Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Tea Party

A few weeks ago we passed our final regulatory hurdle for the oven with the granting of our building warrant. With that out of the way we wanted to give a tea party to say thank you to our patient Bread Club customers who had hung on for us whilst we built the new oven.  We also wanted to thank people who had been involved in the build, and to our neighbours.

So we gave the oven a special Saturday firing and made buns - chocolate and currant - and pizza.  With onions, chard and courgettes from the Pillars of Hercules and cheese from the St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese company, we even managed local pizza toppings.

Pizza bases rising during the afternoon, overseen by Matthew as I bustled about with cups and saucers and tablecloths.

I was so busy pouring cups of tea, that I managed to not take a single picture during the party.  The sign of a good afternoon, I think.

Sunday, 19 June 2011


In many ways, well-made baguettes are the epitome of white bread. The contrast of the crispy, crackly crust and the mellow, soft crumb, combined with a hint of chewiness and a gentle, mildly sweet and lingering flavour, the whole brought out with some cool unsalted butter, is, I think, one of the really great eating experiences.

Perfection comes at a price, though. Baguettes have perhaps the poorest keeping quality of any bread; after only a few short hours the crust is leathery, and the crumb stiff, and like all white breads, they have only modest nutritional benefits and all the undesirable health consequences that come with a high glycemic index. For these reasons, I generally eat them only as an occaisional treat. Since my baking ambition is to make great everyday breads I haven't been much fussed about making them either.

Some bakers, however, are very fussed about making them, and these include many for whom I have enormous respect, and to whom I have to acknowledge a debt of gratitude for knowledge shared. Jeffery Hamelman is perhaps foremost amongst these; in addition to his superlative book bread (covering everything from baguettes to Vollkorn Rye), he has a series of videos about baguette making viewable online and is a world champion baker. So although I don't have much interest in turning out 300 bags every week, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that a decent baguette should be part of a serious baker's repertoire.

Every so often, then, I have a go at improving my baguettes. Below is my current recipe. It yeilds a crispy crust:

and a soft, open crumb:

and it makes me feel like a real baker. I'm so shallow!

Mini Baguettes:
(makes 8 200g baguettes)

50g strong white flour
50g water
20g wholemeal rye chef

Ferment 4 hours at 28C.

155g Strong white flour
85g Water
100g starter (from above)

Ferment 12 - 16 hours at 16C

850g Strong white
620g water
340g leaven (from above)
15g salt
25g olive oil

Mix flour and water, and leave to rest for 30 minutes. Add leaven, salt and oil and knead to a medium level of development. Ferment 4 hours at 24C, with folds at 50 and 100 minutes. Divide into 200g pieces, round and rest for 20 minutes. Shape, and prove for 2 hours. Bake 30 minutes at 240C with steam.

Fermentation temperatures indicate the desired temperature of the dough, not the surrounding air. I have written about how to adjust the water temperature to achieve this here.

This is very much a bare-bones recipe because a lot of detail is not easily conveyed in writing. I strongly recommend watching Jeffery Hamelman's baguette videos, linked above.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


Now that the oven is all finished we're busy developing new breads for the Bakery.  Matthew is working on perfecting our wholemeal wheat loaf - while we were baking for ourselves in our kitchen during the oven build we tried different ways of doing the wholemeal.  Some things were so successful that Matthew is trying to incorporate them into our regular loaf.

I'm working on developing new specials.  The Sweet Lemony Fennelly was the first product of this process.  The inspiration for the loaf was Laurel Robertson's Bread Book.

The two books which inspired our move to all sourdough, Andrew Whitley's Bread Matters and Dan Lepard's Handmade Loaf, concentrate mainly on white or mainly white breads.  Whilst they are both inspiring books, we are so convinced of the taste and health benefits of wholemeal bread that we needed to look further afield for inspiration, and came to the American wholefoods guru Laurel Robertson.

Although Laurel Robertson's bread is not all sourdough, it is a fairly easy matter to convert the recipes to sourdough.  This is how I began with the Sweet Lemony Fennelly.  I love the combination of lemon and fennel, so I was delighted to come across the mix in one of Laurel's recipes.  Hers is a savoury bread.  My first step was to convert her recipe to sourdough.  The bread came out really well, however, it needed some changes.  We wanted another sweet bread for the bakery so we added light muscovado sugar.  We also felt that the use of lemon zest would be too fiddly a process to replicate efficiently in the bakery, so we continued the sweet theme and brought in the lemon flavour with candied lemon.  We ended up with a delicious loaf, excellent spread with butter the first few days, and toasted with almond butter for up to a week afterwards.

I wish I had a better picture, but I confess I was more interested in eating it than photographing!