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.

 

Reading List (24/10)

It is half term this week across many of my schools so I am spending my time working from home. It is lovely, particularly given the grey descent into November that is occurring outside as I write. It is so dark when I get up now, and the past two days the cloud has hung heavy outside my window.

Cake craving. Millionaires shortbread craving.

Dinner idea.

It is October which means pumpkin spice season is upon us.

I am not sure why but two carrot cakes caught my eye this week. It might be that the warming spices are appealing at this time of year? I am not even the biggest carrot cake fan but there you go. The first is from Serious Eats. I love the sound of the wholemeal flour and the brown butter! The second is from Food52 and has you blend the carrots smooth, resulting in a dense bundt-cake that looks amazing.

Photographs of tiny animals. Oh em gee.

A new exhibition at Stonehenge shows you what people brought to eat there. Researchers think some of this may have been as part of midwinter solstice celebrations. How fascinating! I shall have to plan a trip to see this.

A review of The Book of Dust. Philip Pullman answers reader questions. I am patiently awaiting payday to purchase my copy!

100 Must-Read books, according to the people at the Do Lectures. I’ve got one of these but many are on my list of things to read…

Apple day celebrations.

A guide for winter swimming.

A new book of photographs of Paul and Julia Child.

A review of the soon-to-be-published Modernist Bread.

On first sentences.

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week 9

I feel like this week was some sort of hump-week. I spent the weekend exhausted, wandering vaguely around the house, not really wanting to do anything but also not succeeding in doing nothing. I hit a slump I guess. On Saturday evening A- asked me about making bread. Wasn’t I supposed to be making some today, for this project? Yes, I sighed, but I can’t really bring myself to do it. Lifting my arms feels too hard today. Moving is hard. A- just smiled and encouraged me to try again on Sunday.

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So on Saturday evening I mixed together a starter and set it on top of our boiler overnight, just in case I could manage some mixing and folding come the morning. Then I remembered that I wanted to take my sister a loaf on Monday. And that was enough motivation to get me out of bed and folding dough. That and the yoga class I’ve found on Sunday mornings in the city, which is magical. Even better, I tried out my own proportions of flour, levain, water, and salt. This was based on what I’ve learnt in the last few weeks. Brilliantly, it worked! My own proportions!

So week 9 verdict: hooray! I am starting to understand something about the proportions of sourdough breads.

 

Reading List (17/10)

“When you are in the water you can think differently, because you feel the whole of the world in a way that you don’t when you’re outside. We’re held differently by the world and therefore we think differently.” I loved everything about this article.

Pestle and mortars.

Academic guilt.

I loved this portrait of Philip Pullman, about his upcoming Book of Dust.

This week I devoured Heartburn, by Nora Ephron. I really loved it because it is clearly the source of one of my favourite quotes (which I heard first in Julie and Julia). “What I love about cooking is that after a hard day, there is something comforting about the fact that if you melt butter and add flour and then hot stock, it will get thick! It’s a sure thing! It’s sure thing in a world where nothing is sure; it has a mathematical certainty in a world where those of us who long for some kind of certainty are forced to settle for crossword puzzles.” In Julie and Julia, she talks about whisking egg yolks into chocolate, and sugar and milk, while making pie, but really it amounts to the same thing. It is all about the comfort of routine in cooking.

I listened to I found my tribe. I urge you to read this book (or listen to it, as I did. It is read by the author). It tells the story of Ruth, who has a tribe of 5 children and a husband with Motor Neurone Disease. Her story of coping with her husband’s illness while raising her children is captivating, heartbreaking, and arresting. There is some wild sea swimming in cold Irish water for good measure too. This book will make you grateful for what you have.

For most of Sunday I listened to The Girls. I have been drawn into this novel, wanting to know how things will end (although you have a good idea from the beginning as it is based on the Manson murders ). But it is the dynamics between the girls, the way teenaged is represented, that is so fascinating.

I’m not even sure we should really know how to make this ourselves but oh well: how to make your own cookie butter.

Food critics at London’s newspapers.

I love the look of this cocktail, especially for Halloween.

That is all for this week! Have a good one y’ll. x

 

 

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week 8

Week 8 chaps! When I started this project I wasn’t sure I’d get quite this far along but already this practice (some might say habit) is taking hold.

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I got home from Stratford-upon-Avon late on Friday, having been there for most of the week. (I did get to see Coriolanus, which was awesome!) but I had also spent the week eating ready-meals in my tiny Airbnb, so I was totally up for spending some time in the kitchen. I started a levain on Friday night, and then got up early on Saturday to feed it. I went back to following instructions from Small Food Bakery, and also used their recipe for guidance. This week, I added poppy- and sesame seeds and I must say, I love this combination. I added enough that the seeds add both texture and flavour to the bread.

I baked the loaf on Sunday morning, and then had a dinner of leftover beef stew with slices of bread (smeared with butter obviously) to dip in. On Tuesday, I made myself a sandwich for lunch using the loaf. I get an immense feeling of satisfaction whenever I eat my loaves as part of my meal. I guess there is a little bit of pride in my work? Who knows. And look at the holes guys! Holes! In my bread! Eeeek.

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Verdict from Week 8? I am developing pride in my loaves. Who knows, maybe I will start to give them away soon!