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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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.

On Your Marks, Get Set… The Start of a Sourdough Starter

I remember when I first tried sourdough. I happened upon it at a farmers market, with my girlfriend at the time, and bought a large loaf. I couldn’t tell you what made us decide to buy it; perhaps the recommendation of the stall-holder, perhaps it just looked delicious. But I remember toasting a slice, slathering it with butter and Marmite (a fairly typical litmus test for me), and being completely blown away by the fullness of its flavour, and the chewy, firm texture. I also remember that we consistently failed to get to the market in time to pick up a sourdough loaf, before they sold out, in the months that followed. I blame shift work and a lifestyle it would not be entirely wise to describe in any detail in the public domain.

Though it made a lasting impression, it was a while before it cropped up on my radar again, and only relatively recently has it made anything other than an occasional, rare appearance on my menu. But when I realised that it was not only possible, but enjoyable, to bake my own loaves, it wasn’t long before the notion of making a sourdough loaf began to seem really rather appealing. Continue reading