reap the benefits.
Back on the mountain side, Grandfather is over the moon to have Heidi back and his re-entry into village life is quickly made once she’s taught him to have faith in people again. And she uses her new reading skills to read to Peter’s grannie. Heidi and Clara write to each other regularly and finally Clara comes to visit. Peter becomes very jealous of the girls’ friendship and pushes Clara’s wheelchair down the mountain. A cruel and viscous act that actually works out brilliantly – Clara learns how to walk again. And they all live happily ever after…
The sweet thing about Heidi saving the soft rolls for Grannie, is that Heidi herself never actually ate one. She saved them all for Grannie. Completely selfless.
Soft, white floury baps
400g white bread flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried yeast
1 teaspoon caster sugar
120 ml lukewarm water
120 ml warmed milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled, or olive oil
First combine the flour, salt, yeast and sugar in a large bowl. Then make a well in the centre of the flour for the liquids. Pour the water, milk and butter into the well and gradually mix the flour in until it forms a dough.
Transfer the dough to the work top and knead. The dough will probably be quite wet, but avoid adding too much flour as it will simply result in a denser, tougher bread. Keep kneading for at least ten minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Place the smooth dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a lightly oiled piece of cling film. Leave to prove for an hour (or overnight in the fridge. The cool of the fridge slows down the proving process, but doesn’t stop it).
Once the dough has proved for an hour, knock it back (vigorously knead it!) for a good 10 minutes. Shape the dough into a thick, short sausage shape and then, using a knife, cut it into 8 equal-sized pieces. Using your hands, gently roll each disc of dough until into a round approximately 1 ½ cm thick and 12 cm across. Dust a little flour over each roll then place on a floured baking tray and cover with a sheet of cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for another hour. Baps really like a long, slow rise.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. When the baps have almost doubled in size, remove the cling film and sieve a little more flour over each of them. Bake the baps for about 15 minutes, or until they are golden at the edges and have cooked through. If you tap the bottom of the rolls, they should sound hollow. Transfer the baps to a wire rack and cover them with a clean tea towel while they cool. The towel will absorb the moisture from the heat coming off the rolls and it’s this that helps them stay soft.
Best eaten warm and on the day of baking.