Reading List (21/11)

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Apparently designer advent calendars are a thing. Clearly I have been living in the dark ages when they just filled them with trashy chocolate.

Things to do in Paris.

Women chefs talk about the industry in the wake of #metoo.

All the holiday cookies! It is stir-up Sunday this weekend, maybe you could make some of these as well as your Christmas pud? Personally, I have my eye on the pretzel linzers with salted caramel.

I have both poached quince and poached pears in the pantry at the moment so I am going to make this crumble soon.

This article irritated me sooooo much. I think mostly because it seemed to be written from a point of smugness, from a perspective of privilege, with little acknowledgement of this bias…

Resource of women writers.

Things that male academics have said to me‘. Depressing.

Inequality in English schools is as bad as ever.

Baking with young people.

Have a good week! x

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week 12

I realised last weekend that I was failing my bread making project. Not failing in the making bread sense, I was still managing to do that, but failing in the being present, and paying attention sense. Bread making had evolved into this beast, this large black shape bearing down on me as the weekend approached. I was still trying to accomplish the task  but I wasn’t allocating it anytime, or working out how to fit it into my day. Which is obviously how I found myself wrestling with a far too hydrated and possibly over proofed dough on a Sunday afternoon. Needless to say it did not end so well.

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So I watched this video to get inspired again. I was really interested when Kim talked about the choice of bread making as a form of meditation. One of the reasons I chose bread making as part of a wider project I have going on (all about recovery and finding purpose outside of work), was because I thought working and creating with my hands would be a good thing. I haven’t reflected on that a lot in these posts yet but I think it is true. ‘Making stuff is really really important. Using your hands is really really important’, Kim says in the video.

She also tells her audience to ‘slow the fuck down’, which I enjoyed. I live quite a lot of my life rushing from one task to another, or trying to clean the house and listen to a book and bake bread and make dinner all at once. It is sometimes exhausting. So this weekend I slowed it all down again. There were many things I probably should’ve done this weekend but I let most of them go. I went to yoga, because I’ve found yoga on the weekend is a game changer (and it is also the one consistent class I can make, as I travel so much during the week). I finished some knitting projects I had going on. I finished the work I had to do for Monday. And then I focused on making bread.

Everything about it was so much better. I was making one of the loaves as a gift for A-‘s family in Spain (yes, we are people who travel with bread) and I wanted it to be good. So I took my time about it. I wasn’t rushing. I didn’t organise anything on Saturday afternoon so I could be at home to do the bulk prove. I sorted the levain out before I went to yoga in the morning and came back in time to mix up the dough. Everything about the experience was so much more pleasurable than it has been the past few weeks.   And the breads turned out lovely. I had some to dip into bolognese I heated up for my solo dinner on Sunday. A- took a loaf to Spain and I brought half a loaf for my sister, and froze the other half for emergency bread rations.

There is a new report out on the benefits of bread baking for mental health too.

Verdict for week 12? I need to learn to take time, if I want to pursue creativity properly. It is weird it took several weeks of failed bread making for me to learn this.

 

Reading List (14/11)

Well, it is now mid November and Christmas (yes, I said it) is a few weeks away. But you know, still enough weeks away that I find the adverts on television mildly nauseating and the shop windows irritating rather than exciting. Come stir-up Sunday, I will be all for it but until then, can’t I just have a few non-themed weeks this year? Anyway, here is this week’s reading list!

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Some advice on cold-water swimming.

Understanding stress hormones and genes. I am totally fascinated by this work. And relatedly, when evolution happens quickly.

Photographs of rescue animals. Tears.

New podcasts that at some point in the near future I will listen to.

The Brontes, and history.

‘Life is a mess of cornmeal dumplings.’

The Bake-off in other countries. (Thanks Jen for sending me this!)

‘“We were really hoping for something Asian” — or Asian-ish: Anything with soy, apparently, will do.’ The complexities of cooking in the USA as an Asian-American.

“Radical creativity

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Reading List (7/11)

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I loved this story about female friendship.

Cauliflower, fried. Cauliflower cheese. (I made this on Sunday evening and holy moly is it good. Also, all the cheese.)

Plants, as unintentional immigrants. This is such a cool project!

Thoughts about creating a working-life wholeness, rather than aiming for work-life balance.

Reflections on an allotment site lost to redevelopment.

For Louisa: Casa Vicens is open again to the public. (Let’s plan another trip to Barcelona to visit please!)

Saving seeds.

Some words on how to understand and adopt the myriad of food advice we are given.

A list of Paris’s best chocolates. Like you needed any more persuasion on a trip to Paris. Personally, I think if you are going to Jacques Genin you should really try his caramels, which might change your life.

This weekend I have been listening to (and absolutely loving) The Muse. I’m not quite done so no spoilers please. I love the time periods, I love the characters, I love the mystery. Read this if you need to be transported to another time. I can practically feel the Andalucian sun on my skin when the book heads to 1935/6 Sierra Nevada countryside.

Salted chocolate chip cookies. Chocolate chip cookies you bang in your oven halfway through, resulting in a ringed, flatter appearance.

Pumpkin cake. Marbled pumpkin cake.

Molly Wisenberg on the butterscotch blondies from The Violet Bakery Book.

Food&Wine podcast talking to Ina Garten.

Have a good week! x

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week 11

This week I made a spelt and honey loaf. I have been mulling over this combination for days and days, weeks possibly, since seeing some photos on instagram. The combination just sounded delicious.

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This particular loaf (from a recipe I found online) did not use the turning and folding method of my previous loaves. Rather, you are supposed to mix everything together, knead it and then leave it to prove for 9 hours. I gave mine an hour for autolayse before adding in the salt, but then the dough did feel as though it did not need turning and folding so I kneaded it and put it back into the bowl. It was of significantly less hydration that previous loaves.

Of course I then totally forgot about the dough on the boiler and went out. When I returned home it was too late to bake bread so I put the dough in the fridge (in a proving basket) and hoped for the best! As you can probably tell by the photograph it may have been on the edge of over-proving by the time I turned it out in the morning to bake. It might have been wise to knock it back and let it prove again at this stage but I did not have the foresight to do that. Into the oven it went.

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The loaf turned out totally delicious. It may not have as wide a crumb as it could have, but it has made excellent toast all week and I love the flavour.

Verdict for week 10? I am really starting to love this process. And I am working out my own ratios now so I feel superbly accomplished.

Reading List (31/10)

Happy Halloween everyone!

Pugs in Halloween outfits. (My Halloween treat to you.)

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An initiative at Chatham University in Pennsylvania that is all about food.

I want to make these cookies on the weekend.

Risk of developing mental illness is rife amongst PhD students.

I love this phrase, ‘come home for dinner’. Dorie Greenspan on a Parisian dinner gathering. And her celebrations for New Year.

In the same magazine as Dorie, Gabrielle Hamilton on dinner parties. I love her writing.

The complicated question of ambition. A really interesting read that provided much food for thought for my weekend.

Food, books, and emotions. I love this video of Kate Young talking about her new book The Little Library Cookbook. (On my Christmas list if anyone fancies getting it for me…)

Most food writing is aspirational, but Colwin’s food writing was reachable.” A little essay on Laurie Colwin.

Organic farming in Cuba.

Baked rice pudding. I am going to make this so I know for sure whether it is really better than my stove-top one.

When I spend my weeks transcribing interviews and focus groups, as I have been doing this past week, I tend to listen less to pretty much everything. Away from work, my mind relishes the silence. I walk to yoga listening to birds rather than podcasts. On my first post-knee surgery jog (!!!) I just had Sarah Millican in my ear telling me when to run and when to walk, as part of the Couch to 5k app I’ve downloaded on advice from my physio. The exception I made in the week was to listen to The Shepherd’s Life while I cooked in the evenings. I really think everyone should read this. It describes the life of a Lake District shepherd through the seasons, explaining their relationship with the land, with the sheep and with the communities that live there. I enjoyed the stories of working with sheep dogs, of showing sheep (you all know I love an agricultural show), and of working across generations to move sheep down from the fells. If you’ve ever wondered where spring lambs come from, or the wool in your jumper, or just have no idea about farming, you should read this book!

A history of class and cookbooks.

A collection of love poems.

Have an excellent week! x

 

 

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week 10

It has rained nearly all week. After the strange red Sahara-sand sun of last week, and a brief respite yesterday, the sky has grown heavy. Dark grey cloud has peppered the windows, bringing the sky closer to the earth. The wind is shaking leaves from the trees. Underfoot are reds, browns, oranges, yellows, and the last few green leaves. Rain has come in large sloshing streams, in the faint drizzle that is almost mist, and in heavy torrents that beat against the windows and overflow the gutters. Autumn is here.

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All week it has felt dark when I’ve awoken. I’ve started to use my sunlight lamp, to induce my body into thinking it is time to get up. In this last week before the clocks change, my body goes into hibernation mode and wants to sleep at least until noon, and then possibly again from about 3pm. I’ve brought out the fairy lights and the candles, adding a glow to our evenings, trying to celebrate the dark. This year I am mitigating the onset of winter by going home for a week in early December. We cannot travel at Christmas because A- works through the holidays, but I am dashing home to spend time with my parents and cousins before returning here for the darkest and then the coldest days of the year.

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As time has worn on, I find I am learning to embrace this changing of the seasons, and the darkness. At home, we have even quantities of light throughout the year, so it makes 4pm darkness and 8am light very hard to get used to. Having a garden space now (allotment) helps. There it is easy to see the change in the seasons, although the damn bindweed seems to be immune to the dropping temperatures and is happily sprouting up through the new beds. Fuck off bindweed! But other things are edging down, preparing for the winter months. The robins are still about, appearing when I move dried grasses to eat the bugs.

To embrace this changing season, this coming weekend I will make plum and damson jam. Ages and ages ago I bought a supply from Hockley Homegrown and then stashed them in my freezer, unsure. Then I went on a Do Preserves course at e5 bakery in London. During the day, Anja and Jen showed how to make many many things for the store cupboard but my favourite was the oven plum jam. You basically stone the plums, slice them in halves or quarters, and then add in sugar. You cook this in a low oven until everything is jammy (totally technical term), and you scoop, dollop and drop it into sterilised jars.

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I will also make some more bread. I really want to make a spelt and honey loaf because I seem to have acquired a lot of honey in recent months. (Buying honey is one of my flaws. I am a sucker for honey stories and well looked-after bees. I will happily part with oodles of cash for good honey). All of my recipe books are in boxes though – we’ve had our windows replaced and are awaiting repainting before unpacking again – so I will need to scour the inter webs, unless anyone has a recipe for me?

This past week I made my regular loaf although I winged the hydration and was on the edge of having one of those doughs that slowly slides off your counter to the floor. I managed to avoid it by the skin of my teeth but the resulting loaf has a very sticky interior that I think is a result of this… I must pay more attention to percentages this week. Still, it has made excellent toast (with butter, under boiled eggs). Due to time management issues I actually ended up baking the loaf on Monday morning, in amongst a lot of transcribing (which has shaped my week). There was something particularly pleasant about working with dough first thing on a Monday. Plus my house smelt amazing.

Week 10 verdict? I love baking while the light is still making it’s way over the houses, brightening my kitchen as the oven warms the space, and the smell of bread is in the air. God, I am be a bread making convert.