One of the greatest luxuries of working from home is the ability to fit in baking around my sewing….weekends tend to be filled with chores, grocery shopping and if the weather is nice a walk over the marshes or through the woods, so pottering and poodling in the week means I can bake with no distractions.
I’m lucky to have a friend (the delightful Miss Daisy) who is a wonderful cook (she’s off to the prestigious Leith’s Cookery School in September) and last year she gave me a sourdough starter which has really changed the way I bake bread. I used to put the dough ingredients in to the Kitchen Aid mixer (one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever had) and the machinery did most of the work for me…..I played about with different flours and ingredients but not to the extent that I have done since I’ve used the starter. I asked her about it last week as she’s making a new one with raisins and she said it was just bread flour and water, nothing fancy.
The bread I make isn’t a real sourdough, I cheat by sprinkling a skimpy teaspoon of dry yeast on to the bread sponge, but I find this helps make for a tighter bready crumb, and the bread then toasts better. Over the past year or so I’ve found myself becoming more and more intolerant to grains and grasses so no longer can tuck into fat doorsteps of bread, toasted and covered with salty butter and marmalade, so the bread I bake is only eaten by my boyfriend and has to double as both a breakfast bread and a sandwich one….(the raisin and rosemary bread from the other week was thumbs up for toast, but not quite so much for sandwiches)..
Anyway I liked the thought of a slightly herby tasting bread so this week I made a dough using just the one sprig of rosemary and then a couple of handfuls of assorted seeds (sunflower, linseed and sesame), and used about 200g of spelt flour. It came out okay, maybe a bit denser than usual as I’d been out in the morning and forget to leave the starter out of the fridge to get to room temperature before using it, but it smelt amazing when it was being toasted….and I was assured it made for a very nice sandwich.
Feeling on a bit of a roll, I then made the beloved one, one of the “Sunday afternoon apple cakes” even though it wasn’t a Sunday and used some rosemary in there too….he didn’t mention it as a flavour so am thinking he didn’t even notice it (before Christmas I bought a huge needlepoint/tapestry picture and re-arranged the other pictures behind the sofa to make room for it…not a peep has been heard so sometimes things get by quite un-noticed, but if there is a pin on the floor …well my own personal “Colin”* will see that alright)………….along with the rosemary I also used ground mace and a couple of heaped desert spoons of ground almonds. There was a grumble when I said I’d baked a cake (he’s trying to “cut down” apparently) however it lasted maybe 3 days, as a packed lunch treat and as a pudding, so figure it was okay.
Me and the delightful Miss Daisy were also discussing the awesomeness of beetroots (I love them, she’s not such a fan) but I told her how they make for a brilliant cake…sadly they don’t turn a sponge cake that beautiful clarety pinky purple (like the edge of your plate when you have them in salad) but more imbues them with a gorgeous ruddy wholesomeness….this is one of my favourite cake recipes for them (the boyfriend won’t normally eat them but I can hide them in cake) but I also find they work really well in my “Crikey that’s nice Carrot Cake” recipe..(just substitute the carrot with a beetroot), but the icing needs to be lemony to really be perfection itself.
*from The Great Escape…one of my favourite films of all time, I can’t watch it without bursting into tears as Dany and Willie row away in that little boat….in fact just thinking about that scene has made me tear right up ….oddly Colin used to scare me a little when I was small, now I love him to bits and his scenes with James “The Rockford Files” Garner are easily some of the best bits……not forgetting “Good Luck”.”Oh, Thank you”…doh.