Small Food Awards Winner

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Virtuous Bread and the School of Artisan Food in Nottinghamshire jointly launched the Awards this year. Specifically designed to celebrate small, professional food producers in the UK who are committed to excellence and to growing their brand.

To qualify for entry the producers must work in a non-professional environment – such as a home or community kitchen – employ no more than two people and not have access to super expensive professional equipment that allows them to mechanise processes.

My entry was a Swedish Rye loaf flavoured with orange juice, molasses, fennel seeds and cardamon. The judge was Wayne Caddy – the highly talented and experienced head of baking at the School. He represented the UK at the baking Coupe du Monde (the equivalent of the baking World Cup!) a few years ago.

This was his feedback on my loaf “aromatic and sweet, great crumb, eats well, good scoring and crust colour, well caramlised, really well controlled, good depth of flavour but not overpowering”.

I delivered the bread for this week’s VegBags at the Sutton Community Farm early on Thursday morning and then travelled to Nottinghamshire for the Awards Ceremony. Two other Bread Angels also won awards.

Please do not put your bread in the fridge

How to store artisan bread

 What is Artisan bread?

Well, just bread, but made in the traditional way. Bread made with only 4 ingredients – flour, water, salt and yeast. NO additives. Don’t be fooled by what is on the label of packaged bread. There are a host of additives added to bread at the dough making stage, some of which are derived from animals – vegetarians be aware – but they are not shown on the label because they are “processing aids”

How long will it stay fresh?

Artisan bread is at its highest quality for 38 – 48 hours. This equates to how long it takes to make the bread. In general the amount of time put into making a loaf is the same amount of time as the bread is at its highest quality. This is because the fermentation process of the dough is its natural preservative. Sourdough (wild yeast) bread takes twice as long to make so, consequently, the shelf life is twice as long.

What is the best way to store my bread?

The best way to store bread is in an old fashioned bread box or your Bread Angels cotton bag. Plastic is never recommended. Bread stored in plastic may appear fresh because it is soft but the plastic speeds up the staling process by giving mould and bacteria a more favourable environment in which to grow.

Will bread freeze?

Yes, with excellent results. Wrap the uncut loaf tightly in foil and place in a plastic bag and freeze for up to three weeks. Thaw at room temperature. If desired, although not necessary, you can refresh the loaf in a moderate oven for 5-10 minutes.

Alternatively slice the bread before freezing, wrap tightly in clingfilm, and then remove as much as is needed to thaw or toast. Another alternative is to have your favourite bread made into baps and then freeze these individually. They take hardly any time to thaw.

Can I store my bread in the fridge?

Changes in the alignment of the starch molecules are what cause bread to go stale. These molecules change most rapidly at the temperature range of the refrigerator (just above freezing). When you reheat bread, it actually changes the starch molecules back, but this also means they can go stale more quickly afterwards. So try to eat your reheated breads within an hour or two

Soft White Potato Bread


IMG_0408 (1)IMG_0405I have been experimenting with different types of Potato Bread since attending Paul Merry’s 
Going Professional Course last year.  Paul is a Master Baker and his baking school Panary is based at Cann Mill in Dorset.  The mill is owned by Michael Stoate and their stoneground flour is superb.  Using potato in bread has an interesting history as illustrated by Paul’s notes.  “Potatoes would have first entered our daily bread as a response to a shortage of wheat flour.  Flour supplies would become alarmingly low when there were major disruptions like war-time or a catastrophic series of crop failures that would lead to famine.  In Europe and Britain crop failures and famine were relatively common in the 18th century, and were still occurring during the first half of the next century.  Such dire times would be accompanied by social unrest and frightened governments.  Bakers were encouraged to turn to other grains like barley and oats to bulk out the bread and as things got more desperate, other foodstuffs entered the bread that would never be associated with bread in normal times such as acorn flour, peas and potatoes.

Compared with most of these grim additives, the difference with potatoes was that both bakers and bread consumers found them attractive, and some would even say they improved the bread.  The consumer would be likely to enjoy the flavour, appreciate the moistness and better keeping qualities brought to the bread by the inclusion of potato, and warm to the rich and flavoursome crust the potatoes inspire.

For the baker the benefits were complex and were more to do with their craft issues.  Potato flesh was found to be an active stimulant to fermentation. The enzymes it brings are useful, and yeast is very content to feed on potato starch.

In the early decades of the last century, before chemical “improvers” had become really popular, potatoes had the glamour of being referred to as an improver and became a permitted additive during World War I.

Gradually the use of the potato in daily bread began to fall from popularity mainly due to the additional labour costs involved in preparing them”

I love using potatoes in bread for several reasons.  It allows the dough to hold more water (more water in a dough = a softer crumb), it improves the keeping quality of the bread and it gives a lovely colour to the crumb and crust.

Grated raw potato, boiled and mashed potato and baked potato can all  be used.  Even leftover mash from a meal although attention will  need to be paid to the seasoning.  If the mash is salted then salt will need to  be reduced in the dough.  Also the liquid content of the dough may need to be adjusted.

Because I run a micro bakery preparing a large number of potatoes is a bit of a faff so I have been trying out the recipe using potato flour and instant mash.  You would imagine that potato flour is cooked and dried potato which is then ground into flour but this is not the case.  Potato flour is only potato starch.  It still works quite well in the recipe but not well enough.  Instant mash also works but I don’t like the fact that it is pre-seasononed.  Eventually I stumbled across a company that sells pure, unadulterated Potato Flakes.  The company is called Bacarel.  Their normal minimum quantity is 12.5kg but Anthony Carter kindly agreed to sell me their sample bag of 3kg.  The cost is £14.40 so 12p for a small 500g loaf.

Below is my recipe.  The instructions are minimal and assume a basic knowledge of the steps of bread making.

Recipe for Soft White Potato Bread

275g Strong White Flour

25g Potato Flakes

15g Soft Butter

5g Salt

5g Fresh yeast or 2.5g instant yeast

200g Milk and Water (50/50)

Method

Scald the milk and mix with the water.  The liquid should be neither warm nor cold to the touch.  Dissolve the yeast in the liquid and then add the rest of the ingredients.  Mix until all the flour is wet. Cover and leave for 10-15 minutes.  This is an optional step but makes the kneading easier. Knead until you have a soft and pillowy dough with a definate spring to it.  Press with a floured finger and the imprint should push back.  Cover and leave to prove until puffy. This can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours.  You will know when it is ready when you push a floured finger into the middle of the dough and the hole remains.  Turn out, gently degas and then form into a log.  Place into a greased small bread tin and prove again.  The next prove/rise will be quicker.  This time the dough should feel fragile and a touch with a floured finger should push back very very feebly.  Bake in a hot oven (200c Fan) for 35-40 minutes.  You should be able to smell when the bread is cooked.  Tap it on the bottom and it should sound hollow.  Personally I find this an unreliable test so always probe with a thermometer.  93oC or above is what I am looking for.

Paul tried to show me many times how to test a loaf was baked properly by listening for vibrations (don’t ask!).  Still cannot master it….sorry Paul.

 

 

 

 

GBBO inspires all bakers – young and old!

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Extract from an Article by Eleanor Doughty for Daily Telegraph 15th August 2015
You are never too young – or too old – to succeed on the Great British Bake Off

Since the show pitter-pattered onto our television screens like a well-mannered middle-aged woman in 2010, it has become quite the phenomenon.There are now Bake Off measuring cups, enough recipe books to fill even the biggest bookcase, and GBBO-inspired babygros. The merchandising potential is unreal, and remains a growing market.

 
What Bake Off has done for us is make the country fall back in love with baking again. Whatever your age, baking is cool again. But for one contestant on this series of the Great British Bake Off, 66 year old Marie Campbell, cooking and baking had not been a lifelong dream. It was not her first thought out of the womb, that she must bake. No; in the programme notes for this series, Marie’s children claim that she couldn’t even boil an egg at one point during their childhood. It wasn’t until Marie went to live in Paris in her middle age that she was first inspired to get baking.

 
Although Marie left our screens this Wednesday, she isn’t the first older contestant on GBBO. Last year’s Diana Beard, who got herself all caught up in Alaska-gate – the incident involving Ian Watters’ Baked Alaska in series 5 – was 69 when she appeared on the Great British Bake Off, and last year’s winner, Nancy Birtwhistle, was 60. But we wondered: are there any other bakers out there that came to baking and cooking later in life? Spending time in the kitchen can be hugely therapeutic, and for many, baking is done as ‘therapy’.

Gaye Whitwam came late to the baking scene. Born in Cornwall just after the war, she lived a rationed life until she was five. “There were no fridges and little convenience food at the time, so women cooked daily with fresh, raw ingredients,” she says. “I grew up watching my mother cook and witnessed her excitement when rationing ended. I started cooking myself at around the age of eight.”

In 1990, when her daughter Sophie was two, Gaye started the nursery school that she would run until 2006. “At the beginning I cooked lunch every day for the children and staff,” she explains. “But as the business grew it became necessary to employ a cook, and to attend to others aspects of running the business.”

But she found retirement difficult. “Having worked all my adult life, and spent little time on leisure activities, I knew I had to find some occupation,” she says. It came to it that in 2007, she attended a workshop at Books for Cooks in Notting Hill, where organic baker Andrew Whitley was there talking about his new book Bread Matters, and about the Real Bread Campaign. “The aim of the Campaign is to encourage people to source bread that is made with natural ingredients, appropriate fermentation and no adulterants, or make their own,” Gaye explains. “I was hooked! I bought the book and signed up for one of Andrew’s courses in Cumbria.”

From then on, bread baking and Gaye came hand in hand. Three years later, in the summer of 2010, the Great British Bake Off started and suddenly being behind a KitchenAid making bread was the ‘in thing’. “Bread had now found its moment,” Gaye says, of that summer.

Now, she makes and sells her own bread to the customers of the Sutton Community Farm. But it didn’t come out of nowhere. It was the next year, in January 2011 that Jane Mason, founder of Virtuous Bread, came into Gaye’s life. “At the time she was running a small home baking business and was about to launch Bread Angels, a network of micro bakers around the country, providing fresh, wholesome, additive-free bread to their local communities,” she explains. “I loved the idea of combining my new found passion for bread with my business experience, and starting up another business at home – just a smaller one this time!”

Gaye signed up for Jane Mason’s course, and became a Bread Angel in the summer of 2011.Since then, she’s been selling bread constantly. Her partnership with Sutton Community Farm was “almost immediate”. “The Farm is community owned and the biggest food growing space in London,” Gaye explains. “I bake on average up to 80 loaves a week for the Farm and neighbours.”

“Making bread is about your engagement with the dough. You are working with a living organism, so you can’t just follow a recipe. You need to become intuitive about what the dough needs and when, and it’s this engagement that is therapeutic. Because you are working with your hands, there is a physical element to the process, and this is curiously relaxing.”
It’s not just the workman’s tools but the end product too, which is captivating for new bakers

She is also putting her teaching experience to good use. “I teach a variety of bread making classes and the Bread Angels course too. So far I’ve trained over 30 people how to set up their own micro bakeries.”

Bread Angels work on a voluntary basis too. “I am currently teaching staff and offenders at the Clink, a restaurant in High Down prison in Surrey, how to make sourdough bread.”

How to make an enriched loaf

enriched_loafMany people would like to make and Bake their own bread but are either unsure how to go about it or have tried but with little success. This video will teach you how easy it actually is and help you to be successful each and every time. Baking is therapeutic, enjoyable and good fun. Watch this video and be convinced.

Why choose a Micro-Bakery Project?

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This is what two of my recent students have said

Ann – “Picking up on this new Micro-Bakery project for me has arisen after a lifetime of working in education, but especially with the Crafts. Taught Claywork full-time for many years after having my own Pottery in Canada–later, added Weaving, Spinning and Dyeing, and ended up teaching that as well, and finally explored all the wonderful potential of Felting.  Maybe Breadmaking will be the last project for me as time is running out–though I can see myself teaching others these craft even when I’m in a Home for the Elderly!  Am nearly there already!  It is a very special privilege to help people realise the Joy of using their hands in a meaningful way–connecting with the substances that surround us—grounding ourselves in an age where we might easily become unable to distinguish between Earth’s Reality and “Digital Reality”.  Breadmaking seems to me to be one of the most recent resurrections of a dying art, and naturally it will be reinterpreted in a creative way as time goes on–enlivening our lives. I am particularly interested in developing the Micro-Bakery concept as a form of Social Art and am hoping to work with people who are disadvantaged in various ways, who may believe they could never do anything like that themselves–yet perhaps they could”

Goli – “I’d really like to bake for my neighbourhood, and am looking to include some of the breads that people seem to eat a lot of, but aren’t often found at farmers markets, such as pittas and bagels. Also, I’d like to get to know my neighbourhood a bit better, and am curious to know what will happen when I knock on doors and distribute flyers… Additionally, what I’d love to do is to pass on some bread-making skills to young people I work with – either at the school where I work, or at some Bahá’í – inspired junior youth projects I’m involved in. I think bread can be a real tool for building communities, and it would be great to get more people really excited about real bread!”

Experimenting with organic yeast

Three types of yeast

I was sent a sample of Bioreal fresh organic yeast from Bakery Bits to try.  I thought it would be a useful experiment to make three separate loaves. One with Bioreal, one with regular fresh yeast and one with dried yeast (not instant).  The organic yeast is the one on the left. It is slightly darker in colour than the regular. It also has a slightly stronger but pleasant taste when eaten raw.  I used the same ingredients for each loaf – 500g stoneground white flour from Cann Mill, 8g salt, 10g fresh yeast (5g dried) and 320g water.

Flour,salt & yeast

Flour,salt & yeast

I mixed and kneaded them all by hand and then left them to rise. The dough with organic yeast was noticeably slower to rise but when I cut into all three doughs after an hour there was a clear network of holes in all three.

A clear network of holes visible

A clear network of holes visible

I shaped the loaves into boules and placed them side by side on a baking tray and left them to rise once again.  After about 45 minutes they were all springy to the touch and ready for the oven. Again though the dough with organic yeast (on the right) hadn’t risen as much as the others.  This is how they looked just before they came out of the oven.

Loaves towards the ends of their bake

Loaves towards the ends of their bake

Two other Bread Angels came to my house in the afternoon for a croissant baking session. So three of us had the opportunity to taste the bread.  Although the loaf with organic yeast hadn’t risen quite as much as the others the difference wasn’t significant.  The crumb was the same but there was still a slightly stronger taste (in a good way).  Difficult to describe – fruity, alcoholic??

What came as a surprise was that all of us felt that the loaf made with dried yeast tasted noticeably “yeasty” and not in the best way. I have resolved not to use this in future.

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There are a lot of issues surrounding the production of regular yeast.  It requires a lot of rinsing to remove unwanted taste and odour and this water is heavily contaminated.   The organic yeast, on the other hand, requires no rinsing and is additive and GMO-free.

As a micro baker who sells around 80 loaves a week there are two reasons however why I would not buy organic yeast – cost and storage.  It is hard enough to persuade customers to pay a reasonable price for a loaf made by hand with stoneground flour.  Bakery Bits charges 95p for a 42g cube of organic yeast.  Their shipping charges are very reasonable – just another 95p.  But still this adds up to £1.90. Assuming 10g of yeast per loaf (500g flour) this amounts to 45p.  I currently use Fermipan instant yeast which works out at around 8p per loaf.  So, for me a switch to organic yeast, would amount to an additional 37p per loaf.

The second issue is shelf life.  Shipton Mill suggest a 4 week shelf life and Bakery Bits a 1 week shelf life.  Freezing is an option but this will undoubtedly result in more yeast being required per loaf which increases the price even more.

I am aware that if more bakers buy organic yeast the cost will come down but it is not an option for me personally at the moment, sadly.