Sunday, 17 February 2013

Blackcurrants, apples, snowdrops, and spring in the air

Having been given a wee packet of sourdough starter last weekend, and having already made a wheat flour starter the week before, I thought I'd use my Redbournbury starter to make a rye leaven. I'm thinking of calling it Rye [sic] Cooder, with thanks to Betamother, who suggested that I call the other one Ray. Ray and Rye. The Sourdough Twins (cue slide guitars). Anyway, I got it going before I managed to kill it off, so by this weekend, I was itching to get baking, and I decided on Dan Lepard's Currant and Cassis loaf from The Handmade Loaf. I've had the book for ages, and had always been drawn to that recipe, due in large part to the fact that I love fruited bread of any kind, but until now I never had the requisite rye starter.

MrB was duly dispatched to the supermarket in search of Cassis and came home with an extremely handsome bottle, which took me whooshing straight back to my teens. The town where I went to school was twinned with a famous vine-growing town in Burgundy, and being a keen student of French, I went on several French exchange trips in my teens. We (patently underage) participants were invariably sent home weighed down with bottles of fine Burgundy for our parents, and also a bottle of Creme de Cassis, which was also made in the town, and whose factory we visited as part of the trip. The smell of Cassis always takes me back to that trip (isn't smell the most powerful sense for that? I certainly find it so), and this label is just like the ones on the bottles we used to bring home. I'm afraid that my home counties town offered little in the way of reciprocal gift-giving opportunities, being famous for very little other than roses and a tenuous connection with Bob Hope. Which may go some way to explaining the penchant for shoplifting trips to Oxford Street among the French teen contingent.

Anyway, I digress. The currants are soaked in the cassis and some water overnight, resulting in a juicily plump pile of currants to add to the dough the next day. The dough is a mixture of rye, wheat and wholemeal flours and I ended up with two lovely loaves. They look a bit burned in the photo, but in fact they aren't, it's just my crap photography. Dan Lepard told me (gasp, yes, really him) on Twitter that sugar in the cassis makes the crust browner than a reglular loaf and I am not to worry. I was a teeny bit disappointed that the finished loaf isn't purple, actually, but it tastes lovely, and is great toasted, like all sourdoughs.

The breakfastboys had all headed off to the swimming pool, so finding myself at a loose end, and clearly with too little else to do, I decided to make another loaf with my wheat starter, the oat and apple loaf, also from the Handmade Loaf. This uses apples to keep the loaf moist and it apparently keeps well for a few days.

Not that it gets much of a chance round here. Today was the most beautiful day, with a definite sniff of spring in the air so, with MrB out on his new bike, the breakfastboys and I sliced up the loaf for sandwiches and took ourselves off for a day in the Trossachs, where the  breakfastboys pootled about in the river and invented a game called 'dirty dusty rocks', which, as its name implies, appears to consist of picking up a big rock and carrying it along. It's true what they say about bought toys being a waste of money.

A day of baking and a day of spring sunshine in the hills. That's a pretty good weekend there.

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