Monday, 23 August 2010

Perks of the Job: No. 3


In the days when we were baking in our kitchen there was quite often the opportunity for using up some surplus starter from the day's bake in hotcakes for the next morning.

For the uninitiated, hotcakes are a kind of naturally yeasted pancake (think drop scone rather than crepe), traditionally done on a griddle. Sandor Katz in his excellent Wild Fermentation has a great recipe and description. His is an Alaskan Frontier recipe - the frontiers men would carry their sourdough starter with them so they could have bread or hotcakes wherever they found themselves.

I'm sure the life of an artisan baker is very cushy in comparison to that of an Alaskan Frontiersman, but when you're up at Baker O'clock, a couple of hotcakes with jam and creme fraiche are extremely welcome.

Even now when we don't bake in our kitchen I keep a jar of starter whose main function is the raising of weekend hotcakes. They are also great with a fried egg and salt pork.

Baker's Breakfast Hotcakes

The night before

140g starter
250ml water - lukewarm
200g fine wholemeal flour (I use Dove's Farm)

Mix these together, cover, and leave to ferment until the next morning.

In the morning -

Gently heat a cast iron pan or griddle, or other heavy frying pan. Then stir in to your hotcake mix

1 egg, beaten (if you need egg-free pancakes, you can leave this out, although the soft middle of the hotcakes will be a little squidgy)
1 tbspn olive oil, or melted lard or butter.
1/2 tspn salt
1/2 tspn bicarbonate of soda (this is not essential, but neutralises the slightly sour taste of the hotcakes, if you want).

Put a little lard or butter on a bit of kitchen roll or cloth and rub over the griddle.

Pour on sufficient batter to make the size of hotcake you require. When bubbles have formed and the top has firmed up a little, flip and cook the other side.

As they come off the griddle eat at once, or keep warm for a short while in a low oven wrapped in a tea towel.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Travelling Starter

A major consideration when packing for our holiday for the last few years has been 'how can we get our starter safely to Cornwall?'. With four of us going on the train over two days, this is no small matter. How can we seal the jar so the starter doesn't escape on the train, without pressure building up causing the jar to explode? (Yes, this has happened to me!) How to keep it cool enough? How to remember to put it in the fridge during our overnight stay in London, when all we want to do is eat my Mum's delicious supper and drink some wine? And again, how to remember to pop it straight in the fridge when we get there and not leave it in the sun while we run straight to the sea?

Important questions when you have a plan to try out beach bread!

The starter made it down to Cornwall without major incident, and the beach barbeque plans were hatched. Naturally leavened beach bread cannot be a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing. Not when you've got to make the starter the night before. So we had to gamble on the weather and ended up with a classic British beach day - grey with a threat of drizzle - each time with did it! However, as you can see, we found that it's much better to get out onto the beach in the drizzle and get on with it than kick around the cottage.

We chose a spot at the base of a rocky outcrop and built a small fire pit.

First up were some John Dorys, they cooked while the fire was hot, at the same time the stones under the fire, on which we planned to cook the bread, were heating.

When they were done we wrapped them up and buried them in warm sand while the bread cooked.

Matthew then stretched out bits of dough and placed them on the hot rocks where the fire had been.

Things got a little sandy and ashy . . .

. . . but nothing a quick brush down couldn't fix.

Barbequed fish, flat breads baked on the stones and some locally-grown cucumbers the shape and colour of lemons. Yum. Love holidays!

Monday, 9 August 2010


Wow, summer is not a great time for blogging. How did four months go by without attention to this poor neglected blog?

One reason is that the bakery work has been changing and keeping us on our toes - because we don't have a proving box (a massive fridge used in most bakeries to keep the speed of their dough proving constant) we adjust the amount of starter and water in the dough to make the loaves prove more slowly in hot weather. Doing this over the change of season for the first time has taken a bit of adjusting to. We made a couple of batches of 'barbeque loaves' when Sourdoughs got too flat in the heat.

And here is photographic evidence that in June it was even hot enough to make a barbeque to go with them. In Fife! Flat sourdough bread and herrings were a brilliant combination.

There have been so many things to keep us outside at this time of year that sitting in front of the computer has been a low priority. However, now it's August and the rainy season has begun! We are also finally starting the process of building our new oven. After much research, thought and conversations with architects, potters and materials manufacturers, it's time to actually do it!

First stop, order the materials . . .