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

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

Bread in Bristol: Bread Store, Gloucester Road

I miss Bristol. For reasons innumerable. Circumstances (with which I’ll not bore you) have forced me to move away from my adopted home city, but fortunately not so far as I don’t get back there semi-regularly. For most of my time in Bristol I lived near the Gloucester Road, which (reportedly) has the highest density of independent retailers in Europe (or some such statistic), and is almost always buzzing with a glorious range of humans, most of whom are wearing a contented smile as they go about their business.

One of the firm fixtures (for the last 15 years, at least) is the ever-popular Bread Store, which serves a range of loaves freshly baked (onsite?), from white bloomers to 100% rye sourdough loaves (in two sizes), via speciality breads such as their red pepper and olive breads (enriched with olive oil, but not as holey as focaccia). Continue reading

Fun With Farmers: Market Mackerel, Super Sourdough, and Weekend Wanders

Gosh what a fortnight I’ve had. For a man who hasn’t worked more than a couple of shifts a month for several months, it really has been quite exhausting. I’ve played two gigs, watched one, had two recording sessions, one job interview, celebrated one parent’s birthday, baked four loaves in a day, and moved my ladyfriend into a new flat. In the space of 5 days I travelled from Gloucester, to Newcastle, to Coventry, to Bristol, to Gloucester, to Coventry, to Cardiff, to Bristol to Gloucester. Phew!

Having returned yesterday from said chain of cities, and interviewed for a job this morning, I decided I was due a wee treat. So, while idling away an hour or two in the centre of Gloucester, I browsed the farmers’ market, and picked myself up some loveliness. Continue reading

Sourdough Diaries: The Start(er) of Something Beautiful

A few people have asked me “Whatever happened to that sourdough starter you were harping on about?”. Well, not necessarily in those words. I may have slipped a little defensive self-deprecation in there for good measure.

Well, I’m pleased to confirm that the starter has started starting, and indeed continued to start. In starting terms, it’s off to a startlingly good start. Ahem.

The loaf pictured above is my first ever sourdough loaf. To say I was pleased would miss out ecstatic, smug, and as surprised as you. It used a 60:30:10 blend of strong white, strong wholemeal, and rye flours. Essentially, I “adapted” Dan Lepard’s Mill Loaf recipe. And by “adapted” I mean “misread”. Continue reading

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.

Sourdough Starter Days 4, 5 and 6…

…or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Leaven.

Day 4 in the Natural Leaven house, and the raisins have been evicted.

Urgh. I feel slightly soiled by that. Don’t you? Apologies for that.

Couple of days to catch y’all up on. One of them quite eventful. Are you sitting comfortably?

Starter Day 4 - as I found it

On Day 4 Señor Starter was looking much the same: the early signs of fermentation (pin hole bubbles), and a sheen on the surface where liquids and solids had begun to separate. There was more pronounced discolouration where the raisins had began to break down. They’ve served their purpose, i.e. to boost yeast and “friendly” bacteria at the beginning of the process, and so the time has come to remove them. Sniff. Continue reading