Tuesday, 1 September 2015

On the road at Dent and High Bentham

The Heron Corn Mill's "On the Road" project visited Dent and High Bentham recently. We have taken the mill out to some really nice places throughout the summer and let people all over the local area know what we do and where we are. We provided honest to goodness lunches wherever we went, and had a good chin wag on milling and food topics at every destination. We've also met plenty of interesting people at the six venues along the way - Arnside, Grange, Ingleton, Kirkby Lonsdale, Dent and High Bentham.


The trip to Dent happened while our Palestinian friend Bouran was still with us, so the baking had an international flavour. First there were a couple of olive sourdoughs -

Look at this blistery crust!

Then there were some very impressive knotted rolls - a sort of distant relation of the croissant. The trick here was to roll the sweet dough out so that it was thinner at the ends than in the middle. That way, tying the thin ends together results in a regular thickness all the way round, as well as holding the shape.

The building we were in at Dent was originally a school - and one of our number is an ex-pupil.

A bit of quality control in the kitchen: miller's perks.

Anxious moments before the lunch time rush.

In the main room the younger generation were getting stuck in.

Swapping some baking tips. But who with?

The youngsters at Dent were really adventurous. We had several takers who were keen to have a go at baking. There was a young lad who was on a secret mission involving delivering something in his wheelbarrow. There were several sightings of him round the village during the day, coming and going. I got the impression there was an interesting story somewhere - maybe he was being a private detective or smashing an international spy network! Anyway, he wasn't too busy to keep coming back to the hall at regular intervals - working his dough, shaping it, putting it in the oven. At the end of the afternoon he proudly took his baking home to his dad, carefully wrapped up as a present. What fun!

Here he is getting a bit of help with shaping.

Then there were the swan makers.

Who would have thought a swan started off circular?

After lunch we had a really interesting talk about spinning. There is a great deal to this, from the three different sets of sheep involved in producing a lamb suitable for the dinner table, to the properties of different wools and the different techniques involved in spinning and using the wool.

What used to be a highly prized natural material has over time become pretty well a waste product, worth less than the cost of shearing. The EU has even designated fleeces as hazardous waste, which surely says more about the EU bureaucracy than it says about wool.

Faced with the problem of what to do with a product that nobody wants to buy, producers have had to find innovative ways of adding value. This has resulted in a number of niche markets like house insulation that can capitalise on the eco-green aspect of natural wool.

There's a lot of skilled work to be done to the wool before it's in a state to spin, and it's not even spinning at all unless you are combining at least three separate strands.

This demo makes it look easy, but the lady who was doing it said that she is doing several things at once, all of which have to be learned and mastered, as well as being very skilfully done at the same time. It all seemed a bit like keeping several plates in the air at once, any of which could bring the whole thing crashing round your ears.

Dent is a really lovely place, and well worth another visit. The church is very old and full of fascinating details, like the family box pews, several with carvings in the woodwork dating back to the early 17th century. Just think - the pulpit (1614) was built 9 years before the First Folio of Shakespeare was printed! And there is a lovely walk by the river. I was unlucky with the brewery tap, which was not serving food the day I went, because of a large party, but at least I have an excuse to go again now.

High Bentham

The very last "On the Road" date was at High Bentham. I toyed with the idea of a £10-30 day return on the train from Arnside. But in the end I drove, which turned out to be a good choice because there are several lovely old villages between High Bentham and Carnforth, which is the route the SatNav took me on the way home.

It was a busy day in High Bentham when we were there. Not only did a lot of people turn out to see us, but there was a Saturday market across the road, and a beer festival, with its own beer bus taking people to any pub along the line. And a day ticket was only £1!

Apparently the recipe for this loaf said "tie a knot in it". A slip knot maybe. I think it looks like an ampersand, but other opinions were expressed.

Nell produced a superb pecan loaf (at the back) and a Heron spelt (at the front).

We had a demonstration of the reverse-Bertinet kneading method, with pike. Don't try this at home.

Funny how there always seems to be a crowd round the cake counter.

Karen had a helper on the hand-quern. You're never too young to learn.

Stella was torn between sampling the bread and setting up the screen for her after-lunch talk.

The fillings for the home made rolls arrived nice and cool thanks to a snazzy new Booth's cool bag.

First out of the oven on the day were the scones - always a popular item at the cafe counter, and this time expertly glazed over by our youngest volunteer.

They were soon joined by a good selection of established favourites in the cake line.

Audrey was a wizard on the scales, weighing the rolls to an accuracy of within 1%. Experience has shown that the dream weight for a roll is 100g, so the arithmetic was not too hard this time. Simply multiply by 9 over 5 and take away the square root of 800.

We sold some Heron Corn Mill flour, and signed up a couple more people who were interested in Bread of Heron, the mill's community bread group.

One lady turned up  in her camper van. She's on a mission to visit as many water and wind mills as she can, and bake with their flours. Now that is what I call ambition! She'd come from Ilkley to Beetham for the event, only to find that there was nobody at home - we were all in High Bentham for the day. Anyway, she found us in the end. I'm hoping we will get to read about her adventures, which may eventually find their way into a blog.

Stella's talk about the tramping banner and the SEWN project had an end of term feel to it. This project has been a long time in the making, and it's a source of real satisfaction to the people involved that their intricate and detailed work all came together and the project has achieved its many ambitious targets, most notably getting people working towards common goals as a team.

No end of term party would be complete without pizzas, which is what we had, with all the trimmings. And so ended the "On the Road" project which has been great fun throughout the summer. Now what's next?