Tag Archives: bread making

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.

 

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.

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.

 

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.

 

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week 6

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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.

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week 2

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So it turns out, fitting sourdough into a working week is hard! I left for London at midday on Saturday in order to stay with my sister before catching an early flight to Copenhagen on Sunday morning. So I thought I’d make bread on Friday, while I worked from home. The only problem was, I needed to leave the house at various points. I worked backwards from when I thought I would be able to bake the loaf in order to work out the timings. Even with my careful planning – getting up at 6am to feed the starter so I could mix the bread at 10am – I still ran into trouble. Well, not trouble exactly, but just unplanned refrigeration. I had intended to time my errands with the end of the turning process and the beginning of the bulk prove – this would give me 2.5 hours before I needed to bench rest and shape the dough. Once I’d actually thought about everything that needed to be done, I realised that this was totally unrealistic a timeframe. So I decided to slow down the proofing process by refrigerating the dough after turning.

Flour and grain

One of the reasons I went out was to attend a bread tasting at Small Food Bakery. This is something I would probably normally have skipped, but with this new sourdough project I decided to tag along. (I am really chuffed that this kind of thing is already happening in Week 2.)

The tasting was an opportunity for Small Food Bakery to show us their new breads, explain their processes, and to talk about different wheats and wheat farming in the UK. We tasted four different breads: the Radford Wild, the Heritage Wild, the YQ, and the Ey Up. Kim explained that this year, the bakery has focused on converting to using flours from farmers that they know – that is, they know where the flour they are using is grown, who it is milled by, and the farmers and millers who support their process. The different breads use flours from different places – so the Radford Wild uses Shipton Mill flour, whereas the Heritage Wild uses Gilchesters flour. (This is also what I used in my loaf this week!) Gilchester’s flour is milled on the farm and is from a wheat that is allowed to crossbreed in the field. Kim explained that it is a 75% extraction flour (that is, 75% of the wheat grain going into the milling process is extracted at the end) and is stoneground. This results in an oiler, darker flour that develops into a nuttier, browner-bread flavour than the Radford Wild.

 

The YQ is a fascinating wheat, and bread. The bread is 100% wholegrain with an unpredictable flavour. It starts off sweet and malty, but ends with a sharp sour note. The wheat was developed by Prof Martin Wolfe and you can hear Kim talking about the wheat, as well as more info on the wheat breeding process on this podcast.

The Ey Up is a bread so called because the grains in it – spelt and rye – are grown locally to Nottingham,  on a farm in Sutton Bonnington. The flours are milled at Green’s Windmill in Sneinton. The loaf is lighter than the YQ and the flour has a purple colour!

Kim explained that all her breads use sourdough starters. Using the wild yeasts present in sourdough starters allows bakers to ‘go slow’, and to approach baking differently than if you were using regular yeast. The slower ferment also makes for a more digestible loaf.

Kim also explained that you can feed your starter with the same flour that you intend to use in your baking. You can have a rye-based starter and a white flour-based starter in your fridge. This gives your initial dough a ‘boost’ as the yeasts feed off flour they’ve already adjusted to eating. This week was week two of using the Gilchesters flour, and I’d also fed the starter with it last week. Perhaps that plus the longer, slower ferment allowed for a better loaf? We shall see!

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Sourdough Bread making Course

A few weeks ago, before term started, I won a place (via Twitter) on a sourdough bread course. It was hosted by the wonderful Vanessa, of the Juniper and Rose Kitchen Garden School. The course was a 6 hour affair on all things sourdough. Vanessa explained about starters and levain, how to know by sight if the dough is ready and how to shape the sourdough into the perfect loaf. Vanessa had already made up a sourdough before we got there so we made pizza with it for lunch. We made up our own dough too, and after lunch, made various combinations of fillings – mine was pear and hazelnut –  for our loaves, which we baked and then got to take home with us (along with various other goodies, including Heritage Flour from Doves Farm and a sample of Pelia Olive Oil.) It was an inspiring way to spend a day and loads of fun. I’ve since made sourdough a few times and fed it to friends, who like it so much they’ve requested the recipe (always a good sign). This is a photo essay of the day and my later successes. I’m now addicted to sourdough pizza.

Sourdough Levain Cider Sourdough

Mixing Dough

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Making Pizza for LunchCheese

Pizza and Cheese

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