Saturday, 22 April 2017

My life in Baking by Clive Mellum

 My latest book arrived a couple of days ago.....yes another book on bread making.  One can really learn by going 'back to basics'.....I also used my new thermapen to get the temperatures right, and saw for myself that there is absolutely no need to have any sugar to activate dried yeast and get it working well...a completely new lesson for me gleaned from this book.

Last night  I made the Sponge.   Today, I had my very own Basic Workshop, all on my own!  However I could hear Clive's voice speak from the pages.  The book is written like no other 'Book of Recipes'. His wisdom shines out and I am touched by his generosity in sharing all his tips.  When I revisit some of my other favourite authors I am sure that they will have explained some similar processes...but Clive Mellum has helped me understand the importance of timings and what happens to the flour during the various stages of bread, scone and pastry making.

I've baked bread for nearly forty years on and off...learning so much from friends and good books.  I used to visit Shipton Mill regularly to collect flour, and Mr S and I were also invited to visit the mill and shown around by John Compton the Miller.  I never went to one of their 'free' workshops, now one has to pay.   Having bought and read Clive's Book, I feel that I can have as many 'free workshops' that I care to.  I must admit I have only had a quick fly through, and will need to revisit with pen and notepad to made notes.

I made the Skilly Wash...when I first read this when I was very tired...yes still a problem not sleeping...I thought it said silly wash, and I really wondered how silly could this wash be.  It is made up of scalded corn flour...just how could this give a good finish to a loaf?  I was so silly to doubt this.  I made up half the quantity...1 teaspoon of cornflour and 125g boiling water, which is now stashed in the fridge for the next baking session.

Here is the result from flour, water, yeast and salt only!  I've just noticed the poppy seeds, which really are well stuck using the Skilly Wash!

Those pale bloaty things are the puffiest pittas I have ever made!  They are soft, with the largest of pockets and very very tasty.  I am so very pleased to have found a book which no doubt will take my baking to a very satisfactory level.  I cannot wait to try his no shrink pastry...but I just wonder if there is any room for improvement in my scones...we shall see.

Today also saw me baking a couple of sour dough loaves: Do good Loaves from Perfecting Sourdough by Jane Mason.  I applied some of the wisdom imparted by Clive, and I must admit that the shaping and final bake is an improvement of my previous attempt.  There was no splitting around the base and I got a better rise.

Harridge Woods

Having visited these Woods earlier in the week on my first wild flower foray in Somerset, with a group of ladies,  I took Mr S on a little adventure.

We managed to cover far more of the woods and came across the Keeper's Cottage which now is 'home' to many species of roosting bats. We were pleased that we had taken our mountain walking sticks as part of the walks had been damaged during the tree felling, sending us down steep and sometimes rocky paths.

The walk along Home Wood with its little stream and large outcrops of rock were well worth it.  Along the stream were remains of various bits of machinery and evidence that the stream had powered machinery.  

The pretty Wych Elms had just set their winged fruits called samaras.  Despite being Easter Monday afternoon, it was very peaceful and we only came across two small groups.

On my first visit I had not been prepared with note book or camera, which I shall certainly take on my next trip. On the second visit I also did not make a note of all the flowers...but I can remember Solomon's Seal, Wild Garlic nearly blocking everything else in some parts, bluebells, wood anemone, celandines, water avens, many ferns, and beautiful small green opposite leaved golden saxifrage, primroses, violets, dog's mercury, and the barren strawberry.  These were also some attractive trees, some of which had been stoggled...coppiced at about waist height, apparently to prevent the roaming pigs from eating the new growth.  How true that is I don't know.  They were rather ancient with some middles hollow and covered in thick layers of moss through which several species of fern were growing.