Monday, 4 August 2014
Tuesday, 10 September 2013
Tuesday, 29 March 2011
I don't mind admitting I'm a bread geek. Baking bread, for me, is far more than the simple combination of ingredients to form what, on the face of it, is a basic foodstuff
So you will understand why I was looking forward to my course with Dan and Johanna McTiernan at The Handmade Bakery in West Yorkshire. The course set out to dispel the myths that surround sourdough baking and that make it sound so difficult. If you've read my blog before you will know that sourdough is easy.
What I was hoping from the course was more about the pleasure of baking in a commercially run bakery with a really passionate expert. I wasn't disappointed.
Dan and Johanna weave practical baking craft with, what for me, is the heart of bread making, the social challenge of producing sustainable, local food. I couldn't help thinking though that in the case of our course he was preaching to the converted. Most of us arrived at Dan's back door because we already knew that his and Johanna's views resonated with our own. And yes, it was great to be among fellow geeks sharing pleasure in the deck ovens and the baking rotas on the walls, And it was great to ask bread-head questions and not be thought nerdy, but the challenge for all of us who feel this way about bread is to show people who probably would not usually access Dan's excellent courses that good food is a right, not a privilege.
The second challenge is to show people that they can afford really good bread by making it themselves - it's easy.
I think though that our evangelising about real bread does not help. My colleagues sum it up when they say:
'Crofty's bread's lovely, but I wish he wouldn't go on about it so much.'
That then, is the answer. Let the bread do the talking.
I heartily recommend anyone who is interested in bread to consider a course at The Handmade Bakery with Dan and Johanna - you will not be disappointed. If you do not want to become a bread geek like me, and aren't, for example,interested in where Dan got his ovens (a Greggs bakery, second hand, I loved his comment - 'it was like rescuing a battery hen'), you will come away with armfuls of absolutely delicious bread, and the means to make it for yourself.
Here's what I made.
Sunday, 22 August 2010
Nature (or science if you prefer) If you think I'm being flippant I apologise. In truth I struggled to get a starter going at first but the reasons were simple. Let's go back to the recipe and consider each ingredient: Organic wholemeal rye flour -sourdough relies on natural yeasts in the air and flour to give it life. Therefore the freer your flour is from artificial messing about the better chance you have of seeing some life from it. Water - again the cleaner and purer the better, if your tap water doesn't have chlorine in it all the better (chlorine's there to kill bugs, we want to encourage them). Our water is chlorinated - it still works ok. Nature (or science) - yeasts multiply best between 28-32 degrees centigrade (apparently). This was where my error lay. Time after time I'd mix a gloopy slop and wait for bubbles to form, sniffing tentatively and hoping for that tell-tale fruity tang that let's you know the yeasty blighters are reproducing. Again and again it either dried up or went mouldy. I returned to bread- guru Whiteley's advice and it struck me: consistent temperature. I set about searching for a consistently warm place, but with no hot water tank, drew a blank. Then I had a eureka moment: this was very similar to brewing. I investigated a variety of brewer's heat pads, which all looked promising. Then I remembered my mum-in-law's arthritis. All that remained was to whip the fleecy heating pad from her feeble grip and we were set. http://cdn.cloudfiles.mosso.com/c54102/x2_1c9bf1d It works a treat. What? Her arthritis?... Err... Anyway I have had a sourdough going for months now. So long as I use it and refresh it once a week, replacing old with new each time, it delivers vigorous, bubbly life to my loaves every time. (The only secret is to make sure the Moon is in Gemini when you start your culture; that and the naked goat-dance in the garden.)
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Sunday, 4 April 2010
Sunday, 10 January 2010
I appeal to the British public at large to seek new role models of motoring that are not modelled on Mr Toad in Tales Of The Riverbank and whose response to pedestrians was to bawl "Get out of my way!", or role models that don't aspire to the epitome of masculine arrogance Jeremy Clarkson who seems to be breeding arrogance of a scale that rides roughshod (or should that be drives in some sort of four wheel drive monster truck) over any semblance of an idea that the idea of the internal combustion engine doesn't equate somehow to a deity, preventing us from considering that life might, some day, actually continue without motor cars. There now, that's better, thanks Posterous. PS The superb image is from Flickr, here's the link:
Thursday, 31 December 2009
If you have read my blog before you may be familiar with my views on New Year. Each year on this date I publish my annual message to the nation setting out my views on the festivities. So here it is: Try telling anyone, as they are liberally splashing Hugo Boss over their manly chest or donning a posh frock (not necessarily the same person you understand) that New Year is a stupid celebration and they look at you like you have just told them you are off to join a commune of some strange religious sect. Now that it's all over I will explain why I have never quite understood the need to draw an arbitrary line in the sand of time and call it a new year. For that is all it is: an administrative necessity to have a beginning and an end of the so called year. I understand why it is convenient to have one but why celebrate it?.. nothing changes.At least Christmas, Eid or Divali have some sort of symbolism, even if you don't believe the in the spirituality that goes with them; but new year is a nothing. If we are going to celebrate it we might as well celebrate it in April when at least the accountants have something to be pleased about.For many people this idea of taking stock of the previous twelve months and looking forward to the next is anathema. The time to take stock is when it is right for you. That is why so many new year resolutions fail: people are forced into resolving when their hearts are not in it. When you really want to do something do it; make a plan, find your motivation for achieving it and go for it. Away with this clap trap.And by way of a cheery note on which to end; did you know that the early hours of new year morning are the most common time for suicide. Surprised? You shouldn't be when thousands of people who have had a shit year and another shit one to come are forced to reflect on the fact.Happy New Year!
Now normally my grumpiness is tempered by watching Jools Holland's Hootenanny, there's something cheering about good music, a bit of a laugh and great music (and some good whisky), this year though my heart isn't in it. Why? Because a friend of mine was purchasing tickets for Hootenanny and, just before putting in his credit card details, he glanced over the details of his order. The date of the event was, wait for it, in November. Not quite the same is it? So thanks Jools - wherever you are. Probably watching Hootenanny on his own wearing his slippers, reflecting on his deception of the nation. Sheesh.