Wednesday, 27 April 2011

In love with wild garlic

Have just returned from a fabulous Easter break. We spontaneously drove down to stay with family & friends on their farm in Totnes, Devon. Both Noel & I have been without internet, iphone, ipod and ipad connection and it was just perfect! We went for a beautiful, long walk through fields as far as the eye could see with borders of bluebells, buttercups, cowslip and fern. 
As we walked down to the river with the sun on our backs we found small clusters of wild garlic with their pretty little star-shaped white flowers. Deeper into the woodland and closer to the river it was a beautiful sight as a blanket of them covered the trail. Their long green, shiny leaves giving off a pungent smell of my most favourite ingredient. I was in my element. I clambered up and down the riverbank picking handfuls of the leaves and flowers and filling my handmade fern bag. We got back to the farm and had the most amazing pasta dish with wild garlic, cream & white wine sauce - simple but delicious and all the better for having foraged them ourselves, for free. The little flowers made a pretty, edible garnish to our salad too. I think I've found the good life !

Thursday, 7 April 2011

All fired up in the Welbeck Bake House

Welbeck Bake House Wood Fired Oven
This morning was very exciting indeed. Russell and myself were responsible for managing the wood fired oven during our Thursday baking class under the expert guidance of head baker Matt at The Welbeck Bakehouse. It was back to basics as we used traditional methods to achieve the wonderful bottom-baked bread from this stunning brick oven.
Loading the furnace with wood
we collected. Lit first time:-)
unlike my fire at home!
It was a roaring fire in seconds. Continuous stoking and
replenishing of wood essential to keep the heat rising
The fire pushed up through the flume and out the
cast iron cap above to heat the oven.
We had to ensure we rotated this
in order to keep an even heat throughout the oven.
Using the laser probe we were able to point directly onto
the oven surface to measure the heat level.
An immense heat of 400 degrees!
Once we had achieved the desired oven temperature we
stopped stoking the oven and let the flames die down and
the oven settle. We then prepared the baskets for the mixing team.
Final prove before baking. Oven now at
around 280 degrees
The fun bit began. The peels were extremely long
to be able to reach right at the back of the oven.
There is definitely a skill to it. Matt described it as
a bit like playing snooker - keep your eye on where
you want to place the loaf and fire it in with one
swift gentle movement. Easier said...!
Loaves took on average between 20-25 minutes
to bake, however you had to keep your eye on
the hot spots and rotate the loaves if necessary
to avoid the crust going too dark. Its a fine line and
quite subjective, but generally, the consumer
likes a golden crust.
Chill out time!
Enjoying the sun and some of our baked goodies.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The Bagel - boiled & baked NY style

Real boiled & baked bagels
There is a lot written on the history of the bagel but no-one seems to be 100% sure where it originated. It seems the most likely place was Poland in the 16th century. Popular with the Jewish communities, because they could prepare the dough on the Sabbath and bake off quickly the following day. As large Jewish communities settled in New York City and Chicago, there soon became an increasingly popular demand for bagels and by the 1960s the bagel bakery business went massive producing huge volumes with automated production for deli's and bakeries across the US. 
The New York bagel uses salt and malt and is lowered into boiling salt water until it becomes puffy and then is finally baked off in a standard oven until the crust turns a golden brown. 
The bagel is a popular breakfast snack as its relatively low in fat compared to a doughnut or sweet pastry, its filling and its easy to eat with no mess. There are now a huge variety of flavours available so we tried out a few of our own today. These are easy to make at home and are absolutely bagelicious!

Basic bagel ingredients
Strong white flour 500g
Salt 10g
Sugar 20g
Butter 25g
Fresh Yeast 5g (or you could use 50% sourdough - 250g)
Water +/-200g
Egg (lightly beaten)
Boiling mixture = 1000g water / 1tsp salt
Egg wash
Toppings: sesame / poppy /pumpkin seeds

1) Mix the dry ingredients and set aside
2) Dissolve the yeast into the water, then add the egg
3) Pour in the dry mixture and combine
4) Knead every 10 minutes for 10 seconds
5) Leave for 1hour to rest (you can prepare the boiling pan of water in this time)
6) Scale into 10 portions (76g each) and roll into a tight ball
7) To make bagel shape, press finger into centre of ball and then twirl on your finger so the middle expands. 
8) Place on tray with baking paper and drop each one into boiling water until they become puffed up (flip them over a couple of times) should take around 5-10 minutes.
9) Egg wash, add topping (seed or plain) and bake in pre-heated oven of 250 and turn down to 200. Pour a cup of water onto a tray in the bottom of the oven to create steam during baking. Bake for around 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
10) Bagels are baked when you can hear a hollow sound as you tap the bottom of them. Cool on a wire wrack & enjoy with some cream cheese, peanut butter, chocolate spread or anything else you desire.

We also made sultana versions by tweaking the above recipe and replacing some white with 100g wholemeal flour, then 2g cinnamon, 50g sultanas and topping them with cinnamon sugar.
Bagelicious !

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Sourdough - a natural starter

David's amazing olive & seeded sourdough
We have been busy in the bakery making a variety of enriched sourdoughs and perfecting flavour combinations with fruit, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices and olives - I absolutely love olives, always have since a very early age and so the olive and mixed herb was most definitely my favourite!

Anyone can make sourdough, you just need to create a starter culture. This natural bread making process is an age old tradition when there was no commercial yeast available. People would make their bread this way and often use the foamy top from the brewing process to get them started. 
A starter culture contains just flour and water. By mixing flour and water together and keeping it at ambient temperature over a period of 3-5 days, fermentation occurs where the natural yeasts and bacteria present in the flour multiply to form a natural rising agent that replaces commercial yeast, aerates the bread and gives it that 'tangy' flavour. You can tell when its ready to use as you will see the bubbles present as it becomes active. 
an active bubbly sourdough

Lactic acid bacteria (Lactobacilli) are the dominant micro-organism in sourdough that given warmth and regular refresh of water and flour give benefits of; better digestibility, fuller flavour, longer keeping qualities & nutritional value.

tomato sourdough
with onion & celery
The selection of sourdough breads we made today looked amazing! They were perfectly saleable and we were all very proud of our creations. I could just imagine serving platters of sourdough varieties matched together with the perfect cheese and wine partner. The bakery would be full of speciality breads from around the world, beautifully presented - like wine you could sample & select with tasting notes scribed on a chalk board to help you decide.

7-seeded with oat topping
Whilst beetroot was the most talked about the top 5 favourites were:
1) Olive & mixed herb 
2) Hazelnut & currants
3) Fig & walnut with star anise
Beetroot & fennel seeds
4) Tomato with celery & onion seed
5) Potato (roasted)
Hazelnut & currants

Monday, 4 April 2011

Pink Bubblegum bread

Bulk ferment for approx 1 hour
Prove for approx 2-3 hours
Of course its not, but it sounds more attractive than Beetroot bread - it could be the next big craze !
Except, remarkably the dough doesn't stay this colour. The baking process must absorb the moisture of the beetroot juice, as the colour returns to the inside of a regular white sourdough loaf. The only pink left after baking is from the beetroot pieces. 
I was dubious as to how this would taste, but actually I really liked it. It was fab with some tomato pesto and I imagine it would be even better with some crumbly goats cheese & a glass of Chablis.

Beetroot sourdough
Strong white flour 2500g
Salt 50g
Coarsley grated fresh beetroot (used magimix to shred) 1200g
Water +/- 1500g
White sourdough ('going like a boeing' as Emmanuel says) 1750g
Olive Oil 75g

1) We bulk fermented the dough for approx 1 hour with 3 x 20 min turns and a sprinkle of flour as the dough was quite wet from the beetroot.
2) We shaped and moulded into tins (as was still quite a wet dough) 
3) We left to prove for just over 2.3 hours (sourdough can be left longer to prove than commercially yeasted)
4) Baked for 35 minutes in the tins (at approx 28 mins I took them out of their tins and put them back in to finish off)
5) We baked them in the Miele domestic ovens (always brilliant!)

Friday, 1 April 2011

BBC Radio Nottingham - Artisan students talk Real Bread on the Frances Finn show

We were invited onto the Frances Finn show at BBC radio Nottingham this morning, where David and I (both bakery students at The School of Artisan Food) were asked to talk about real bread.
See link to the show - you will need to move the cursor to begin our slot at 0:47:31 and ending at 0:1:13

The key topics that came up were;
1) The supermarkets getting into hot water about selling defrosted/baked off bread as freshly baked
2) Carbohydrate count means dieters say ‘no’ to bread due to bloating
3) Why does it take so long and why does it take a year to learn how to make bread?
4) Challenge for craft bakers (2%market) versus the plant bakers (90%)

1)      Supermarkets are selling bread as fresh when actually it has been part-baked and then frozen for months before being defrosted, baked off and sold – without the consumers knowing any different. EU legislation is due to come into play to enforce supermarkets to label those products that have been defrosted for sale. The Sunday Times and The Telegraph both covered this story: What’s your view?

2)      We explained that there is evidence to show that long fermentation and particularly the sourdough variety breaks down the gluten and allows the body to digest the bread much easier. The entire bread making process is shortened to gain scale and margins and so from starting on the production line to finishing, the loaf only takes 3hrs– without a bakers hand actually touching it! See my Hovis blog:

3)      The starter culture for sourdough or ‘mother’ as some call it takes around a week to get started but this can then be replenished every time you want to bake and can be kept for years and years. Hobbs house make their signature spelt sourdough with starter that originated over 40 years ago! We also explained that you need to understand the chemical reactions that are happening at each stage so that you gain the best crust and the perfect crumb depending on the loaf you are making. As David so eloquently put it – We think its magical but its not magical to make.

4)      It is a massive challenge for craft bakers to spend time to produce a real loaf when the supermarkets have eroded the value to mere pence! I believe it is a question of priority and getting more people in our communities to try real bread. Hence why we are investing time and money into this course to learn the forgotten skills that we plan to pass on to others. We also talked value for money with an artisan loaf. There is such wastage spent on BOGOF deals and loaves of fresh air that it makes much more economical sense to pay a little more for an artisan loaf that has been lovingly prepared the traditional way with no 'Improvers'. Improvers are added to the ingredients in plant bakeries so that the dough accommodates the machine and process rather than the other way round. 

We would have loved to talk more, but there was only so much air time !