Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Community Baking # 3 - a celebration

Lovely afternoon spent baking!!

We had around 30 people to bake in Chilwell on Thursday which was a great way to end our stay there!  It was lovely to see so many regulars as well as a couple of newcomers also.  Nine adult bakers and five families with a total of eight children, plus my kids, my mum and musicians meant we had a full house!  The atmosphere was great J Thank you to Andy and Dave from Ain’t Misbehavin' for coming along again to give us some great music.  And regular baker Julian also brought his accordion so we had some Scottish tunes in line with it being Burn’s Night of course!

And so for the bread – we all baked Scottish Morning Rolls.  Each person had two trays with their cobs on so thank goodness for the big oven.  I think we did very well to identify whose bread was whose in the end! This recipe was quite simple with the liquid being half milk and half water it gave the bread a nice texture.  You could definitely tell the difference than when using just water.

Sadly this was the last bake at this venue.  I guess it was time to move on.  Christ Church have let us use the hall on and off for about 3 years at a very low rate.  So I am much indebted to them for this as it really has enabled me to launch this project.  All the trial and error of running the group, getting people there and getting them to come back again and again and also just me practicing my teaching skills!

Like I have always said, I am not really the teacher just the facilitator.  Many people who come to these baking afternoons bring with them a varied level of knowledge of baking bread and it is always great to swap ideas and get some little tips from each other.

It felt rather like a party atmosphere and I received some lovely gifts with thanks J  We had some fresh bread to taste with some delicious homemade jams brought by two bakers as well as Mary’s lovely Beeston honey.  Thank you!

We also had a go at churning our own butter from double cream.  It turned out surprisingly well in fact! What was left (the buttermilk ) I then used in soda bread over the weekend πŸ‘

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

How to colour your bread pink - Elderberry bread: an accidental success :)

At the end of summer I always have good intentions: go foraging and make all sorts of potions and jams and infusions etc. But sometimes they get forgotten and that is when it gets interesting.  I collected a load of elderberries to make a syrup just before it was too late.  Now, this syrup started off just fine but it got forgotten about and when I checked the bottle after a month or so I was in for a surprise.  I opened the air tight lid and it went bang!  It had actually started to ferment and was more like wine :)

Well a couple of weeks later I was baking a white yeasted loaf and really fancied doing something different and thought "let's add some of the elderberry mixture and give this bread some colour"!  It turned out to be an absolutely delicious loaf indeed and very pretty too!!  The sweetness really came through and made the crust lovely and chewy :)

I love to experiment with colours in bread.  Beetroot water is a really good one to add.  Basically you are using up what would be a waste product so it's a win win situation.  When you boil up beetroot the water that is left in the pan is soooo beautifully dark pink.  Just add this water while still warm to your flour, yeast and salt (substitute all the water if you have enough) and it looks gorgeous.  Great for baking with kids.  They just love kneading the pink dough.

It has to be said that once baked the colour does not show much in the loaf crumb.  It kind of disperses to the crust!  That's all for pink - I will have to find some other colours now! Quite fancy blue actually....

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

How to bake a No-Knead Loaf

A lot of people tell me they would love to make their own bread but just can't be bothered with kneading the dough (this could be due to time constraints or just that they don't want the mess in the kitchen. Others cannot knead the dough anyway for mobility reasons (arthiritis etc) so how do you make a tasty loaf with no kneading at all?  Lets find out.....

There are a few kinds of bread that are completely "no-knead".  I usually bake with natural yeast (sourdough) and have experimented on numerous occasions with a no-knead loaf.  The dough is usually very sloppy (almost like a batter) and you let it rise overnight, like other sourdoughs.  But I rarely follow a recipe so it can be hit and miss.  I also find the resulting crust to be rather chewy!

This morning though I stumbled upon an amazing recipe that requires no kneading at all and which only takes a minute to mix.  From the book "Making Bread At Home" by Christene Ingram & Jennie Shapter the recipe can also be found here It was a recipe that uses bakers yeast I was very pleased with the result indeed!

This ‘no-need-to-knead bread’ was adapted from a 1940s recipe by healthy-eating evangelist Doris Grant, who believed white flour – and its lack of nutrients – was the enemy. Making bread one day, Doris forgot to knead it. On tasting the loaf, she discovered it had a fair taste and decided never again to bother kneading her bread.

Now for many of us enthusiastic bakers, the kneading process is something that we really enjoy, relish even.  It can be quite therapeutic and even a chance for once to be in the moment (Mindful bread baking-post to follow soon) but as I have said above not everyone wants to do so or is able.  I must admit I can get a little impatient and often cut short the kneading time myself.

Give it a go anyway! You won't be disappointed.  Am actually thinking of doing this loaf at one of my sessions soon - got a sack of white flour to use up first though! :)

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Community Baking and Music # 2

Another great community baking afternoon - this time at The Diamond Centre in Kirkby-in-Ashfield.  We had 20 bakers - 7 adults and 13 children - who, luckily for me, did not arrive all at once!  We baked the usual yeasted loaf and had some great results!

Getting started

Just about ready to bake

The kids shaping their loaves

Of course it being Sourdough September and the point of holding these events I did bring some bubbling sourdough but in the end we just ran out of time!  That's really a topic for a whole 2 hour workshop. We did have some taster sourdough loaves from Spelt & Rye bakery down the road in Hucknall and a couple that I had baked too.

Sourdough  loaves to try
We were treated to a bit of classical guitar from one of our new bakers, Anthony, who was also a chef.  In his own words he had never before been able to make bread but today he triumphed!

Anthony with his plaited loaf

Thanks goes to Martin for also bringing us some great songs and fab folk guitar playing :)  It was lovely to have a sit down and social afterwards - and remember the origins of the word "Companian" - con pane from the Latin meaning literally "with bread" 🍞
Well done to all the bakers and here's to the next one!

I would just like to acknowledge the following who have helped with flour donations to help make these two fundraising events successful

 Shipton's Mill
for the huge sack of flour they donated


Nicola, Community Champion at Morrisons in Kirkby - also for the bread flour and the packets of seeds :)

Paul and Julie at The Diamond Centre made us so welcome and provided us with an amazing space - thank you  :)

Thanks also goes to Felix at Quiver Tree Baking 

All ready to bake
I ordered these cool dough scrapers for the event and he knocked off a lot of money and gave me free P&P.  If you ever need baking equipment look him up and he is local (Chesterfield)  Dough scrapers are an invaluable, if overlooked, tool for bread baking :)

The Real Bread Campaign has some brilliant info on sourdough I highly recommend them, being a longstanding member myself.  You can just sign up to their email newsletter for free but as a member there are lots of money off offers as well as a great bi-monthly magazine (we had photos in there of last year's Sourdough September event)

In all, from the two baking days, we raised nearly £80 for Women's Aid Integrated Services Nottingham - I really am so pleased with this.


Why Bake a Difference for WAIS?

£25… could help us take a call on our 24-hour Freephone Helpline and support a woman to get the help she needs*
£50… could provide food for a destitute woman and her children for a week, when no public funds are available

*For every call received, we make an average of seven outgoing calls to help each woman

Baking is a sociable activity

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Community Baking for Sourdough September # 1

Well so far we managed to get some flour.  Big thanks to Vic from The Secret Kitchen Newstead who kindly stepped in last minute with lots of bags of wholemeal bread flour (supermarket surplus).  I also had to take a trip to Green's Windmill in Nottingham on the Wednesday as I had a big panic that I may not end up having any flour at all!
Green's Windmill, Nottingham
As a charity themselves the Mill unfortunately could not help with donating any flour but I bought some for my stock anyway and they did a 10% discount.  This is one of my most favourite places in Nottingham - lots of history.  (blog post on this also coming soon)

On Thursday we had a brilliant community baking afternoon!  Young and old came together for the afternoon to bake bread.  We usually start from scratch and make a basic white loaf/cobs just because even though there is a wide range of experience and abilities, I always cater for complete beginners. Even those who have baked a lot before have said they just really enjoy baking with others, chatting and swapping ideas.  I pick up the odd tip too so it does benefit us all

The two youngest bakers there

Dave is becoming a pro!

While we waited for the dough to rise we enjoyed some great live music from Julian who played some Italian tunes on his accordion and then my very own sister brought her harp down.  There was even a bit of tinkling on the piano.


Ruth with her cobs before proving

We welcomed some regulars as well as some newbies which was great! As it was Sourdough September (and half of the reason for holding the event) I briefly explained the process of sourdough baking. But the very essence of sourdough baking is long-fermentation which obviously cannot be done in an afternoon.  So I brought a bowl of bubbling sourdough to demonstrate what to do next.

We also had some little sourdough starter kits that were available for a donation (we were collecting for Women's Aid) These were made up of a small amount of rye flour (in fact just the correct amount - 100g) and instructions to make your own sourdough starter over 4 days - using 25g each day.

Sourdough starters and reading table

Starter kits

Or people could just choose to take a jar of my starter home with them, also for a small donation.

I decided to give any donations from the bake to Women's Aid Nottingham (WAIS) for their Bake A Difference event running throughout September.  This is a very worthy local cause to Nottingham.

All in all we raised over £46.93 for Women's Aid on that day - Thanks so much to everyone who came!  Lets hope we can double it at next week's bake In Kirkby-in-Ashfield on the 30th September

We had a bit of a social, cup of tea/coffee while talking bread and in fact anything else that anyone wanted! Also had a lovely taster loaf donated by Tough Mary's Bakehouse

The top one is from Tough Mary.  The bottom one is mine.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Sourdough September - The latest

So we are approaching the two Community Baking days towards the end of the month and I'm busy preparing, publicising, making sure some great musicians come etc. Also I have been on the hunt to find donations of huge amounts of flour!

I usually ask for some money/donations to cover the cost of the flour but this time any money donated will be going to a very worthy local charity, Women's Aid Integrated Services (WAIS).  I found out rather last minute that they are also run an event in September called Bake A Difference and I have wanted to do some fundraising for them for ages - so what better opportunity.

So... if you can offer me some strong bread flour please get in touch asap!!
Showing much gratitude to you all πŸ‘Thank you

Accidental success with a little experiment - read about my elderberry bread in a blog coming soon......

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Sourdough September 2017


Well here we are again - Sourdough September - the annual event organised by the Real Bread Campaign to give us all an excuse to celebrate the wonders of Sourdough.  As mentioned in a previous blog my sourdough journey has been one of trail and error and amazement.  When I bake now I primarily make sourdough just because i πŸ’› wild yeast. And why?  It's free, it's natural, we know (roughly) where its from, it's not from somewhere far away, thus it's local, has no transport costs (lol), it's better for you than shop bought yeast, and it makes your bread not only rise but it tastes amazing too! 
Ok so let me explain a little about Sourdough for those who don't know.  You will have no doubt heard about it - it seems to be quite popular these days.  But even some of you experienced bakers who I have met at the community bakery days have been baffled by it.  It really is quite simple.

Basically if you mix flour and water together and leave it in a warm place - just on the side in your kitchen for example, eventually it will start to ferment.  This is because there are natural yeasts in the air around you, on your work surfaces (don't spray that anti-bac spray otherwise you kill it!), on your hands and moreover in the flour itself.

Mix flour with water and cover with a damp tea-towel.  Every day for the next 3 or 4 days add a little more flour and water and it will start to bubble and smell a little strange.  It is fermenting!  This way you can make your own sourdough 'starter' and use it to leaven your usual bread.  Of course it will turn out rather different than a normal yeasted loaf and the process will take considerably longer.  But it will be worth it I can tell you!  And it really is quite liberating knowing that if all the shops completely ran out of fast action yeast then you would still be able to make your own bread with your own 'homemade/homegrown' yeast!
The process isn't complicated although some of the books make it seem like it is.  I gave up following recipes and just went back to my roots when my good friend Melanie (from the Steiner school) showed me what to do.  She never measures anything and once you've done it a few times its quite easy to guage by eye how much water and flour to add (don't forget the salt!).

The most important thing not to forget (this is the way I do it and not everyone does-most bakers will have a larger amount of starter) is to save a small amount of the dough back for next time you bake.  Otherwise you will have to start from scratch making a starter again.  But you could always have a few spare starters stashed away in the fridge for such emergencies!

If this sounds interesting get yourself along to my next event for Sourdough September.....

Community Baking # 3 - a celebration

Lovely afternoon spent baking!! We had around 30 people to bake in Chilwell on Thursday which was a great way to end our stay there!   It...