Archives for posts with tag: baking

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The product of a weekend’s foraging in the sun, not to mention several bags of frozen brambles and elder berries.

Apparently a spoonful of rosehip syrup a day will keep us all free of colds for the winter. It is delicious stuff and likely to make its way into all sorts of cakes, ice cream desserts and warming drinks as the weather cools off.

The hedgerows are particularly abundant after our sunny summer, so a few more picking trips will be embarked upon to add to our haul with hedgerow jams and jellies.

Our Italian WWOOFers tell us that the equivalent activity in southern Italy is figging – gathering wild figs from the roadside. I suspect this activity is undertaken in warmer conditions but it was hard not to feel fortunate plucking a free harvest from the hedgerows while the sun glinted off the Solway and clouds glowered on the Galloway Hills.

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Just in case this all seems too idyllic – out of shot in this picture is a tray of comically scorched shortbread fingers!

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Had a great time on Sunday on an artisan bread baking course at the fabulous Earth’s Crust Bakery in Laurieston. Only a 20-minute drive from home, I think I may have written in a previous post about their delicious and highly-addictive spelt Galloway loaf. The course was a gift from my sisters-in-law Ally and Alex.

There were four other eager bakers on the course which took place in Tom’s converted garage-cum-bakehouse. The conversion work was carried out partly by Phil, the owner of the Hebridean sheep currently residing in our field. In fact, before heading off to the course we had first to check and feed the sheep as Jo and Phil were away.

We started the day by making a sourdough dough and being taught kneading techniques. Top tip – knead less, don’t add flour and let the dough rest more to get it doing the work for you. While the dough rested we prepared a focaccia dough Tom had made earlier. The technique for this is similar to that used for making puff pastry, repeatedly folding the dough in thirds before adding olive oil. The focaccia, once cooked, became part of our lunch, along with several breads and Paulina’s rich tomato and bean soup.

But before lunch there was tea, coffee and delicious Dundee cake and a lesson in shaping a tinned loaf (a seeded style of bread) for proving. Fortified by lunch, we then had a go at making the seeded loaf dough and turned out and slashed the tops of sourdough loaves which had proved in traditional bannetons. We used a lame for slashing the top of the loaf – I was a bit heavy handed with mine but the bread seemed to take it. Then our loaves were baked in a very hot oven, liberally sprayed with water from a mister to stop the crust forming too quickly.

I left with lots of tips and tricks, a sourdough starter, two delicious loaves and a banneton of my own plus more baking enthusiasm and the exciting news that there will be a farmers’ market starting in Kirkcudbright in March and Earth’s Crust will be having a stall. I think I’ll have to start making space in the freezer…

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I returned from my New Year trip home with a bag of goodies inherited from my nana. These included her old Kenwood handheld mixer and several recipe books. Amongst them was this one, filled with recipes faithfully transcribed in her neat, tiny cursive script along with scraps of paper and cuttings, including one of her favourite recipes in my own handwriting as, in the early stages of dementia, she misplaced her old notebooks and could no longer rely on her baking muscle memory to conjure up cakes on a whim. Thankfully I had a copy of the parkin recipe to copy down and send to her.

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A lot of the recipes reflect her personal tastes – she had a sweet tooth and a rationing-induced fondness for pineapple and coconut – but they also serve as a mini biography, snippets of life in grammes and ounces. Some of the recipes are singled out as “cheap” or for using up leftovers. There’s a lot of lard and dripping specified which modern tastes and pockets would substitute for butter and several recipes for serious stodge – bacon and sausage roly poly anyone? There are names of old friends and neighbour’s – Alice’s Christmas Cake, Mrs Robinson’s scones and Gareth’s biscuits (I’m guessing a particular favourite of my brother’s).

Several recipes appear more than once in different variations and some I can’t wait to try again. There’s a wonderful fruit slice she used to make with mint from their tiny, neat back garden in Wrose. There’s a Yorkshire Sweet Cake and a Yorkshire curd tart recipe, there’s even a page of Scottish recipes which I’ve no doubt she purloined from her friend Sheila in Spean Bridge. Time to put the new kitchen to work!

Christmas is almost here and Plunton feels pretty much ready. Here is a picture of the kitchen from Friday morning (when I was making mince pies). Sadly the kitchen no long looks like this but for the best possible reason – we’ve had to cover everything with dust sheets so the plasterer can fix up the walls. They’ll be back tomorrow to do the last wall and the ceiling so, hopefully, I can use it on Tuesday for all my Christmas dinner prep.
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Once the plastering is finished we can sit back smugly and feel satisfied that we have achieved all we had hoped to by Christmas (and a little bit more!) Plunton is now water tight, warm (thanks to the wood-fired heating) and I have a proper kitchen to cook in. We can also get going on more of the small-scale jobs we can do ourselves in the New Year – decorating the shower room and kitchen for a start, plus the play room, and start to think about our outdoor plans. More on that in the next post.

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We might even eat it with quince jam later. Other weekend bake was apple and cinnamon muffins. We have to keep the energy levels up for all that gardening.

Settling in to something of a routine now, with Monday often the most productive day of the week for me as Arthur does not need taking to nursery. Inspired by the lovely bread this weekend I set to on a baking binge, making a mixed flour and spelt loaf (one for now, one to freeze) and some orange and spelt loaf cakes, as well as a veggie stew with cheese and herb scones for tea.

While the bread was rising I set to work on the flagstones in the larder. Having ripped up the old lino there were still some stubborn black patches of old glue. I also wanted to try out cleaning the flagstones to see how they came up. I made up a bowl of warm water with some detergent in it (I ended up using a tsp each of Bio-D detergent and nappy cleaner) and set to with the scrubbing brush bought at the local agri supplies business Tarff Valley. Actually, I think it might be intended for grooming horses but it’s a nice shape to hold, made in the UK and has good sturdy bristles.

This did a good job of getting up the grime but not getting off the sticky black stuff. Cue what has to be the most versatile DIY tool ever – the paint scraper. The cleaning solution combined with the scraper and a bit of welly got it off in no time. In fact, I’d done the whole floor before the bread dough had proved. There is one stubborn patch which didn’t get completely cleared as the stone in that area is quite pitted so I’ll have to think of an alternative method for there, possibly involving the sander.

Next decision – how to seal the floors once cleaned. I don’t really fancy the chemical sealants on offer and had heard you could use linseed oil but am a bit worried about that turning rancid. Suggestions and experiences of sealing stone floors or tiles much appreciated!

The final task of the day was going to the open evening at Arthur’s nursery. Iris and Matt had not seen it and Iris seemed to particularly enjoy seeing what her brother gets up to. She also saw old pictures of her school friends who used to go to the same nursery.

Our Daily Bread

Had a bit of an indoor day today so indulged in making a proper roast dinner – braised partridge (bought at Ballards, one of several great butchers in Castle Douglas) followed by a bramble jam sponge and custard.

Despite all the above being yummy (even if I do say so myself) the best meal of the day was my tea of toasted Galloway spelt bread slathered with slightly salted butter and consumed by the fire with a cuppa.The bread is made in Laurieston by Earth’s Crust bakery and we bought it on a whim at the wholefoods shop. We’ll be going back for more!

When the weather improved – and it was a lovely sunny afternoon, if blustery – we did more garden planning and dragged up fallen branches and old logs from the undergrowth. I also waved goodbye to the summer and dug out my winter wardrobe – farewell maxi skirts, hello corduroy and jumpers.

prize winners Yesterday was the Borgue Horticultural Society Annual Show. On Friday night Matt and the kids popped down to the village hall to sign us up and enter a few of the categories. The kids both entered the sea shell and sand scuplture on a plate competition, as Mrs Sproat had kindly popped in last week with sand and seashells gathered for the purpose and a delicious sponge cake to welcome us in – the house was previously lived in by her mother-in-law. Iris also entered the handwriting competition and baked flapjacks.

Keen to show willing (and get to grips with the Rayburn) I also entered some of the home baking categories with lemon curd, courgette, lime and poppy seed muffins and lavender scones. The scones were scoffed before I could take a picture. They tasted yummy but were not the most pretty scones as I couldn’t find the correct cutter so ended up making massive ones!

Arthur won a third prize, Iris a second for the flapjacks and I was flabbergasted to receive a hat-trick of first prizes. We also met more neighbours, Dad won some biscuits in the raffle and bought two giant boxes of prize-winning fruit and veg in the after-show auction. One of the new neighbours we met, Jo, used to keep her Hebridean sheep in our field and suggested we ask the neighbouring farmer, Jack, to graze his cows on the land to get the bracken down (all he’ll need to do is open the adjoining gate between the fields) and then she’d be happy to use it for her sheep again. This sounds like a grand plan to me as we don’t want the field to get too far out of hand but at the same time we need to sort the house out before we tackle it and take on livestock.