Tag Archives: sourdough

On the second day

On the second day God created the sky: on my second day I supervised the making of 31 pizzas.

It’s quite clear from this that I’m slacking. On the other hand I do have arthritis, varicose veins and a tendency to need the toilet more than average, even for a man of my age. I’m well past my peak, and on a rapidly increasing downward slope which, like Gray’s paths of glory, lead but to the grave. Fortunately this middle-aged man bladder problem is cancelled out by standing with my back two feet away from four fan ovens blasting out air at 200 degrees C. It’s difficult to find any spare moisture when you are being desiccated.

But manage, I did, and the evidence was clear to see as splashes of sweat spotted the floor. I paint such a lovely picture of kitchen life don’t I?

By the end of the day I was reduced to opening the fridge door and standing next to it.

Here are some pictures, which are probably cute enough to drive my word picture from your mind. It was a great day with lots of sun and happy kids, and a great contrast to the pouring rain yesterday.

The dark stuff in the plastic tub is a sourdough starter – we looked at dried yeast, live yeast and sourdough starter (it was having a mild day, just a trifle vinegary, quite unlike some of the acetone/vinegar blasts you sometimes get). There were a few expressions of distaste, but nobody fainted. The yellow stuff in the other pot is home made butter.

Note the Florentine-type pizzas with nettles in place of spinach. I’m finally getting back to wild food.

Sourdough – the results

It’s a bit like one of those television talent shows isn’t it? Days after the main event – here are the results.

The difference lies in the talent of course – we do have some talented bakers amongst our members, as the pictures will show,  whereas the title “Britain’s Got Talent” is probably an offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 .

So far everything looks to have great texture and crumb, and is making my mouth water.

But enough of my ramblings – here are the results. What do you think?

Sourdough Days

In which the Bread Lady gets complicated…

It was sourdough today, but as it takes time there will be no pictures of delicious looking bread. Instead everyone poured the dough into brotforms and went home.

To me that’s a bit like a rugby match I once attended (Leicester Tigers v Bath in 2010). The score was 21 – 15. A drop goal and six penalties to five penalties. There is something immensely unsatisfactory about a game of rugby with no tries. It was raining too, and I had a group of  Under-14s with me. The game was televised and I’m told you could see me sitting in the rain in an open stand behind the goal looking more and more miserable every time someone scored.

Anyway, there were some dazzling skills on display today and a number of very competent breadmakers in attendance. If I tell you that the number of competent breadmakers didn’t quite equal the number of people attending I’m sure you will get the picture. We had every possible scenario from one batch that formed a crust as soon as the air got to it and another that looked like the perpetrator was pouring pancake batter.


Gail doesn’t usually betray much emotion in class, but even she looked incredulous at what Barry had done using just flour and water

Gail was at her best; she loves the science of breadmaking, and the more complicated it is the better she likes it. However, before I say too much I will pause and reflect that she had 15 people at her session where I only attracted three last time I filled in for her. People clearly like complication. (Also note that it has not been possible, despite trying for three years, to take a picture of Gail with her eyes open and her hands still.)

Fair enough, I suppose, if you really want simple bread you can jump in the car and buy a crap loaf from the supermarket.

I always recall a story of Ancient Egypt about the advent of leavened bread (we can tell they used yeast because you can see it in ancient bread remains if you use an electron microscope. (And they say that archaeology is dull!) Conjecture has it that yeast was introduced into bread when an Egyptian baker kneaded the bread with his feet whilst suffering from athlete’s foot.

It’s probably not true. In fact it’s almost certainly not true. However, when you taste sourdough bread it’s hard to stop that suspicion of truth entering your mind.

If you want to join the bread class check out the farm website. It’s great fun and I can recommend it for a good morning out with convivial company.

I will end there. My work is done, and I wonder how many of you will be able to eat sourdough without thinking of Egyptian feet from now on…




Sourdough Thursday

It’s a sourdough day on Thursday, and all the new starters (prepared after the last soda bread session) will be coming out for inspection. I have to admit that although I’m fascinated by the history of sourdough (and by the fact that various cultures can claim to trace their roots back to the California gold rush of 1849) I’m not a great fan of the bread.

Sorry if that’s heresy amongst bread makers, but it’s the truth. The flavour of a proper sourdough loaf is too intense for me and although I know there are good reasons for making sourdough, I can’t, in truth, be bothered with all the messing about when you can buy perfectly good tinned yeast from the supermarket.  As an aside, I do have a use for a starter, because I use it in my presentation for schools when we show them dried yeast, fresh yeast (often identified as chicken or cheese when I ask what they think it is) and a sourdough starter. I did it last week and, as it hadn’t been opened for a while, managed a very pungent experience for the visiting kids. There were definite smells of beer and vinegar with a particularly noticeable smell of nail varnish remover.

Talking of thoughts on bread flavour, we have done several bread tastings with schools using a variety of bought and home-baked bread. The favourite is always – white, spongy supermarket bread. I’ve even bought TESCO’s cheapest white sliced and it still beats the good stuff. Makes you wonder what you need to do to promote real bread doesn’t it?

The newly made starters won’t be as strong as mine yet (or the one pictured below), and definitely won’t be covered in black liquid yet, but it should still be an interesting session.

Just a short post to start the week, as it’s a busy week and I am supposed to be working.

Correction: Due to a change in plans Sourdough Thursday has been put back by a fortnight.


The Sourdough Session

The sun was shining, the temperature has once more returned to sanity and the venerable yogis in the centre were saying “om”. I don’t think they would object to the word venerable for although it contains overtones of age it is also a mark of respect. Anyway, some of them are quite old (one is over 90) and a number of them do have to sit down to do the exercises. That’s actually quite a worry for me as some of them, though 20 years my senior, are a great deal fitter and more supple.

In the distance goats bleat, birds sing and the the chirruping of the guinea fowl can, like the song of the biblical mourning dove, be heard throughout the land. At the kitchen a group of people have gathered to bake sourdough bread and eat pizza for lunch. To this end the outdoor oven is smoking gently and salads are in preparation.

This is the sort of day that you rarely experience, the sort of day that calls for the sound of leather on willow and John Betjeman talking of muffins on the Light Programme.

It’s a pleasure to come to work on a day like this and a temptation to post a “this is the view from my office window” picture on Twitter.

The group is baking sourdough today, and in the lull where they wait for it to rise they are going to make pizza and cook it in the outdoor oven. The Bread Lady is in charge today; so many people call her that now in recognition of her great bread-making knowledge that I have decided to go with the flow. In passing, I shall mention that I am known as the Fat Man these days, though in truth I have no special knowledge of lard or polyunsaturates.


Bread Lady and sidekick

That, at least, was the plan. The bread-making, as you can see from the pictures, was a success.


Air kneading


Cutting the dough


The finished article

So was the salad selection, including foraged green salad (though it may be slightly immodest of me to say so) and the salad dressings seemed to go down well too, particularly the blackcurrant vinegar. Expect more recipes to appear soon, and and a bit more in the Wild Food section.


Mallow, Fat Hen and Nasturtium with borage, flowers, chive blossom and daisy and marigold petals.

The pizza oven fell victim to the farm’s command structure and parsimonious attitude with regard to wood, which, I must point out, DOES grow on trees. Once again we were faced with inadequate temperatures and long cooking times (so long that most people gave up and cooked them in the oven).

Despite this it was an interesting session and as I said to the Bread Lady afterwards, it’s amazing how well the group has gelled and how far we have come in technique in just a few years. This is proved by the way that they have worked so hard to run the catering at the last two Open Farm Sundays. (Do you think the word “proved” could look a bit like  a weak pun in this context – it wasn’t intended).

She said: “You’re only saying that because they gave you free pizza.”

The words “Bread Lady” might convey the impression that she’s a softer, crumbly version of the “Iron Lady”, but as you can see, she still manages to be both tough and accurate.