The penultimate bake

We had to close the bakery in March 2020 because of lockdown. We stayed in north Wales most of the time & Michael baked bread for the neighbours up until Easter 2021 when we started going back to Birkenhead more. But it seemed like too much time had past and we also thought it was probably time to sell the house. So we decided to have a final bake – and then at special request by Paul, a penultimate one to make sure everything worked.

Helen, Lesley and Michael baked 23 loaves and a few friends came for lunch, like olden times, lovely


Hawthorn – also known as whitethorn. For those with ageing hearts

A member of the rose family, hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) is a thorny, flowering tree or shrub native to temperate regions of Europe, North America, and northern Asia. Though the tiny sweet red berries (“haws”) are used in jams, jellies, candies, and wines, all parts of the plant—the leaves, flowers, berries, stems, and even the bark—have long been used in herbal medicine as digestive, kidney, and anti-anxiety aids. It’s also prominent as a tonic for treating cardiac diseases and for strengthening the aging heart, a use that dates back to the first century.P

So we decided to make some haw jelly and thought you might like the recipe

Pick haws – just take them in bunches with stalks and leaves, quite a few. Then bring them home and de-stalk them. Just about cover with water and boil. Simmer for 40 mins or so. Let drip through muslin and discard the remnants – the hens dont even touch them…. Then weigh the liquid you have and add an equal amount of sugar. 500g of haws makes about 600 g of jam. Boil until it sets. Voila!

Haw Jelly; Haw gin & dried haws

We also made haw gin (add sugar and gin to berries & cut the haws off the stones (which have cyanide in but so do apple pips) to get haw flesh that is left to dry for about a week and then used in salads/muesli or curries. with the haw gin, the red berries turn white and the gin turns red within 24 hours but it then needs to be left a couple of months………….

Nothing to do with bread but I thought the bread circle might be interested,


Here is a link to a recipe for those who love soft white bread!

A unique Japanese recipe for Japanese white bread:–02-57–UTC

Autumn coming – what are we in for?

The bakery remains dormant and there does not seem to be any realistic prospect of being able to start up again within the foreseeable future, with another kind of lockdown looming. The essence of the project is social and ‘distancing’ was never part of the plan. The opposite – we wanted people to come together who might not have in any other way. That has really worked and apart from many people now making their own bread that did not before, there are also friendships that have developed out of this that might not have come about otherwise. We miss the baking together and the Thursday lunches and the camaraderie that developed – the bread circle walks; Xmas biscuit baking days; sharing recipes – and the social aspect to the bread pick up (sorry, what do you mean?) too. As the nights draw in, it’ll be hard for everyone we imagine. At least sunny days meant we could cycle and walk and get out and about. We’re doing lots of baking and making jams in Wales – let us know if anyone wants any and also any ideas you have for managing a locked in autumn and winter. We can stay in touch by zoom if people want to and we can organise this – let us know if wanted. It has its limitations and meeting in person is so much nicer. It’ll happen again but maybe not till the spring. Let us know what you think, maybe post something here, and most importantly: Keep well. All the best from Julia and Michael

Lockdown loaves 31/5/2020

This is how your bread is made:
Firstly I need to crank up the sourdough quantity. That happens on Thursday evenings – hence I need your orders by then. This is when the ways part – the rye and the wheat loaf are slightly different production processes. Ideally they would also have different starters at different temperatures but I leave this to the big commercial sourdough bakeries.
My first task is to get a ‘soaker’ ready. That is, there is a need to soak the malted rye and the sunflower seeds with boiling water for a couple of hours – this makes them nice and soft and integrated with the structure of the bread.
The rye this week required me to grind some rye kernels and make the flour (picture of mill attached). This took about 3/4 of an hour for 1.5 kg.
Now it comes to mixing the dough: take a portion of starter, the required amount of water with some extra in reserve if needed, a smigeon of yeast to aid vigorous fermentation, the required amount of the soaked malted rye and sunflower seeds, rye flour and strong wheat flour,and a little bit of salt, and put all this in the mixer with the dough hook. My little kitchen mixer never makes a perfect mix so I then take it out and knead it a bit – messy with the rye. Then it gets ‘scaled’ to the loaf weight, and put in tins sprayed with non-stick baking oil (see attached picture of tins). Then each tin gets provided with a ‘night cap’ consisting of a plastic bag. (see picture). Ideally I would have biggish shower caps with rubber strings but the bags work fine. The tins get put in the oven as is at high temperatures, then temperature gets lowered. Overall time approx 45 mins to 1 hour.
For the wheat loaf, it is a simpler process:
Take a portion of sourdough, add water, then yeast, then flour (a mix of some homeground wheat which I had, some wholemeal and some strong white), then salt (always keep yeast and salt separate). Then mix this – long enough to make into a nice manageable dough. Let rest for a moment then divide in the right portions for loaves, shape the loaves (requires a little bit of technique) and put them in floured bread baskets/bannetons. Again give each one a cap for the night (Plastic bag).
Next morning I put the oven on (top temperature) and put in it the under-pot of a flower pot (ceramic) while the top part (the pot) gets soaked in cold water (picture of the gadget attached). The underpot is seasoned and I put a baking sheet on it when hot, and then on that the loaf from the bread basket, then put the cold, wet top on and put in the hot oven. Leave well alone for 1/2 hour, then remove the top, and bake for another 10-20 minutes before turning down the temperature to around 230 or lower. Overall one hour is reasonable but can be longer.
Then it needs to all cool down on a rack and get made ready for you to pick up.

Welsh bake 4 10th May 2020

Dear All,
here in my hide-out in Wales it is all pretty peaceful. 2 neighbours have had the virus infection, one of whom is a GP and I wondered whether it was because of lack of PPE. But it is unusually warm (mostly) for the time of the year. I have been making bread for some neighbours, and am just about managing with the kitchen facilities here with about 8 loaves. The rye is most popular but there are a couple of people who struggle with crusty bread so I make a loaf in a tin (the other comes out of bannetons) and this week I had a bit too much dough, which is exactly the same for the two versions. One gets proved in the oiled tin, the other in a floured banneton, overnight. One gets baked at the highest possible temperature, and then at a reduced temperature of about 210 C. The loaves in the tins get started at the same temperature, and the reduced to 190. At the beginning they get sprayed twice over the first 10 minutes and loosely covered with alu foil. And then sprayed again at the end.
The two loaves we found have a completely different flavour! Extraordinary. Just goes to show how important the crust is for flavour.
One of the neighbours gave us two carrot buns, made to a recipe from a VE-day cookery book – delicious. She is a very good cook but also famous for her making it into the Guiness book of records for fell-running (A long time ago). Yes VE day – this day has not yet come for the corona war, but there were some interesting and some moving tributes for the other one:
Here is one from a French paper:
And here is a link to the German president’s speech, available in a variety of languages:
Meanwhile the new (and fairly extreme) right in Germany is claiming it as the day to remember all the German losses and injustices to Germans. This creates a difficult dynamic because yes there were lots of losses for the Germans, but the liberation from the Nazis is also the liberation from the reason for all those losses, and that tends to get lost in their narrative.
I hope you are able to keep the bread supply going. This week we had a defrosted loaf from the final bake in Kingsmead Road North, a Granary type loaf and it was very, very nice! Miss it.
top photo is bread awaiting pick up; scond one is 3 of this week’s loaves and the bottom one is of three sheep who lost their way and have been sleeping rough for about a week

Time for a Pause (Lockdown 2)

Michael made another few loaves for neighbours here today, very much appreciated and I made wild garlic and cheddar cheese scones to mark Olwen’s birthday – we had a zoom birthday party, all with our own scones!

Here is a loaf and scones given to Vicky who lives nearby.94030329_10222846872706144_390843767692722176_o.jpg

and this is Michael’s bread note:

Dinorwig or Upper Fachwen?

I am not sure whether this bread is baked in Dinorwig (in keeping with the name of our local gin) or in Upper Fachwen? If anyone has a strong opinion or some good advice please let the baker know. Today’s rye loaves were put together early this morning as we were late last night watching a zombie movie. So maybe the taste is a little less sour. There is some benefit to having rye properly fermented with sourdough as it increases its nutritional value. It has had three hours fermentation so that should be adequate but normally I would give it longer.

The wheat loaves have had the same time to ferment, but were made after the rye. The kitchen looked like a flour war had taken place afterwards because everything was done in a rush. When Julia came down for her breakfast she was unusually shocked. Let’s hope the bread is good enough. Feedback please, the only fee you have to pay today! There is no request to contribute anything for the time being. Might need some more good will some day in these strange times. Greetings, Michael.

Given that it’s Covid19 times, and our friends have been making masks, I’ll post here too Leo’s short video about them being made:


Lockdown baking

Dear All,
Here is a breadmaking link that Julia passed on which might be of interest to some who are not avid Guardian readers:
This might be a bit pedestrian for the more experienced bakers but I thought it interesting nevertheless. And some of you might feel encouraged.
Anyway, Arezoo whom some of you might remember from some bread notes, has been busy making face masks from nice African material. They are a good design because one can pout some tissue inside which can be changed frequently. The Junior doctors here at Bangor received an allocation of 10 of these which they will wear when they go out into town, shopping or the like, because it protects the public. Due to the lack of testing they don’t know if the are infectious or not, however they are heavily exposed and have to assume that they might be loaded with the virus any day. Despite Arezoo’s efforts  and a director of the WHO systematically making the point on YOUTUBE that face masks while not being the end-all of it, are probably useful and everyone should wear them, our health minister still seems to say that there is no point. I despair.
But this is really about the bread: in lieu of not having an Easter egg here Julia suggested that we maybe should have passover Matzahs instead. Since we have the luxury of being able to choose which ultimately pagan rite we want to follow I decided to make some of these unleavened flatbreads of the Jewish mythology (I hope my religious friends can forgive me for the slightly lighthearted take of the unbeliever). Of course they were not kosher, if only because I could not stick to the required time frame. In order to make sure that the bread is totally unleavened the dough has to be made within 18 minutes in total from mixing water and flour to putting it all in the oven. I did not manage that. And it turned out a bit like crisp bread but had the right flavour, only better than what can bought in the shops where the flavour of the card board box can be almost indistinguishable from the content. It was excellent with a little bit of wild garlic pesto. Very much recommended. And I think it is really good bread to make if you want to take something with you on a camping trip or the like.
For Easter I have been offering the neighbours here a loaf if they wanted one and there is a small production going to happen, just about possible within the capacity of our kitchen oven. It will be two loaves of pure wheat bread and two loaves af pure rye bread. I will let you know next week whether it worked.
Meanwhile I hope you are all keeping well! Share what you are up to if you feel like it. As I am writing I should have been in Munich helping my brother celebrate his 80th birthday.
All the best,
Michael Good Friday 2020IMG_0741.jpg

Closing the Bakery

We had planned to bake this week and have a bakery lunch to become as safe as possible with the coronavirus – but veents overtook us and we realised we had to close the bakery straight away. Michael had got a lot of flour in so he decided to do a lone bake, as the safest way to do it, and work his way through all the flour. In the end he did get a bit of help from me, Arezoo and Mehdi but mostly did it on his own and baked 200 loaves. The oven broke down so we had to do them in our smaller oven in our kitchen but we made it. We bagged everyone’s bread up to avoid unnecessary contact and had loads extra that people could take too. We collected money for the foodbank only this time and raised more htan ever – £115 – which may help a little…though it’s dire times for people in need – homeless, refugees etc.

Lets hope we can open again soon. Love to everyone


Here’s our bread note for today

Bread text 18-03-2020


Hi all, well, we thought we’d have to close the bakery at some point but never imagined it would be due to a virus and needing to minimise social contact! What crazy and sad times we are in and it is perhaps a wake up call to the world to travel less, do more locally and wash our hands more! Michael has valiantly – and nearly single handedly – made many many loaves of four different varieties – rye/spelt/plain and granary and we hope you will enjoy them, freeze some for the future and bake your own too. Arezoo and Mehdi and I helped this morning to ensure it could all be done by this evening. In the middle of the process, of course, the oven stopped working so the bread has had to be completed back in our kitchen where it all started, all those years ago!

We are relocating to Wales for a bit and hope to be back to baking and socialising in a few weeks or whenever the country settles down again.

All left over flour will be bagged and given to people along with sourdough starter for those that requested it.


Enjoy your bread and your time at home doing all those things you never had time to do! love Julia (& Michael)