My mother-in-law Gretchen was born in South Africa, to an Afrikaans father (of Bavarian missionary stock) and a mother whose maternal ancestors came from Devon. Before she married, Gretchen lived for a while with friends in France, then came to Britain, where she has stayed. Much of her time here, apart from raising a family, has been spent keeping shop at The Lacquer Chest on Kensington Church Street. She also has a home in Italy, near her sister’s. When my mother-in-law joins us on holiday, she has been known to come armed with everything needed to make her delicious bread. Although I am competitive in all things, I long ago stopped being troubled by Gretchen’s amazing cooking talents. To attempt to outcook her would be futile. I now just try to learn as much as I can. There is something fundamental and joyous about making your own bread and feeding it to your family. Give it a try. This is Gretchen’s bread recipe, told largely in her own words. I have put in some suggested quantities, relying on the instructions on a packet of strong flour. Note that everything you are working with should be at room temperature.