New Traditions – Day 3 NaBloPoMo 2016

I’m writing to you with the smell of new bread baking in the kitchen. It’s one of those things that spells “home” to me though my family weren’t into yeast-based cookery when I was a kid. We had bunches of dried herbs, cured meats and always pickled onions. I also remember the rows of Fowlers Vacola preserving jars (the Australian equivalent of Ball Mason canning jars) full of bottled fruit that my parents would put by every summer so we could eat apricots and peaches in the middle of winter.

I still put food by, it’s a deeply ingrained habit that I doubt I’ll ever fall out of love with. Instead of bunches of herbs hanging (and the luxury of a walk in pantry) I have new traditions – a dehydrator, a set of tall stockpots and a thermometer for water bath processing and a ragtag assortment of jars that I routinely wash, sterilise, fill, process, store and use.

My “pantry” is a bookshelf with a curtain to cut out the light and here I keep my preserved cordials, bottled and dried fruit, basil and lemon oils, homemade apple cider vinegar, bread flour and spare egg cartons. At the moment it’s mostly empty jars. There’s no bottled fruit left, one lonely roll of fruit leather from last summer, some pickled and dried chilies from the autumn harvest and a few bottles of sauce, fruit cordial, basil oil and flavoured vinegar.

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To this day, I’m not sure why we never made bread when I was a child. I suspect with six of us in the house when I was young, it would’ve been much easier and less time consuming to buy bread than make it! My mother was a wonderful baker and I learned many delicious cake and biscuit recipes from her. Every Saturday was baking day and after lunch, the kitchen table would be cleared to make enough biscuits and small cakes for the coming week. In winter there would also be a few dozen Cornish pasties that would end up reheated as lunches, a savoury Pasty Pie and at least one large cake for the weekend and any visitors that might call in.

For those of you who’ve followed my blog for a while, I have a “pet” sourdough plant I named Wee Beastie. She lives on a shelf in the kitchen, where she watches everything that goes on and demands feeding daily. I started her off on new year’s day 2015 so she’s approaching her 2nd birthday.

Wee Beastie - watching and waiting!

Wee Beastie – note the air bubbles visible through the glass jar!

This living culture requires no other yeast and is a wonderfully frothy mix. My basic recipe is roughly 2 cups of Wee Beastie, 2 cups of strong bread flour, 2 teaspoons of bread improver and some olive oil to stop the dough getting too sticky. Sometimes I add half a cup of rye flour and add a couple of tablespoons of water so the dough is fairly soft. Once this is knocked together in a bowl I turn it out onto my wooden bench and knead it thoroughly for about 5 minutes. Then I make it into a loaf shape, coat my hands in olive oil (about a tablespoon) and massage the oil into the loaf, putting it in a bread pan to prove.

I’m essentially lazy, so it only gets one chance to rise. Normally, I knock the loaf together in the afternoon, leave the dough to rise overnight and bake it the following morning. The results of this slow process are pretty spectacular and incredibly delicious!

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Even when it’s a few days old, this bread makes the best toast, perfect with a poached egg  ❤ I’ve even sliced it very thin and toasted it for an alternative to bought crispbread.

Meanwhile, I have to go. There’s an essay to write and (in the name of science) fresh bread to taste test 😉

 

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. narf7
    Nov 03, 2016 @ 15:15:04

    I was given a sourdough starter (dehydrated) from a lady in Sydney who had been baking with this starter for many years. It’s still in the fridge (to my shame). I keep thinking that sourdough bread is too hard to make. Your recipe makes it look easy. Easier than regular yeasted bread that I make without a problem so I am going to bite the bullet, reconstitute the starter and have a go. Thank you for giving me the impetus to have a go.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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