Friday, 12 May 2017

Seeing Swans and Cygnets

I've watched this pair of swans build their nest via the Bishop's Palace Webcam....I saw tourists photographing the famous family during the day, when I popped into the gardens....and when we went for a late evening amble around the City,mainly to admire the facade of Catherdral, bathed in evening sunlight, we were the only ones at the late evening outing before it was time for them to clamber back into their nest.

If you want to see really good pictures of birds...then I would recommend you visit my friend's blog.  After an OU course in photography, her pictures of birds have been giving me great pleasure

Durum Sourdough Rye again, also made into Lardy Cake

We needed another loaf today, and fancied one based on the rye mother.  I have made the Durum Rye before last year, just before we moved.

No Durum flour left but used strong bread flour, as suggested by Jane Mason...I scaled up the ingredient to give just over 1Kg dough, but reducing the malt syrup to just a teaspoon and butter to 10g.  I portioned 700g for a long banneton, and kept the remainder to play at making a lardy cake.

When Lizzie was here we bought a small piece of lardy cake, which we sliced up to brought back memories.  I remember my son enjoying visiting the two village bakers after school during the hollow leg years, and delighting in getting his hands on these.  I have just tried to check them out..but the 'village' which we lived in has now been swallowed by Swindon, and there is a Baker's Court and A Baker's Arms Inn...but I find no mention of the Bakers which have long since closed.  Even my little grand daughter has made Lardy Cake for her daddy.  I am ashamed to say that this is the first time I have baked lardy cake.  I had thought them previously too fatty!

Of course the base dough is not the one given in Clive Mellum's book, but as it was the dough of the day, I followed the recipe for the ingredients and the method which I read about for the first time this morning.

With 30 lard for what we will divide into 6 portions...5 grams is less fat than I would spread if I put butter on a slice of bread!  When I started to mix the filling, it was easier to just get in with my warm hand and blend the 100g raisins, with 60 soft brown sugar, 30g lard, and 25g of my finely chopped home made mixed peel, which I keep in the freezer, and 2g of mixed spice.  I shaped this into a block and made the laminations.  The dough went into a paper lined tin which I had spread with a fine layer of lard and an extra fine sprinkle of brown sugar.  When it came out of the oven, I left it a few minutes, until the juices had been reabsorbed into the dough, then turned it out to continue to cool on a rack.

New Plants

One of my greatest sources of pleasure is gardening and plants....The garden is dry, the lawn worn almost to terre battue, or an unbaked clay slab on account of having piles of rubble piled on it during the excavations and preparation for our conservatory.  We then have to have work done on the boundaries...which leaves me to dig nursery beds to take the plants I have brought with me from Warwickshire.  Meanwhile I am enjoying looking at the many beautiful gardens around and popping in frequently to the Bishop's Palace.

It is so very tempting to stroll along market stalls isn't it.  Tadham Nurseries have a pop up stall in Market Street in Wells on Fridays and Saturdays, which is where this excited gardener goes to spend her pocket money...or else resist temptation and walk into town another way.  By the way there are also two other excellent plant stalls or the twice weekly markets.  Last week I just had to spend my £10 pocket money in one go on the Tadham Nursery Stall!  Six good plants for £10 as follows:

I had admired Sedum Kamtschatcum at Tatton Park Flower Show last year, but they were sold out.  I must get some grit ready to help open up the clay when I have decided on the layout of the garden.  Another new plant which I have not grown before but have admired many times is Origanum Kent Beauty.  Then because Mr S loves small things and also Hebes bought Hebe Buchananii Minor...for the moment planted out in its own little pot...but I can see that an Alpine sink may be added to my wish list for the garden!

Sedum hispanicum because the gentleman loves small things!  Just like the lady loves .....

I love small willows and without knowing much about this one added it to my little collection on the stall.  Salix Nakamurana Yezoalpina is showing a lot of promise, and as I write this I am wondering the best place for it.  In the meantime it is sharing a larger pot with Clematis Cartmanii moonbeam.  I fwonder whether the two can be companions for a year or two!  However I just learnt that some plants just do not like companions...I heard that walnuts are very good at seeing off plants that grow nearby.

Whole Wheat Sourdough revisited

I just wanted to check whether second time round, the whole wheat sourdough would turn up as well as it did last time.  It certainly did!

Again a 500g weight of dough went into the smaller banneton, and the rest of the dough was played with.  What did I have to made some lunch time rolls which would go with soup or a salad to make up a meal?  A few olives, some pesto, a few shallots sweated with herbs in butter.  A swiss roll of dough filled with the above and topped with slices of goat's cheese went into well buttered muffin tins with a little lining of semolina to ensure they popped out easily!  We have some standby buns for lunch or a picnic stored up in the freezer, having had a couple with a nice salad for our supper.

Raisin Rye the Sourdough way, again but with a little twist

Rasin Rye on page 63 of Jane Mason's Book: Perfecting Sourdough is the second challenge for May 2017.  I must own up to having made this one back in November when I was testing my new oven.  Here is the full sized loaf:

You can see from the lovely shine that I did glaze it....

I set out with all good intentions last week and had my rye sourdough bouncing ready to be used!

I really did, I promise...but then there was the orange peel from the organic orange I had put into the fruit salad for breakfast, and then there were the dregs from the fruit and fibre cereal packet: the peel got zested, and the cereal got soaked ...somehow they all got incorporated.  Then there was the cow's milk left from when my sister was staying...that got heated up and used instead of the water.  Sorry Jane for having messed around with your recipe.

Since we were having building works and workmen interrupting, I forgot about the glaze...and the loaf got left in the oven a little longer than I would have liked.  Not to worry, it was not burnt, and next morning when the crust has softened, the flavour was magnificent.  The reason I made a smaller 500g loaf this time round and some buns, is that is the best way for us to 'manage' our consumption.  I frooze the buns.  This morning we had two of these...I took them out of the freezer last night, and gave them a quick warm up in the oven whilst I made the drinks and prepared the fruit salad.

Again I followed Clive Mellum's tips of mixing in the butter after a good knead, which by the way is Jane's technique in her Book of Buns, and balancing temperatures and giving folds hourly.  The texture seemed to be much lighter but this may have been due to milk being substituted for water.

With my baking sheets now well worn in, I find just a quick dust with some semolina or ground rice before I turn the bannetons onto the hot trays mean I longer needs silicon paper.  For the bun tins, a good buttering means the buns fall out easily.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Whole wheat sourdough

Whole Wheat Sourdough is one of the May '17 baking challenges from Jane Mason's Book: Perfecting Sourdough, on our facebook group.

I've taken on board a few of Clive Mellum's tips, which I am gradually teasing out from his lovely prose in his book: My Life in Baking.  He recommends that the starter or 'mother be fed at least 12 hours prior to being set into the main dough to get her full benefit'.  This is the first time I have followed this, normally allowing 8 hours as Jane recommends.  Maybe it is our cooler kitchens in the UK, but after twelve hours the starter was the best I have seen it.  I also followed Clive's tip about temperatures, using my therma pen to help me calculate just the right temperature for the water and milk to get to his optimum temperature, given that my flour and mother were at 20 C.

I followed Clive's advice on folding and processing...and rather than a large loaf, the dough was divided to fit into two 500g bannetons.  The flour I used was Bacheldre Organic Strong Wholemeal, which I bought a few weeks ago when it was on special offer in Waitrose.

This recipe is spot on and I am amazed at the light and airy loaves produced.  We are waiting for loaves to cool down.  I know that sourdough is probably best left a day or so before cutting...but with the lovely large salad we had at lunch time, the scones at tea time, and all the time spent in the garden...oh and the time making bread, I think a supper or bread, cheese, chutneys, grapes and port will do very nicely!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Clive Mellum's Sweet Shortcrust Pastry is a winner as a case for Lemon Meringue Pie

It has become a family tradition that I bake a lemon meringue pie when my sister visits.  Its one of our favourites too, but since it is really at its best on the day of making,a Lemon Meringue pie needs to be made when it will be appreciated by several mouths.

This morning I mixed up a batch of pastry using a technique that I had never tried: one mixes the butter, sugar, and egg till they are emulsified, then the flour is added and rubbed in till a ball is formed. I found it very easy.

The finished pastry sat in the fridge, and when we came back from our little tour of Dinder and Crosscombe, it was rolling pins at the ready, zesters, lemon juicer, bowls, whisks, baking tins, came out of the cupboard, oven preheated, paper and baking beans were used.

Yesterday we had been out for a steak night out, and this morning everyone felt a little sluggish.  We had a great plate of salad, followed by fruit, and this evening a light supper of home made soup and pesto rolls followed by Lemon Meringue Pie.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and I must agree that this is the best pastry I have made.  Even with the home made fresh lemon filling, there was no soggy bottom.  It was short and tasty, but strong enough to hold the thick layer of lemon and meringue topping.

Neighbours Val and Kay helped by having a piece each: a well earnt gardener's pudding following their afternoon out on their front gardens.  There is just a smallish piece left which I shall have shortly....I only had one piece earlier on!

Monday, 1 May 2017

Daily Bread the Sourdough Way

When I read through the recipe which I had set for the April Baking Challenge from Jane Mason's Perfecting Sourdough, I knew we would love this, and being baked in a tin, it would be easy to double up the ingredients and bake one spare one for the freezer.  I decided to use wholewheat spelt flour and the last of my batch of strong white flour from Cann Mill, about half and half.

I baked these two beauties before my latest baking book arrived, so bringing in the tips given by Clive Mellum, next time I bake this, I shall knead the dough, and add the butter towards the end of the kneading period.  I have tried this tip of Clive's in a few baking sessions recently, and I really have had a better rise!  Another improvement has come from placing the bread tins on a pre heated sturdy baking tray.