Tag Archives: Wheatsheaf Loaf

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.

Feeling Better Already

The foot still hurts, but I’m feeling a lot more cheerful and I’m actually starting to think again, even though it’s only a couple of hours from my last post. Julia says I’m also looking pink again after several days of looking grey.

While I was in the surgery this afternoon, despite having a book in my pocket, I just didn’t have the energy to read it. This is much more of an indicator of my wellbeing than a temperature measurement, because, as we saw earlier, I didn’t actually notice I had a temperature.

I’ve been missing my photography recently so I’ve decided to post a few of my favourite photos.

The featured image is one of the mice off a wheatsheaf loaf. I always liked making them, both the loaves and the mice. It’s actually very simple, though I never did get the knack of drying them out properly, so they had a tendency to curl up and go mouldy.

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Little and Large!

I couldn’t do without a picture of the Odd Couple. I haven’t been able to visit for a few weeks now, but I’ll be going as soon as I can walk.

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Nuthatch at Rufford Abbey

I like Nuthatches, and we had a good day at Rufford on this particular day. In fact we’ve never had a better day photographing birds in the woods at Rufford. However, I live in hope.

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Julia at Clumber Park

There are other subjects for photography apart from birds, wives for instance. This is a particularly fine example, and I would probably have starved to death if she hadn’t been here to look after me over the last few weeks.

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I forget the name of this one, but it’s quite impressive.

I’m going to miss the garden this year, it was so easy to pop out when the sun shone. Our own garden needs a bit of work after being ignored for years.

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Right place, right time

I may have to enhance the rainbow, but it’s still a favourite shot of mine.

More photographs in a day or two.

 

Worms, Cookery and Bread

For tea on Wednesday we had chicken, mushroom and bacon pie with tarragon. Yes, we’re in “tea” territory here, and even if we weren’t I spent my early years in Lancashire, so it will be “tea” wherever I go. On the side we had baked potato and sauteed kale. (It’s stir fried really but people always seem to call it sauteed). Of course, those people know how to access the French accents on their keyboard; I don’t and on my screen the word is underlined in red. We had a proper meal because we left work as early as we could and got home in time to do some proper cooking.

That’s what we’ve been missing recently, time.

We did a bit of easy cooking with the group -jam tarts using ready-made pastry and the jam we made on Tuesday from the blackberries we picked on ¬†Monday. It’s known as Any Berry Jam. I would include a link, but I can’t find it. I’ll try later. There was very little washing up and we had very little inclination to stay longer, so we went home, where I cooked again.

Joy.

Tonight, we will be having soup and a sandwich because we tested sausage rolls for the food blog. I am putting weight on in my capacity of pie tester.

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Quick blackberry jam tarts

It was a very pleasant day, and there were several butterflies on the wing as I drove down the lane. I snapped the two Red Admirals just behind the centre and the very tatty white on the verbena is by the polytunnel.

The marigolds are having one last hurrah, whilst the Cape Gooseberries (or physalis, ground cherries or Inca berries if you prefer) are still struggling to ripen. The ones that were left from the vicious attack last year are a little behind the ones we grew from seed.

The last wheatsheaf loaf broke. This year they all seem to have deformed as they dried out and have actually broken instead of cracking as they normally do. I think it may be because I should let the dough rest more before use.

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Sad fate for Wheatsheaf Loaf

The wormery is going well, though we will probably release them after tomorrow’s session. They have produced tunnels, they have dragged bits of grass down and they have even moved a paper triangle, though not as impressively as in Darwin’s original experiment. In their defence, my worms are smaller. ūüėČ

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Wormery, with paper triangle showing

 

 

The other end of the scale

Two days ago¬†we had five-year-olds, yesterday we had ninety-five-tear-olds. There isn’t necessarily a lot of difference between them at times, though the ¬†older age group is easier to handle as they speak more slowly and don’t run about so much.

They also have better stories.

On the minus side, we have to visit them and this month (for a session on harvesting) we had to work in the conservatory, which is hot and airless at the best of times. Fortunately it was overcast, but even so, I felt relieved to finish, particularly as one of the old ladies kept asking where she was (despite us stopping to tell her every couple of minutes) and nobody offered us a cup of tea. That’s right, nobody offered us a cup of tea. The country is going to the dogs. First we lose the Empire, then we lose our manners and the ability to pronounce certain letters (‘t’ and ‘th’ come to mind). Finally, our tea ceremony (though not so formal as some) seems to be extinct.

Fortunately the Empire has come here, and it has brought a vast array of curry houses with it, so not all change is bad. I’m also growing old, so I’m allowed to be bad mannered and I’m becoming too deaf to bother listening to the inane lisping of footballers and teenagers (did they say ‘four’ or ‘Thor’, you ask yourself?) However, you’re never too old to need tea.

That was actually meant to be a serious post about the joys of working with such diverse age groups, but I was thirsty and I’m never more than a few yards from a rant. (A bit like supposedly never being more than six feet from a rat, though with different spelling).

After the talk we passed the biscuits round. They liked the biscuits. I think they liked the biscuits more than the wheatsheaf loaves, the corn dollies and the fresh vegetables.

There must be a moral in the ability of biscuits to bring happiness.

Though, of course, you can’t attain full happiness unless they give you a cup of tea!

The Goat Escape (again)

First things first – we arrived today with a list of things to do, and the first thing we saw was a massed escape of goats. They had clearly been peckish, and if there’s one thing a goat likes it’s some nice twigs. Things weren’t helped when a flat battery allowed them to climb over the so-called electric fence.

They have much more character than sheep. It’s just a shame that they express this character in making such determined bids for freedom.

It was a busy day yesterday – another 100 salt dough shapes ready for Flintham Show, an improved Wheatsheaf loaf, and an element of panic as we realise there is not enough time. That, of course, is not unusual: there never is enough time.

As you can see, the poppies are coming along nicely, though they do take a lot more salt dough. For one thing, they are bigger than many of the shapes we use, and for another, they need to be thicker to pick up the detail.

The thickness isn’t a problem when you are making biscuits, but when you have to glue them to a stalk it can be tricky, as experience shows they can overbalance or pull themselves of the stalks. I’ve invested in better glue this time!

We had a look in the mobile bread oven and found it was full of cobwebs and a small barbecue.  Yes, it was a surprise to me too.

One thing we haven’t done is test the oven or dry any wood. That’s because the farmer doesn’t believe in planning and hates using wood to check things are working. Farmers hate spending money, even if, as in this case, it does grow on trees.

When it all goes wrong tomorrow it will be my fault.

Do you know how many colloquial expressions there are for “goes wrong” in the English language? More to the point, do you know how many of them are suitable for use in polite conversation?