…And Now For Something Completely Different!

Confession time: this post contains no sandwiches. Nor does it contain any bread. Fillings neither. Not even any gardening.

What it does have, is my cousin, who is the best guitar player I know. It bears mentioning that I am a semi-professional musician, and have met, seen, heard, some world class musicians in my time.

Why am I going on about this? He’s just released a video, to go along with his new record contract, of him covering a song you may have heard. If you like it, maybe you could share it via whichever of your networks you choose. Heck, even if you don’t like it.

Anyway, enough familial bias and musical gushery. I give you: Mike Dawes!

You can buy the single, as well as the guitar tab, here.

Doughy Daydreams: Could I Go Dough-Pro?

For a variety of reasons I won’t bore you with, I haven’t worked since August of last year (besides a couple of agency shifts). I have found baking, and blogging about baking, to be a tremendously beneficial activity in giving the long, empty days a sense of purpose and achievement. At the risk of turning this into an open-journal therapy session, there have been times when I needed a boost to my mood, and baking has provided it in spades.

I have been looking for work, unsuccessfully, since the beginning of the year, and have begun to lose hope of finding anything suitable, especially considering that, long-term, I know what I want to do (Music Therapy) and am 2/3 of the way through the three year MA that will allow me to do it (though on a hiatus). But in the mean time, I need to earn some money, and even when I’m qualified, I am unlikely to begin working as a therapist full-time over night. I’ll be piecing together freelance work from therapy, music teaching, etc.

Like many, I’m sure, the thought of earning money from my bread-headed obsession has crossed my mind more than a few times. Continue reading

Shipton Mill Spending Spree

My intention to bake along with the Mellow Bakers bake-along have been somewhat hampered by a lack of funds to acquire the necessary ingredients to bake (along).

Fortunately, due to a morale-boosting donation from my grandparents I have been able to order the more hard to find ingredients (white poppy seeds, and whole rye grains, I’m looking at you), and popped in to Shipton Mill whilst on a quick visit to a good friend of mine in Tetbury. It is an advantage being in the same county as such a well-regarded Mill, although this is the first time I’ve made the trip.

I bought some stoneground wholemeal, malthouse, light rye, wholegrain spelt, semolina, and Italian “00”, as well as a round cane banneton. Phew!

Can’t wait to get to baking!

Keep it floury, folks!

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Bitten by Veg-Box Bug: My Fingers Have Turned Green!

I no longer recognise myself. I have become a different, later, version of myself. This is one of those personality shifts that crosses into a new integral version number: Will 7.0 say, or a whole other big cat; OSWill Polecat.

That analogy went a little far, eh?

What in the blazes am I talking about? I’ve taken up gardening. There it is, in black and white. I am, one could say, a gardener, albeit a somewhat naive one, still wet-behind-the-ears.

Allow me to explain. I always knew I’d take up gardening one day, but until the beginning of March, that one day was a fairly distant, hypothetical one. I could imagine it, but it held no immediate appeal. Then my ever-inventive ladyfriend, instead of buying a trite ‘n’ tacky Valentine’s card, bought me a “grow your own chilli” kit, complete with seeds, compost and rather fetching terracotta plant pot. Continue reading

Bake-Along Business: Mellow Bakers & #ShortandTweet

I wrote this a short while ago, and somehow failed to publish it. Ahead of my upcoming post about my first mellow bakers loaf, I thought I’d let it out of its hiding place, for the linky goodness if nothing else! Needless to say, I am still somehow running out of time, despite ample supply.

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My brief foray into group baking was something I enjoyed very much, but haven’t quite managed to recreate. I had fully intended to make a batch of pita bread along with the folks over at #ShortandTweet, but ran out of time. Since then, I have been incredibly busy (especially for a jobless wonder) and very low on energy. But April marks the beginning of a new bake along, one to which I fully intend to apply myself as fully as possible.

The Mellow Bakers are working their way through “The Handmade Loaf”, the very book that got me started on serious bread baking. I intend to bake and blog each loaf so long as I’m able, and also try and cook up a sandwich recipe for those that inspire me. I’m really looking forward to learning from my fellow bakers, and have already been in touch with some very friendly sorts.

They are also baking through another book, “Bread” by Jeffrey Hamelman. So if you fancy joining in, pick your poison, and jump in! I’m a relative newby and everyone’s been dead friendly, and there’s a real range of abilities, including some people who have baked it all before and/or are schooled in such things.

That’s How I Roll: Seedy Rolls and Contemplating Campagrain

I have reached another level of bread-baking obsession. I have started receiving sacks of flour as gifts. The word is getting out: get this man some gluten! Shower him with sacks of stoneground flour and he’ll thank you with thick-crusted cobs and tin loafs aplenty.

One such bag was of “Campagrain” flour, bought from a mill in Derbyshire. A mixture of four flours and five seeds. “Yum!” thought I, but what to do with it? Being unfamiliar with the name, I asked the baking twitterati if they had any recipes or advice. I used the hashtag #realbread. My only reply was from the Real Bread Campaign, who asked about the ingredients, and if there were any additives. I looked. There were. Two E numbers and an anonymous enzyme. This excluded the flour, I was told, from being used to make real bread, by their definition.

I confess that, until that point, I had not read the details of the real bread campaign. I had assumed it meant bread baked by hand, not using mass manufacturing methods etc… It’s that, but more so. Simply put, “Don’t go putting no additives in our bread, thank you please”. A fine and noble aim. One that I instinctively support. But it did leave me with questions.

Are all additives bad? Or just all artificial additives? How artificial is too artificial? I am unfamiliar with the science of all of this, and I hadn’t ever questioned the wisdom of avoiding them where possible. Yet I am quite happy to take artificially created medicines, with a variety of clearly stated possible side effects. Is this any better? Dan Lepard recommends using a crushed vitamin C tablet in wholemeal loaves, and from my brief research, one of the additives in the Campagrain flour is essentially artificially created vitamin C. Is the tablet just a shortcut to that additive, and if so, if it seems reasonable to take a vitamin, why is it not acceptable to have that in bread?

I don’t know the answer.

Also, why add stuff to flour?! It seems daft to make the decision for the baker. Presumably it is designed to give better results, and hence encourage people to go back for more. But is that unreasonable? To want your flour to make better bread?

If you have any thoughts on the matter, or any recommended reading on the subject, leave a comment.

Apologies for the serious, and contemplative tone of this post. Normal levels of whimsy and jocundity will return soon, I assure you.

Must Try Harder

Were this blog a child, the social would have swept in days ago and removed it from the neglectful care of its cruel and distracted keeper. My only excuse is both fair and devoid of joy – job hunting. Is there any more soul-sapping, tedious, and frequently demeaning process in the lives of your average westerner? Forgive me if this seems overstated, but I’m sure most of you know just what I mean.

I’ll get to proper articles when I have more than a snatched half-hour here or there, I promise. ‘Till then, I’ll tell you about some sarnies (with both capital and small s) that I’ve guzzled down my gob-hole of late.

Whilst visiting London in order to play a gig with my band, Joyce the Librarian, I decided to kill some time between my absurdly early megabus and the sound check at the Slaughtered Lamb, by hitting up Borough Market for a browse and a bite of lunch. Unfortunately, in a typical out-of-towner fashion, I was unaware that it was “closed” on Sundays. Fortunately, and doubtless not coincidentally, Cafe Brood was open for business as usual, and so the journey was not wasted. I had a rather fabulous wrap of Chorizo & Haloumi, with all the trimmings.

Two desert-island ingredients in one package? Wrap-win.

Now, the chances are I’m preaching to the sandwich-choir here, but for those that haven’t had one of these, I highly recommend it should you be in the area. As to how it stands up to the competition the rest of the week, I can’t say, but for me it seemed that I snatched delicious victory from the jaws of hungry defeat.

On the home-front, I turned a few slices of a home-baked sourdough loaf  into a Reuben, to which I was first introduced by Ground in Brighton. Salt beef, sauerkraut, gherkins and emmental, along with Russian dressing, on a brown rye-specked sourdough was a Saturday-lunchtime treat to write home about. Except I was at home, so I’ll write to the internet. Hello internet – it was yumsome!

I also had the left over dressing with some left over chicken from our Sunday Roast. That was also tasty.

That’ll have to do you for now, I fear. Proper posts forthcoming, I promise.