Category Archives: Baking

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.