Tag Archives: bread

Sunday Morning Catch Up

I haven’t been particularly fluent in the last week and I’ve missed a few things out.

The anti-coagulant blood test came and went. They managed to get the blood first time and the next appointment is in two weeks time so things are back on track. I’m hoping to extend the interval so I only need monthly tests. I know someone who has quarterly tests, which would be even better.

We went to the farm on Friday, as I mentioned and found that Evie the sheep dog had died at the weekend. The general view is that she had eaten poison, though I’m not sure where she would have found any as all the rat poison round the place is put out properly in bait boxes. It’s not the best run farm but they do get that right.

She was bred to herd sheep, and as I mentioned when she first arrived she immediately tried to herd the Quercus group, but she was never properly trained and I’m not sure if she had a fulfilled life or not. She didn’t seem overly happy at times, which is a shame.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The new puppy

The men in sheds were saying how good my bread was on Friday. This isn’t linked to any proper measure of quality, they just used to like getting free bread when I was practising and made too much. I said I didn’t bake these days as the kneading plays havoc with my arthritis. Next thing I knew I was being offered healing.

I’m not much of one for faith healing and that sort of thing, and was prepared to feel no benefit, but can’t say that was the case. There may have been some improvement for a couple of days, but it might just be wishful thinking. The jury is out, but I’m certainly not going to dismiss it. The improvement may show more about my imagination than about my arthritis, but even an imaginary improvement is worth having.

Then on Saturday I met a paranormal investigator. You’ll have to come back later for details, as I need to get down to the launderette now. Suffice to say that if I had doubts about healing…

 

Eleven Photos and the Benefits of Blogging

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Teasels in flower

The main picture shows some teasel in flower. They have gone over a bit but you can still see some of the bluish flowers. I thought I’d include the picture after showing the mature ones earlier on this week.

 

The fungus is growing out of one of the raised beds in the Mencap garden and the mooring ring is from the quay at Burleigh pottery in Stoke.  I spotted the blue butterfly on a visit to Men in Sheds in the summer and the bear was in a field near Scarborough advertising a music event. The dragonfly was pictured on our trip to Rutland Water, but I don’t seem to have identified it on the photo and can’t find the reference. I think it’s a Common Darter if I  remember correctly – I only see common things.

 

The bird with the bandit mask is another Nuthatch and the Swan was cruising down the river at the back of the National Arboretum last year. The mouse is from a harvest loaf we cooked on the farm and the remaining two photos are also from the farm – a Mint Moth (there were dozens about in the herb garden) and a poppy with chamomile.

They all bring back memories, and without blogging I wouldn’t have restarted with the photography – another thing I like about blogging!

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…

 

 

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ciabatta with the shadow of rosemary

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!

 

Wheatsheaf loaves

We make these every year for harvest. You can’t eat them but they look decorative and they are always in demand for harvest festivals. Fortunately, when they are dried out they last a long time so you can use the same one for several different events.

Traditionally loaves were baked for Lammas on 1st August, when the first wheat is harvested, but modern farming techniques and a change in the calendar mean that we no longer harvest on 1st August. The Lammas loaves were just plain loaves, as far as we can tell, but over the years this wheatsheaf loaf design has become established as a Harvest Festival standard.

This one took just under two hours from start to finish (apart from the five hours drying in the oven) but I sure it can be done quicker if you concentrate.

First make your dough.

This is from the Doves Farm website, though there are plenty of other versions.

Ingredients

500g strong white bread flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp sugar

1tsp quick acting yeast

300ml water (which is also 300g, just to make it easier)

1 egg (to glaze)

Method
1) Mix together flour, salt yeast and sugar in a bowl
2) Add most of the water water and mix into rough dough
3) Knead on work surface until smooth
I’ll take over again now, as I don’t need a recipe to do the next bit.
First, divide the dough into three parts.
Stretch one part out on a baking tray and then trim to a mushroom shape. Keep the offcuts.
These recipes nearly always seem to be formulated to make a loaf the size of a baking tray. This one only just gives you enough dough, as I will mention later. As you can see from the photo I stretched the dough too thin and needed to patch it. I think this was partly because the quantities are marginal for this size of project and partly because I used a mix of leftover flour, including some whole wheat, and the dough wasn’t as soft as it could have been. (That’s bakerspeak for “I didn’t knead it enough”).
Roll out approximately 30 stalks and lay them on the base. I covered mine in 28 then added another layer on most of the top (and a third layer in the middle) to give a 3D effect. I’m not sure if it is necessary, and with this recipe I might do fewer stalks next time to ensure I have enough dough.
Next start making sausage shapes. The recipe says to cut the dough ball into 3 and make 20 shapes from each of the thirds. I did it by eye and reckon I did about 80. Another recipe I read says to use 100. Make sure you lay the outer ring to protrude past the base and give a more natural effect.
Don’t snip the ears to make the grain detail yet. If you do you will lay a lot of it flat when you glaze.
Using the offcuts, make a mouse and something to bind the sheaf. I normally use a plait.
Glaze, using the egg, but be careful not to let it pool in the lower parts of the design as it looks unsightly. Also, try to avoid overflowing onto the tray as it will make it tricky to get the loaf off the tray.
Cut the ears in the mouse and the detail into the ears of wheat at this point (put the eyes in the mouse using the scissor points).
Bake for 25 minutes at 200°C/Fan180°C/400°F/Gas 6 for 25 minutes
Dry by baking for a further 5 hours at about 100 degrees.
Once cool, it can be varnished, though I’ve never actually done it myself.

 

 

Phew! (Incubator Diaries part 4)

I’m in the centre, preparing to close up and pick Julia up from work. It’s been a quiet day and I  have done a reasonable amount of work, albeit of an unpaid nature.

The main part fo the day has been spent in researching historic bread recipes, and after five hours of reading the internet I’m left with the impression that although a few things may have changed (such as better yeast, electric ovens and more refined flour) bread is basically the same as it was 1,000 years ago. White bread, brown bread, rye bread. I suppose we don’t have to eat peas, beans and acorns but apart from that I’m not sure there’s much difference.

If I want to bake some historic breads I’m going to have to turn to spices rather than making plain loaves, or maybe run up the outdoor oven. It probably isn’t worth the effort as you can get that outdoor oven finish by baking it at high temperature and throwing some ash at it as a finishing touch.

Meanwhile, when I haven’t been thinking of bread I’ve been looking into the incubator.

Three of the eggs have now pipped and there’s a weedy chirping sound emerging from the machine.

This is a long way from the end result I’m hoping for, but it’s a start. At least I know some of them have developed properly.

I’m resisting the temptation to help nature along by peeling some shell off as I’m sure it’s better for chicks to do it themselves.

I’ll take a picture or two before I go and load them when I get home.

Fingers crossed!