Friday, 27 November 2009

From this week . . .

From this last crazy week we have learnt some useful things.

That doing an over-night prove, early morning bake and then needing to mix that day is not a good idea. To get the mixing off on the right foot we have to start at 8.00, and that means breakfast over and kitchen cleared of family stuff and into bread-prep state. You just can't do that if you've been baking already that morning. Things got so behind yesterday that Matthew was up until after midnight, and then up at six to bake again. We're a bit tired!

That baker's children do eat bread, but it mainly comes in the form of rolls made from left-over bits of dough after the loaves have been weighed out!

That a big bake is better than doing dribs and drabs. To that end we've agreed with Reuben's that we'll deliver bread to them three times a week and do no more than that until the steamie is done.

That I need meal planning to work around the baking schedule so that we have 'instant' lunches and suppers in the slow cooker on dough days.

That we would be lost without Matthew's mother, Rosie, who saved us on Tuesday after our first big bake by taking us out to the unbeatable Kushi's for a lunch-time curry. We might not have made it through the day without it. And she's going to let us store a big flour order in her lovely new garden room so that we can meet the minimum order for Green City and not have to drive to Glasgow again (in her car!).

That we need an early night. Now!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Baking again!

We had a call from Reuben's deli this morning to say that they had all but sold out and could we bake more for tomorrow.

It seems that there may be a market for decent bread in Dunfermline!

And look at our lovely new logo . . .

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The long road to a loaf

Today we delivered our first small batch of loaves to our local deli. We're completely exhausted, but delighted to have got over the hurdle of the first 'full' bake, especially as Matthew was writing the web site at the same time.

Baking sourdough bread is a slow process. For the batch of loaves delivered this morning (Tuesday) we started on Saturday night. At that point Matthew calculated the amount of started needed to make leaven for the four different loaves we were to make - sourdough, brown, oat and five grain - and mixed up the rye and wheat starters.

On Sunday night the leavens for the oat and grainy loaves were mixed up. This involves mixing a small amount of the sourdough starter with flour and water and letting the yeasts and acids develop over night. I measured out the grains and put them in the slow cooker. Those are the ones in the picture in the previous post - oat, wheat, spelt, rye and barley.

On Monday the serious work began. Matthew mixed up the doughs for the oat and the grainy loaves whilst I kept the girls occupied elsewhere - trying to answer a stream of 'why' questions whilst measuring out oats does not make for ideal dough mixing conditions! They were kneaded periodically throughout the morning.

At two the oat and grainy doughs were measured out and put into their tins and left to rise in our cool-ish kitchen.

At four o'clock Matthew mixed up the dough for the sourdough (basically a light brown, hand shaped) and the brown. They were kneaded over the next few hours.

Things were going very well to plan at this point. Thereafter we slipped at bit with timings, partly because I selfishly took myself off to yoga at half past five! Also because Matthew was desperately trying to get the website up and running .

The tinned loaves were baked at eight in the evening coming out after an hour.

The brown and sourdough shaped and put in the retarder at ten. We finally fell into bed at about half eleven.

Matthew got up in the wee small hours to get the hand shaped loaves in the oven. I confess I took this picture at the weekend at a rather more civilised hour.

It is a long process, and at this stage a lot of work for a small batch, but we need to start small whilst we don't have a proper bread oven. However, in spite of the long process, it is a gentle one. There are many hours in the day, even on a busy mixing and baking day such as Monday when the dough is happily doing it's thing by its self. One of the reasons for wanting to bake like this is to work together more, but also to have more time to spend all together as a family, and at the moment sourdough baking on site seems well suited to this.

As if to prove this point I managed to accidentally take an hour long nap with E this afternoon. Ooops. Matthew and S managed to look after themselves whilst I dreamed of scones. Of which more later . . .

Oh, and the deli sold half of our first batch. Which, on an especially foul and wet Tuesday, we're pretty pleased about.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

A Trade Account

Today I drove with the girls through driving wind and rain to pick up our first order as The Steamie, from the Green City Cooperative in Glasgow. They have a minimum order, so rather than clog up our small flat with flour we don't yet need, we decided borrow a car to go and pick it up. Not a very environmentally friendly start, but we did combine it with a trip to the Burrell Collection for S and E.

This means we are almost ready to go with the small scale baking which we will be doing whilst the steamie is converted. However, it also means that our sitting room floor is covered with grains and flour. Better get baking . . .

We plan to spend the weekend perfecting the processes we will need for supplying the deli. We have a large oven, but I suspect getting the timings right for different stages of the bread making will take a little practice. I also have to grit my teeth and wear one of the most unattractive hats I've ever seen if I handle the dough. But my carefully crafted HACCP-based Health and Safety regulations say I must, so I must!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Welcome to The Steamie Bakehouse

Welcome to The Steamie Bakehouse. We began baking our own bread five years ago when the bread stall stopped coming to our local market and we found that we just didn't want to eat supermarket bread any more. Since those first tentative loaves we have learned, through reading, conversation, eating and experimenting, to bake bread that is, to us, delicious, healthy, attractive, nutritious, and respectful of the environment and our location in the world.

About eighteen months ago we realised that we wanted to sell our bread, and that it was good enough that other people might want to eat it! Since then we have been working on the bread and on our future bakehouse. That's the Steamie.

The Bakehouse is going to be created out of the shell that once was the steamie for the tenement building in which we have a flat. Steamies were communal wash-houses built on the shared ground of many Victorian and Edwardian tenements. When we moved into this flat two and a half years ago our steamie looked as if it might blow down in a stiff wind - and living on a hill in Fife, we get plenty of those! Right now it has four re-pointed walls and a window frame, soon it's going to need to earn it's keep.

This blog will record our journey in baking bread, building a bakehouse and creating a community oven.