Monday, 26 October 2015

Are we losing our mojos? Or what?

Here at Bread of Heron, the Heron Corn Mill's community bread group, we are all young at heart. It's the bread making that does it, of course. But there is no escaping the fact that we are occasionally prone to moments of forgetfulness. What time did that bread go in the oven? Is that my bread or yours? You know the kind of thing.

Where's me specs?

This week the shepherd's hut was a bit like a left luggage department. We had a handbag and specs left behind, and even more spectacularly a trayful of bread left in the oven! The specs were kindly dropped off by a passing knight on a white charger. Not at the right house, unfortunately, but it's the thought that counts.

Two people's loaves rose in a way that was not inconsistent with an absence of yeast. Oh yes! Oh no!

Of course it's all my fault. I started the trend last time, with my caraway seed bread with no caraway seeds in it. But where's it all going to end? I think we should be told.

Treading the primrose path of dalliance

Our mission this week was to out-bake the Bake Off and produce the ultimate iced finger buns. I must say that this non-purist baking is starting to get to me. First it was an enriched couronne, with egg, butter and sugar as well as a handful of raisins. Now it's finger rolls with all the above and milk! But I am always prepared to be pleasantly surprised, and this turned out to be one of those occasions.

Here you can see us teetering at the top of the slippery slope towards downright cake-baking. Eggs brazenly rolling round on the worktop.

And sugar! What would Jamie say?

Yet it is somehow attractive, when mixed, that sweet, sticky ball of bun mix.

You can tell which ones are made with proper eggs with golden yolks. 

It's very easy, this recipe. Just cut the dough up into six.

Six, yes.

Ten? The recipe definitely said six!

We all got very Bertinet about weighing our buns out. At this stage (before rolling on the thigh like a Havana cigar) these look just like my mum's "cobs" in their finished state.

There is room for interpretation: fingers may be long and thin, tapered; or short and fat like butcher's sausages. As the baker on the left found, they may keep growing to the size of a club sandwich if they don't hit the oven.

I must say I am puzzled by the rolls on the right. Everyone else saw 6 rolls as 2 * 3, but here we have 4 + 2. Mr Monk on the TV would be wanting to rearrange that tray, for sure.

And then after just 10 minutes in the oven, it's time to take your finger buns out and start not icing them.

That it should come to this! A bread group making iced buns! Even iced buns without the icing.

And then there was maneesh

Here are the maneesh before adorning with their rich, oily, spicy seeded topping -

And here they are in their finished state, and very nice too.

Pinny protocol seems to have broken down here - that looks more like a kangaroo than a heron to me.

This is the way to live! Fresh finger roll filled with cream and stewed apple from the garden. Heaven!

Dusting technique

We have some way to go with the baskets. There is too much shaking and waving around going on! Baskets should be laid on the table and moved with the greatest of care, so as not to dislodge the precious flour that will hopefully stop the dough sticking. You only need to experience a stuck loaf once to learn how important this is!

 Put it down I tell you. It's much easier to control it!

Still, our luck was in, and the slashing seems to be going pretty well. There's a definite knack to the rapid slash - not too heavy, not too slow. This baker went for an ambitious criss cross, and brought it off pretty well, and without deflating the dough, which is a big plus.

Batard shaping

This week we repeated the exercise of practising our shaping and noticing how, if at all, the structure of the "crumb" is affected by folding and stretching at shaping time. 

Batard shaping could become a party game like pin the tail on the donkey, or a village fete sport like welly wanging. My poor batard today was shaped and unshaped half a dozen times before I let it rest in peace.

But this time we weren't just playing at batards: this was serious. We wanted to produce a finished loaf that was recognisably a batard. We used a standard bread recipe, but souped it up a bit as suggested by the recipe from the Larouse bread book, which listed some sourdough sponge in the ingredients. This in effect makes the batard a "pain de campagne". Elizabeth David describes it as similar in a French kind of way to an English bloomer.

Apples galore

As well as Miller's Seedlings from Nell, we've had cookers from Jill and today there was home made apple juice to try. It was rich and thick, and surprisingly dark - not far off a black coffee to look at. But apple to the core - really strong taste, and deliciously appley. And absolutely never never never from concentrate!

Bread in the community

One baker recently picked up an unsold loaf of bread from Arnside's ever popular village shop - Bullough's Londis, which was "free to feed the ducks". But he had a cunning plan. He took it instead to feed the young brains of local school kids. Using a slice of bread to represent a slice through the world, he demonstrated what a small percentage of the world the rocky crust actually is.

Now if that had been a sourdough loaf, the world might have been a different place altogether.

Sourdough news

We're going for it. The next meeting of our Friday group will be on Friday 13th of November. We are going to try the high risk option of making sourdough together. What could possibly go wrong? Watch this space.

My sourdough was spectacularly successful at home this week. I started work on the sponge on Wednesday, used some at the mill on Friday, made sourdough dough on Saturday night and finally baked it on Sunday afternoon. Because the sponge had been fed several times during these 4 days, it was extraordinarily active. This is in effect the "production sourdough" that Andrew Whitley talks of, and it really does make a difference. This is what the dough looked like on Sunday morning, after a 12 hour rise -

And this is the finished product -

And it really does taste good. Let's hope we have something to show on Friday the 13th!