Monthly Archives: September 2017

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week 6

52 weeks of sourdough wk6

Week 6’s bread has a gaping yawn. It looks like a fish poised to kiss someone or a whale trawling for plankton! Secretly, I am rather chuffed with this development. Yes sure, it hasn’t quite expanded in all the spaces I wanted it to, but it has expanded nicely in one place!

After being in Spain for a week, I found that I was (somewhat unexpectedly) looking forward to loaf making this weekend. On Thursday evening as our ‘last supper’ (as we called it, chuckling to ourselves), we ate at La Taberna del Chef del Mar. A- is obsessed with Angel Leon, the chef behind La Taberna and the more formal Aponiente. Angel Leon is famous for serving only fish, and La Taberna has the same agenda, although in a relaxed, informal setting. We ate glorious, unexpected, fun food (the smoked oysters, holy moly) but what was truly superb was the sourdough bread (finally!) that they make over at Aponiente. It was superb – dark crust, sour and malty taste. I used it to sop up juices from various the dishes. It made me want to come home and make bread again.

On Friday, on our flight home, I was planning when I could fit the loaf into our weekend plans. On Saturday, as I mixed the levain together, I was thinking of how my Sunday evening would be spent, folding dough. And I felt a happy feeling of anticipation. A frisson of excitement. How would this loaf turn out? What would it taste like? Would it be better or worse than others? On Sunday, I mixed the levain for the second time and left it to bubble away while we went to the allotment. (Look! Beds are set out! I’ve ordered seedlings! And I had a visitor!)

When we got home, I mixed up the dough and then folded it while catching up on last week’s Bake Off (which was, totally appropriately, bread week). Even A- got involved in the Bake Off watching!

Every time I make a loaf, I have a feeling of purpose, a sense of doing something ancient and practical. I don’t want to romanticise the whole bread-making experience. Okay I do but I will check myself. I only want to note how this everyday/every week activity is shaping how I organise my time. I am making space for bread making. And I quite like that.

Reading List (19/9)

Hello again! I am back from my holiday in Spain, all rested and prepped for the coming academic year.

Chiclana sunset

Julia Child always reminded people to never apologise for the food you are serving. Even if it didn’t quite work out the way you wanted it to. They will never know that it is not how you anticipated it would be…

Swimming in the lochs in summer.

Things to make this week: plum tart, marbled banana bread, chocolate wheaty biscuits.

‘The traditionally low number of women in non-fiction, especially history, invites many questions about the kinds of discourse we consider useful or true’. You need to read this. It is a fascinating account of hierarchy, ideas, and who has the right to say certain things. It is necessary to know if we want to see more things by women writers.

On inconspicuous consumption.

Food writers who teach us how to live.

Over the holiday I finished two books. The first, Floating, is a(nother) swimming memoir. Joe Minihane, the author, follows in Roger Deakin’s Waterlog footsteps, swimming his way around Britain, finding all of Roger’s swimming spots in an attempt to quell his anxiety and help his depression. Joe writes: “Nestled deep in this Dartmoor valley, […] I remembered that true escape was the essence of wild swimming: escape from needless worries and anxieties, from fear, from being hassled“. I loved this book. It is honest about a struggle with mental health issues, and working to find various solutions to help them – be it swimming in the wild, or the community that develops around the swimming, or the meditation of swimming. Swimming memoirs have framed my year this year, and helped me encounter the water in a new way. (Including a fairly long swim at the weekend, in a lake where the water temperature was 15C!)

The second book I finished was actually a re-read of something I first read as an undergraduate, The Bone Woman. This is the story of a forensic anthropologist’s experiences of mass graves in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Kosovo. It makes for hard reading but I think it is important to find out about what happens to bring justice to families after a war.

Back-to-school food guide and a fall dinner guide.

If you read nothing else, read this Twitter exchange between the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. Sheer brilliance.

That is it for this week chaps! Have a good one! x

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week 5

It is week 5 already!

I’ll be honest, I sort of thought that by this stage in the game I’d have nailed a good-looking, good-tasting bread with a method that worked every time. Well well well. That has not been the case.

52 weeks of sourdough wk5

Every week is an adventure in learning it seems. And I haven’t yet cracked the code of consistency. C’est la vie. This is the whole reason why I chose this challenge. And A- did kindly remind me that each of the loaves has tasted distinct, different and thus interesting. We have eaten every one, and saved the ends for croutons/bread crumbs. (I’ve got a bag stashed in the freezer now.)

We are at the beach this week, in Andalucia. It is glorious and warm and sunny. To fit a loaf into this week, I baked before we left, making a dough late last Wednesday, before shaping and baking on Thursday. I was book editing both days and getting up to turn and shape the dough was a welcome relief from being so heavily tied to my desk.

So I haven’t cracked the loaf code yet but what have I enjoyed so far?

I love watching the transformations of the dough as it goes from flour and water to shaggy mess to shape-able dough. When I use different flour, the dough feels different, and reacts differently against my hand as I pull, stretch, lengthen and then fold. I love watching the changing colours too – cream, grey, beige, ochre, eventually tinges of black on the edges of the baked loaf.

Most of all, I love making time for this process in my schedule. I know I am lucky because I have a flexible enough research job that allows me to work from home some of the time, but even making time on the weekend is satisfying. I am sure I will feel differently in a few weeks, when I am traveling again for work and weekends become a sacred and necessary time to do very little, but until then I am enjoying the routine of bread making.

This project is also making me think about bread, a lot. While I’ve been in Andalucia this week, I’ve been pondering the relationship between the people I’ve been with and bread. Bread is a key feature of each meal. If there is no bread on the table when we sit down, someone will cry pan! and leap up to retrieve the stash from the kitchen. But the bread all seems to be industrially produced – even if it comes from a small shop, it is that frozen and baked-on-site variety. It makes such a contrast to all the other carefully produced foods that we eat when we are here. I’ll have to ask more questions about this, and read some more to find out…

Reading List (5/9)

Oh hello September, “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”. Sorry, couldn’t help myself. Glorious crisp mornings. Frost. Changing leaf colours. This is my favourite time of year.

 

And appropriately, here is the first (of what will be many) lists of cookbooks that are coming out this autumn. Mostly I felt meh about this list, with a few notable exceptions (hello Modernist Bread, Mossimo Bottura, and Sweet by Ottolenghi and Goh).

A list of food studies journals.

Olia Hercules has a new cookbook out – Kaukasis. It looks beautiful.

On composting.

Feminist thrillers, with a contemplation on the roles of men/women in crime novels.

It is academic conference season. So this morning naturally I have read two different articles on the point of conferences, and the expense!

American diners.

Zero-waste supermarkets.

Finding your dream by reading Gourmet.

Ancestors.

Last week I attended a new community event: Walk Talk Notts. It is a group of people who gather on the last Wednesday of each month to walk and talk about things. It is generally sustainability related so last week we visited Hockley Homegrown. This husband/wife team grow a wide variety of unusual veggies right in the heart of the city. They work with local restaurants and cafes, as well as selling directly to people. The one garden site we visited was just lovely! (And super inspiring for ideas as I bring my allotment back from the wild!)

 

As I mentioned yesterday, in my 52 Weeks of Sourdough post, we visited Small Food Bakery on the weekend. While there, we ate their samples of pain au chocolat, all filled with different chocolates. (For the record SFB, my favourite was number 2!) They were delicious. And Green Haus had a pop-up shop in the bakery too so I may have purchased new house plants that are a delight.

 

Kitchen garden goals.

Really rather beautiful hotels, if money is no object. A girl can dream…

For Louisa, chicken-fried steak!!!

Nicole Krauss on her new book, Forest Dark. On my list of things to read.

Have a good week! x

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week 4

Sourdough babka! My goodness team. Who knew you could make something this delicious with sourdough? Okay, obviously you all knew. But I was ignorant. Totally unaware. Now I am converted. This might be dangerous.

Cross section sourdough babka

This weekend I decided to venture into the world of ‘other’ sourdough baking. Not because I feel I have mastered the sourdough loaf you understand, no no no. That is most definitely a work in progress. No, it was a desire to make a baked good. A sweet baked good. And what a bonus that you can make sweet baked goods with sourdough!

As it turns out, making sourdough babka, much like making sourdough bread, is a slow affair. Sloooowwwww. This is not something you can make in a few hours, when the craving hits. This takes time. Days, as it happens. There is a lot of down time while you wait for things to happen. You can go out and do things without risk of over-proofing, it takes that long.

I mixed the starter for the babka late on Saturday morning, at the same time as I was feeding my bread starter for the second time. The bread starter was then ready in 4 hours but the babka starter took a while longer. A long while longer. We went out, visited Small Food Bakery, bought wool at Knit Nottingham, made the bread dough and got to the bulk proofing stage before the babka starter was ready for use. But it did have fantastic webby bubbly goodness going on, so I forgave it…

Babka starter

I found the recipe on a blog online but it seemed very similar to that from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem, apart from the sourdough beginnings. Anyway, mixing the dough and letting that rise happened around many episodes of Season One of Doctor Foster. Have you watched that? My god. So traumatic. So good. So unable-to-stop-watching!

As per the instructions, and guidelines for babka everywhere, the dough went into the fridge overnight to make it work-able in the morning. (I do wonder how anyone figured all this technique out, don’t you? The dough is impossible at room temperature but quite fine once cold. Who first discovered this magic?)

On Sunday, we went to yin yoga. This was my first yoga class since knee surgery. There is nothing quite like a yoga class on a weekend day to make you feel virtuous (and therefore entirely deserving of babka). Once back home, I rolled out the cold dough, smeared it with the chocolate filling (and some milk chocolate chips for good measure), braided it, and left it for another slow rise. I put all my yeasty-baked goods to rise in the boiler cupboard where it is warm and cosy.

Sunday afternoon featured more Doctor Foster, some Bordertown, and (to make us feel like the world wasn’t ending/wasn’t an entirely terrible place) some Green Wing. We slow roasted a pork shoulder and made all the trimmings. Only once we were sitting down to eat, approximately 6 hours later, was the babka ready for the oven. From start to finish, this came close to an 18 hour affair.

But it was worth the wait. Once out of the oven, I soaked the babkas in a sugar syrup and left them covered to cool overnight. Breakfast this morning? Slices of babka with coffee. An excellent start to the week I’d say.

Sourdough babka

It is sourdough September chaps! So get on with all your sourdough baking now.