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

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Hamelman Video Tutorials: Learn From a Master

I was idly hypothesising about how one might slash the dough of a baguette to achieve the characteristic tear, when it struck me that this here internets would probably hold the answer. Well done internets; you did me proud. These videos are comprehensive, and come from a name I’ve come to trust: Jeffrey Hamelman. Serious skills. Videos after the break. Continue reading

Belated Buttery Buns

These were scheduled as part of April’s Mellow Bakers Handmade Loaf bake-along, but it’s taken until now for me to get round to making them. I’m glad I made the effort though, they were a real treat.

They are essentially savoury croissants: a stiff, white, milk dough with layers of  butter (oh-so-much-butter!) incorporated once the dough has proved (proven?) over night. Continue reading

Back to Basics: Dan’s White Sourdough

You would think that the first loaf in the first baking book I owned would have been a sensible place to start. But I skipped over the white sourdough recipe (from A Handmade Loaf by Dan Lepard) in order to get to the mill loaf, which got me so excited a while ago. It’s taken me a while to go back and try the white.

I’m glad I did. Continue reading

Mellow Bakers – Quick White Loaf

Here we are, at the tail end of April. Where, may I ask, has the first third of 2012 gone? Up in a cloud of flour in my case. Though not as much flour, of late, as I would have liked.

On reading my blog a good friend of mine said, amongst kind words, that I apologise too much for not writing; that people wouldn’t really notice the dates of posts, and that I ought not to mention it. So I’m keeping absolutely schtum. Zip. Nada. Not a word about being behind in the mellow bakers Handmade Loaf bake-along despite only being in month one. Just as well they’re/we’re mellow…

So – quick white loaf. I must admit that, going in to this bake, I was a little bored of white breads. Despite a preference towards the more whole of meals, I have baked mostly white loaves since taking up all this yeasty business. On top of that, another of Dan’s recipes – his sour cream loaf from Short and Sweet, has lodged itself firmly at the top of my favourite white recipes list.

On the other hand, this bake offered the chance to try a couple of new things: baking with fresh yeast, finally sourced from Sainsbury’s, and adding millet flakes. Add to all this a couple of bodged transfers from improvised peel to baking stone in the recent past, and the stakes for this bake were particularly high.

Can you feel the excitement? Try and remember to breath. Continue reading

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.

Sourdough Starter – Day 3, plus a Quick Primer on Natural Leaven

A confession: I recognise that a day by day update on a mixture of flour and water probably doesn’t qualify as a ripping yarn to most people. I am finding it a fascinating process, and I realise that there are people out there who agree. I also hope that some of those for whom this is proving a free treatment for insomnia may, in the fullness of time, see why a niche corner of the interwebs, and the populace thus represented, seems to enjoy peering at small jars of a smelly substance.

It is for the baffled, confused, and those peculiar few interested enough in what I’m writing who don’t share my fascination, that I will include in today’s post a wee primer on what it is that I’m doing. For those of you who are already on board, and just hang out here to get your fix of fermentation, skip to the end. Continue reading