Friday, February 22


Yesterday I made bread,
I am passionate about bread
flour, water, yeast, salt
and the variations are endless
I am a big fan of No Knead bread which I wrote about
This bread is delicious
crusty, a little bit sour, a grown up complex flavoured chewy bread
But sometimes you want something else from your bread
and I found traditional (kneaded yeast bread)
had never given me results I was particularly proud of
So, I set about experimenting with some different methods and advice
and yesterdays results are worth talking about
An incredibly light soft bread with a crisp but light crust

This is what I did
(you will need a cast iron lidded pot)

1lb of Bread Flour
1 packet dried yeast
2 teaspoons sea salt

add enough luke warm water to get a VERY sticky dough
This is the difference between a light or a heavy loaf (this and the kneading)
sprinkle a small amount of flour onto your board and turn out your wet dough

now you "knead"
as the dough is so sticky this is a messy job
but it is not diffcult
basically you want to stretch your dough
pull it toward you and slap it back on itself
repeat this motion for about 10 mins until your dough becomes
stretchy and smooth
every couple of minutes you can scrape the dough together using
a dough scraper
available here
when you have a stretchy smooth dough 
form it into a ball tucking it under itself
and turning over

place in an oiled bowl and leave covered to prove somewhere warm for 3 hours

return to your dough which should have doubled in size  and turn it on to a floured board
stretch the bottom of dough out and fold it back in to the centre
pushing it down hard with your fingers
stretch the top of the dough and fold over the seam again pressing
the dough into itself with your fingers

turn your dough 90 degrees clockwise and repeat
now leave to rise again for up to 2 hours
The longer you leave it the more complex the flavour

20 mins before you want to bake it
heat your oven to 250c  with your cast iron pot inside
When you are ready to bake
remove crock pot .....carefully it will be HOT
lift your dough in with the seam on the bottom
slash the top of your dough
place lid on
bake for 30 mins
remove bread from pot and bake a further 10 mins
(times will vary depending on your oven out this is a rough guide)

leave to cool .......

If you are a fan of bread I highly recommend the
Tartine Bread Book
Chad the owner of Tartine is truly obsessed with bread
he uses a starter in his bread making
I have dabbled in starters but never truly been bitten by that bug
......... I think it may be time to investigate further

If you have never seen it
this Tartine video is excellent
and in it you can see the dough is wet light and sticky
which is exactly what you are looking for 


UPDATE: just found out Chad of Tartine is coming to Ballymaloe in
August for a 1 day demonstration,
I have booked my place
have you?
click here to book

Saturday, February 9

The garden

The weather is perfect for pruning
warm, dry (ish) 
I have spent most of the day and a good day last weekend back out in the garden
That first work day of the year is a momentous one for any gardener
As you see the first shoots peeking up 
the ground is warming
the garden is waking up and so to do my gardeners fingers
Have you been watching Monty Don's French gardens on BBC
Last night he was talking about secateurs and how they changed the way we garden

Invented in 1818 by a French Noble man called 
Marquis Betrand de Molleville
who fled to England during the French revolution
Secateurs gave gardeners a way to make a clean cut with less force and 
get into places that were previously unreachable
 They literally shaped they way people gardened 
and still do today 

While everything is looking a little bleak in the garden right now 
there is something so promising about those bright green spikes poking through the debris
and it reminds me of what I can look forward too

 foxgloves in the garden last summer

last June in the garden

Clematis  and honeysuckle

The resolve and promises that this year it will be different
I will weed once a week
I will remember to stagger my seed planting
I will clump plants together to create impact
I will clear another patch of border from the grass
I will finally get around to reclaiming the vegetable patch ...........
well, I may achieve one of these
but the great thing about gardens is 
whatever I do, whether I procrastinate or not the garden will do it's thing 
the plants are not waiting for me to make a decision 
they are getting on with the business of growing 
I look forward to june and july when I can sit and look again at a green patch bursting with life 
but for now I am content with the promise 


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