What does every baker need?

Yes, that’s right. An oven, preferably one that works!  I had such plans for this week but my oven had other ideas.  Currently waiting on the landlord to repair (prefereably replace with an Aga but that’s just me dreaming again) the said appliance so I’ve been breadless for the past few days *insert sympathetic comments here*

So what can I do with all this spare starter that I carefully remove before feeding the remainder? Make pikelets of course!  Do you remember them, those soft fluffy uneven circles of Sunday teatime happiness?  A cross between a crumpet and a drop scone, these little treats are easy to make and even easier to eat … (yes, the diet will have to start again soon)

2014-03-20 12.30.48I poured off 300g of my starter and to that I added 3 tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp baking powder and a splash of milk.  Whisk it all up and it starts to bubble straight away.  I put a little vegetable oil in my frying pan and was able to fit 3 spoonfuls of mixture in at a time.  The pikelets are ready to flip when they look like this …

2014-03-20 12.34.00How did I eat them?  We had them with a little bit of butter dreamily melting into the holes and drizzled with copious amounts of maple syrup (me) or honey (my daughter).  You have to ensure that you have enough butter and syrup on them so you end up with a buttery sticky mess dribbling down your chin 🙂

2014-03-20 12.49.00

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I cleaned my starter jar the other day too, it doesn’t matter that it gets gunky and a bit dry around the top of the jar but it irritates my very very mild baking OCD.  It made it easy for me to be able to show the best point to feed your starter.  This photo shows you how the starter looks just after feeding with fresh flour and water …2014-03-20 14.35.13You can then watch the starter bubble and rise in the jar … it’s quite fascinating really (yes, I’m becoming a bread geek. You don’t need to tell me, I already know). When the starter has finished feasting it will slump back down and look like this ~ 2014-03-21 13.28.11See how the level has dropped back down? This is when you know it is time to remove half and reresh with more flour and water.  You can use the starter you’ve removed for your recipe, use it to start another batch of starter,throw it away or make pikelets, pancakes, bacon, maple syrup, butter, cream.  Oops, went off on a little foodie daydream there!

Tomorrow I’m planning a day of juicing and experimenting with flavours.  I shall let you know how I got on.

Work it, baby!

doughfaceI wasn’t going to bake today, but I needed to throw some dough around! Look, you can even push a face into it then knead the living daylights out of it if you so wish 😉

This is a part wholemeal loaf, 150g wholemeal flour and 225g white flour added to the 250g starter, 1 tsp salt and enough tepid water to make a soft dough.  It’s slowly rising over night, and will be ready to bake in time for tea tomorrow.

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I’ve been a bad starter mummy recently, I’ve busy with my sewing and forgot to feed the starter with fresh flour and water … a couple of days of neglect left it looking like this – DSC_1085 DSC_1086The liquid you can see is called hooch, a slightly alcoholic by-product from the natural yeasts.  It’s not a problem – don’t throw your starter away!  You can either stir it in or pour it off, then remove half the starter and refresh as usual. Within an hour and a half of refreshing my starter was back to its happy, bubbly self.

(Ok, I stirred mine back in but I have since read that it is better to pour off the hooch as it can make your starter taste bitter … I’ll let you know if it has once the loaf is baked.  As it wasn’t a huge amount of hooch I don’t expect it to have made a difference to the taste.)

Hooch was also a very sweet alcoholic lemonade that I used to drink as a student in the mid-90’s …….

DSC_1087DSC_1088I’ll blog more tomorrow, I may even write a longer entry.

You can’t rush it …

Well, I was all set to show you amazing pictures of a gorgeous seeded loaf today … but as you can see, no pictures.

It was a beautiful dough, I added 2 tablespoons each of raw sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, and 1 tablespoon of raw golden linseed. I kneaded it with the love and attention it deserved, sang along to The Levellers as I pushed and pulled until it was glossy and stretchy. Even disregarded my phone and Facebook for the whole 15 minutes I was manipulating the soft dough into something an artisan baker would be proud of.

I put the dough into an oiled bowl, covered it with clingfilm and left it to prove in the kitchen as usual. Oh, but then … the sun dared show its pretty face and I had a brainwave.  What if I move the dough from the kitchen into my sunny sewing room to speed up the proving? A grand idea you may think … perhaps not.

My beautiful ball of softness had tripled in size, I even gloated to my friend and sent him a photo of the gloriously risen dough. How the smug can fall … I knocked back the dough and shaped it ready to go in the loaf tin, my brain told me that it would be a great idea to leave it in the sunny sewing room again whilst I was on the school run and did a little bit of food shopping.  I came back to a gloppy, sticky mess dribbling over the edges of the loaf tin.  Not to be deterred, I baked it anyway.  It sunk. My heart sunk. My loaf wasn’t happy, he was sad because I’d rushed him into being instead of slowly allowing him to rise at his own pace.

Still tasted good though, a fine crumb texture albeit a little doughy but with a delicious crunchy crust.

I learnt today that you can’t rush things.  They don’t happen when rushed.  Just as you can’t rush a loaf to rise, you can’t rush a person to heal if they’ve been hurt.  Everything has it’s own time, be patient.  Appreciate those smaller things that you often disregard.  Take life at your pace and don’t worry that you are not moving with the crowd.

Tomorrow I will bake again, slowly and with care.

 

Dangerous Ingredients

Are these the most dangerous ingredients you can find in the kitchen? Migraine inducing, tooth achingly sweet, waistline expanding total yumminess!

dangerousingredients

Today I was in need of a chocolate hug and this chocolate fridge cake (recipe here) certainly gives you that. No cooking required apart from melting the chocolate so you get the satisfaction of preparing something delicious without all the faff (and the washing up!) … the hardest part is waiting for it to set in the fridge!

chocfridgecake

I’ve been making this for years, sometimes I add raisins and sultanas.  You could add a splash of rum or similar to the chocolate mix but not too much or you’ll end up with sloppy biscuits. How about some coconut? I’ve even added a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter before … this gives a softer, slightly velvet texture to the finished cake (I left out the cherries for this version).

I’d love to know if you try it, and whether you make any different additions.  I just thought, how about leaving out the marshmallows and cherries but replacing them with fudge chunks! Mmhmm 🙂

It’s a short post from me today, Monday has been a busy day and now I must sleep so that I can wake up tomorrow and be the kind of woman that the devil is scared of!

 

Can I have another one … ?

brownies

They taste like heaven!

I couldn’t ask for better endorsement for my new brownie recipe, could I? Brownies are our celebration cake, what the children ask for at birthdays instead of a traditional cake.  Today we were celebrating my 10 year olds success with her school in a recent dance competition 🙂  These are gluten free, sticky, chewy and downright naughty!  You can find my recipe here.

fougassepre

I made a rosemary and olive fougasse and a couple of chocolate orange loaves using the sourdough starter.  We had the fougasse with minestrone soup for tea, it went down a treat.  I can safely say however, that olives are not all of my children’s favourite food!

The fougasse rose beautifully, it was deliciously fluffy and light … nothing like my first ever sourdough loaf which was tough enough to be used as a house brick! The olives add a juicy saltiness that worked well with the soup.  I added 1tsp finely chopped rosemary to the dough mix, next time I’ll add 2 tsp as I wanted a more fragrant loaf.

Food brings people together … ‘the family that eats together, stays together’.

fougassebrokenfougassebaked

This is the chocolate orange loaf, it’s tasty but the orange flavour isn’t pronounced enough so more tweaking is required.  I’ll post the recipe when I’ve perfected the flavour.  Going to try some different orange extract next time and it’s an excuse to order from one of my favourite places, Lakeland Limited!chocorangeToday I was asked why I bake when I’m so busy raising my four children on my own and running a small business.  It’s not a question that has a simple answer.  Baking gives me time to put those errant thoughts in my head straight. Kneading bread dough for 10-15 minutes gives me the time to reflect, work out what is important, to let go of and accept those things that I can’t change no matter how much I want to change them. Yes, it would be easier to buy bakery foods from the supermarket and I’m not a slave to the sourdough (we still have plastic bread for school lunches) but  I wouldn’t get the satisfaction and the calm within me if I didn’t bake. It’s a sense of achievement.

An experiment

I’ve already got a very active starter bubbling away in my kitchen, made using the flour/water/grapes method and wanted to get another going to show you how it develops.  I noticed that there were instructions for a starter on the back of the flour packet so I thought I’d give that one a go to see how it compares.

starter2My current starter took about 4 days to be ready for baking with, this one suggests up to 7 days.  It’s a simple method … just 70g of flour and 70 ml of water mixed until it looks like beige gloppy stuff.  Each day you add a bit more flour and water until it starts to bubble and smell yeasty.  I’ll keep you updated with my new babies progress!

starterday1Tomorrow I’ll be making a chocolate orange loaf, and I’ll be sure to share the recipe 🙂

From flour and water…

… to the backbone of family feasting.

 

Sourdough Diaries

Baking is magic.  Real, tangible magic.  Take some simple ingredients, mix them together, add some heat and you have (hopefully – we all have disasters) something that looks great, tastes amazing and satisfies your soul on numerous levels.

I bake when I’m happy, I bake when I’m sad.  Baking and creating is my Prozac! I don’t often eat much of the finished food, it is the process that delights me, although given a plate of warm chocolate brownies I will disappear for a while …

Most recently I’ve discovered sourdough.  From 3 initial ingredients you can end up with a never ending variety of savoury and sweet breads, cakes and pancakes.  I started using Paul Hollywood’s recipes and they have been a brilliant success with my family of 4 hungry children.  Tomorrow I will get a new starter going so you can how it develops and becomes the most magical kitchen ingredient I’ve found.