Bread Pain Pane Brood Brot Aran

Bread Pain Pane Brood Brot Aran
Anster whey bread

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

A sensible baking stone

Pizza stones are good for baking bread on but since they are usually round it's difficult to fit a couple of wee loaves on. Lakeland now sell this rectangular stone which is working well for me. 

It is not very thick so no great reservoir of heat but it is porous and so absorbs moisture from the bottom of the loaf. Also it doesn't weigh a ton!
At 41x36 cms the stone just fits my oven. Cost £15 so if it endures this is a bargain.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Wet, wet, wet picnic

 So this is where the phrase "it was no picnic" came from!
It was wet at Crarae Gardens on Sunday, wet but wonderful. Big drops of water managed to find their way through the sequoia canopy down into our cocoa but it still tasted great. We enjoyed our stand up picnic of pirozhkis and olive breadsticks left over from Saturday's Picnic baking class but sadly the roast veg stuffed bloomer was long gone.
 There were some plants blooming but the garden needs a week's sunshine and warmth to be spectacular. The gorge certainly had a good flow of water.
The rhododendron and eucalyptus barks below looked magical with water streaming off them and the buds, blooms and lichens covering everything give the place a fairytale look.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

My trip round flour mills ...
Sorry but all the images from this post are lost thanks to a google tripwire - I'll get them back eventually.

My tour round flour mills in late July should have been to four but there were some unexpected problems at Gilchesters in Northumberland so it became three, Little Salkeld in Cumbria, Shipton Mill in Gloucestershire and Bacheldre in Montgomery. 

"Just a minute, I'll move the goat."  was the greeting I got when I was trying to park at Little Salkeld. I headed in for coffee and bread, four different kinds made on the premises from their own flour, heaven! My first taste of Little Salkeld water mill near Penrith. It is delightful to visit even if you haven't the slightest interest in flour especially if you turn up on a glorious day like I did.

There are two old grinding stones leaning against the mill wall. The Roman stone below is part of a display of grinding stones at Chesters on Hadrian's Wall. Although they are separated by nearly 2000 years not much has changed. 

Another  now/then comparison - right, modern stones at Little Salkeld used for hand grinding, left the Roman equivalent found on Hadrian's wall. 
Note that the handle on the modern stones has broken off but the Roman handle is still intact. When I explained to the miller how the roman handle was attached he said "Oh, right. I'll give that a go."

Most of the wheat used at Bacheldre is British, supplemented if I remember rightly with wheat from Kazakhstan to reach the desired protein level. This is the flour which was for while in Wallace and Grommet packaging. The mill is small but the output is enough for Matt Scott (opposite left) to sell via Amazon, offering superb wholemeal bread flour and interesting stuff like smoked malt flour.
This ancient & modern approach could be the way forward for mills nearer home - small site, few staff but high volumes of quality flour.
Matt described a Lamas day harvest where the farmer had cut the first wheat, brought it to the mill where it was ground, then baked, all in the same day, and eaten too I expect.

Shipton Mill has two mills, one old water mill which  I didn't visit where they produce stoneground flours, and a modern factory where there was nothing to see. However a baking class given by Clive Mellum who has been baking bread for around 50 years (he started young) was really the highlight of the trip. I was much too busy to take pictures.

A thoroughly enjoyable trip, lots of bread eaten and lots of new ideas to try out. Now next year …..

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The National Loaf revisited

With austerity in the air (austerity and Christmas??) there have been several mentions in food blogs recently of ration book cooking including "The National Loaf". Introduced in 1942 the national loaf, made from wholemeal flour, was introduced to combat shortages of white flour. @serialcrafter issued a gentle challenge "Go on, you can knock one up in no time."

How would it taste, what would it cost, how easy would it be to make?
To cut to the chase this loaf made with only wholemeal flour tasted excellent, quite farmyardy if you know what I mean, and it wasn't heavy. By the way, the hand holding the Nutella laden knife is son Patrick, not me.

Using the recipe on the blog link above I made a 1lb tinned loaf and a 2lb cob  - the tinned loaf lasted about 30 minutes, just this photo remains.

So what about the cost? 
£1 exactly for my two loaves, including electricity for the oven. Per 100g this works out at 7p compared with a Hovis loaf at Tesco for 17p per 100g!! (OK, I gave my labour for free.)

And the work  and time involved? 
Well it took 2.5 hours from thinking about it to the first bite however only 30 minutes of this was work, split into 22 minutes initially then a 6 minute spell and a quick 2 minutes. 

The cost per loaf drops further if you fill the oven, probably to around 6p per 100g. The overall time and work time involved stay the same though you do have to work harder with a larger lump of dough!

There are ways to improve the flavour and digestibility of breads which take more time but these don't involve more labour, just a bit of planning. 

So go for it. 22 minutes gets you a wonderful flavoursome healthy loaf.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Extreme Kneading

So what happened next?

You can see where the dough is meant to go, but unless you are an incurable optimist  you have two choices, floor or ceiling. I promised J. I wouldn't tell but I'll give you a clue: f****.

Compared to which Grandpa below is playing very safe by doing a bit of air kneading - keeps the worktop clean but it goes for your shoulders after a bit. Only possible with small amounts of soft dough, however it is a good way to appreciate the changes which take place as you knead.
Thanks to Jacqueline for the images.

Thursday, 1 November 2012


I love the contributions people bring to bread baking classes from other backgrounds not directly related to food, for instance the physiotherapists with invaluable advice on stress free effortless kneading, or the doctor who was happy for us to add any amount of salt to our bread dough but warned us to avoid all processed foods because of the salts they may contain.

This time it's a potter's view of bread baking. Understandably, warm dough is more inviting to knead than cold clay and my own bread kneading owes a lot to pottery classes at Edinburgh Art College in the 70s, but there was more to come.

We were making plaits for 5 strand challah bread when Jo, who is a pottery teacher, said that she asks people to roll out clay sausages with their eyes closed. This means you learn to feel what is happening to the clay/dough through touch rather than reacting belatedly to the mess your eyes show you. And it works!

We had the neatest platted loafs on record with the potter's plat being the best of course.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

A tale of three physiotherapists

Over the last three weeks we have had the good fortune to have three physiotherapists attend baking classes here at BreadinFife, not as a group,  just alongside others.
As far as I remember everyone made good bread in these classes, but it was at the kneading stage that things got interesting.
To start at the end, the third physio said I should unlock my knees in order to be better grounded and more in balance. This I now do which makes it easier to move my weight into the kneading.

Physio no 2 gave advice which I find harder to follow. She said that I should use my core strength which seems to involve sucking my navel in to my spine, difficult with them being a fair distance apart. This probably needs a return visit or perhaps physio no 4 will come along to tell me exactly where my core strengths (if any) lie. 

No 1 physio listened to my advice on kneading, watched what I did, then happily did her own thing which we will come to in a moment. Now, I normally knead by pushing the heel of my right hand into the dough to stretch it directly away from me across the bench before flipping it back with a twist of my fingers ready to begin the cycle again and occasionally I swap hands to give my right hand a rest.

Ph1 said I was putting undue strain on one side of my body was also using my arm rather than my body weight to do the kneading. Her evolving method, based on the butterfly massage technique, is to alternate pushing diagonally across from centre to left with the right hand with diagonally across from centre to right with the left hand. Are you still with me?  There is also a bit of a rock from side to side to get body weight rather than arm muscles to do the work. 

And it works brilliantly. Well kneaded dough with much less effort. Where before I might take little breaks to clean dough (unnecessarily) from my hands now I just knead for 10 or 15 minutes continuously. It probably won't work with very wet doughs but does ok up to 5 kilos.

Ph1 has the surname Boyes so there you have it, The Boyes Own Butterfly Kneading Method. You will know when you have got it right. In place of the usual fairy ring on the worktop after kneading, guess what, it leaves a heart. 

Now let's begin! Unlock your knees, think of your core strength (?), and ... right arm in and to the left, pull back, left arm in and to the right, pull back, right arm in and to the left ..........

Saturday, 14 April 2012

... leave in a warm place till doubled in size

Recipe books assume that we all have an airing cupboard or somewhere similar to tend our bread dough but in modern(ish) houses finding this warm spot is a problem. The top of our inefficient old central heating boiler was ideal for dough but when it finally broke down towards the end of January I lost my "warm place". Thank goodness it was Jan 2012 not Jan 2011! With no new boiler for a couple of weeks I had to find somewhere else.

This sunny windowsill worked well, but in Freuchie in January probably not a reliable option. Photo is The Synergy Centre in May last year.

The hob above a warm oven proved a bit hard to control and not big enough for a baking class 

However we do have a friendly wood burning stove in the kitchen which we surrounded with bowls of dough. The good thing about this was that we could watch what was happening very easily but adding logs to the fire was a hassle and resulted in the odd bit of wood ash in the dough. Also if the area round the stove was hot enough for the dough then the kitchen got tropical!
The arrival of a splendid efficient new boiler would fix all that, wouldn't it? Well, no. The problem is the efficiency bit. The new boiler is better insulated and so doesn't lose enough heat to keep the dough warm.
The next solution was to turn all the radiators in the house off except one in a small room off the kitchen which then worked as a warm area for dough. This was successful but probably doubled the cost of the bread.

Enter the plant propagator. We got this in the local garden centre for under £20 (just) then added a 200 watt heat lamp intended to keep lizards cosy which you can just see at the bottom (lamp not lizard). This works well though at first the bottom of metal trays or bread tins got too hot. The solution to that was two ceramic floor tiles on the shelf above the lamp to even out the heat. So I'm happy, for the moment ...

Friday, 14 October 2011

A bread calendar

Bread is around all the time like tatties, milk and bananas, but it also has a seasonality which we should celebrate. The delight at seeing the first swallow of the year comes alongside the first sighting of hot cross buns. Having everything in its season heightens the pleasure when that time finally comes around. With that in mind here is a bread calendar starting with blackbun and shortie which abound round here in January. Shortbread is still bread? 

In February we made snowdrop breadsticks at Falkland Stables workshops. Not traditional (yet) but the snowdrops were certainly seasonal. Once Lent is over and you can get wired into eggs, butter and sugar, pancakes seem like an excellent idea, just a squeeze of lemon juice and pass the golden syrup. I'm not exactly sure when Shrove Tuesday is, but pancakes every Tuesday in February should cover it.
In March I meant to try a simple Simnel cake made with yeast not bicarb/eggs but it didn't happen. Originally these very fruity cakes were baked for their mothers by girls in service when they returned home during lent. In April my Hot Cross Buns did arrive, minus the crosses to start with but still edible. We had fun with a batch or two of hot noughts and crosses buns but my wife told me not to play with my food. Maybe you can just make out the noughts and crosses on the slate in the photo on the right.

Selkirk Bannock head - which month do you want to go in? Oh, don't worry about me, I'll go anywhere, May if you must. I get eaten all the time. Now about my left arm ....

June might have been barbecue weather occasionally but I think this damper bread was finished off in the oven, sorry.

Summer fruits on, not in bread in July. What would life be like without jam!

Lammas fair in August was originally "Loaf mass" to celebrate the first grain harvest. In my head at least, the rolls I baked for the Fife Diet Broomhill Summer barbecue were Lammas breads though with the poor summer, well in advance of any wheat harvest.
In September our wee plum tree excelled itself yet again though there was less fruit than last year due to pruning, enough for loads of jam but this year we missed out on plum cake. Big mistake. It keeps well, sometimes almost till the next day. 

This October I would like to try apple loaves and also potato bread using a recipe from the Bourke Street bread book; not mashed potatoes as you might use in tattie scones but big chunks baked into the bread. Then in November maybe chestnut bread though probably using supermarket chestnuts. Chestnut flour is more expensive than gold dust so maybe just a touch for flavour.

In December Yule is the celebration of the winter solstice, the perfect time for this Danish yeasted Yule cake. To follow that what could be better than home made Stollen for Christmas day. Freshly baked stollen is so succulent compared to shop bought, it is a real revelation. I enjoyed making/eating both these at the end of last year.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Millers' Tales
Excerpt from an article in The Real Bread Campaign's True Loaf:
"Dan (Lepard) encouraged bakers to work with millers to select a type of flour suitable for the bread they planned to make. He also suggested that bakers explore the properties of flours from traditional mills ... ... exploring how the flour reacts - how it takes up water and how the gluten develops. From this, they should consider ... ... using these properties to decide what type of bread to bake, rather than trying to force a flour to produce a predetermined loaf for which it isn't suited."
Makes sense. Even as home bakers we can adopt this approach, albeit less scientifically in order to use flours from nearer home. So lets see what Gilchesters and Blair Atholl mills have to offer instead of flour blended with Canadian or Russian wheat from other millers favoured by us foodies.