As the second tome in the All Souls Trilogy, Deborah Harkness’ A Shadow of Night is all about journeys – mental peripatetics, physical peregrinations, historical explorations, or timewalking perambulations. In order to escape the Congregations influence, Matthew and Diana’s tale finds them timewalking to Elizabethan England, hobnobbing with such historical greats as Shakespeare, H.M. Queen Elizabeth I, and the acclaimed School of Night.
Composed of poets, scientists and radical thinkers, the School of Night is believed to be a clandestine coterie of free-thinking intelligentsia. Historically speaking, limited documentation tying the School of Night together exists, but it was whispered to include members such as Sir Walter Raleigh, playwright Christopher Marlowe, astronomer Thomas Harriot, and, at least fictionally speaking, our own Matthew Clairmont, vampire extraordinaire! We’re still looking for Ashmole 782, as well as a witch to help Diana overcome the binding spell that has limited her wiccan education since childhood. But the web surrounding Matthew’s 1500 year old past is quickly closing in on them. Secrets, spies and firedrakes, oh my!
An Inspired Recipe – Divided by locale, A Shadow of Night begins in 1590 at the Olde Lodge in Oxford and finds our protagonists traveling around Europe to Sept Tours, Matthew’s family lair in France, the Blackfriars of London, Prague, and back to the Blackfriars before timewalking returns them to modern times. At the end of each journey, and sometimes even at the end of each day, the characters often find a small meal of of bread, cheese and wine waiting for them. This small, rustic platter typical of the times provides simple nourishment by candlelight (electricity is so modern!).
In reading this book, I thought an Olde English SWYFS loaf would be a perfect inspiration to accompany Matthew and Diana’s story. A SWYFS loaf uses the most basic of bread formulas – Sugar, Water, Yeast, Flour and Salt – SWYFS! But I promised two loaves – the first is a plain, spellbound loaf waiting for Diana’s magical weaving. Served with a traditional English cheddar, blackberry preserves and a leaf of thyme symbolic of healing and protection, this presentation is worthy of even the most exhausted traveler. The second is bewitched with orange zest and ruby red currants and smothered with orange slices and sweet orange butter for the childlike sweet tooth in all of us. Yum!
But the real question is, at the end of a long day, which loaf would you prefer – spellbound or bewitched?? Happy Reading!
Prep Time: 15 minutes Rise Time: 2.5 hours Bake Time: 12 – 17 minutes Yields: 1 loaf
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon of granulated sugar
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water
1 cup all-purpose flour*
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon of egg beaters, for the egg wash
1 tablespoon of flour, for dusting
Good quality white cheddar cheese
Good quality blackberry preserves (I used Bonne Maman)
A sprig of thyme
1. Start by combining the yeast, sugar and warm water in a small mixing bowl and allow to proof for at least 5 minutes.
2. Once proofed, add the flour and salt and any additional ingredients. Mix well until a dough forms into a ball and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Cover tightly with Saran Wrap and set aside to rise for 2 hours or until the dough is double in size.
3. After the first rise, quickly mold it into your favorite rustic shape (boule, batard or baton). Brush with egg wash and set aside to rise for 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 450°. Generously sprinkle the loaf with flour to create a rustic appearance. Bake at 450° for 12 to 17 minutes until golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean at the center. Serve with a good quality cheese, your favorite fruit preserves and a leaf of thyme, rosemary or any other seasoning!
Variations on a Theme
A bewitched orange, red currant SWYFS loaf – In step 1, replace 1 tablespoon of the warm water with freshly squeezed orange juice and the zest of a 1″ slice of orange Continue with proofing the yeast. Next, in step 2, prior to mixing the dough, fold in up to 1/4 cup of fresh red currants, cleaned, dried, and stripped from stalks. Finally, in step 4, dust the loaf with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar (in addition to the flour). To temper the red currants, serve with orange slices and sweet orange butter (recipe follows).
Sweet Orange Butter
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 – 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar, to taste
zest of a 1″ slice of orange
1/8 teaspoon of vanilla
Whisk all ingredients together until well combined.