Category Archives: Baking

These are the Scones

Yes, they don’t look like scones, but they are.

The original recipe for these came from the Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) and seemed to be just the sort of recipe I was looking for, as it included some teaching points and was an easy recipe for a class to do.

I can’t find the original recipe on the internet as I can’t get a working link to the HGCA, but this link seems to have the same recipe as I remember it. I have a vague feeling that the HGCA recipe might have had mustard powder in it to accentuate the taste of the cheese.

And I probably used self-raising flour because it’s easier than using baking powder.

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Seeds, flour, cheese – at one time I had aspirations to write a book on food

They use rapeseed oil instead of butter, which makes it a quicker and easier recipe, and allows discussion of oilseed rape as a crop, the perils of monoculture, EU grants (at the time), self-sufficiency in food production and plant breeding. It’s also sold as vegetable oil in supermarkets as the word rape isn’t seen as being particularly positive from a marketing point of view, and Canola oil in the USA. IT also makes it easier to make if you have arthritic fingers. I was just starting to develop arthritis in the final year on the farm and my fingers would ache after a long baking session.

The recipe, with seeds and cheese is quite pleasant and always went down well. I used to cook them for the group when we were on the farm because everyone likes to tear off a warm scone. From a practical point of view it is easier to do them this way than to use a cutter as a scone cutter won’t cut seeds and things get a bit messy. If you go for a rustic tear and share look nobody notices that they are messy.

With a different selection of seeds

With a different selection of seeds

I have used the recipe to make successful fruit scones and developed the recipe for date and Stilton scones. It’s a bit fiddly because you have to cut the dates into smaller pieces and crumble the Stilton, but it worked quite well. Initially I halved the quantity of cheese when using Stilton, because it’s a strong tasting cheese. That strength of flavour doesn’t really come through in a scone and we ended up going back to using the full amount.

Before batching - Date and Stilton Scones

Before batching – Date and Stilton Scones

I seem to have used flax seed in the mix. I don’t honestly remember doing that but the camera doesn’t lie. It also seems that I cut the narrow end of the cheese off for cookery, which is frowned on. You are supposed to cut it along the length of the wedge so that everyone gets a bit of the outer edge and a bit of the central part of the cheese, which is supposedly riper than the outer edge. .

Despite this, I remember that they tasted good and that I thought this was the start of me becoming a cook and food blogger. In hindsight, life can be very cruel.

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Date and Stilton scone with at least one pumpkin seed in it.

If I can get any flour I’m feeling inspired to make these again.

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Yes, a single pumpkin seed. Worrying. It suggests I didn’t clean the bowl properly between mixes.

The plates were part of a set my mother got as a promotional offer from Boots. She didn’t use them much and passed them on to us. We didn’t use them much and passed them on the the farm. I once put one in the microwave – the silver line around the rim produced some alarming sparks. At that point I remembered my mother telling me not to use them in the microwave. I didn’t forget again.

Baking brings back a lot of memories.

Some Photos from the Archives

I had a look through a few old photos on an SD card last night. I’m having to use one of the cameras as a card reader now the reader on the computer is bust. None of my plug in card readers work because they never seem to last long. It’s very frustrating.

The first ones are a few photos from the days when I used to cook wheatsheaf loaves at harvest time. The farmer’s mother used to like to take one to church for the harvest festival and we used to display them at the local show. They aren’t particularly artistic, and nothing like as good as one produced by a professional, but it does show what you can do with dough and patience.

I’ve shown these before, so sorry about the repetition, but it’s a nice reminder of the days when we could get flour.

This is a pair I made using leftover pizza dough. They were about eight inches high and we handed them round to visiting school parties until they fell apart. I’m told that if you dry them properly whilst baking you can make a loaf that will last for years. I never found that, mine always seemed to crack and fall apart. It may have been the way I constructed them as they seemed to fracture along fault lines as if there was an internal problem. One did last a couple of years but these small ones, like the larger ones, lasted a couple of months before the faults developed. It’s long enough – as harvest ends and autumn begins everyone wants to move on to apple juice and jam.

These are a couple of mice from different loaves. You make an egg shaped piece of dough, poke two eyes in the sharp end, make two scissor snips for ears and then stick it on the stalks before applying a tail. It’s actually what you are judged on.

Nobody remarks on the 30 stalks you laboriously roll out, or the 100 ears of wheat (and the hundreds of snips you make to give them texture) – they just want to point at the mouse.

It’s like peering at the Mona Lisa for ten minutes before saying ‘Nice frame.’

Wheatsheaf Loaf (with mouse)

Wheatsheaf Loaf (with mouse)

I can’t remember the exact instructions, but you make a dough with less yeast than usual and divide it into three. One third becomes the base, which is a keyhole shaped piece of flat dough you use as a base – it’s important to get that in the right proportion if the finished loaf is to look right – it took me several goes to get this right. One third becomes the ears and one third becomes stalks and extras.

Do the stalks and position them, do the ears. A piece of dough about the size of the top finger joint will be OK – give it a few snips for texture and that’s a good enough impression of an ear of wheat – nobody ever criticised. Make a decent width of plait to act as the binding – it also serves to cover the raggedy join between stalks and ears.

Then finish off with a mouse. The previous tedious hour of shaping and snipping means nothing if the mouse isn’t right.

Glaze it, remembering not to clog the detail, bake it, try to dry it out as much as possible then cool it and stand back to receive compliments from people who don’t really understand how simple it is.

Remember that although the traditional ones were often two or three feet long that is because they were made by commercial bakers with big ovens – in a domestic oven you can do one about eighteen inches high.

If you feel inspired to try one, here are some better instructions.

Tomorrow I have some pictures of scones.

Gingerbread and Vitriol

I could start with my normal Saturday opening – “After dropping Julia off at work…” but I’m feeling like doing something a little different today. Same goes for the photos of the Mencap garden yesterday morning. They are OK but I’m just feeling like something more is needed. (As the post developed, not quite in the direction I intended, it became a little negative. It developed naturally, as I wrote, and I decided to let it stand. Not quite sure if it’s too negative or too personal. Let me know if you have any views on the tone.)

And that is why I am showing you pictures of cookie cutters.

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Novelty Cookie Cutters

I’m torn here. I love alliteration and I am committed to resisting American English. In the case of cookie cutters I feel as if continents are colliding in my head. I really don’t want to say “Cookie Cutter” but some irresistibly force makes me do it. There is no natural alternative – Biscuit Bodgers just isn’t going to do it. I’ll try Biscuit Cutters and see if that works.

I found the cutters recently whilst decluttering. They had disappeared without being used during one of the chaotic times on the farm. We made a lot of gingerbread with the group and these cutters (with six different designs) seemed a good idea.

The problem was that after the introduction of the Farmer’s Sister into the mix everything went wrong. It started with her telling me “we’re all on the same team” which is a management shorthand way of indicating we weren’t all on the same team. Then it progressed to her shouting at me because she said I thought she was stupid because I had a degree and she didn’t.

All I had done was proof read something I’d been asked to proof read and send her the corrections. It seems that this was wrong – I should have sandwiched the suggested changes between telling her how good she was, how valued she was and how hard-working she was.

There’s a vulgar term for this, but rather than expose my gentle readers to it I’ll post a link to it for those of you who are interested.

The truth is, I don’t have a degree.

I also, at that time, didn’t think she was stupid. I just thought that she had made a mistake that needed correcting. She had used a word wrongly. I can’t recall what it was, but it was something like uninterested/disinterested. It’s no big deal. I have to think hard when using affect/effect. Getting something like that wrong doesn’t make you stupid. If someone had corrected me on it I’d have thanked them and looked it up to learn the lesson fully.

No, what made her stupid, for I did eventually have to admit she was stupid, was her refusal to learn or improve.

We were stupid too – we should have realised that it was time to move.

However, that all belongs to another story, and stupidity was probably the least vile of her personality traits.

After the team comment, and the shouting, she started a turf war, and kept moving out stuff. We had to start moving it back home every time we used it, and eventually, things got lost in the confusion. That’s how the cutters became lost.

Other things disappeared and turned up in bins or dismantled in the workshop. Like over-sized children the Farmer and his sister knew nothing of how they got there. She took down the group’s art work and binned it. She once needed a book for kitchen use, so she took the garden diary book off the shelf, tore our notes out and took the book away.

Sorry, but it just seemed the appropriate time for this to be mentioned, and once I started, I thought I would finish.

Anyway, back to biscuits. I found the cutters. I will make some biscuits.

Here, to provide a happy ending, are some previous biscuits (and some peppermint creams.

 

The Bread Group – A Retrospective

The Bread Group was originally set up in 2012 when we did a school holiday project with parents and children. One of the parents asked about us doing similar things in the future and Julia decided to set a group up so local people could get together and learn to bake together.

Gail arrived shortly after and under her leadership the group went from strength to strength, proving to be popular both for social, baking and health reasons. The group was the driving force behind our successful run of Open Farm Sunday events, and also helped make our one and only Winterfest a great success. That proved to be a problem.

The first winter event, organised by the farmer’s sister and with me as a disappointing  Santa, attracted 11 children and made a loss. The next one, with Julia on crafts and Gail on catering, and with a less grumpy Santa, attracted hundreds of people and made about £600. Things looked set for an annual event, with craft fair and profit, but by the time we were ready to plan for the next one the writing was already on the wall.

Cynics might say many things at this point, but this is meant to be a celebration of bread and friendship, and that’s how I’m going to leave it, with a selection of pictures and memories of bread, Christmas curries and the group’s visit to India.

Thanks are due to Gail and all members of the group for cheering the place up on a regular basis and for all their hard work in helping run the centre events over the years.

Sadly, although the kitchen extension is now complete, they have not been invited back and it looks like the group has now passed into history.

The days of wine and roses, they are not long…

 

 

Random Act of Kindness

Our new neighbours just brought some home-made muffins round. It’s the nicest and most surprising thing that’s happened to me for years. In fact, in years to come this may be be recorded as the moment that a miserable cynic regained his faith in human nature.

There are two flavours – lemon and poppyseed and lemon drizzle. I like lemon and poppyseed, but let’s face it, lemon drizzle is the peak of perfection.

So, unexpected cake and excellent flavour choices – what a day!

I’m hoping this is the start of a new phase in my life.

 

 

Flatbreads and gladrags

Today was the traditional Bread Group Christmas Curry – with plenty of flatbreads and a selrction of gladrags.. I think four years qualifies for being a tradition…

I didn’t take many photos. When you have curry to eat and people to see the photos come second.

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Christmas Cakes

Today I made a special trip to the farm to wrap the Christmas cakes once they had cooled thoroughly. It proved to be worth it, as I saw the heron again and took some better shots.

I then took more bird photos of varying quality, answered emails, wasted my life looking things up on the internet and entertained two visitors. Even if you add in the housework, Cash and Carry trip and tonight’s cooking it still doesn’t seem much work for a day.

I keep saying I will prepare in advance and write a list of jobs, but I never do. This must change.

Meanwhile, here are some photos. One is of the cakes and the other of a heron in flight. It’s tricky taking a flying bird with no viewfinder.

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Flying heron

Ciabatta

Today, it was ciabatta day for the bread group on the farm, and as I’ve missed a few sessions I thought I’d have a look in.

It’s a tricky dough to work with, and thus has a high potential for comedy. This is particularly true by the time it has had olives, rosemary or sun-dried tomatoes worked into it. The latter are particularly problematic because they can, in the hands of a novice, produce a loaf that looks like the result of a splenectomy.

Things have changed a lot since the early days,when the results were a bit hit and miss and often ended up on the bird table. These days we have a group of quietly determined bakers producing loaves which generally look like the pictures in books, so that we hardly ever have to use the words rustic or artisan. (If you aren’t familiar with the terms artisan denotes that the loaf looks hand made. Rustic means it looks like it’s been hand made by someone using a shovel.) Fortunately they still aren’t perfect, and I am grateful for that, as it makes things more interesting.

 

As you can see, ciabatta is open to a number of interpretations, including the rosemary shadow effect – I might try that next time I bake.

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Ciabatta with the shadow of rosemary

The Remains of the Day

We’ve just been Rainbowed. It sounds delightful doesn’t it, like strewing rose petals, sipping sherbet or riding to work on a pink unicorn.

OK, maybe not pink, but you get the picture.

In reality it’s more like a whirlwind of activity, a lot of high-pitched squeaking (some of which only bats can hear) and a large number of biscuits.

I’m not good on biscuits, and the recipe was one we’d never tried before because we had to find an egg free recipe (due to allergies) which used the rest of the ingredients we already had. Then, due to the lack of anything suitable for zesting lemons (shared kitchens are like the Bermuda triangle for shared utensils, I always find) I set to and spent half an hour paring the yellow outer skin from lemons and chopping it small. And chopping it smaller…

It all went reasonably well, though 15 out of 16 opted for vanilla flavouring instead of real lemons. I will be making lemonade tomorrow. The girls seemed happy, the leaders seemed happy and even Julia is happy. I just wish I’d remembered that offering a choice of flavours to kids is a bad idea and that you have to tell them to share equally even though you think it is obvious. I know all this, I just wasn’t firing on all cylinders.

Pictures are of my poppy seed and lemon biscuits. They were plain lemon but after using the poppy-shaped cutter I thought, why not use poppy seeds. The first lot were sprinkled on top and rolled in because I only though about them after I’d rolled the dough out. The rest were incorporated in the mix as I squished (yes, it’s a technical biscuit-making term) the dough and rolled it again. That’s why they look different.

So, once again, we have provided a good time for a group and nobody has spotted I don’t know what I’m doing. That’s not a bad way to wrap up the day.

 

Theft, rain and Rainbows

I arrived at the farm on Saturday after dropping Julia at work, to find that the pink bale pigs guarding the entrance to the centre.

A couple of hours later I found someone leaving one of the polytunnels with a handful of tomatoes and chillies, all bright red and bursting with ripeness. I could have let it pass, but when you see the results of your year’s labour disappearing with someone else it’s difficult to stay silent. I was, however tactful.

It seems she had gone for a look round (people seem to treat it as a tourist destination) and found three tomatoes and two chillies on the floor. It was tempting to ask her if I could visit her house and purloin anything that was lying on the floor, but I didn’t. It was tempting to express scepticism, but I didn’t do that either. This turned out to be a good thing, as a quick survey of the polytunnel revealed that someone had indeed stripped the plants of all the ripe tomatoes and chillies.

It’s not the first time we’ve suffered losses, but it’s the first time someone has gone in and stripped a polytunnel. Well, they left the courgettes, marrows and cape Gooseberries, but they stripped everything red.

It’s annoying, but I have a plan. Actually I have two, but Julia won’t let me inject laxatives into things…

The group has been seeing to the poultry today, a some needed moving out into a larger pen, and found the smallest egg we’ve had so far. They have also picked anything else that is  nearly ripe in the garden, done the composting and helped prepare for the Rainbows who are coming tonight. We are now planning what to do on Wednesday – it’s a good activity for a cold, rainy afternoon, as it makes Wednesday more productive and keeps everyone dry and warm.

 

I’ve made a replacement for the Wheatsheaf Loaf that broke at the Flintham show. I have to have one for the church at the weekend and need one for our visit to the Care Home tomorrow so I daren’t not have a back-up. As a bonus I made two small ones, which we can leave at the home tomorrow. The pair of them took me less than an hour to make, whereas the big ones are still taking nearly two hours despite my efforts to speed it up.

The only trouble with the small ones is that the mice are really tricky!