Week 4 sees us move on from the simpler soda breads and no knead yeast breads into proper bread. And by proper I mean bread that passes through multiple stages and takes… well, hours. There is no denying it, making traditional yeast bread is a labour of love.
First you mix and make, then you knead (it took me about a good 20 minutes of physical activity today to get it to the right stage of elasticity), then you rest, then you shape, then you prove, then you bake. I began to mix at 08:30 and it was out of the oven about 12.30. If you weren’t in any hurry it would be a lovely thing to do. (Especially when shaped into said retro plait)
Today I also made marzipan apples. When Darina showed us this traditional Swedish recipe on Monday I was genuinely unenthused. Marzipan? I can take it or leave it. In my mind marzipan is the thick, white, sickly sweet almond-flavoured-wall-paper-plaster that covers the Christmas cake. Why would you bother? Well, turns out this isn’t what real marzipan is. Made with ground almonds, sugar and a drop of almond extract, what I made today was creamy, not too sweet and totally delicious when baked inside an apple. (Especially when that apple is rolled in cinnamon sugar)
After a distinctly egg centric lunch (there were omelettes galore being made across the kitchens) we had a distinctly poultry centric demonstration in the afternoon.
Walking into the demo, all sorts of wild game birds were piled up in front of us; guinea fowl, pheasant, woodcock, duck and the teeny tiny snipe. A local game enthusiast Tom talked us through the whole thing; the different birds and their tastes, guidelines for hanging meat, game season, hunts, driven shoots etc etc.
Game isn’t something I’m very familiar with. We didn’t grow up eating it; so I’ve never eaten a pheasant before, let alone a woodcock or a snipe. Besides duck, either these birds just aren’t readily available. (Or maybe because I don’t know them I don’t see them or look them out.) The idea of an organised shoot hasn’t been an activity I’ve been drawn to, so I’m curious to learn more about these kinds of birds.
After the demo we got a mini lecture from Tim Allen on sourdough. This magical bread, made with the ‘wild yeasts in the air’ is so different from regular yeast breads, both in how its made and how it tastes.
Sourdough is made with a starter that needs to be nurtured. It has to be fed and kept alive and then you use the starter as the base for your loaves. To make good sourdough you need to understand how your starter behaves in certain weather and temperatures, what conditions it likes, what flavours it likes to eat etc. Do all this and you will have a starter than can last years and years and produce a very special, unique tasting bread. Do it wrong and you end up with a rotten jar of flour and water in your fridge.
This is basically the extent of my knowledge. Tonight was our first intro and I got to make my first ever sourdough starter. (Made with the help of some of the Ballymaloe starter they’ve had for about 3 years and that they use to make bread every day.) Exciting! It needs to be fed regularly. I feel like I’ve either been given a new puppy or a tamagotchi that I have to keep alive! Ha, lets see how this fares.
PS. Thanks Rach for being editor and correcting me on my kneeding vs kneading.
(I am talking about bread not balls 😉