Taking Stock – July

Making : smoked salmon pate – recipe here

Cooking : all things sourdough, still. Flatbreads and pizza happened this weekend. Hobbs House Bakery sourdough recipes are excellent. I’ve tried crumpets, flatbreads, pizza, no-knead sourdough and have a few more things bookmarked to try. The HH boys are from a long line of English professional family bakers, and their recipes are A1

I left the dough an hour while I faffed around, before shaping, it made really light and holey pizza. The rectangular pizza was much thinner and crispy. I like both thin crust and deep pan

Adoring: no-knead sourdough cooked in my charity shop treasure. The moisture in the bread means it cooks in its own steam. You then take the lid off for the last bit to burnish the top. It needs to be just this side of burnt for the flavour and crustiness.

Look at the texture! All the folding and stretching every 30-40 minutes was well worth it

Drinking: too much cider. Lots at the Mock Mayor celebrations while we watched the Abingdon Morris Men, heard the speeches and sang along to the excellent Indie Band. Head not so good in the morning, but sometimes it’s worth it…

Reading: The Eve Network and The Dust that Falls from Dreams still, the first is set in WW1, the other WW2. It’s tricky at times not to get mixed up

Wanting: another pint of jasmine tea

Playing: with dough every few days

Deciding: not to for a bit

Wishing: bread wasn’t so calorific, it’s so good

Enjoying: Victoria Wood as seen on TV – on Netflix

Waiting: to remember what I wrote the first time, before my iPhone lost my draft …argh! You just know the first draft was wittier and more interesting. Soz, you’re stuck with this one

Liking: my photos from Saturday’s meet up with a good friend at Cliveden. The hotel is where Meghan Markle spent the night before she married Prince Harry

Wondering: whether I can go for a walk again today. I’ve been having double physio as my knee has been painful for a few months too. Craft and walking longer distances have both been banned, it’s been slightly tedious to say the least, but happily I think I’m coming out the other side now

Loving: Unforgotten on Netflix. I’ve only seen the first 2 episodes of series 1 and it’s so good, really quality TV. I’m behind as usual – series 3 is on tv at the mo

Considering: a clothes shopping trip

Buying: tomatoes. I have a row of bowls with tomatoes at various stages of ripening. It’s a very good summer thing

Watching: Poldark, I’m 3 episodes behind the current series and it ended on Sunday night. I don’t want to hear any end of series spoilers, so need to catch up soon
Hoping: for more rain, the animals, farmers and gardens need it

Marvelling: how full the water butt is after a day of sporadic rain on Sunday, but it’s just a drop in the ocean

Cringing: –

Needing: another car

Questioning: lots

Smelling: the roses

Wearing: linen trousers, rolled up at a jaunty angle and a stripy tee which I feel emphasises the rolls of a sourdough loving body rather too much!

Look at the dryness of that grass, can you see how little rain we’ve had in the last few months?

Pondering: when I’ll be able to knit again. I have tried but it’s just too painful, crocheting in short bursts seems okay though. I now have a referral with an orthopaedic consultant pending

Following: The News

Knowing: that song ‘Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think’ is apt

Thinking: I must get my reading back up to speed

Admiring: how I always used to read a book a week without fail

Sorting: my crochet; I unravelled my pineapple crochet last night. I can never see a time when I will actually use a string crochet pineapple bag. I’d rather be seen dead than carrying one in real life!

Getting: keen to find some interesting crochet patterns. Even if it’s restricted to 10 minutes every now and then, I’d like to be making something I love

Bookmarking: any exciting looking patterns

Coveting: one of those big colour change balls, you know; by that company that no one can spell or properly pronounce beginning with Schj? Maybe with that song in mind, I’ll just buy one!

Disliking: wildly fast drivers who assume that no one else is on the road, crossing the road, living by the road

Opening: my Ravelry library

Giggling: at Mamma Mia 2 although the change of timeline was perplexing

Feeling: amused about the above, whenever I make bold statements like that things usually change… Look out for me and my re-crocheted pineapple string bag in the near future

Snacking: on the usual – no prize for guessing

Helping: a friend with local dinner recommendations

Hearing: an aeroplane

Mixing: courgette tzatziki

Worrying: that I haven’t eaten enough fruit and vegetables in the last few days, this is unusual. More carrots!!!

Grabbing a stitch holder for my hair, it did the job! Sign of a true crafter?!

Slicing: cucumber & carrots to go with homemade hummus later for lunch, maybe

Celebrating: summertime

Forgetting: at least three things, no doubt

Winning: tonight’s EuroMillions lottery draw?

Sneaking: around at night watching for the hedgehog(s)

Embracing: the lovely people around me

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Thank you for sticking with a craft blog which hasn’t been able to feature any craft for several months now!

How are you doing?

Sourdough adventures

Last weekend my friend Safron posted these yummy photos of her first loaf of sourdough bread and homemade baked beans on her Safrolistics Instagram page. (Check out her papercuts, they’re amazing.) Safron was inspired by a friend, who makes his own sourdough bread and she inspired me in return. This is her first bread since a disastrous attempt at school. Wow! What a beauty.

I started my own sourdough starter last Monday. Apart from a phase around 2013 with Herman the German Friendship Cake, which I eventually turned into a loaf of bread, as we found there really is a limit to how much yeasty flavoured fruitcake you can eat, I haven’t maintained my own sourdough starter before.

It’s been a lot like when I first learned to crochet: researching how to do it, reading many blogs, books, checking out You Tube vids and making so many notes I’ve used up pages and pages of two notebooks (one upstairs, one down because I’ve truly been obsessed and found myself searching for answers to questions at all sorts of moments!) There are so many ways to end up with pretty much exactly the same thing, just like crochet (UK/USA terms, ways to hold the yarn/hook/start with a magic ring or chain and slip-stitch into a ring etc etc…) So in the end I decided to initially follow one method and stick to it, trying not to look at random websites and blogs anymore.

Sourdough starters and making sourdough bread can be incredibly complicated according to some people; I’ve seen articles written where people have made mathematical equations for the ratio of flour to water, the ambient temperature it needs to sit at etc. But really it boils down to just flour, water and the natural yeasts in the flour and your home environment. If pioneers could make it in one lidded pot over the hot embers of their campfire, we really do not need to make it too hard for ourselves.

I really like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Bread with Character article, written for The Guardian. He simply suggests using 100g of flours, and enough water to make a batter that’s roughly the consistency of paint! How easy is that?! I couldn’t quite be that haphazard free spirited especially at the beginning, so I have been using an equal flour to water ratio which is clearly working. I followed the excellent instructions on the Kitchn website. Luckily I had a bag of organic Doves Farm white flour in my baking cupboard, as it’s already my preferred flour when making bread using commercial yeast. There’s definitely a difference in taste and texture between using this flour and a cheaper alternative.

I was amazed that even after a couple of hours bubbles had begun to appear in the starter. ‘What kind of magic is this?’ I wondered with glee.

When baking the bread I mixed it up a bit: Patrick Ryan’s fridge tip for the second prove was a relief; as I was beginning to imagine I’d still be up at midnight watching the slow rise. I used his recipe for quantities of flour and starter etc for the dough. (Though a little less salt.)

There are about 3-5 hours between the top and bottom picture. This is when I decided to pop it into the fridge for the night.

On Sunday morning it sat out on the worktop again, for about 2 1/2 hours to bring it up to room temperature. It can be a slow process making sourdough but it’s well worth it. And it’s not effort, just patience that’s required.

I placed a tray half full of water onto the bottom shelf of the oven before I turned it on, it seemed a safer strategy for slightly clumsy me, than popping a tray of boiling water into the oven just before the bread. I also used Hugh’s method of putting a tray into the oven to pre-heat five minutes before the bread went in, then flouring it with wholemeal flour before the dough went onto it (although the dough was 100% white, I’d read that wholemeal flour is meant to prevent dough from sticking much more effectively than white.) This is also so much faster than oiling loaf tins and easy-peasy to wash up afterwards.

I felt nervous tipping it out of my new banneton proving basket (thank you Sainsbury Nectar points) but it fell softly onto the tray like a plump soft feather pillow. I actually cheered, which brought Someone running to see what excitement was going on!

I do need to find a better quality, thick baking sheet as it will be better for cooking the base of the loaf. Alternatively trying to make one in a cast-iron lidded pot (aka Dutch Oven) appeals. But I need to get one before that can happen… All the professional British bakers, that I’ve read so far, use a baking sheet (or pizza stone) to bake their loaves on, but I fancy trying the pot method sometime.

For a first loaf I didn’t expect much at all, I was prepared for a sodden lump but….

“It tastes as good as the loaves I used to buy at the village shop” oh my goodness! What praise from a sourdough aficionado, especially for a first loaf. It was delicious and I’ve never been a major eater of sourdough bread. Hugh’s right: sourdough is definitely bread with character!

Discarding half of the starter to maintain it, after the initial five days, was so unappealing that I’ve spent a fair amount of time searching for ‘discarded sourdough starter’ recipes. I hate wasting food and especially when I’ve used very good quality flour. Crumpets are already one of my favourite breakfast things, but I’ve never made them before.

I love the evolution of my crumpets, from left to right, the first pancake is always the manky one and that was definitely the runty crumpet! The last has proper crumpet bubbles and the texture was fab! They were just out of the frying pan here, cooling, before I toasted them under the grill.

I decided I would have the worst one, and the best one in the interests of fairness (it sort of makes sense, I think!) as a reward. After all, it was me who had talked to, fed and peered at the starter all week. It worked well; we both enjoyed them for breakfast. Someone had his with Marmite and butter, mine were with honey and butter. Yum, yum, yum.

Now I’m keeping all my discarded starter in a container in the fridge to make a batch of crumpets (I used this recipe.) I need to buy some crumpet rings. Crumpets can be frozen so I’ll make some, have a couple and store them. Fast! Before I eat them all.

I’m still on a complete crochet and knitting ban due to injury, as you probably know. (Boo!) This all started in April and I’ve now stopped counting how many weeks its been, as it can be a bit deflating. But I’m diligently doing my exercises, using ice and heat packs and seeing my physio every week. I am hopeful that I can begin again at some point soonish. Finding a new creative outlet, creating a sourdough starter and baking new kinds of bread has been absorbing. Not to mention homemade crumpets! Homemade crumpets….oh YUM!

If you like making or eating bread and fancy trying sourdough I’d say: Go for it!

You just need flour and water to begin. It’s great. It’s actual magic. And although it’s currently popular again, it’s hardly new; sourdough is thought to originate from the Ancient Egyptians, if not before!