Sorry - no bread!

Sorry - There will be no bread on the following Fridays:
27th March, 17th and 24th April, 2015

Baking and Beanies!

The Marshfield Country Market opens again on Friday 23rd January. I will be there with a selection of loaves for sale as well as bread orders for collection.

Over the Christmas break I have been busy perfecting a loaf of bread for a friend with cancer. He was having difficulty digesting supermarket bread so I devised a loaf for him that was based on a wholemeal sourdough using wholemeal and spelt flours. The addition of masses of nutritious seeds, goji berries and spices has resulted in a delicious loaf with a soft crumb. The wholemeal flours means that this loaf will never be as light as a white loaf but by using a little fresh yeast as well as the sourdough has resulted in a loaf that is substantial but not as dense as some straight wholemeal loaves can be. The loaf also has whole caraway and fennel seeds together with ground fenugreek. Altogether a very delicious, nutritious and easy to digest loaf of bread.

Another group of friends have also been busy crocheting beanies, hats and scarves to raise money for the Chemo Ward at Southampton General Hospital. Check out their new website by clicking on the logo:

Pasted Graphic

A new venture for Wraxall Real Bread

The Wraxall Real Bread website has been having some problems - not least because the server wouldn't let me update anything - however, these are now resolved and I should be able to keep this site up to date again. Sorry for the delay.

The intervening period has been anything but quiet at Wraxall Real Bread. I continue to make and sell my bread at the Marshfield Country Market every Friday and am now also making and selling breads at the new market in Castle Combe. This takes place on the first Saturday of each month and has a nice variety of food producers and crafts. The repertoire continues to expand with interesting new flat breads with cumin and chickpea making a regular appearance and, with the return of the wild garlic to the woods, a wild garlic focaccia amongst others.

The most exciting news however is the launch of my new series of digital books. Under the umbrella of
The Curious Peasant I have written the first in a series of e books, Simple Sourdoughs. This small volume will tell you all about making and maintaining a sourdough culture, and of course how to bake sourdoughs using my easy no-knead technique. The book also contains a baker's dozen of delicious contemporary recipes. The next title, Tagines, will be out soon.
Simple Sourdoughs

You can buy Simple Sourdoughs from Amazon in a Kindle edition or from Smashwords in a variety of other download formats.

Why you need a credit card in the kitchen

Vicky asked me to make a contribution as a guest blogger so here goes!

If you’ve never made bread before you don’t know what you’re missing and here’s why;

Firstly, it’s surprisingly cheap as well as being much better for you than most mass-produced breads you buy at the supermarket (don’t lie, you know you do). But, most importantly, it’s much more fun than you’d think and it’s even more fun making it with Vicky. Yes, she may be slightly odd at times but she knows two things like the back of her hand, one being cheese and the other, bread. So naturally, during a brief visit to Court Close, aka the best bakery in North Wraxall, I offered to help out a bit. I even got to wear an apron.

After being handed a pile of dough (ok, I lied a bit, I technically didn’t make anything seeing Vicky actually made the dough but no one needs to know this) and given some instructions I was pretty much left to my own devices. What was most interesting is the radical differences between textures. The rolls were much firmer than the focaccia for instance, meaning the actual shaping and kneading of the latter is a little bit harder but if I managed it’s safe to say it can’t be that hard to do. You also acquire the dough shaping technique quickly. That being said, it is a little tricky turning the dough inside out at first but I eventually got the hang of it thanks to Vicky’s credit card – yes, it must be true, one cannot live without a credit card in this day and age- and after a short while in the oven my little poppy seed rolls were finished. What’s more, I am pleased to say they were actually sold at Vicky’s market the next day. Hopefully no one will come back to complain…

All in all it was much more fun than I’d have thought and strangely satisfying.

Sophie the Pearl.

Vicky Writes: Why the credit card? Simples! Make a flattened disc of dough and with the short end of a credit card (clean of course, platinum is best though gold will do…) make a vertical cut through the centre of the dough. This should reach almost but not quite to the edge of the disc of dough. The next two cuts should be diagonals across the vertical cut. Very carefully lift the dough from the work top and push the centre of the cut up from below and turn the disc of dough inside out. You end up with a star shape with a central hole. Allow to prove and just before baking, brush with water and dust with poppy seeds. Richard Bertinet has a great description of this technique, with pictures, in his book
Dough: Simple Contemporary Bread on page 107.

Well done Sophie. It was a pleasure having you in the kitchen.

How to bake and watch tennis!

At last the sun is out and the tennis at Wimbledon is more exciting than it's been for several years. But the guilt of spending the afternoons in the house with the television on can be outweighed if you have a project on hand. So, in order to dissipate the tension of Andy Murray's slow start on Wednesday I thought I'd try to make a wheat sheaf.

A bread wheat sheaf is a traditional harvest decoration and it can be made with a very weak dough which is high in salt. This gives a mouldable dough without much rise - the result is however inedible. The alternative is to make the sheaf with a normal bread dough. The resulting loaf would be edible but, as the sheaf takes time to make and is rising all the time, you run the risk of too much rise or 'over-proving'. This results in a loss of definition as the individual elements grow into each other and the whole sheaf can deflate when it is put in the oven. Either way the result is a less edible wheat sheaf. Of course making something like this at the height of the summer is probably not the best idea I have ever had. The increased warmth means that the bread rises even faster. So, as a first attempt, I decided to go for the high salt, mouldable dough.

The whole sheaf took two and half hours to make. First the basic shape is rolled out and cut. Then 35 'stalks' made and applied to the base of the sheaf. The wheat ears are just a series of little sausages, snipped with scissors to show the kernels and arranged on the top of the sheaf. The whole is tied with an ornamental knot which disguises the tops of the stalks and, as a finishing touch, I added a harvest mouse. The whole thing is held together with egg wash and then more egg wash applied to the surface to give a nice shiny finish. The whole thing is a bit lopsided - I blame Andy Murray as I had to keep pausing to either watch the TV or to hide my eyes. Tennis players aren't the only ones to lose momentum!

The sheaf just fitted on my largest baking tray - note to self - assemble the next one on the tray, don't try to move the completed shape !!!! (That is why the base is a little out of kilter………

Given the very small amount of yeast in the dough there was very little rise or 'oven spring' in the completed sheaf. I cooked it for about 30 minutes at 240 c and was delighted when I took it out of the oven. It was still a little soft however and, as it isn't edible, I thought I'd dry it out in the bottom oven of the AGA for a couple of hours; classic mistake. The sheaf wasn't remembered until the next day. Amazingly it hadn't turned into a complete cinder but it is certainly darker than I would like. Still this is just a first attempt with lots of room for improvement.

Next time, I will use a standard bread dough with more yeast and less salt (and try not to forget it). It would be nice to have an edible result so more use will have to be made of the fridge during the construction to hold back the rise. I'll let you know how I get on! Shame the tennis won't still be on.