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June, 2008:

Oh, Bee-have.

… or a tale in which Adrian has insects raining down on his head.

After a mad, mad 60 hour working week, delayed flights and a generally too-hectic spell away from France, we were sat at home, small glass of Lambic in hand and watching the alternately funny/grisly movie “In Bruges”. A brief few hours later and a turn of events re-grounds me instantly with a reconnect with all that is good about Bellebouche.
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Tayberry Harvest

I love soft fruits of any kind and have currently 10 or more different varieties ranging from sumptuous strawberries to the weird goji berries from the Himalayas.

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Makin’ Bacon. Part Deux

It’s been a long time since I did a foody post about bacon (1995!) but my recent blog about bread reminded me that I have things elsewhere in interwebland that by rights should actually be on the blog. So, BACON

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Eggstatic !!

After the sad demise of one our hens, our little egg producers seem to have thrown in the towel and stopped producing eggs. Out of the 4 remaining hens, only one of the new younger ones seems to be laying. Now this could be down to a number of reasons.

  • the hens are laying somewhere secret I haven’t yet found – they have been known to lay in the sage at this time of year!
  • a stone martin is nicking the eggs – complete eggs have been found at the side of the lane and I spotted said accused animal on the neighbour’s roof being bombed by little owls!
  • the hens are too old – well, 2 out of 4 are of unknown age and I assume they are not laying now – but we should be at least getting 2 eggs from the younger birds.
  • one of the youngsters is egg bound – having looked this condition up on-line neither of the 2 young birds are showing any symptoms.

So, what to do …

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Old dog, new tricks.

For years now I’ve considered myself pretty handy when it comes to knocking up a loaf at home. My results have always been consistent, generally bready and on the whole rather pleasing.

Having said that, every single village around here produces bread that is invariably more French and a little more superior than my home made efforts – a point I’m happy to concede as they are true Artisans. Case in point being our village, population 900, has two Boulangeries and we benefit from a daily bread delivery a few times a week. Bread is truly the stuff of life here in France.

Over the years I’ve spent many a happy hour making bread and my ‘thing’ has been sourdough breads. I’ve been particularly successful with these and although it is a little cheffy and indulgent to take basically six days to make a loaf the flavour is beyond compare.

I’ve got a bit of a challenge on my hands next weekend as my Neighbour, a retired Boulanger, has just renovated his ancient wood fired bread oven and I’ve agreed to cook in it for twenty people. GULP!

Time to raise my game a little bit and bone up on what’s what. A quick google and I discover that an old favourite website author of mine Dan Lepard has brought out a well reviewed book.

I bought it and in my first (admittedly non-sourdough) loaf that I’d knocked out I tried a number of techniques I’d not normally employ. Including, but not limited to…

  • Minimal initial mixing (ten seconds!). Then waiting, then mixing a little bit more (another ten seconds!)
  • Waiting quite a bit more before adding a pre-made starter with a mix of white and buckwheat flours and then finally doing the kneed.
  • NOT using a 100% strong flour mix, but a mix of bread flour and regular cheap-o stuff.
  • Late salt addition to delay autolysis.
  • A kinky forming technique that relies on the dough being stuck to the work surface. Something I’m normally keen to avoid.
  • Rather more precise measuring than I’m accustomed to, with a special focus on the relative percentage of hydration.

The result? Spectacular.

breeeeeeeeeeeeed

Loads of oven spring, a soft crumb, a nutty exterior.

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The top of that had a water glaze and a sprinkling of poppy seeds. The base of the tray I was baking on was dusted with cornmeal and have a look up halfway up the loaf… all of that bread was under the loaf when it went in the oven. I’ve never experienced oven spring like that before!
You make Bread?  Buy this book and make better bread!

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