social spark Aisling Beatha: March 2011


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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fun With Bread Part 2

Start with your equipment.


You will need a container with a lid that is big enough to hold the dough when fully risen.
That square tub is a cheap, Smart Price 5 litre container from Asda, but any container of roughly that size, that is food safe, will do.
Measuring spoons for the yeast and salt.
A jug for the water.
A spoon for getting the flour out of the flour storage tub or bag.
A spatula, or wooden spoon, or mixer.
I am also using a kitchen timer that doubles as a food thermometer.

You can do without some of those items.  For instance, water is 1 gram per ml so 750 mls of water weighs 750 grams, so you could weigh your water straight into the container you will be making the dough in, rather than measuring it in a jug.  Equally I have poured flour straight from the bag into the measuring container and not used a spoon, before now.  And often I do not use the thermometer on the water, but figured since it was close at hand, I would do today.

The spatula that I use for mixing the dough is a very stiff plastic spatula, rather than one of the flexible silicone ones and I prefer it for this purpose, I find it mixes much better in these containers than a spoon, or silicone spatula would.

Then you need your ingredients.  Just 4.



PLAIN Flour, not bread flour, but it does need to be unbleached.  Do not panic if your  flour is not labelled as unbleached as MOST plain flour on the market in the UK today IS unbleached but not labelled as such.  If in doubt, contact the supplier to be sure.
Salt.  Yes I use low sodium salt and Jeff and Zoe would probably tell me that is not a good idea, but it is what I do.  It is a fine grain salt not a coarse grain so I need to use just 2/3 of what the recipe calls for.
Yeast.  Don't bother with the sachets, that is the most expensive way of buying yeast, just go ahead and get the tinned stuff.
Water.  Luke warm water at no more than 38c.  You can make it with cooler water than that (your first rise may take a little longer), but no warmer or you could kill the yeast!

If you want the amounts, check out the book! I'm just going to show you how easy this is!

Water goes in first, followed by yeast and salt.  Then the flour and mix.


or would you prefer an action shot -


Just mix it until there are no dry bits left.


Put the lid on the container but do not shut it completely, leave it slightly ajar.


Then you leave it.


The photo above is the tub of dough at the start. The next two are after 1 hour and after 2 hours.



After 2 hours, the dough should have risen well and you need to put it in the fridge, for at least 3 hours.  I usually do that overnight, but today we will leave it just the 3 hours.


When it is time to make the dough, the book calls for a pizza peel, polenta and flour. Well, I don't have a pizza peel, but I do have this:


I think I bought it from Lakeland Kitchen supplies back when they were still "Lakeland Plastics", and it was labelled as a cake slice, but it does the job of a pizza peel in this case, really well. You can see I have sprinkled it with polenta.

Take your container of dough out of the fridge. It will have dropped from the high point it originally rose to. Don't worry, it's supposed to be like this.


Sprinkle a handful of flour over one corner of the dough in your tub and pull up a grapefruit sized piece. Hmmmmm, I know this is supposed to be quite a slack dough but this was wetter than any batch I remember making. But by dumping it into my flour tub then pulling it back out I was still able to do the gluten cloak described in the book.

However it does look very loose sat there, (much looser than in the videos of Jeff making the dough that are available on their website) to the extent that I am wondering if I have made an error in the measuring out I did earlier.

For now, back to today's loaf.
This is how it looked at the start of it's resting time  A little spread out but pretty much how I remember it from the old book:


And this is how it looked after resting. Hmmmm, not sure this is going to work, look at all those craters in what was supposed to be a smooth surface from the gluten cloak, but let's give it a go anyway!


Sprinkle with a handful of flour, and slash the top.


The book says that with a deft flick of the wrist the loaf should transfer from your pizza peel to a preheated oven stone. Hmmm, my loaf got stuck in one place and dragged out, as you can see from the shape of the finished loaf.  When preheating your oven and stone you also preheat a roasting pan or grill pan in the bottom of the oven.  When you put the bread into the oven, you also put a cupful of hot water into the pan.  This creates steam, which creates crust.


Leave to cool before cutting into the loaf and this was the result for me!


That's not right!  Hmmmmm.  So, I added a handful of flour to the dough to make another loaf, which I will show you tomorrow, but I really am wondering if I got the measuring right!  These loaves never come out how you expect but I truly don't remember loaves that were this disappointing. Hmmmmmm. I know the yeast worked because the dough did rise. I used stoneground flour because that was what was open and wonder if that might have had an effect, but I am guessing that actually I did not measure right! I have been a bit distracted lately!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fun with Bread

Why would you have two books that are, in effect, identical?


They don't look the same do they?  But they are, in fact, the same cookbook.  The one on the left is the American, original version of the book and the one on the right is the new, UK version.

You can see that I have had my American copy for a while now, by the number of post it note bookmarks it has.


There are certain problems with any American book on baking and that is the use of volume methods of measuring. I can measure a cup of flour out 10 times and have it weigh 10 different weight, this is not so much of a problem when cooking other things as it is when baking.

So when the opportunity came along to get hold of a copy of the new UK book to review it here on my blog, I jumped at the chance.


The new book has all the same text, and all the same recipes as the American one, but all the recipes are in weights, in both metric and imperial.  GREAT!

There is one downside to this book, and it may or may not affect your choice of which one to use.
THERE ARE NO PHOTOGRAPHS, either of the processes, or of the finished products.  Only line drawings, and few of those.  Not a problem, if you don't mind books like that, but I prefer my cookbooks to come with illustrations.  Particularly with loaves such as the Pan d'epi which is shaped like a single wheatstalk.  If you have never seen a loaf like that before I think it would be difficult to shape it right without illustrations.


However, if you have easy access to the internet, this need not be a problem as the authors, Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois have a very successful website, where you can find videos of the basic process in action, and photographs of some of the finished loaves as well as even more recipes and ideas to use the doughs that are in the book!

I have made a lot of the recipes in the past, using the American book, both by using cups to measure and by converting the recipes individually using the conversions you can find on their website.  Today I am making the basic white bread dough, and using the measurements and instructions from the new UK book. Come back tomorrow to see what happens.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

First Project in New Craft Room


So, I finally got the craft room sorted out and most things onto the shelves. And yesterday I started on my first project.

When I went to the big craft show at the NEC in Birmingham last year, I got some free pressed flower stickers for participating in a workshop.


I had no idea what to do with them until I actually opened up a package and realised they came with a backing card that was the perfect size for a bookmark.


OK, so the back of the card is covered in text but there's an easy way around that.


I used a tape runner to attach the card to the back of a patterned paper, then cut around it.


The pieces of card were 2" by 5 1/2". I then put a piece 1 3/4" by 5 1/4" on top of that and a piece 1 1/2" wide with different lengths for the two styles of stickers, on top of that.  I rounded the corners of each piece, using a corner punch.


On the back of the cards I used my Kuretake calligraphy pens to write out a quote I found online.  I also put one of the smaller pressed flower stickers and used my "Hand made by Zoe" stamp.


Each sheet of stickers was enough to make 2 bookmarks, so half of each set were made using other cardstock that I had in my supplies.

I prefer the pink ones with the red pressed flower stickers.  Which are your favourite?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More Details on The Great Craft Room Makeover of 2011

Yesterday I showed you just before and after photos of the new Craft Room.

This had been our eldest son's bedroom.  Now yes, like most teen young men he wasn't too bothered about keeping his room tidy but please don't believe that this is all his mess.  Since he moved away at the end of the summer, hubby has started using the desk in that room whenever he needed to do any work from home, and also if he had anything electrical he needed to repair.

So, the first job was to clear out all the mess and dismantle the furniture that was falling apart.

YES, my son just left home this summer, YES there were still Telly Tubby Hills on his walls, YES the room was well overdue for a re-decoration.  That photo on the left is the Telly Tubby Lake and was under his desk in recent years and where he used to rest his feet while at the desk, hence the dirt on the wall.

So the next job was to prepare for painting.  Those Telly Tubby hills were painted using children's poster paint.  Please don't lecture me about all that is wrong with that and understand instead that I had two young children at the time.  The thing about Poster Paint is that all these years later, except in places it has set through heat (near the radiator) or through pressure (where son leant against the wall often), it was still possible to remove most of it with a sponge and some warm water.

The Sky and sun were painted with proper decorating paint and so ready to be painted over after just cleaning off any dust.

The paint is Colours by B and Q and is called Rice Cake.

Finally we had to wait for the furniture to be delivered.  We went for the Expedit range by IKEA and ordered it online for delivery to our home since the large boxes would never fit in our car!  It worked out cheaper paying for delivery from the online site than going to IKEA, buying it and then paying for the delivery from store, although we would have got it quicker that way.

So first, we had to put it all together.  The desk I did by myself, the shelves I needed a little help with.

So then, I had to fill all the shelves, and believe me that wasn't difficult.  I collected all the craft supplies from under the stairs, all the paper stuff, all the beading stuff, all the sewing stuff.  Then, from the living room I collected more papercraft stuff and all the yarn.

This is the result.

Because this will still be eldest's room when he is at home, I had to leave some space for his clothes and books etc. Check out what is where:

Shelves to the side of the desk

And on the 4 shelves underneath that desk are my sewing machine, lots of blank cards and envelopes, 1 empty shelf and 1 that i will move my craft books to later.

5 by 5 unit

And finally the top of the desk.  That scrapbook kit needs to move but the box is too big for these shelves.

Monday, March 14, 2011

NEW Craft Room

I haven't been doing much blogging the last few weeks, particularly any crafty blogging.
That is because I have been busy turning THIS:

into THIS:

Come back tomorrow for some "along the way" photos.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Nigella's Pomegranate Ice Cream

Pomegranate Ice Cream from the wonderful Nigella Lawson, from her book of quick recipes.

Pomegranate Ice 01

You will need, 2 pomegranates, 175 grammes of icing sugar, 500ml of double cream and the juice of 1 lime.
Do NOT attempt to make this using low fat cream substitute, it just does NOT work!

Pomegranate Ice 02

First, remove the seeds from the pomegranate, carefully catching any juice, not letting it drip on the board as I did here!
There are two main ways of removing the seeds. First is illustrated above, slice the top off the pomegranate, then cut down the side at one of the seed bearing parts, and pick the seeds out that way.

Pomegranate Ice 03

The other way is to cut the pomegranate in half and WHACK the back of it with a wooden spoon. You get rid of any pent up aggression and the little seeds drop into your bowl (or jug as I used here).

Pomegranate Ice 04

Which eventually leaves you with an empty shell, like SO!

Pomegranate Ice 05

Put the seeds into a strong sieve (I had to do mine in batches the sieve was only small), and push the seeds against the sieve with the back of a wooden spoon until no more juice comes out. What's left in the sieve should look a bit like the photo above.

Pomegranate Ice 06

Add the juice of 1 lime. It really is a lime not a lemon, the lighting's not too good. Can you tell I cut it with the same knife I used to cut the pomegranates?

Pomegranate Ice 07

Add 175g of icing sugar. My friends across the globe might know this as powdered sugar or maybe confectioner's sugar, I'm not sure. And no, I don't know how many cups this is but there are plenty of conversion sites online. You should be able to work it out. Dissolve the sugar in the juice. I had lumps, so I just got my whisk out early and used it before I put the cream in and that did the trick just fine.

Pomegranate Ice 08

Add 500ml of double cream. I believe most of you would know this as heavy cream, and I do know that this is 2 cups.

Pomegranate ice 09

Action shot time (and I think it came out well)! Whisk the mixture.

Pomegranate ice 10

Until soft peak stage is reached.

Pomegranate ice 11

Transfer the mixture to an airtight container. use a rubber spatula to get all the last bits out. Or maybe not. Last time I made this I licked the bowl instead! Heehee

Pomegranate ice Cream 12

Smooth the top of the mixture, fit the lid and pop in the freezer. Your ice cream will be ready in 4 hours. No churning, no breaking up of crystals, nothing like that. Simply remove from freezer, let sit for a couple of minutes before you scoop and then serve!

Pomegranate Ice 13

And don't forget all that fruit waste can be composted! I'll take this out to the compost bin later.
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