Orwasher’s perfect potato burger buns.

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Last summer a friend gave us a baking book written by her brother-in-law, Keith Cohen, who owns Orwasher’s Bakery, a 100-year-old bakery in Manhattan that he bought from the original Orwasher family in 2007. Thrilled with the prospect of new bread recipes, we gorged greedily on the glossy pictures, mentally listing all the new breads we would make, but never quite rising to the challenge of a Challah or a Cabernet Rustica .

A while back, when burgers were mooted for dinner, I recalled salivating over the tan-crusted, milky-white soft hamburger buns from the book, and whipped it back off the shelf. We’ve been making our own burger buns for quite some time now, and while they tick many a box in terms of softness, taste and soakage of burger juices, there’s always that little niggling feeling that we could do better. While searching for the recipe I became engrossed in the story of Orwasher’s bakery, its history of serving the local Eastern European community, and Keith’s journey to recapture the original spirit of the Orwasher tradition and provide his corner of New York with authentic high quality artisan bread.

It’s not just a recipe book though, it’s a chronicle of the importance of bread to a community and an individual. It’s also a  “how-to” bible on creating specific starters, bigas and levains for all kinds of loaves, explains traditional methods for mixing, kneading and shaping ethnic breads, and simplifies the concept of the Baker’s percentage. It is fast becoming our daily bread manual. Keith’s is a simple message echoed by all true artisan bakers – use high quality ingredients, either sourced locally or authentically ethnic, and don’t rush it.

These hamburger buns use a small amount of potato flour – new to us – which gives it a finer, softer texture than our normal buns. This was a revelation, as before we’ve always used either egg or milk to get that spongy, bouncy feel. The result is a pillow-soft bun with a light, slightly sweet flavour, perfect for enveloping a meaty, juicy burger… or just about anything, really.

The original Orwasher recipe uses much larger quantities than Ruby and I need to make, so we’ve scaled it back to our usual 1kg(ish) dough recipe, and after a little trial and error, adjusted the water to suit our flour (original recipe here). You may need to do the same. This is what works for us…

Orwasher’s potato burger buns (slightly adapted by Jack and Ruby)

Makes approximately 10-12 buns.

525g strong white flour
35g potato flour
295g water
48g sugar
11g salt
8g yeast
40g oil

Combine the strong white flour, water, sugar, salt and oil in a large mixing bowl. When thoroughly combined add in the potato flour and yeast. Knead this robustly for about 15 minutes by hand. If you’re lucky enough to have a food mixer with a dough-hook, then use this for approximately 10 minutes.

When the dough is nicely smooth and stretchy, roll into a ball and weigh it (this is the only way we can ever get equally sized rolls). This method doesn’t require an initial 1st prove so cut into c.100g pieces and roll into little domed balls. Place on a floured baking tray and leave to rise for up to 4 hours (yes, 4 hours! But you get spectacular results). The rolls should be at least double in size and pillowy. As usual, we put our tray inside a large plastic bag to retain moisture and stop a crust from forming.

Pre-heat your oven with baking stone to 200º celsius (the original recipe says 205º but our temperature indicator isn’t that precise) and bake for 15-16 minutes until darkly golden brown on the crust and puffed to perfection. Remove, place on a cooling rack and withhold the urge to gorge until room temperature and your burger is cooked.

ruby says “i love these burger buns! i’m feeling hungry now…..soooo hungry. (drooling) 😦 ”

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Dear Ruby, this Mother’s day…..

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Dear Ruby,

If you feel inclined to show your appreciation for my amazing mothering skills, the following will be acceptable this Mother’s day:

  1. A lovely cup of tea in bed.
  2. A slice of freshly baked Slightly Sourdough bread slathed with Abernethy butter and Granny Pog’s marmalade (you may need to get onto Granny Pog about this..)
  3. Afternoon tea with Firehouse Bakery hot cross buns.
  4. And don’t forget the washing up….

Yours, in anticipation,
Mummy.

ruby says

Dear Mummy,

Hahahahaha. Oh really? I have to do all that? 😦 (only joking! 😉 )

Yours, lol
Ruby 😉

Slightly sourdough loaf.

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Oh dear. It’s been a while since we’ve posted. Although we’ve been baking away, other engagements (and if we’re honest, a little laziness) have prevented us from writing about it. But that’s about to change now we’re firmly back in the blogging saddle.

We have been experimenting with our standard loaf and how to make it healthier without alienating the other rather pernickity members of the clan. While we like a bit of sourdough, the rest of the family is not that keen, and it doesn’t always make kid-friendly sandwiches. And while our great white never fails to delight, it’s not the healthiest everyday-kind-of-bread. We decided we needed something less yeasty and more wholesome with a robust flavour, but without the tangy sourness and jaw-aching crustiness of a true sourdough. So Ruby and I reached a compromise, we’ll attempt a slightly sourdough bread with the best of all worlds – springy yeastiness with a doughy depth of flavour and some husky wholemeal.

It took a little experimenting to get our quantities right, but that’s half the fun, and we think we’re pretty close to a perfect all-rounder. As our sourdough starter is the star of the show, this takes a little longer to prove than a normal pan. But not much, and it’s worth the wait!

Slightly sourdough.

410g white bread flour
150g wholemeal flour
10g salt
3g dried yeast
60g sourdough starter
20g olive oil or butter
330g tepid water (you may need to adjust this if your flour is thirsty)

Mix the white and wholemeal flour in a bowl. Add the salt on one side and the sourdough starter on the other. Dribble in the oil. Dissolve the dried yeast in the tepid water and pour in. Mix to a wettish paste and knead thoroughly for about 15-20 mins. Put the dough back into an oiled bowl, cover with a showercap, and leave to prove in a warm place for 1.5 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size (this may take longer, don’t worry if it does). Punch down, flop out onto a barely floured surface, fold and shape into a well floured 1kg loaf tin. Cover again with a showercap and leave to rise for a further 1-2 hours or until the dough reaches just below the lip of the tin. Pre-heat the oven to 240ºc. Flick over some flour and slash with abandon. Throw a cup of water into the bottom of the oven if you feel inclined. Bake for 10 mins then turn down to 210ºc for a further 20-25mins. Check the loaf is done by rapping on its bottom. It should sound hollow. It should not say ow.

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This makes a lovely springy soft loaf with enough fortitude to hold the soggiest sandwich filling. And with so little yeast, it’s easy on the digestion too.

ruby says “Yum-yum that was delicious probably one of the best slices of bread ever! A bit of white bread, a bit of brown and a touch of sourdough! M-m!”

 

Campervan bread

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We have a much loved and underused old VW campervan that sits outside our rain-soaked house patiently waiting for summer adventures. It came all the way from 1970s Australia, and must be traumatised by the brutal Irish weather it is subjected to on a daily basis. But with another glorious summer stretching through July and August, we dusted off the cobwebs, stocked the shelves and headed for a little apple farm in Co. Tipperary.

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Usually our camping epicurean adventures are dictated by the local supply of produce topped up with whatever supermarket supplies come with us. When we arrived at the apple farm with limited provisions in our little van we were cheered to find a farm shop that only stocked the absolute essentials of cider, strawberries and ice-cream. Unwilling to forage for dinner further afield we improvised with a repast of sausages, beans and freshly baked bread.

Normally, bread-baking is not on the agenda on camping trips. The lack of an oven is the main culprit, but also it never really occurred to us that we could bake bread in a campervan. That is until we got a Cobb barbeque. Many a chicken and leg of lamb have been roasted in the little metal wonder, so this summer we thought – why not bread? Ruby had packed all the bread-making essentials – flour, salt, yeast, scraper, tiny cheap scales – and once camp was established we set about utilizing our meagre camping utensils for the art of loafing. But there was one thing we forgot to check before we left….

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Campervan bread.

420g or 3 cups strong white flour
7g or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast
7g or 1 teaspoon salt
20g or 2 tablespoons olive or rapeseed oil
250-260g or 1 1/8 cup tepid water
tiny cheap scales
EXTRA BATTERIES FOR THE TINY CHEAP SCALES

Here’s how to do it properly.
Weigh out your ingredients into whatever camping cook equipment is big enough. In our case the biggest camping saucepan we had. Alternatively (and probably more prudently as we discovered) use the american imperial cup and spoon system if you are without scales, or check that the BATTERIES ARE WORKING in your tiny cheap scales.

Dump your dough on the cleanest flattest smoothest surface available and knead vigorously for 15 minutes. This is surprisingly therapeutic when you are confined in a small space with your loved ones for an extended length of time. Don’t hold back. Put back in the oiled saucepan, cover with clingfilm or a shower cap, put in the warmest place available, and leave to rise for about an hour.

Punch down and mould into a cob shape. Place on an oiled or dusted baking tray/tin and leave to prove for about 30 mins. Meanwhile light the barbecue. We cooked our bread on a Cobb barbecue that only takes 5-10 minutes to heat up, but this bread should cook in any barbecue with a dome once it reaches its optimum temperature.  Place the baking tray/tin on the grill and cover with the dome. You may need to check the bread after about 15 minutes as you can’t control the temperature, and the bottom may get a bit scorched, but the loaf should be ready in 20-30 minutes.

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Here’s how not to do it.
We forgot to check the batteries in our tiny cheap scales. We didn’t use a cup system. We had no idea how much salt we added as the batteries died at this crucial point (but judging by the taste, it was a lot!!). Our dough didn’t rise due to the murderous horde of salt massacring the yeast. It was scorched on the bottom and pale on the crust. But still…we ended up with an edible, nay palatable, if slightly salty cob loaf to have with our dinner. Not bad for our first attempt at campervan bread. And washed down with all that lovely cider, strawberries and ice-cream, it was a treat…

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…..and the next morning, tools out to get us home.

ruby says “i loved kneading the bread in the campervan, it kept rocking. but i was a bit sad when it didn’t rise. tasted nice as toast with lots of butter. and we had strawberries and ice-cream for dessert!!!”

Sourdough September

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Summer life kind-of took over our house this year, with the result that our bread-making took a bit of a back seat. Another result was poor Gordon, our sourdough starter, was neglected shamefully, pouting sulkily at the back of the fridge. We took him out this morning before school to warm up and recover. Ruby put him in intensive care and we will drip-feed him until he’s strong enough to contend with our plans for this month – to join in with The Real Bread Campaign’s Sourdough September!

Fingers crossed…

ruby says “poor gordon’s sick. we need to feed him lots to make him better.”

Bacheldre Water Mill.

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We spent a week in England visiting family and friends this month, and on the way back to the ferry we took a detour to visit the beautiful old watermill at Bacheldre, a traditional stone-ground mill in Powys, Wales. There has been a mill on the site since 1575 but the current mill dates to the 18th century, still using water from the mill race to power the water wheel and turn the stones, though this is now supplemented by a motor to allow the wheel to turn when the water flow is low.

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When Matt and Anne Scott bought the mill back in 2002 it was primarily for the attached campsite. The mill at that time was a working museum, still grinding flour, but in small batches for display purposes. With no previous experience in the milling field they threw themselves into restoring the watermill and creating a viable business, but using the traditional methods of stone-ground flour production. They now produce award-winning flour, in a variety of styles and flavours, and supply large retailers such as Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and John Lewis as well as a myriad of smaller artisan stockists. Amazon even deliver their full range, including 25kg sacks. Many of their flours use locally grown Welsh wheat, just like the old days…

We had intended to buy a 25kg bag of white bread flour to bring home with us on the ferry, but in typical Jack and Ruby fashion happened to turn up just after the owners had left for a holiday, the two mill workers had a day off, and there were no ready-filled large sacks of flour in the shop. In fact, the mill was pretty much closed that day. But the caretakers were very friendly so we had a quick look around and bought a small bag of bread flour and a bag of Oak Smoked malted flour to try out.

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It was such a treat to see an old mill so lovingly restored, eager to welcome visitors and tourists who take up time and only buy a small bag of flour, happy to share the traditions and methods of an age-old profession – and yet still be relevant and vibrant in the modern fast-paced flour-producing industry that has tended to remove itself from its customers – us, the bread-makers and bread-eaters. On returning home, to our surprise we found out that Bacheldre Mill is up for sale. We hope its future custodians treat it with the love and respect that the Scotts did.

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Photo from Shropshire Star.

ruby says “it was very pretty, i liked having my picture taken beside bacheldre mill stone.”

 

 

Our journey in sourdough: scalds, sweat and tears.

Sourdough, we have learnt, is a whole different animal to anything we’ve attempted before. One that cannot be rustled up on a whim, or is always compliant with our plans and wishes. We’ve made a number of sourdough loaves so far, none of which could be described as a truly successful attempt, and some of which could barely be described as sourdough (or even a loaf). Still, we remind ourselves it’s the journey, not the destination, that counts.

Sourdough loaf No. 1.

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After lovingly nurturing our starter, Gordon, we were brimming with excitement to make our first sourdough loaf. We carefully selected the recipe, readied our equipment, weighed and measured the ingredients, didn’t baulk when the dough flowed stickily across the table, pushed, stretched, pummelled, scraped, coralled, rested and finally nestled our first loaf in its new flour-filled banneton for the night. Springing out of bed in the morning, we rushed downstairs to find…..a slightly deflated balloon.

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Unperturbed (well a little perturbed) we heated the oven, attempted the Herculean task of moving the flaccid dough from the banneton to a hot baking stone without deflating the loaf (more) or losing precious heat from the oven, forgot to slash, and splashed boiling water all over the oven and kitchen floor.  A modicum of shouting and scalding ensued,  culminating in our very depressed dough sitting awkwardly on, and overflowing slightly, our old pizza stone. The result was not something you’d find in any bakery we’ve ever been.

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Sourdough loaf No.2.

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Our second attempt was a little more successful. This time we proved overnight in the fridge, left to warm up and remembered to slash, but while transferring the dough to the stone we pulled the tray out too far and the loaf slid off onto the oven door. We managed to manhandle it back on, but the shock was too much for it.

Sourdough loaf No.3.

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Realising that our long banneton was actually too long for our stone, we admitted defeat and bought a round banneton instead. Our third sourdough went a lot more smoothly. After our overnight fridge prove, this time we heated the oven, took the stone OUT, gently tipped our round loaf onto it, then panic-slashed and shoved it into the oven. Result? A round, slightly spread sourdough with the faintest of slash marks on the top. And a nose, strangely.

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Sourdough loaf No. 4.

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Our confidence was starting to grow by loaf no, 4. No longer scared of the stone/oven-heat dilemma, we slashed with abandon, threw and sprayed water, and watched with awe the blooming of a vaguely recognisable sourdough bread.

Sourdough loaf No. 5.

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This is our most successful so far. The dough was exceptionally wet, and on removal from the fridge in the morning, it was more brick-like than bread-like. We left it to warm to room temperature, and it rose slightly. Not expecting much, we placed it in the oven and watched with mounting surprise as the oven-spring kicked in and it grew rapidly before our eyes, opening out along our frenzied slashes.

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None of our loaves is exactly of a professional standard, but one thing is noticeable – the flavour of the sourdough has sweetened and deepened with each loaf, which must mean Gordon is maturing into a fine young starter. Now, onto loaf no. 6…..

ruby says ” they were nice! but the inside was too soft and the outside was too hard. it was also fun making them but boring waiting. they took so long!” 😉

The Great May White.

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I know we’re well into June but we seem to be slipping behind in all sorts of things lately. Still, we managed our weekly Great White all through May, with it’s usual highs and lows. What did we do differently this month? We tried a new slashing technique (top two) – yeah, that didn’t go so well. We also tried an overnight white loaf (bottom right) – that didn’t go so well either. But number three! Well, that’s as near to the perfect loaf we’ve come so far…….

So what have we learnt? Not a lot. Except to persevere……and stick with our old slashes.

ruby says “I couldn’t lift the last one it was so heavy.”

Big baker / Little baker: what we want for May.

With all this bread making going on, we’ve noticed something irritatingly frustrating – we’ve nowhere to put our bread. Currently it resides on the worktop in a plastic bag, or a paper bag, or underneath a tea-towel, and gets shunted around when various mechanical or electrical devices need to be used. This is not ideal. So this month we’ve been looking at bread-bins. What makes a great bread bin?  Material? Air-flow? Condensation factor? What we’ve learned from our research is that bread needs air to stop mould, and that’s pretty much it. Real slow-proved bread, it seems, will stay fresh for a lot longer than fast-produced processed loaves if left cut-side-down and loosely covered. So the big question is should we go retro or futuristic? Utilitarian or decorative? Chic or unique? So many choices….but ultimately the answer will be whichever fits the meagre space in our kitchen.

Still, a breadmaker can dream…..

Big baker….

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1. Garden Trading bread tin. 2. Lark farmhouse bread locker. 3. Vintage Tin. 
4. Armadillo breadbin. 5. Antique tin. 6. Vintage Dutch bread box. 7. Typhoon Novo Bread bin.

Ruby has a different – and so much more fun – agenda to me…..

Little baker…..

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1. Dollhouse mint green bread box. 2. Dollhouse breadboard with bread. 
3. Mr. Rebanadita rucksack. 4. Miniature wicker bread basket. 5. Dollhouse bagel crates.

 

Our very own sourdough starter.

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Sourdough bread has always been a magical kind of loaf for us. It seems almost alchemical, harnessing the natural yeasts from the air to turn grain and water into a fragrant wholesome bubbled bread. We decided it had to be a ritual of some baker’s secret society only open to the righteous, with each sourdough starter recipe jealously guarded behind mystery and reverence. Many of the great artisan bakers have had the same starter in the family for hundreds of years, fed lovingly and religiously every day, like an immortal pet or a small flatulent god. We believed their knowledge and starter-offspring were only passed on to the worthy to carry on the ancient tradition. We thought the process of making and maintaining a starter was the realm of a master-baker or maslin-magician, no place for the inexperienced or faint of heart.

This, we discovered, could not be further from the truth. Most bakers are more than happy to share their starters and sourdough tips with the uninitiated, as both an incentive for the new baker and as insurance for the old – should a great disaster befall the original parent it can be easily cloned from its children. And there are no closely guarded recipes. Flour and water it seems is all you need. And a bit of fruit or yoghurt if you’re so inclined, or not, if you’re not. And patience. And a little commitment (but not too much).

Originally, we had a lofty ambition to try our hand at sourdough by the end of this year, not being confident that we could ever truly master the process. But many of the other participants in the 52 loaves project were plunging into sourdough with abandon, and surprisingly good results. Some had acquired starters from other bakers, some had started their own. Spurred on by their successes, we stepped off the baking cliff with a resolution to begin our own family tradition of sourdough. So in April 2014 we made our own starter. It’s still alive and we’d like to think it’ll still be here in 200 years time.

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flour measure

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stir

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There are hundreds of recipes and methods of how to make a sourdough starter on the net and in baking books. We followed Justin Piers Gellatly’s method, mainly as it’s pretty straightfoward, and also because he makes damned good bread. It’s working for us so far. It will take a week before the starter will be ready to use.

50g organic strong white flour
50g organic rye flour
100g tepid water
30g rhubarb (we used apple, no rhubarb in fridge)
clean bowl or clean jar

Day 1.

We mixed the flour, water and fruit in a large kilner jar until it became a thick gooey paste. We covered it and left it somewhere warmish (warm kitchen worktop) for 24 hours.

Day 2.

At roughly the same time of day we mixed 50g water, 25g strong white and 25g rye into the paste. Covered and left until the next day.

Day 3.

Same as Day 2.

Day 4.

Same as Day 3. There should be a bit of bubbling and thinning of the paste at this stage.

Day 5.

Our starter was now tangy with lots of little bubbles. We mixed it all up and discarded all but 30g. You need to get rid of the leftover starter as this will only feed off the new flour and ferment too quickly. Alternatively, you can give it to someone else to start their own sourdough mix or use it to flavour pancakes or other bready goods.There were still some pieces of fruit remaining which we threw away. We added 30g rye, 30g strong wholemeal and 80g strong white four with 125g water, whisked it all up and left it.

Day 6.

Same as Day 5.

Day 7.

We made our first sourdough loaf! It’s a learning curve…

Keeping it alive.

Once we made our first loaf, we replenished our starter with the same quantity of flour and water that we removed for the recipe (half flour/half water). If you intend to make a lot of sourdough bread, you’ll need to feed the starter every 1 or two days. If not, feed it after making a loaf then place it in the fridge for a week, taking it out 24 hours before you need to use it. Tom Herbert recommends weighing your container before you start so that you always know what quantity of starter is in the jar, and always leave about a quarter of the original in there to keep its depth of flavour and vitality.

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We keep ours in the fridge. We feed it half the replenishing amount before we put it in, then the other half when we take it out after it has come back to room temperature. This way, it’s bubbling nicely by the time we start to bake. Ruby treats it like a pet. She hasn’t got bored of it yet. It’s called Gordon, by the way.

ruby says “the starter i love. it is probably my favourite pet so far because it doesn’t annoy me.”