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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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