Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Sourdough Success

Finally! I have a successful sourdough loaf! Admittedly, I don't have holes as large as I'd like but it has a soft, light interior and a dense, chewy, flavoursome crust so I'm not complaining! I swapped to Dan Lepard's recipe which I found much easier, less time consuming and more successful than the River Cottage sponge making version I had been using.

It's a nice place to be - good enough to make an enjoyable loaf to be proud of but more than enough room for improvement to keep the interest alive (and hopefully the starter too!)

I've now reached the point in the Norfolk Kitchen year when the blog quietens down as I don't have a great deal of foraging or allotment activity going on in the winter. I don't even have a Christmas Presents series this year as I've decided to give my long suffering family a break from home made presents (apart from Hot Chocolate on a stick which I will blog about separately)

My current winter creativity outlet appears to be sewing. I'm somewhat hampered by the fact that I'm an utter dunce in this arena, straight lines and hems are about as far as I get. I prefer not to think about buttonholes and zips and the like unless I'm breathing into a paper bag so I'm quite proud of the 2 patchwork throws I made for the living room.

They're basically 9 50cm squares, sewn together in a block and backed with fleece. They're warm and soft, ideal for snuggling under while waiting for the central heating to kick in. I saw some in a local shop, made in exactly the same way for £45 each. Mine are made from scraps I had lying around plus a length of fleece which cost £25 for both so I'm feeling rather smug. Next up, helping Father Christmas with the stockings he asked me to make for the children - where did I put that paper bag ......

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Sourdough #2

First of all, let's all gather around and gasp at the lovely airy sourdough I made.

Thank you.

Now let's turn our gaze south and pause to consider the dense brick like appearance of the other side of the loaf Things are getting better though, it tastes lovely, the crust is everything I hoped it would be but I think I've made a few of errors.

First of all my dough wasn't as wet as the recipe described at the kneading flour into the sponge stage. I added extra water but I'm not sure if this will have made a difference. Second, I put the shaped, round dough into the proving basket smooth side up but according to the book it should be smooth side down. Will this have made a difference to the rise? Not really sure. Finally, I accidentally made too much dough by forgetting to half the quantities in the recipe so I think the oven was over crowded and the loaf didn't cook evenly (hence the brick like side vs light and bubbly side)

Thanks to @goodshoeday who has been quietly cheering me on via Twitter and has recommended Dan Lepard's website for sourdough tips. My plan is to read through the webside then set about sourdough #3, which I fully expect to be perfect!

Well done to anyone reading through this, I'm uncomfortably aware that I'm becoming a sourdough bore but I have to make this work, namely because I've ordered some lovely handmade bread proving baskets from Jane Jennifer and the purchase has to be justified!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Vintage darling, vintage.

I'm choosing to call these vintage rather than second hand so as to sound all posh. They cost the grand sum of 10p each at a car boot sale back in the summer. I had the screw bands refurbished at KilnerjarsUk for a further £2.50 each so not a bad price for the beautiful greeny, bubbly glass jars.

They have old fashioned 2 piece glass lids but no maker's mark. Kilnerjars Peter thinks they're probably cheapo Woolworths copies of Kilner/Mason jars. I have to admit I'm a bit too nervous to use them for actually bottling as I'm not sure if the old glass will stand up to the pressure with it's various flaws etc. I'd also need buy rubber bands and they, rather frustratingly, are all very slightly different sizes so I'd have to buy a pack of bands for each jar which would bump the price up further, plus figuring out which size to buy would be a bit hit and miss. I will therefore be keeping these for storage and pickling.

I was rather pleased to see Ruth on the Edwardian Farm using jars of the same design for pickling her apples the other week - though I was desperate to tell her to pickle damsons rather than apples as they're so much nicer!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


After watching the River Cottage bread episode I was inspired to try my hand at baking sourdough bread. Why sourdough? Well, it fits into the Norfolk Kitchen philosophy in a couple of ways. I was astonished to learn it's made with wild yeasts living in the air (I can't be the only person in existence who didn't know wild yeasts live in the air can I?) so technically it's foraging, plus it costs a fortune to buy so it's worthwhile learning how to do it. Oh and it's tasty, I particularly like the dense crust of sourdough and the loaves do look impressive.

So my journey began back on 6th November when I began the starter. (I've got the River Cottage Bread book and used that as my guide) I used organic spelt which took a little while to get going but once I got it into a warm enough spot in the kitchen it bubbled like a cauldron, in fact, I had to move it into the chilly bathroom to slow it down a bit.

I finally got around to making the bread yesterday, it needs babysitting so it has to be done on a day when you're happy to stay close to home and it also takes some planning. I made the sponge on Monday night then kneaded the extra flour in on Tuesday, then shaped it again, and again, and again before finally getting it into the oven at Tuesday teatime. (Do I get an award of some sort from Citi Slow?)

And the result? I made a flat thing - as Kipper might say. The bread is tasty but it's not as light and airy as the bread in the book, I'm thinking this is probably because it was made from stoneground wholemeal flour which makes a dense loaf at the best of times, plus I may not have used enough of the starter. I reduced the quantities given in the recipe so was guessing half a ladle of starter by eye. Next time, more starter and half and half white and wholemeal flour I think. If any sourdough aficionados out there have any advice on producing a lighter loaf, please share!

By the way, I've been nominated for a Dorset Cereals little blog award, if you're of a mind to do so, please feel free to vote for me! (widget on the left of the screen) I have one lonely vote at the moment - thank you!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Kitchen Life Returns to Normal

Apologies for the lack of posts recently. I'm sure that many of you don't know but Adam, my husband, has a brain tumour. That's not as bad as it sounds, he's fit and well, was operated on 6 years ago and made a full recovery so it's not a story of doom and disaster. He had a small re-growth 2 years ago and is now on annual MRI scans to pick up any further re-growths. The 2010 scan took place on Monday and today we got the results - all clear. Hoorah.

Needless to say I've been a bag of nerves for the couple of weeks leading up to today and wasn't really home to blogging muse if you see what I mean so that's my excuse for my lack of productivity.

Not only have a I neglected the blog but I've neglected the allotments too (oh the shame) The old allotment needs to be cleared of weeds and manured for the winter, we've lost some good days weatherwise to the brain tumour worry fug, I'm hoping we get a few nice days next week so I can redeem myself. Fortunately the new allotment is clear and needs no work but I can't think of anything to plant there just now.

I've come up with the following list of low maintenance crops for the old allotment (Bressingham) and more needy crops for the new close to home allotment (Diss) :

Low Maintenance
Strawberries, raspberries, fruit trees, possibly a hybrid berry of some sort if some kind soul buys me one for Christmas, sweetcorn, borlotti beans, broad beans, calabrese, leeks.

Needy crops
Carrots and new potatoes (I know, not needy but this is because of the wireworm at Bressingham) Rainbow chard (because I only use 2 or 3 leaves at a time so it's better off near home) lettuce, tomatoes, courgettes, cucumber, pumpkins.

Cavolo nero undecided, probably Diss due to the caterpillar patrolling.

So that's it, if anyone thinks there's something I could be doing at the Diss plot I'd be happy to hear from you as I'm feeling guilty for my lack of activity. Anyhoo, off to a celebratory evening of chocolate and alcohol with my husband - think we deserve it after all the worry.