This week’s sourdough

Having made my first sourdough bread from scratch last weekend using only white flour, I thought I’d try a mix of white and wholemeal this week. So I used: 50g strong wholemeal flour, 150g strong white flour, 250ml water and a ladle of sourdough starter.

Mixed into sponge, then left, covered overnight. In the morning, I added 150g strong wholemeal flour and 150g strong white flour, mixed into dough, kneaded and, basically followed the method given in River Cottage Handbook on Bread – leave for an hour to rise, deflate, leave again, all together four hours, then shaped and left for three more hours while I made some biscuits to take to a friend. In the end, I was quite late seeing my friend because it took ages for the oven to come up to temperature to bake but the end result was fabulous:

I was more careful this time transferring the bread onto hot baking sheet so it only deflated a tiny bit. It’s totally delicious.

Shortbread, strawberries and cream

Ready for Wimbledon final! Only, beloved is currently watching F1 Silverstone race, claiming that nothing ever happens in the first set…

I asked beloved if he fancied any particular cake this weekend and he just wanted strawberries and cream, which is fine by itself, better with shortbread. I used Leith’s Baking Bible for shortbread recipe, very easy to make. Very good it was too.

Thankfully, only five laps left at Silverstone, I want tennis!! (not that I’m a huge fan of tennis and am even less of a fan of Roger Federer but Murray finally in the final is clearly a historic occasion so must be watched)

Sourdough bread

I’ve done it!! Feeling elated, very, very happy. Have just made my first ever sourdough bread. This is way beyond exciting:

I followed Dan Lepard’s instructions in Short and Sweet to make the starter. Have fed it daily for a couple of weeks apart from a few days in the fridge while away last weekend. The actual bread recipe came from River Cottage Hanbook on Bread, which goes into a lot more detail on kneading, proving, shaping etc. Started it last night, made a sponge then did the rest this morning. It rose beautifully but when I made the 3rd slash, one end deflated slightly, so it’s not super even:

Have not sliced it yet, it is cooling. Can’t wait.

I made the starter with rye flour and bread with 400g strong white flour. It’s definitely bigger than I expected but then I had no idea how it would come out.



Reading, cooking, baking

While not posting much last weekend, I haven’t been idle. Didn’t do any baking as was hiking in Lake District for four days. Took The Hunger Games trilogy on kindle and read it in five or so days, quite an achievement considering we were out walking 9-5pm every day. In rain and wind, had a marvellous time and I was early in bed, early to rise so plenty of reading time. Anyway, liked The Hunger Games a lot – more than I thought I would, quite powerful but simply written, to the point. Was pretty impressed.

When we got back I finally finished The Lunar Men by Jenny Uglow.

Have wanted to read this book for years, finally bought it a year ago and haven’t had a chance to read it before. Reading is usually minimal between October-June while I’m studying on top of work, so have lots of books to catch up with over summer. The Lunar Men is about the men from Birmingham’s Lunar Society, loosely a club of scientists, philosophers, inventors, doctors who regularly met to discuss ideas in the second half of the eighteenth century. I’m quite interested in the history of science and did a course last year on this period in history (or rather 1780-1830), which I adored. The book is wonderful and the people that populate it, Erasmus Darwin, Josiah Wedgewood, James Watt, Matthew Boulton, Joseph Priestly, Joseph Wright of Derby and others are fascinating. Recommended read for anyone interested in the beginnings of Industrial Revolution and, of course, history of science.

The other week, while doing a bit of work at Taste of London, I spotted a rather generous 30% discount on Bloomsbury books stand so got these:

Very exciting! River Cottage Veg book a friend said she got and liked and I needed some new veggie ideas, the dishes I like the sound of most are always veggie curries and come autumn, think I’ll make every single one. Lots and lots of lovely ideas. Not that I don’t eat meat but I don’t think it’s necessary to eat meat every day.

The third book in the pile is River Cottage Handbook book on Preserves – not that I’ve got any space for jars of jams but am thinking of making chutneys. Have only had a little look through  it and it does look very useful. It was only a tenner anyway. So was the River Cottage Bread book on top. It’s got a very good step by step guide with lots of pictures for kneading, shaping and so on. Very useful and just gives a little more information than Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet which I’ve been using for the past 3-4 months. I’ve also now made most loaves from Dan’s book.

Finally, Leith’s Baking Bible does look to be exactly that, very extensive and detailed. Both Leith’s and River Cottage books go into a lot of detail on sourdough bread, which is the main reason I got them. I also hardly ever buy cookbooks so this was a lovely treat.

Finally, elderflower cordial

Just finished and tasted elderflower cordial, it is marvellous:

How to make: for 3l I brought 3l water with 2kg demerara sugar to boiling point, let it cool, added zest and slices from 4 lemons, 75g citric acid and around 60 elderflower heads. Steeped for 24 hours, stirred it every few hours, then strained into bottles.

Spent the afternoon today at Taste of London in Regents Park (for work so at least didn’t have to pay to get in) and the weather was doing all sorts of things from downpours to glorious sunshine.

Having gone quite far to find elderflower for cordial, found that Regents Park is full of it – wander if people pick it there?

Doubt that very much. It’s so wonderfully manicured:

Have also taken pictures of mud at Taste but no pictures of food, think Taste has become a bit too corporate now and hard to see the criteria for choosing exhibitors – certainly not as much artisan food/ small producers as there used to be 5 or 6 years ago. Anyway, I did buy some books (yay!) which I may post at some point later.

As I was leaving, the sunshine was indeed glorious.

Homemade butter and other weekend projects

I picked this book up years ago (Borders bookshops were all the rage at the time), thinking it may come in useful some day then put it on a shelf and pretty much forgot about it for a few years. Typical, have lots of books like that. Then I remembered it had a recipe for elderflower cordial, which I’m making at the moment and off the shelf it came. It also tells you how to make butter – did not realise how simple making butter is so thought I’d try it. Last night was as good a time as any – words fail at the excitement and joy I got from this tiny little pat of butter I produced.

Am sure lots of people make butter at home – have never really thought about it before but so glad I did this. Here’s what to do:

– pour double cream into a jam jar and shake until it separates into a lump of butter and the remaining liquid is buttermilk.  The cream should be a few days old, not fresh.

– pour out buttermilk and reserve if using for another recipe (e.g. pancakes), then rinse the butter by pouring water into the jar and gently swirling until water runs clear.

– press butter with the back of a wooden spoon to squeeze out any remaining buttermilk and do this properly or butter will go rancid. Add salt if you like salted butter (apparently it also keeps longer) or just put in fridge if you prefer unsalted.

That’s basically it. I probably had only about 100ml double cream left and the jar in the back of the picture is 500ml – gives you an idea on how much butter you get. The shaking didn’t take too long – perhaps around half an hour, was making dinner at the time so would just pick up the jar and give it a few vigorous shakes every now and then. Lost crafts book says some people make this in a food processor but I really see no need to do that.

Going to have my little bit of homemade butter for breakfast with yesterday’s black pepper rye bread.

In other bread news, I now have my first sourdough starter!! Am following Dan Lepard’s instructions from Short and sweet and have had a little dough ball (rye flour and water) for 5 days before mashing it with more water and adding more flour to make this mush last night. There are already bubbles in it this morning and it doesn’t smell particularly nice:

Can’t wait to make first sourdough but obviously still a while to go. Am likely to burst with excitement prior to actually producing any bread…

Last project this weekend – elderflower is currently steeping in sugar syrup so will be bottling my little batch of cordial later this afternoon when I get back from Taste of London where I’ve a little work to do. Shame the weather is rubbish, will probably get soaked…

Black pepper rye bread + walking in Oxfordshire

I love the fact that I started a bread this morning assuming I’ve enough flour. Ha! I didn’t, only had a little of strong white flour left. So, in today’s bread, Black pepper rye from Dan Lepard’s Short and sweet, I used a mix of rye and wholemeal flours to make up for the lack of white. I knew it wouldn’t rise quite so much but didn’t particularly care. It came out slightly baby size, especially when compared to last Saturday’s Challah:

Lovely crust, strong peppery flavour, here it is sliced:

Photography not quite outstanding today… oh well, I was hungry and didn’t fancy spending too long picture taking. Thought the peppery rye would go very well with buttery, creamy scrambled eggs so that’s what we had for breakfast:

Again, love my choice of green table + green plate for photography. Should really work on my ‘styling’. As I said, I was hungry and it tasted lovely.

Finishing today’s post with a photo from yesterday’s walk, just outside Oxford, glorious countryside, an exhilarating walk through windswept fields after a boozy lunch. Did not take pics of windswept meadows as didn’t think iphone camera was up to it but this little stream was very pretty: