The last bake

It was a lovely farewell to the bakery. Natasha and Julia did the starter on Tuesday, Beryl and Deborah did the mix and Janis, Helen and Angela baked the loaves – 46 1/2….We decided no-one could have more than one loaf because we couldn’t bake enough this time, being out of practice. And we came together for an amazing lunch – a real feast. We all felt a bit overwhelmed – both the emotion of it but also the exhaustion of being so social after so long of not mixing with many people. So a sad event but a good ending.

We will have a meal in September for all the bread circle, so not just the bakers, but everyone who used to collect bread too. We made a lot of friends through doing the bakery and when we move, we will be living nearer to some of the friends we made too. We agreed to keep in touch, go on walks or meet up anyway – it was altogether a good thing

Julia

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

julia

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,

Julia

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

A unique Japanese recipe for Japanese white bread:
https://www.goodfood.com.au/recipes/news/shokupan-awe-how-to-make-japanese-milk-bread-and-its-cult-sandos-20200910-h1qmvv?promote_channel=edmail&mbnr=MjI4NTIyMzI&eid=email:nnn-13omn566-ret_newsl-membereng:nnn-04%2F11%2F2013-national_news_main-dom-life_and_style-nnn-goodfood-u&campaign_code=13IFW004&list_name=10073_gdf_news_nat&instance=2020-09-16–02-57–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.
Greetings,
Michael

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.
Greetings,
Michael
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
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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: