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!”

 

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Campervan bread

camper

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!!!”

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.”

 

 

12/52: Ciabatta mark 2.

ciabatta finished

After our last attempt at Ciabatta we decided that next time we would be prepared. And the result was much better – tastier, chewier, shaplier. This time, we teamed it with steak and mushrooms and all the lovely juices they produce. Nothing else needed but a little rocket and drizzle of dressing. Oh and a bread-maker to beat up the insolent dough…..it was only after I almost destroyed our food processor that I realised we had a tailor-made solution.

dough starter

dough in plastic

ruby ciabatta

Ciabatta (following the recipe from Paul Hollywood’s Bread)

400g strong white flour
7g quick yeast
300ml water
30ml olive oil
7g salt
Semolina for dusting and rustic effect

Start the day before, or at least 6 hours before normal. Place half the flour and half the yeast in a bowl and pour in half the water. Stir and beat until you have a thick batter. Cover with cling film and leave to develop overnight, or for at least six hours to improve the flavour.

Slop the thick batter into a food mixer with a dough hook, or like us, into a bread-maker. Add the remaining ingredients and leave the mixer to do its work for at least 15 minutes, or until the dough is good and stretchy. We put ours on the ‘pizza dough’ setting. When kneaded thoroughly tip into a well-oiled rectangular container, approximately 3 litres in volume (or 20cm square and 12cm deep) and cover with the oiled lid. Leave to rise to the top of the container, roughly 2 hours.

When risen, gently tip out onto a surface dusted liberally with a mixture of semolina and flour, keeping as much air in the dough as possible. Delicately slice the dough into two equal lengths, gently stretch into a ciabatta shape and lift onto a dusted non-stick baking tray. Sprinkle semolina/flour over the tops. Place the tray in a roomy plastic bag and leave to rest for 15 minutes while the oven heats to 220ºc. Bake for 30 minutes until golden in colour. Cool on a wire rack before devouring.

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ruby eating

ruby says  “my new scrumbdidleyombshes, favourite food!”

 

 

 

7/52: Leftover loaf

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While tidying out my flour shelf I noticed a number of half-empty (or should that be half-full) bags of flour that had been ignored for far too long. Many years ago, when food preparation in our house was a little more haphazard, and cooking was minimal being only for two, I found an old bag of flour at the back of the cupboard. Eager to make something new, I pulled out a cake recipe and started measuring out the flour. It took a little time for me to notice that the flour seemed a little livelier than it should. On closer inspection, I noticed it was actually moving. There were weevils in my flour! Now, I always assumed that weevils were something only salty sea-dogs strained through their teeth on 18th century ocean voyages, but here they were, happily inhabiting my home. A frantic clearing, scrubbing and disinfecting followed. From that day on, I have a paranoia of leftover flour, and what might move in.

So to use up those half-bags, Ruby and I decided to make a leftover loaf. We amalgamated Dove’s farm malthouse flour, rye, and wholewheat, and topped it up with white bread-flour to make the required amount. The resulting dough seemed a little drier than usual, so not expecting much, we left it to rise for slightly longer than normal. What greeted us was a perfect dome of bread dough, something we’ve never achieved when trying much harder!

kneading
dough tray

Leftover loaf .
(The flour measurements are a bit rough, and the recipe is based on Paul Hollywood’s basic bloomer)

350g malthouse flour
70g rye flour
50g wholewheat flour
30g bread flour
10g salt
7g fast yeast
40ml olive oil
320ml water

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Stir with your hand to get a claggy dough. Tip out onto a floured surface and knead vigorously for 10 minutes or so. Place back in the clean, oiled bowl and leave to rise for about 1 1/2 hours. When risen, knock the dough back and form into a oblong shape. Leave to rise again on a baking tray for about an hour (we always put our tray in a roomy plastic bag to stop a skin forming). Pre-heat the oven to 220 c, and place a small tray of water in the bottom. When the dough has risen again into a nice dome shape, spritz with water, dust wit flour, and cut 3 or 4 diagonal slits on the top. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until the base sounds hollow when you knock it. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Slather with butter. Eat smugly.

bread tray

ruby says “terrific! smelled beautiful! hope we can bake it again!!!!”