Friday, 22 May 2015

Tramping to Grange

Last week we didn't have a meeting of Bread of Heron, the Heron Corn Mill's community bread group, because the whole mill team was out and about with our tramping project "On The Road". The idea is to take the mill on tour to people who might not have visited us before, and let them see what we do.

Much as tradesmen in earlier times had to hit the road in search of work, we are packing our bags and taking our skills and ourselves "on the road" to a number of places round our area this spring and summer. We're putting on all-day events in a number of village halls, with a pop-up cafe, home made bread, hand-milling, talks about the mill, and 3 mini-plays on tramping themes. We're also displaying the SEWN project's magnificent banner, seen here as the backdrop to one of the plays.

This week it was the turn of Grange Over Sands, and we set up in the Institute during the day -

and decamped in the evening to the Keg and Kitchen for the plays and a well earned drink.

We had a steady stream of visitors throughout the day, including some young ones, which is always encouraging. Catch them young and they'll be bakers for life. I had a big lump of dough on the table top, and encouraged people to have a go at kneading for fun -

but the good people of Grange were having none of it. To a man woman and child, they preferred to sample the really rather fantastic offerings at the table next door, where the home made cakes and filled rolls with Nell's excellent home made chutney were the best deal available in Grange on the day.

Talking about home made butties reminds me of when I used to keep the score at the local cricket club. It was a well paid job in those days - 2/6 (12.5p) for the whole day when we were playing at home, and 5/- (25p) when we were playing away. Oh, and as many home made butties as you could get down you during the tea interval between innings.

The plays went very well in the cosy downstairs bar area of the Keg and Kitchen, and we rolled out the bread to be sampled again with some Kendal Creamy cheese provided by Low Sizergh Barn. The punters' preference in the evening was surprisingly for a loaf which we couldn't immediately identify, but which by a process of elimination was found to be a yeasted white 'n' rye (two thirds white).

The rye flour from Heron Corn Mill has been selling strongly, and is proving to be excellent in bread. The Heron now boasts a full range of wheat, spelt and rye, which is a major achievement. Well milled Stuart! Because of the difficulty of buying grain in small quantities, Stuart is having to try different varieties of each grain, depending on what is available. While this is a bit of a headache for him, it is very interesting for the bakers, because we can see what each variety is like. The spelt in particular is quite different from one variety to another, and this rye is certainly an exciting baking addition.

Nell did a 100% rye sourdough and a yeasted rye 'n' white (two thirds rye) for the Grange event. I was really impressed with these, not least because there was such a difference in style between them. Although they both used the same flour, the yeasted one had a rich flavour and almost cakey texture, while the well risen sourdough was firm and tangy, without the wild acidity that it can get if it "goes native". A couple of customers who hadn't had a heavy duty sourdough before were rather taken aback by the full-on flavour of this one, but that is only to be expected. And the people who knew where this was coming from really enjoyed it. I know I did!

The great divide between hardened sourdough lovers and those innocents who take a sharp intake of breath and gasp "Sour! Ough!" reminds me of a short holiday we had in Vienna. Our landlady suggested a couple of authentic coffee shops we should try, which we duly did.

The first coffee shop, called Demel, was a bit of a dream for cakeists and coffaholics alike. There are some mouthwatering pictures here. If you want plush, this is it. Service was exemplary, and the cake and coffee were really heavenly.

The second coffee shop was called Cafe Hawelka -

This is just as famous as Demel, but about as unlike it as you could imagine. Total apathy from the waiter, bordering on disdain for the clientele, and frankly ordinary fare. The waiter would doubtless say "and your point is?". The point is that coffee houses like this one are strictly for those who like that kind of thing. Not for me, this one, much like the sourdough for the uninitiated nibblers in Grange. I told our landlady that I didn't think much of Cafe Hawelka, and she just laughed and said she wanted us to try them both so we would realise how broad the "coffee shop" concept is.

Nell's two rye breads, both magnificent examples in their own very different ways, beautifully demonstrated what a broad concept baking with rye is.

What can you do with a spare loaf?

This Saturday's Guardian had a nice article about using up stale bread. There's a soup, pasta, gnocchi and bread pudding. All Italian ideas as far as I can see. I tried out the spaghetti with anchovy breadcrumbs this week, and it is pretty good and extremely easy to do. The soup is one I've done myself for years, and it is a nice looking thing -

How is it the Italians can see all this in a humble loaf of bread, and we as a nation are simply known as "Rosbifs"?

Notes from Palestine

This week our special correspondent Bouran tells us about the second kind of traditional oven where she lives. Over to you, Bouran.
The other kind of Palestinian traditional bread is called 'Shrak' where the same dough texture of Taboun is used but the method of baking is different. It is usually baked on something which is similar to a Chinese wok put upside down on wood fire and the loaves would be baked on both sides in a few seconds. These loaves are usually very thin and large. My late grandmother used to bake Shrak when we visited them in their vineyard. Shrak is not as crispy as the Taboun but the smoky flavour makes them as divine as Taboun.
Shrak bread -
Shrak oven -
I told Bouran I had seen a lady cooking on a shrak at Pamukkale, an amazing Roman site in Turkey. The whole area is covered in calcium deposits from natural spring water. The water also feeds into this swimming pool which is full of broken Roman columns -

The shrak was just by the pool - a very smart fast food operation! This was what Bouran had to say -

Your experience of seeing a woman baking Shrak in Turkey is just another testimony that our bread and food culture in the Arab countries are heavily influenced by the Ottomans who occupied most of the Arab countries for nearly 500 years!

And finally - a random menu

Despite the London illustration, this is a 1940s lunch menu from the wonderful Elizabeth Botham tea room in Whitby. Looks like a good three course meal with coffee for 2/6 (12.5p) but if you felt like pushing the boat out a bit - and loosening the belt a notch or two - an extra 6d (2.5p) would add a fish course and cheese and biscuits! Those were the days.