Thursday, 27 August 2015

Sourdough bread

I don't think I'm a bad mother.....

Next week Dave and I will be at Gareth's Masters graduation ceremony. He's doing all right for himself in London and Owen is living and working in Bristol. With plenty of support and nurturing they've grown into independent young men. So why am I doubting my motherly skills.... well I have (or rather had) 3 new 'babies' in my life ........ sourdough babies!

About 2 weeks ago I started to grow and nurture my sourdough babies - I made one from rye flour and the other from white flour. I carefully followed the recipe and step-by-step method in The Pocket Bakery book by Rose Prince, a Christmas present from the lads last year. 

Just like children the sourdough starters need feeding, watering, warmth and a very close eye watching over them for the first few weeks of their 'lives'. Sadly one of my 'babies' turned a funny colour and started smelling and, after referring to the trouble-shooting section of the book there seemed to be little I could do to resurrect the starter, so it had to be discarded.  

RIP - 1 week old sourdough starter

Luckily I'd had the opportunity to adopt another 'offspring' courtesy of Owen. This was no baby though - it is reportedly 15 years old and 'grew up' in Joe's Bakery in Bristol. So my new 'family' consists of a very active teenager who I keep in a jar in the fridge and feed every 3 to 5 days and a struggling 2 week old baby in an incubator (i.e plastic tub).

I don't (yet) have all the equipment to make professional looking sourdough loaves so I have muddled along with what I have - although I did splash out on a terracotta baking stone. I'll have to drop hints for my birthday coming up for a wooden paddle and some banneton baskets! I was very pleased with my first efforts though. Practice makes perfect and I need to learn how this dough differs to dough I am more familiar with, how to correctly gauge the temperature and time needed for the optimum slow rising and how to manhandle and turn out a beautiful artisan loaf.

I do have quite a bit of time on my hands at the moment so I've no excuse not to try and perfect this new skill. I suspect my waistline is going to suffer!!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Gluten Free Afternoon Tea

We're back 'home' in Shrewsbury permanently now having left the lights and sights of London behind us. As well as applying for jobs and getting the house and garden in some sort of order, I've been busy catching up with friends. Back in 2012 when Dave and I set off on our travels around Europe I left a job, and a team, I really loved. Thankfully we've kept in touch since then and last week I invited them over for afternoon tea.

One of the 'girls' is on a gluten free diet so I set myself the challenge of ensuring that nothing was 'out of bounds' for her. The savoury dishes included smoked salmon pinwheels, celery and cottage cheese boats, mozzarella and cherry tomato salad, quiche (made with gluten free pastry) and individual prawn cocktails. The mini desserts included meringue nests with strawberries, profiteroles,  lemon tart, chocolate cheesecake and macarons with salted caramel.

It might have been beginners luck but the two variations of gluten free pastry I made were a great success.  I had read horror stories of how difficult the pastry could be to work with and how wet/hard/inedible others had found the end result. The trick seemed to be to start with a slightly wet mixture, let it rest in the fridge and roll it out between two sheets of cling film. The recipe on the Doves Farm Gluten Free Flour packet varied slightly to that on their website so I aimed for somewhere in the middle! For the lemon tart pastry case I added a little sugar and egg yolk to the standard mix. I followed the Doves Farm Choux Pastry recipe to make the profiteroles and was very satisfied with the results. I would defy anyone to tell the difference once they are filled with cream and covered in chocolate!

Piped choux pastry panade

Macarons and meringues are already gluten free so no adaptations were required there. The chocolate cheesecake I made with crushed Asda GF chocolate cookies for the base and a standard cream cheese topping.

Good food, good friends, good times........all gluten free!