It's nearly 2 years since I last posted; where has the time gone?
The answer is that I have spent most of my time making and selling lots of bread.
I was at Hexham Farmers' Market yesterday in the sunshine. There are some photos attached taken just before the start of trade. There are 235 loaves in the photos and by close at 2pm there were just a couple of 100% Rye loaves left.
One of the customers was over from Ireland and is a regular on the Fresh Loaf....hello to you and thank you for tracking me down and buying bread. Hope you enjoy it, and sorry I was so busy I couldn't talk more to you at the time.
I'm looking for bakers to come and work for Bread and Roses. If anyone is interested in this, can you send me a pm on the Fresh Loaf please?
I know, I know! I haven't posted for over 8 months. I could say I've been very busy, which is true, but isn't everybody? So, I have little in the way of excuses. As you are about to read, however, I have recently moved into a proper unit and set up a bakery, so, any posts would really be about out-and-out commercial production, and that is really beyond what this great website seeks to offer.
After the hard graft of the food festival, I attended a couple of days at a Cheese Festival held at the National Trust's Cragside House in October. It is a lovely venue although there was a bit of a lack of cheese vendors there on the days I attended, so trade was pretty quiet.
I have continued to attend Farmers' Markets at Hexham twice a month with Nigel, and at Alnwick every month, plus slightly more sporadic attendance at Newcastle Farmers' Market. You can see the schedule upcoming on my website here: http://www.breadandroses.co.uk/calendar/ Hexham continues to improve for me, whilst the Alnwick Farmers' Market continues to under-perform and many of us traders have either ceased attending, or seriously lowered our expectations. Disappointment is a word I try to avoid using, but in this case, it is hard to think of a better word to describe my feelings about this. Christmas markets at Newcastle, and particularly Hexham, were packed events with great sales achieved.
In the new year I did a few bits of teaching, attended an exciting event in Morpeth to promote the business at "Meet the Maker, Meet the Buyer" event sponsored by the County Council. After that Alison took me to the Lake District for a lovely birthday retreat for a couple of nights during February half term. After that, everything changed!
Our longer term plan to site a bakery at Hedgeley Services in our village of Powburn fell through when the business owner had to face up to a bill of £30,000 in order to upgrade the electricity to accommodate my electric deck oven...more on this in a bit! So, just after that bombshell, news came through that the country house where all my baking equipment was in store had been sold and we had to move the kit fast! So, rather than spend money moving it and storing it, we decided to go into production immediately...well, once Alison and I returned from our holiday to Crete at Easter. So we rented an industrial unit in Alnwick from late in March. You can see a few pictures here of how we began to kit it out.
I have been carefully sourcing equipment for some time now, with the seriously limited financial resources available. I managed to buy a 2-deck electric oven, Tom Chandley's ever-reliable Compacta, along with a good steel table and a large double sink unit complete with hand-wash basin, from a colleague I used to teach in Leeds, who is now a bakery manager for a very successful company who have just expanded north from Yorkshire to Durham. The oven is fantastic, and is producing far superior bread to that I could make on the wood-fired oven at home which was so under-capacity for the typical quantity of bread I was always hoping to bake. More thoughts on this to follow. This is the oven:
I bought a rack and 16 baking sheets, some more steel tables and most recently, a manual pastry brake made by John Hunt some time ago now. The Hobart 20 quart sits on one side of the weighing station, and a very neat spiral mixer from Fimar is on the other side, next to the oven:
Ok, so I bought this mixer for £250 cash. It has been used, but it is immaculate, and the full price machine is well over £800 plus the dreaded VAT, and any costs incurred in shipping. So, I got a bargain. My personal preference for spiral mixers are those with dual speed, and with a bowl rotation facility allowing you to switch from clockwise to anti-clockwise. An "inch" button which allows you to move the bowl round very slowly to enable cleaning is also useful to say the least. For really small dough sizes, allowing the spiral to work without the bowl rotating is extra useful. Usually this is on the same switch which enables rotating direction to flip one way or the other. Of course, a detachable bowl is fabulous, but uncommon in the UK, except on machines which mix capacities in excess of 100kg of dough at a time. I don't think it is quite so rare in continental Europe to find small models with this facility. So, my machine has NONE of these features, alas! It rotates at 90rpm in a clockwise direction. You cannot move the bowl or the spiral hook round in any other way; manually or with power! BUT, it is a big but; it is built in Italy to high specifications. So it's not going to breakdown in a hurry, touch wood. Also, most of the doughs I am mixing are quite suited to long and gentle development, especially the Gilchesters flours which are wholly unsuited to second speed intensive mixing on the spiral. The machine mixes the soft white dough, the weak Gilchesters' Farmhouse, and the somewhat more difficult Five Grain and Seeded Sourdough batches. A good scraping down early on is all that is required. I have even managed to use it to mix my 100% rye paste....which is just great, because the 12-15kg batch size I make these days is just too much to fit in the 20 quart Hobart with the paddle. So, I am just getting by with the best that I could afford at the time. It's very noisy, but only because it is standing on a "job-stand" rather than a proper table, and it tends to vibrate as a result. Ok, that should cover the ground, I hope.
I also bought a 2-door Foster Retarder, which is fabulous. It has capacity for 40 trays of product. I tend to use half for raw product, and the other side is filled with containers of dough, retarded overnight so I can work it off as soon as I arrive for work! These cost around £2500 re-conditioned here in the UK; we paid a lot less than that, even allowing for expensive transportation from Northampton to Northumberland.
Alison and I were joined in Crete this year by her son Daniel and his girlfriend Grace. We spent a few days in the heat in Chania, where I seemed capable of doing little except sleep, on account of having worked so hard before going away on holiday. We went on to Anatolika, where we stayed last Easter, and in 2010 when I made this post: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/19167/anotolika-beach-house Once back in the UK it has been a non-stop business rollercoaster, of course. I just don't have time to post about this sort of thing, I am very sorry. I know some of you will be very interested in this, and you are welcome to keep in contact with messaging on TFL, or on my website or through Twitter. And, anyway, all my baking now goes beyond the scope of what Floyd set the website up for. I have often felt my posts here strayed away from the purpose of the site, but am grateful for Floyd for generously allowing me to post, and to all of you who have commented so positively over the years.
I will still be about, but am unlikely to be able to post on any regular basis. But, it's not hard to keep up with what I am doing here in the North of England. The downside to the new bakery: I have a 20 minute car journey at some horrible hour to get to work, and I have to pay out a lot of money in rent every month for the premises. Everything else is a positive. We have regained our kitchen! I cannot believe how big it is now I have taken all the bakery kit out! I don't have to go outside in the rain and suffer abuse from my neighbour for chopping wood and firing the oven! I don't have to bake on an oven of massive under-capacity. I really like the deck oven; product quality has improved massively. Some may be surprised to read this; others may even think the deck oven does not produce really authentic traditional bread. Well, the heat is retained in the ceramic bottom of the oven and there is a degree of radiated heat from all round, especially given there is a separate setting for top heat. The breads bake directly on the heat source, and I set each one carefully with the peel. So, there it is; no more hard work deal with logs and getting dirty firing the oven. No down-time firing and settling the oven before you can start baking. One hour to get the oven hot, and that's it...away you go. One important point here, however. Deck ovens operate at 32 amps per deck; they are expensive to run, where wood can be much cheaper if you have a good source, and your oven burns efficiently.
To close, here's a few photographs of the bakery as it is now; not quite finished, but approved by the Food Hygiene people, and we are up and operating, and have been for around a month now.
I have really enjoyed reading other TFL regulars posting about their baking adventures in relation to their local farmers’ markets. I attended my own local market on Friday of last week and thought I’d do a short blog post with some photographs of the products I offer for sale. I’ve posted formulae for most of these more than once before, but it may be instructive for me to give more description for each of them here, as they are currently made.
Here are some photographs taken at the market to give a flavour of the Bread and Roses' range:
All these breads are now made using only natural leavens.
The Moscow Rye is unchanged; 100% rye sourdough, 3-stage process. It is an 18 hour first fermentation, followed by the addition of a scald to the sour to create a sponge. 4 hours more fermentation before making the final paste. 1-2 hour bulk and 1-2 hour final proof, then bake. They go into the wood-fired oven at whatever temperature the oven is at; with lids on the pans. A hot oven sees an 800g loaf bake in just over an hour. But I have baked them for a LOT longer on the dead oven.
The Gilchesters’ Miche is unchanged too, but I find a 2 hour autolyse combined with a stiff levain gives the best results for a dough with 73% hydration using very weak locally grown organic and high extraction flour.
Seeded Sourdough has a long history, as we baked a Special Seed Bread at the Red Herring many years ago using Pumpkin, Sesame and Sunflower Seeds. The soaker of Golden Linseed is from Jeffrey Hamelman. The stiff white levain is my own, as is the choice of 50:50 white flour to wholemeal. Similarly with the Five Grain Levain which is very much based on the Hamelman formula, but using my stiff levain.
The Spelt bread is still a work in progress. I like that it allows me to use more local flour from Gilchesters. I like that there is interest in this ancient grain. My formula uses stiff levain of strong organic white flour at 30% pre-fermented flour, 60% hydration, with wholemeal organic spelt making up the remaining 70% of the flour. I don’t like: it’s bitter!! I use a raisin purée to try to offset the bitterness [with mere occasional success]. The crumb is tight and the dough dries out too quickly; an increase to 71% overall hydration has helped a little…but results in even less dough tolerance, as the fermentation always races like a train. I definitely do not like the cost either! Ok, it’s “a pig” to mill, and the yield is a mere two thirds of what you can expect from wheat; but how do I justify £23 for 15 kg as against £12 for 15kg of the lovely Farmhouse flour? I should explain that the regular wheat used by Gilchesters is a single variety “rare breed” Sativa wheat, organically grown, sourced specially from Germany on account of no fancy biologist arsing about with its genetic make-up over the last umpteen years and more. Try as I might I often fail to convince those who worship as the alter of Spelt that the Farmhouse flour offers equal provenance, is just as safe a dietary bet for those with issues, and, actually tastes a lot better. So I’m stuck trying to make a better spelt loaf. This one is not bad, but you can see I’m not raving about it; and that is not good enough. I want to love all the bread I offer for sale.
Moving on; the white bread. I’ve changed tack here; this is a more ordinary white bread. I like it much better too. Nigel makes a much better white loaf than I have ever achieved using the Gilchesters’ Ciabatta flour and a liquid leaven. A lot of this is to do with his oven, I believe. Anyway I was really happy with the 800g offerings I came up with this time. In summary, I now use only the Marriage’s Organic Strong White flour. I use stiff levain, 60% hydration, with 25% pre-fermented flour. I autolyse the remaining 75% of the flour for 1-2 hours. The overall formula gives 68% hydration. Nigel uses an overnight fermentation for his white dough. That doesn’t work for me. 2 – 3 hours of bulk fermentation with a couple of folds, followed by 1.5 – 2 hours final ferment gives me the best results. Of course, the real difference is in the leaven preparation, and I remain in favour of well-fed stiff dough rather than liquid levain. Feedback from colleagues is favourable and positive. This is good, as I find it very hard to get REALLY enthusiastic about any white bread.
The Toasted Brazil Nut and Prune Breads are now made with levain only. Originally, I used an overnight Biga. I make these as 400g loaves, in order to make them a commercial proposition. And, they are really popular at the Alnwick Market; I sold a dozen of them, even at £2.80 each. Why do nuts have to cost £10/kg here in the UK these days???
The laminated paste does use baker’s yeast, as a “straight” dough. I use an overnight cold fermentation. Once the butter is incorporated, I give four half turns to laminate the dough. Typically, this would involve 2 half turns, one hour rest, 2 more half turns, then a further one hour rest. I used 1kg of flour in the formula, and 420g butter. Yield gave me 15 Croissants, 10 Pain Amandes and 10 Pain au Chocolats.
Autumn at Bread and Roses looks busy; very busy indeed.
It’s been busy here in Powburn, but there has been time for holidays too. Bakery projects remain live, with much continued interest in the portfolio of artisan breads. It is just a matter of continuing to believe, and to drive it all forward as best as I can possibly manage.
After Franko’s visit in June there were the following baking events. In the last week of June I baked for the Alnwick Farmers’ Market. Moving into early July, I had a reasonably small bread order to fill for Nigel who was up in the region doing a catering job for a group of walkers on St. Cuthbert’s Way. After a few days of business meetings, and hard work to complete the year-end accounts and bring all the bookwork up-to-date, I then had a hectic week of baking prior to going away for a week’s holiday.
Hexham Farmers’ Market was on 13th June, and I had 2 one-day bread courses on 15th and 18th June. In between the two, on Tuesday 16th July, Nigel came up and we put in a full day of hard graft to upgrade the brick oven on my patio. We rebuilt the chimney with proper old firebricks, and sturdier mortar, including refractory cement for the lowest portion of the chimney which gets all the heat. We also built the shell of the oven up a further 3 courses of bricks and added considerably more insulation to improve retention of top heat. After that we added a very quaint slate roof. It now looks like this:
Overall, this project has already proved to be a major success and I anticipate it saving a lot of money in fuel costs as the oven has already proved it will now hold a lot more heat than before.
I am working on the business with a very old friend who I actually shared a house with back in the late 1980s when still a student, and then setting up the Red Herring business. He lives very close by now, and has numerous areas of business expertise to share, as well as belief in the products made by Bread and Roses. We had an appointment at Cragside House on the Friday to discuss taking a stall to sell bread during a Cheese Week which is being promoted there later in September. My favourite artisan cheese from the North of England is made by Doddingtons, just a few miles north of where we live. Unpasteurised Organic milk, produced on the family dairy farm, is used to make a range of the most amazing cheese. I am so looking forward to being at this event alongside such a producer whom I actually have real respect for. There aren’t too many of these, alas.
Well, after that it was holiday time. Alison’s sister, Mandy, plus her husband Andy, and their boy Lewis, are over from New Zealand at the moment on holiday. Long in the planning, 9 of us rented the Old Free Church Manse on the island of Raasay for a week; a short ferry trip over from the most fabulous Isle of Skye. Alison’s son Daniel, plus her other sister Beverley, her partner Malcolm, and their daughter Eve, made up the remaining numbers in the group.
The weather was fantastic, as it usually seems to be when Alison and I trundle up to the Highlands of Scotland. It was a bit humid on occasions, so the midges were in evidence, but it was sunny, and we all had a great week, with plenty of activities, and enjoying sharing lovely food mainly prepared on a huge Aga cooker. Yes, I did bake bread; some lovely and large Gilchesters’ Miches.
In the week following the return from Raasay, I ran another bread course from home, again in beautiful sunshine. Some photographs here from that day:
Gilchesters' Miche, above
Saturday 3rd August was the annual Powburn Show. This is my 3rd appearance at the Show. I spent some time deciding how to produce for this year’s event. I settled on using Nigel’s oven which he kindly offered me use of. However, Nigel was away on holiday, and his house is close to 80km away from Powburn, so the logistics were tricky. I went down to Nigel’s on the Wednesday afternoon and fired up his oven. I stayed over both Wednesday and Thursday nights. This gave me 2 days of solid production, and I was assisted by an ex-student and sometime baking colleague on both days. Thank you to http://www.thefreshloaf.com/user/sandydog for your very hard work; very much appreciated.
We made lots of rye breads on the first day: Moscow Rye; Black Pumpernickel and Borodinsky are all established Bread and Roses’ favourites, and are all 100% rye loaves. I added in a couple of alternatives using Hamelman’s Three-Stage Detmolder process to produce a 90% Rye and a 70% Rye.
The following day we baked a lot of wheat leaven based bread. Output consisted of 21kg Gilchesters’ Farmhouse miche dough; 10kg white levain; 8.4kg each of Dinkel [Spelt], Five Grain and Seeded Sourdough, together with 5kg of Toasted Brazil Nut & Prune [now featuring as a leaven bread, rather than using the Biga]. We made some Ciabattas and Focaccia slices, and some Croissants and Pains au Chocolat. Photographs of products shown below:
The day of the Show started with a threatening shower or two, and a wind blew up too. However, the sun then came out and lots of people came to visit. By 15:30 just a handful of the 100 plus loaves remained. I ran the stall alone largely this year. Alison had been asked to act as a roving reporter at the event as she was contributing an article to our local magazine Cheviot Views, offering her account of the day’s events. She still managed to drop by and give me some cover from time to time so I could grab a bite to eat and take a couple of essential breaks. There are a few photographs below of the Bread and Roses stall this year:
I want to read, lounge in the sun and chill out; nothing more. Maybe a meal out in the evening some time, and relaxing with a drink as the sun goes down. Just some fine quality time with my wife!
When I get back, I have to bake for the Whittingham Show on 18th August. This will be a smaller version of the Powburn Show, and is 2 villages away, just a few km. The next Hexham Farmers’ Market is on the following Saturday, and Alnwick Farmers’ Market is the Friday after that.
September is already shaping up to be very busy. I have an enriched bread course on Saturday 8th September. The following Saturday, Nigel is trading at Hexham and I am at Ingram Show [again a village just a few km from Powburn]. This means double production at Nigel’s house on Friday 13th September. After that there is Alnwick Food Festival. I will be giving a demonstration again, working alongside my colleague Ann, from http://www.doughworks.co.uk/. That means 3 days of trading in addition to the demonstration. Cragside Cheese Week falls in the week after Alnwick Food Festival, and Hexham Farmers’ Market completes the month of baking. We have applied for a spot at Newcastle Farmers’ Market again. If we are successful then these begin early October, and take place monthly thereafter!
So, it’s all go here. More than ever, I need a bakery! Vision board and business activity focus on this as priority Uno.
I don't have time to post so regularly at the moment. I am baking lots of bread, and continuing to work hard to develop my business.
I have finished my spell working at Dunbar, and am now pushing forward with my quest to have a small bakery of my own, preferably here in Powburn, where I live. I will write more on this, no doubt, as it progresses. For now, I have secured a 2 deck electric oven, and have access to various bits of kit and machinery to add to what I already own. That's enough to get started, so discussions now centre on securing premises; that is underway.
In the meantime, we are continuing to supply the Farmers' Markets at both Alnwick and Hexham. Last Friday, we sold out at Alnwick around 12:30pm, even though the weather was pretty poor. Feedback about the bread continues to be very positive, and now there are a few outlets approaching in search of regular wholesale supply.
So, I am really happy with the progress, although am keen to get into a full-production situation as soon as possible.
We had a very welcome guest come to stay with us in Powburn recently. En route to join his wife for a holiday in Prague after she had completed a period of study, TFL's Franko, a fellow professional baker who lives on Vancouver Island, came to the UK for a much-anticipated short trip.
We baked for, and attended the Hexham Farmers' Market together and enjoyed some relaxing time out in Northumberland with my wife, Alison, as well.
I picked Franko up from our local railway station in bright sunshine on Wednesday afternoon. It is a longhaul from Vancouver Island, so the traveller needed some rest. But we baked 2 full days after that. On the Thursday we used my wood-fired oven here at home, and dived into some of the flour which my friend had brought over from North America. Photograph below:
The Red Fife is quite delicious; organic wholewheat, a traditional strain which is the base of nearly all the strong modern wheat varieties used to produce today's Canadian strong wheat. It has a great history which takes in both Hungary and Scotland en route to Canada too, back in the 19th Century. The King Arthur All-Purpose flour confirmed what I had long-suspected. It is a bread flour by UK standards; it makes a delightful loaf of bread, although my preference is to avoid all-white bread as many here know. Mixing the King Arthur flour with some Red Fife and a small portion of rye sourdough created a very tasty loaf. We made the dough into miches...quite big ones too at c.1.5kg. I had recently bought some Swiss Dark Flour as a treat from the Shipton Mill website. I didn't have a clue about the strength of the flour, but had an e-mail from Clive at Shipton explaining thatthe flour was milled in a way which captures the Pollard streams. Kent (4th ed; 1994) makes reference to Pollard as an Australian term for wheatfeed, implying it is the layers of the grain inside of the bran layers, and outside of the endosperm. Sounds like the aleurone layer to me, although I lay no claim to expert knowledge of milling. Anyway, the flour produced a lovely dark loaf. We made this using my wheat levain only, plus a little salt, of course. Lastly, we made some 100% rye loaves, as Franko was on a mission to discover more about the Bacheldre Organic Whiolegrain Rye flour which I have been using for sometime now. Some of it went back to Canada to reciprocate for the gifts brought for out UK baking. We made some Borodinsky loaves and some Black Pumpernickel. Both are 100% rye, and use complex 3-stage fermentation.
The next day we had a very early start to visit my colleague Nigel, and bake all the bread for the Hexham Market, and more besides; c.130 loaves. Overnight temperatures were very warm, and my leaven was "over" by the time I got up at 03:30! I got away with the Spelt dough, somehow [the visiting pro being largely responsible for salvation]. But I decided to refresh the leaven once again before using it to make the doughs for Gilchesters and the Five Grain. The Gilchesters' is made with local high extraction flour, and I had 2 doughs in excess of 10kg on the production schedule. So we made the dough at Nigel's house. It all worked very well indeed. Nigel had made his white dough overnight, and had a Golden Linseed and Light Rye made besides. I took the Spelt dough and then made the Gilchesters and Five Grain doughs, plus 10kg paste for Moscow Rye.
Man on the Oven:
It all seems like a lot of work. But, with 3 bakers, and a wood-fired oven which holds 40 x 600g loaves to bake on the sole of the oven at any one time; well it all went very smoothly and we had finished baking early-mid afternoon in record time. Nigel's oven is such a serious beast, so once fired, it holds the heat in for many hours.
Franko and I drove to Hexham early Saturday morning and set up our market stall. Nigel arrived with the bread which we set out for display. The bread was great; a pleasure to sell. Two of us behind the stall meant we could create a great ambience too, and this meant we sold out of bread around 13:00. There is much competition for bread bakers on the Hexham market....4 of us, and there are a few outlets within the main shopping centre which offer artisan bread as well. I love to sell out of bread; a friendly companion alongside made it even more enjoyable.
We rested up a little late Saturday afternoon, then Alison drove us to the beautiful Northumberland Coast, where we had a table booked in a lovely pub at Newton-by-the-Sea....a big favourite of ours. We went down onto the beach first, and soaked up some evening sunshine. Alison took these fine photos on her phone! The impressive castle in the background is Dunstanburgh; we so love the Northumberland Coast!
After Franko left bound for Prague, I had to set to and bake for the Alnwick Farmers' Market coming up the following Friday. I baked flat-out for 3 days, producing over 30 loaves each day on my little wood-fired oven. It was enough, and I turned up on Friday just gone with several basket loads of bread and a range of pastries. I was joined by my neighbour Anna too. She is not only a champion of our bread, she is a great salesperson too! So, I was home before 13:00h, with a load of empty baskets.
Today I have been baking again. You can see the breads I have made in the photographs below. Nigel is catering for a group of 20 walkers following the St. Cuthbert's Way, which runs through Powburn. He baked some bread for the first leg of the walk, and is calling here to collect replenishment! I baked more bread besides; some for my business partner, whose family I have lined up as taste-testers for when I get into production -proper. Also, I have landed an account with a business called Muddy Boots, which will open as a cafe in the former Visitor Centre at Ingram in the National Park....it's only 5km from Powburn, into the Cheviot hills. So there were more samples for Jan [owner] to collect and try.
Seeded Sourdough and Five Grain Levain:
Well, I'll try to keep you all posted with further progress as and when it happens. The game remains natural leavens and organic flours; for the moment it's wood-fired brick ovens too. And, in the long term, larger-scale baking on brick ovens remains the goal. Plus teaching, Consultancy, Community baking...let's keep real bread alive and drive it forward here in the UK.
Finally, this post is coming together! It has been a long time in the making, and in the meantime it’s “all-change” here at TFL. The re-vamped site looks great Floyd, and I am about to experiment with all the new upload options now made available. I gather I should be able to embed my own videos; well, let’s just see how I get on shall we?
Ok, well, I’ve entitled this post “Spring”, but in truth, we haven’t really got going with this most beautiful of seasons in the UK, especially here in “The North”. Current estimates are that the natural environment is lagging 6 to 8 weeks behind where we could reasonably expect it to be. Many of the big old trees in our village have no buds on them whatsoever. And it has been cold; very cold indeed. It is now windy, but there is some warmth when the sun is out properly. I start off with this whinge because it drove many Brits to choose to escape to Southern Europe at Easter-time, fed up as the coldest March on record was finally drawing to a close. Alison and I were part of this exodus, although we had decided to take a 2 week break at Easter some time ago, when we found cheap flights with EasyJet from London’s Gatwick Airport. We are going to Scotland with family this July, so hit on the idea of exploring our favourite island of Crete in the Springtime; what a fantastic ideas that turned out to be too. We are used to Crete appearing baked; little water, no grass, limited flowers to say the least. It can be a trifle windy, but ordinarily it is HOT. Of course our visit this time brought very different weather, and a landscape very unfamiliar to us, and very beautiful indeed.
I made notes of our early days in Crete, and reflected largely on baking, given I made bread in the wood-fired brick oven attached to the lovely “Anatolika” Beach House where we were staying. I will write up the notes below. There is also a video slideshow to watch, with photos of my baking, of the amazing landscape we enjoyed, and acknowledgement of our feline companions through the fortnight.
“Anatolika” – The Beach House; Easter 2013
Alison loves Crete – she has been coming on holiday to this island for close on 25 years. She brought me to Crete for our extended honeymoon back in 2007, and I too fell in love with the place.
Since then we have stayed in various places around the island; all very beautiful. But this is the best of all and we have been so excited about coming back here since we first secured the booking back in late 2012. We stayed here in the heat of July and August 2010; you can read about our adventures on that trip here: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/19167/anotolika-beach-house
Setting the scene: we are on the South Coast, around 40km due South of Rethymnon – Crete’s third largest city. The road west is unfit to use to drive in our grotty hire car and the road east meanders for a few kilometres around shore and mountainside before it peters out. To the south is the Libyan Sea, with the tiny island of Gavdos some 4 hours away by boat. After that, next stop Africa! So the north is our access point, over hills rising close to 1000m, with the town of Spili as our base for buying supplies.
We re-visited our favourite greengrocer and stocked up on aubergines, peppers, courgettes and other vegetables, as well as some fabulous local strawberries. The shopkeeper also sells loose dried beans and pulses, so we bought fava and gigantes too, and we also found some local speciality pasta. Last, and definitely not least, we bought local honey, plus the gentleman’s own olive oil [truly top class], and raki, which was sufficiently smooth that Alison was quite happy to down a tipple in one when offered a sample in the shop!
At the other end of the town car park is the INCA supermarket where we bought other provisions, including a good range of flour….milled in Crete. I bought a beautiful coarse wholemeal with protein of 14.4%, a strong white flour for bread at 11.8%, and what must be close to a US All Purpose flour at 11.2% - although I expect it to have been milled from predominantly Mediterranean-grown wheat and, as such, that the protein quality and water absorption would be lower than its US counterpart. I have included photos of the flour bags in the slideshow. All the flours were produced by the same milling company. We followed one of the company lorries on our way back to the airport as it made its way from its base in Souda, near Chania, to one of the plant bakeries in the capital city, Heraklion.
The labels are headed ΜΥɅΟΙ ΚΡΗΤΗΣ, which I suspect translates as “Cretan Mills”. The Greek word for flour is αλεύρι.
I don’t lay claim to the flour being any local speciality flour like the Gilchesters’ which I use in the UK; anything but! They are clearly industrially-produced flours with consistent specifications. But, they are milled at Souda, the port which serves the second city, Chania, in the west of the island.
I do not know where the Greeks source bread-making wheat, but have these inclines. Thessalonikii in the north of the mainland is noted for agri-business, and one suspects the shortfall is made up from wheat from the other EU nations, France being a most likely source.
I arrived in Crete to bake, armed with a red plastic scraper, 40g of levain stashed in a plastic container, and a neat mini-scale which I have photographed in the slideshow. The scale weighs upto 300g, in 0.1g denominations, although a level scoop only provides about 30g of flour, so weighing out accurately can be a bit of a pain. Still, it’s a good balance; I avoided “winging it”, but managed to keep things as simple as possible for me to enjoy the pleasures of baking in our wonderful seaside abode.
We arrived on Friday afternoon. I had driven overnight from home to London [350 miles/560km] before the flight to Crete, plus a 120km journey from Heraklion airport, so, yes, I was tired. We shopped on Saturday, and I built up the levain. Alison and I sourced some wood from the roadside and the beach, and the owners of Anatolika supplied more besides. The sun shone and it was hot for the first few days.
On the Sunday, I baked a large Miche, which was a little over-ambitious at 1.5kg of dough, as my makeshift banneton was too small to allow full proof, meaning the crumb in the centre areas of the bread ended up just a little tight. I also made 2 small cobs of Toasted Almond and Prune Bread which served well for breakfasts over the next few days. The pick of the breads was undoubtedly a large wholemeal cob, which I topped with a few sesame seeds. I think a white crusty bâtard, or maybe a small but chunky baguette, with a scattering of sesame seeds is typical of everyday Greek bread. But, we like wholemeal flour better, and I had a couple of plastic round bowls to use and some linen tea towels to improvise as bannetons…so these loaves became our bread of choice for our lunchtime sandwiches this holiday.
In the early part of the second week of the holiday I baked once more. This time I made a pizza, which baked in just 2 minutes in the red hot oven, just after extinguishing the fire. A courgette focaccia followed, taking just 5 minutes to bake through! I made more wholemeal bread plus some spicy buns. The buns tasted good, but the levain was somewhat over-ripe by the time I came to make them, and my supply of bread flour running very short. Yet again, the wholemeal loaves were just great; I reckon hydration in these loaves was in excess of 80%, and they stayed fresh for days.
Of course, we really did not want to come home. Here is the slideshow of photographs from the holiday.
Nigel covered the Hexham Farmers’ Market on 13th April allowing Alison and I to catch up with my family on the way back home from London. I then had to travel back up to Dunbar for nightshift work on Sunday night for 4 nights. We had friends for dinner the following Saturday and I worked just one Sunday night back up in Scotland. After that I baked all week on my wood-fired oven at home in preparation for the Alnwick Farmers’ Market on 26th April. You can see my baking effort on the slideshow below. The weather was rubbish that day, but sales were ok considering. I attended Hexham Farmers’ Market the next day, and sold out of everything very quickly, including the small amount of excess from the day before which went on special offer.
After a brief rest on Sunday, Alison and I caught an early train South on Monday morning [29th April] and were joined by my parents at York en route to London. We went to the Barbican Centre in the heart of the City of London for my Graduation Ceremony with City University. Yes, finally I have successfully completed an MSc in Food Policy. There are a few photographs at the end of the slideshow below.
Nigel and I had a large baking session on Thursday this week. We attended the Newcastle Farmers’ Market for the first time on Friday 3rd May, and all-but-sold-out of bread. Given tough competition, minimal publicity, and a first attempt, 130 loaves sold seems a good result to us. We wait to see whether we are invited back for June and July.
I’m looking forward to the Summer. I have a few day courses booked in, plus the Farmers’ Markets and the Powburn Show. BUT, I soooooo need a bakery; that is the real goal I have to work for.
I've just finished another 5 week stint of nightshifts baking in Dunbar, which is on the coast, just south of Edinburgh, Scotland. I have run a couple of courses too, and kept up my commitments in Northumberland for the Farmers' Markets...so it's been a very busy time and I need a break...so does Alison, who has a much more stressful job than I have, though with more sociable hours, of course.
I have had only limited time to look over the TFL pages of late, and commenting has really not been possible; my apologies for this. I know I will have missed looking over some great bread from the many fine bakers who post here.
I've been listening to a feature on the radio just now which is claiming an increase of 20% in numbers looking to leave the UK for a holiday abroad this Easter; and why ever not? A heatwave this time last year, now we have the coldest March on record. I'm reading it will be 26*C in Heraklion on Saturday..so our South Coast haven will probably be a degree or two up on that scorching figure.
Here's a photo of a very happy baker at the end of last night's shift. I'm holding a 1200g loaf of Pain de Campagne. I'll be making some sandwiches with that in a few hours' time as we drive down to Gatwick airport overnight tonight to catch a morning flight to Heraklion early tomorrow.
Some of you will be aware that I am currently working as a contract baker for Dunbar Community Bakery, covering 4 nights of breadbaking each week. I began this assignment in early January, and it is set to run until at least the end of March. I am continuing to sell at 3 Farmers' Markets every month in addition to this contract work.
This is a demanding schedule, however, at New Year, Alison and I resolved that we would continue to work as hard as ever, and push the boundaries, in order that we could afford to fund more in the way of holiday time for us to enjoy. We consider this as more than essential recuperation time, and having just enjoyed 4 days of wall-to-wall sunshine in the far North West of Scotland, we feel totally vindicated in our chosen work strategy. Our home in Northumberland, UK might be considered by many to be far into the Northern hemisphere, and not noted for kindly weather. Our holiday base is some 300+ miles further north than where we live, and yet I hung about in shorts for much of our time. You can see all the photos on my flickr site, here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/24731237@N03/sets/72157632818927609/ There are a lot of photos; here is a taste of what we enjoyed:
In order to try and relate this blog entry to bread, in some kind of way, we enjoyed the most fantastic sandwiches for lunch on our daily walks, made with a Sourdough Seed Bread which I took along. Yes, I had a real holiday, and didn't make any bread at all during our time away!
After a long journey back on Wednesday, I enjoyed a good day of baking yesterday, and a sell-out day today at Alnwick Farmers' Market. In the meantime, my colleague Nigel has been working hard on production, and I am all-set to go to Hexham to sell our wares tomorrow.
Then it's back to Dunbar. But we have 2 weeks' holiday in Crete to look forward to at the start of April. Back to Anatolika, the Beach House with the wood-fired oven where we stayed a couple of years ago. How we are looking forward to that!
A Happy New Year to all here at the Fresh Loaf. I last posted on my blog just after the December Alnwick Farmers’ Market, with some photographs taken on a very wet and gloomy morning. The January Market is just a few days away, meaning that the first month of 2013 is really flying by. I thought I would put up a post telling of what has been going on in the “Bread and Roses” world post Christmas.
I had been planning for a return to Leeds for the new term for some teaching work. Unfortunately, that seems to have fallen through. Around Christmas time Alison and I were really feeling the effects of life in Recession-hit Britain, so this was a big worry. The worries soon eased as I was approached by Dunbar Bakery for more consultancy work. This was very easy to arrange and I am currently sitting at Berwick Rail Station writing this post, waiting for a connecting train to take me to Dunbar ready for a nightshift of bread production, starting at 22:00.
Maybe I should say something about Dunbar Bakery? I first visited back in February last year. The business is a Community-owned Co-operative, established to fight the problem of a dying High Street in the town. The Committee which oversees the business has many noble ideas, one of which is to provide real bread. The first Bakery Manager employed was incapable of making this as he had an unhealthy regard for the Improver bag. The replacement Bakery Manager came along in March, soon after I began work to introduce a range of breads using Sponge and Dough and Natural Leavens only. He is the winner of the Patissier of the Year in Scotland; a rising star indeed. By the end of the Summer, the business had been utterly transformed, and the baking team were all producing lovely bread, beautiful patisserie and the business was back on track.
There has, understandably been significant interest in the business model used by the Bakery, especially in the context of the many struggling High Street shops up and down the UK right now. But the ambitions have just kept the business moving forward, with Ross [Bakery Manager] taking a lead by entering the business to compete in the ITV television series “Britain’s Best Bakery”, screened just before Christmas. The Bakery ended up as finalists, and I’m still not sure how they managed to avoid being named winners, as their appearance in the final showcased some awesome breads and top market sales, plus the most amazing wedding cake you can imagine….TOP stuff from Ross. You can find out more about the Bakery at Dunbar here: http://thebakerydunbar.co.uk/
I am working 4 nightshifts on bread production, plus other work to cover staff training and looking to run some bread courses for the public too. I am here until at least the end of March. After that Alison and I have a fortnight’s holiday over the Easter vacation, and we are staying at the lovely Anatolika in Crete….the lovely Beach House with the wood-fired oven for me to bake bread on once more. I posted on our summer holiday here in this blog post: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/19167/anotolika-beach-house When we return I will either do more work at Dunbar, or the time will finally be right to expand the Bread and Roses baking operation.
I managed some rest on Thursday, but also put in some planning work and fired my oven ready for a baking course which ran on Friday. I entertained 2 women from near Morpeth who came to make pizzas, ciabatta, focaccias and baguettes. In spite of some dicey weather, the day was a roaring success, thanks largely to the enthusiasm of the students, and my oven behaving almost impeccably. A full set of photographs can be seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/24731237@N03/sets/72157632558366165/ Here is a selection of photographs from the day.
The weekend has quickly passed by. Alison and I have set a gruelling schedule to keep ourselves afloat this year. But we have also lined up 4 holidays, which will be our time to rest, relax and recuperate together. Next weekend I have 2 markets. I have little time in February, but have to produce for both markets. We have a holiday lined up in the third week of February for 4 nights. I don’t know any more than that. It’s my 48th Birthday surprise!!!”