Sunday, 24 February 2013

The great marmalade crash of 2013

So, my enthusiasm for marmalade has come to a sticky end.

I was out at a party last night and stumbled into bed at about 1am. A couple of hours later I was woken by an almighty crash. Since we've already had one ceiling collapse saga in this flat, I stumbled back out of bed to see what had happened, in case a ceiling had fallen in on, say, my children.

But no, turns out a shelf had fallen off the wall. In the middle of the night, for no apparent reason. That's quite bad. But when it's also the shelf upon which you have placed an entire season's Seville marmalade (and some of last year's too), and an entire season's pink grapefruit marmalade, and an entire season's apricot jam, and...well, you get the picture. The whole blimmin lot. It wouldn't have been quite so bad if the shelf had merely fallen to the floor. But no, it's in a cupboard full of stuff in our hall, so the cascading jars hit boxes of wires, and guitar cases, and files of papers, and old vinyl records and turntables from when we were young and hip, and pretty much anything else you can think of that one might put into a hall cupboard. It was like an episode of Paddington gone bad. At 3am. I quietly closed the door and went back to bed.

This morning was spent decanting the cupboard contents into the hall, scraping marmalade and broken glass off various items and rationalising our collection of plug-in heaters (a collection we amassed when our boiler packed up in the middle of a particularly cold winter a few years ago). I'm not sure they work so well full of congealed marmalade.

I'm happy to report that the cupboard is also carpeted, which is bad when it comes to cleaning marmalade off it, but good in that a cushioned landing meant I managed to salvage a few jars. But some of them look mighty dented and may have to go as well if the seals have been broken, I fear.

The survivors (note, some of these jars are empty):


I feel sure there is a valuable life lesson here. Possibly:

1. Never make more marmalade than your family can reasonably consume in a year.

or maybe:

2. Don't keep piling glass jars onto shoogly shelves.

and almost certainly:

3. Throw out the crap.

I actually had a big clear out of the cupboard a couple of weeks ago, and so what remained at the time of the Marmalade Disaster was actually the really good, important crap. It had survived the first cut. Though quite why a really manky old cushion inner for which I will never find a replacement cover because it's a sort of saggy pyramid shape had reached this stage in the competition, I cannot say. It is now in the bin. Along with two broken car sunblinds, a halogen heater and a mildewed guitar case. See what I mean? The sort of thing you just can't live without.

So, perhaps my rude awakening had a greater purpose. I feel lighter, and a step further on the path to domestic Enlightenment. Though in the dark, marmalade-drought days of December 2013, I may think otherwise.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Are you a lover or a hater?

I'm afraid that this post will probably mean next to nothing to any readers outside the UK. For it is about Marmite, that love it or loathe it feature of the British breakfast table. For the uninitiated, it's yeast extract, and Marmite fans are usually extremely partial to a thin scraping of this salty, deeply savoury, sticky brown gunk on buttered toast.

I count myself among the lovers. I was brought up on Marmite and I absolutely love it. There are days when I'm not in the mood for the sweetness of cereal or honey or marmalade at breakfast, and Marmite is just the ticket. It's one of those things that can make my mouth water just thinking about it. I spent many of my formative years eating very little for lunch but Marmite sandwiches. The breakfastboys are split on the issue - youngest likes it, oldest hates it, and MrB has never liked it either.

Now, the other day, I chanced upon a tweet by Edesia's Kitchen which got my Marmite glands going straight away - a link to her recipe for Marmite Bread. Marmite and Cheese bread in fact. Now, youngest breakfastboy may like Marmite, but he doesn't like cheese, so there I had a conundrum. Two people who don't like Marmite, one person who doesn't like cheese, and me. Who loves cheese, and Marmite, and making bread. Well, what's a girl to do?

I'll give you one guess.

The recipe just told me to 'make the dough'. So I thought I'd just let the breadmaker do that bit - fling in the ingredients and leave it for a couple of hours, job done. Then you have to spread on the Marmite and the finely grated cheese, roll it up and 'knead it gently'. I'm not sure how 'integrated' the ingredients are supposed to be once kneaded and so mine was still quite 'rolled up' rather than one solid ball, and so tended to unravel a bit once it was cooked.

But oh my. The smell from the oven! And the taste! Quite the most moreish thing you can imagine. Edesia's Kitchen says she's done it as a 'tear and share' type loaf and I guess you could also do it as one of those 'monkey bread' loaves made up of small doughballs with stuff spread in between, piled into a loaf tin, which would overcome the unravelling thing. Or make it more of a feature anyway.

This is not, however, the end of the story. For a most remarkable thing happened. A thing that I have never heard of before. I'd been led to believe that the entire UK population can be divided into Marmite lovers and Marmite haters, and that any jump between the two is as impossible as it is for a horse to become a cow (outwith the processed food industry). But I can now reveal to you that erstwhile Marmite hater MrB is a convert. 'Mmmm', quoth he. 'This is great! So savoury!' And I've even caught him scarfing it between meals, so he definitely wans't just being polite.

Such was our haste in eating it that I clean forgot to take a picture of the finished article in all its glory. Oozing with cheesy marmitey bits and all golden brown on top. 

So, go on. Try it. You too may see the light in the bottom of a Marmite pot.

Dictionary corner: language nerds, did you know that 'marmite' is the French for a cooking pot like the one on the Marmite label, and in fact the same shape as the Marmite jar itself - a sort of witch's cauldron?

Australasia corner: don't try to convince me that Vegemite is a. the same as or b. better than Marmite. It isn't the same AT ALL. That is my final word on the subject. <gavel>

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.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Chain chain chain, chain of fooooood

<with apologies to Aretha Franklin>

OK, somewhat off the breakfast topic today, but something I care passionately about. Food in schools. You may remember that a few months ago I blogged about the idea of putting domestic science back into the National Curriculum, so I was delighted this week to see that the government is planning to do just that. We'll have to wait and see just what it means in practice - how many schools still have the facilities for pupils to cook, for example, and how will teachers be trained to implement this part of the curriculum - I don't imagine there are many Domestic Science specialists these days? I would LOVE to see something like the wonderful Edible Schoolyard project in the US. Alice Waters' work is truly inspirational - children grow their own food, and cook it, and in the process learn about history (how people grew their own crops in the past, the Silk Road and the spices that have come to us along it), geography (where ingredients come from, what people eat in other countries), biology (how plants grow, how they decompose), maths (weighing, measuring etc), you name it. The benefits of working outdoors, especially for children in very urban areas are obvious, and the responsibility of looking after plants and tending the garden, clearing up the kitchen, and the social benefits of serving and eating food together are all great life lessons too. This holistic approach to food education is so exciting and sensible and I really wish that something similar could be brought in here - that would be a legacy to be proud of Mr Gove.

I'm much less happy about the accompanying proposal to ban packed lunches. In theory, I can appreciate where this policy is coming from. Far too many children are sent to school with nutritionally empty lunchboxes full of crisps, chocolate bars and fizzy drinks, and this is something that needs to be addressed, but I'm not at all sure that a blanket ban on packed lunches is the best way to achieve this. School lunches in our authority cost £1.20 a day, and I think that in most places they cost no more than £2.00 a day. This includes a starter of some sort (which I don't think many children take), a choice of two hot meals, two cold meals (sandwiches, usually), a pudding, and a choice of drinks - milk, flavoured milk, juice etc. This seems pretty standard too. On the face of it, that looks like a pretty good deal, doesn't it? Well, yes, but what about the quality of that food? Youngest breakfastboy used to love macaroni cheese, but was presented at his school induction with a plate of something that I wouldn't feed to a dog - pasta in a congealed sauce, overcooked and really really horrid, and has refused to touch it since at home or at school. So thanks for that South Lanarkshire Council. And of course this week there are all sorts of more sinister question marks over what exactly is in the penne bolognese that is being dished up to our children. I don't object to horse meat per se, but the questions raised over food safety are very serious (horse painkiller anyone?), and the lack of transparency is very alarming. I'm afraid that I have some concerns about meat that is this cheap.

There's also an astonishing and depressing amount of waste. At a recent Parent Council meeting at our school, one of the teachers mentioned that she was surprised that so many children chose fish and chips on a Friday because she didn't think most children were keen on fish. 'They aren't', said the deputy head. 'Most of them eat the chips and throw the fish in the bin'. So, you may think that your child is getting a nice well-balanced meal, but the only way of actually knowing that for sure is to send them with a packed lunch (they bring back anything they haven't eaten so I can see if smallest breakfastboy has eaten his carrot sticks).

When I was at school, we went to the canteen and were presented with lunch. One main course, one pudding. Sure, there were things that I loathed (the thought of macaroni pudding still makes me shudder all these years later), but none of it scarred me for life, and I feel sure I was a less picky eater than my children. The local authority claim that it is all about 'encouraging children to make healthy choices', but how healthy is the choice of fish and chips without the fish, or strawberry milk rather than plain milk, or lasagne that contains meat of a rather dubious provenance? And is a four-year-old really in a position to make those healthy choices effectively? I'm not at all sure that s/he is. In the meantime, I think I would prefer to send my children to school, if I choose to do so, with a packed lunch containing food that I've prepared, where I feel confident about the food it contains.

So, what's the solution? I'm not sure, but I do feel that before we start insiting that all children eat school lunches, we need to look at the quality of what we are serving up and at the astonishing amount of waste: I'm not sure if anyone has calculated how much food waste schools produce, but I'd be really interested to see the figures. If schools are looking to save money (and this seems to be one of the aims of this policy - to increase take-up of meals and therefore make more money), then here's the place to start, I'd suggest. Personally, I'd prefer a much more limited menu of a higher quality. I wouldn't offer my children a choice of four meals at dinner time, and I don't really understand why it's so important to do so at lunchtime, allergies and other medical conditions aside.

As for how to ensure that packed lunches contain nutritionally valuable food, I think that is a more tricky issue to solve. I know that school policing of packed lunches is controversial, and I'm not sure that I agree with it - parents really do have to take responsibility for their own children, and I've seen stories of some very strange decisions by schools. But is it possible to make sure that children are not penalised for their parents' decisions about food? I don't have the answer.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Pancakes and watermills

We spent most of Pancake Day on the motorway on our way home from the shenanigans surrounding the Festival of MrB. So I'm afraid I do not have any exciting breakfast pancake tales to share with you. We did manage to rustle up some this evening, but that would be cheating a bit wouldn't it, in a breakfast blog? For the record, I was going to use Jamie Oliver's 1-tweet recipe (1 cup s-r flour, 1 cup milk, 1 egg, pinch salt, whisk, fry), but it sounded as if it would make thick American pancakes, and the breakfastboys were adamant that it should be thin crepe-style pancakes for pancake day, and I agree really, so I went with Delia's tried and trusted standard pancake recipe from the Complete Cookery Course. It's a book I rarely open these days, but it's great when you want an absolutely standard recipe for anything at all.

On any other day, I'm happy to experiment with pancakes: buckwheat/oatmeal/spelt/thick/thin/you name it, I'll give it a go. But when it comes to Pancake Day, I'm a purist. A thin pancake with lemon juice and sugar for me. MrB and the smallest breakfastboy were right with me on that, and only oldest breakfastboy ploughed his own furrow with some cream and maple syrup - a nod to mardi gras, I like to think.

Well, it's been a right old weekend. We deposited the breakfastboys for the night with their lovely aunt and uncle, who showed them a high old time. In amongst trips to safari parks and waffle houses they stopped by Redbournbury Watermill, where they very kindly bought me some of the mill's own flour - a bag of white and bag of wholemeal and a wee bag of their sourdough starter, which I've just used to start a rye leaven. I'm not too sure what it is - it looks like wholemeal flour, and smells of yogurt, but I've followed the instructions to get it started and hopefully haven't left it too long with all the travelling and killed it off.

I am itching to get bread baking again after a few days away, especially now I have some special flour to use. I'll definitely have to pay the mill a visit myself too the next time we're down south, as they also have a bakery selling bread made with all their freshly milled flours, which comes highly recommended, and have a wider range of flours on sale too. Much of their grain is also grown locally, and I love the thought that everything is grown, milled and baked within a mile of the mill. It's just a shame that I have to travel 400-odd miles to get there!

Meanwhile, MrB and I went off to our own high jinks, which included a very fine breakfast at our hotel. It was one of those menus where you could really make an absolute pig of yourself - porridge, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, French toast, you name it. MrB went for the full English while I plumped for waffles, which appeared in a very ta-da kinda way on a board, with a baked banana, sprinkled with icing sugar and with a little brass pot of maple syrup on the side. It was all very civilised indeed, and I felt extremely grateful for it after a looooooong night of fun the night before. Grateful also for the fact that it was served until 11am, so that I didn't even have to fall out of bed too early to appreciate it.

Back to business tomorrow, so I'll let you know what's happened to that Redbournbury Mill flour. In the meantime, if you want to try it, you can buy it online at the Bakery Bits website. This is a site I've only discovered recently, and I haven't bought anything from them yet, but it looks fabulous for everything to do with bread baking and fairly reasonably priced.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

The Festival of MrB

Every year at about this time, just as we've polished off the last of the Christmas cake and got smallest breakfastboy's birthday capers out of the way, there dawns what has become known as 'The Festival of MrB'. Not just a one-day festival this. It lasts at least a week and basically involves everyone being extremely nice to MrB, food and presents.

Now this year's Festival is a bit special. It has a zero on the end. And, falling midweek as it does this year, it allows him to have not one but two whole weekends of fun-filled MrB-centred action. This weekend is half term here, so we're off for a long weekend of fun with some dear friends and a grown-up stay in a swanky hotel. I will obviously be paying very close attention to the breakfast dept and reporting back to you on my findings. Assuming that I actually make it as far as the dining room after a night of karaoke (not my idea dear reader, or indeed MrB's), and the cocktails that will obviously be required to get through that. And me virtually a teetotaller. Should it get messy, expect a very thorough analysis of the room service options. Or a very nice photo of a glass of Berocca. I'm not too optimistic, given that one of the people who will be there once presented me with a carrier bag of chocolate bars and a tub of multivitamins with the words 'there's dinner'.

But the festival is already in full swing and so we had friends up last weekend too. A full English breakfast was commissioned for the morning after. I was interested to see how bacon, sausages, tatty scones and baked beans fitted in with the 'training schedule', but this information was not forthcoming.

But it got me to wondering what exactly constitutes a full English. Not tatty scones, for example, which are a decidedly Celtic thing I think, and I think that many people would be affronted by the baked beans. MrB, meanwhile, objects forcefully to the very notion of black pudding, despite being a committed carnivore. And here in Scotland, there is a thing called a 'full Scottish', which as far as I can gather is exactly the same as a full English, only the sausage is square and the black pudding may be white. To me, the word 'full' suggests that you really ought to include all of the possible options, but I guess the joy of it is that the list is fairly extensive and so it's possible to pick and choose and still have a plate heaving with food. Anyway, here's my list:

black pudding
eggs (fried or scrambled)
grilled tomatoes
grilled or fried mushrooms
baked beans
tatty scones or hash browns or saute potatoes or fried bread. Or toast I guess?

Any advances on that list? To be perfectly honest, the very thought of it makes me want to heave. But each to his own. Especially with a birthday in the mix. I nibbled my toast and gazed upon the ravening menfolk as they devoured their meaty breakfasts. He'll need to do a whole heap of turbo training to work that amount of cholesterol off.

And Tea. It has to be tea, doesn't it? MrB would sooner drink dishwater than tea at breakfast. He can't start the day without his cup of full-strength freshly-ground Joe. But it's all wrong. <shakes head>. Even I know that.

Bon weekend tous!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

My first sourdough

10am: So the day is here. My sourdough starter has been bubbling away for a week or so now and I'm going to embark on my first sourdough. I'm planning on doing all the necessary kneading in between delivery and assembly of a cabin bed, getting a huge tree cut down and swimming lessons, so I probably could have chosen a better day, but it's a busy week, so here we go. I feel surprisingly nervous. I think I'm probably making this a bigger deal than it needs to be. It is, after all, nothing more (quite literally) than flour and water and a pinch of salt. What could possibly go wrong, right? Wish me luck.

I'm using a recipe from the River Cottage Bread book (the 'My Sourdough' recipe), which starts with a sponge, so I got this going last night with a big dollop of my starter mixed with some of the flour and some warm water to make a batter, and by this morning it looked like this:

You might not be able to see them (try clicking on the pic to make it bigger), but it's covered in tiny holes where it's all fermenting away busily. I am told that fermentation makes all the goodness in the grain available to us, the eaters of the grain, and that bread without added sugar makes it more available because added sugar allows the grain to ferment more quickly, but keeps much of the goodness locked up. That was the technical bit, but I'm afraid I'm not too hot on the terminology. Or indeed the scientific facts...

11am: I followed the River Cottage kneading instructions to the letter and have ended up with a lovely silky dough. It's still quite sticky, but I'm told that's quite normal for a sourdough. It's sitting in a bowl having a think. Meanwhile the men came to put the bed together. It ended rather poignantly with one of them telling me that he too slept in a cabin bed the same as our new one in his 1-bed flat, while his sons slept in bunk beds in the same room. As I prodded the holes in my dough after its first prove I found myself wondering about the situation that had left him thus and felt a bit melancholy. This is what comes of living with a frustrated writer (MrB), and of having the time to ponder these things when kneading dough.

5.30pm: Back from the swimming lesson. The loaf has been sitting in its floury linen for two hours for its final rest before baking and is now in the oven! It seems to have done its 'oven spring' nicely and is browning up a treat.

6.00pm: Ta-da! It smells a bit like cheese on toast, and is full of lovely big holes so the wild yeast was obviously doing its job.

I remain amazed by the fact that this started life as a pile of flour and a jug of water.

Smells divine. I need to work on my slashing technique. There's a sentence I never thought I'd write.

You will note from my timings that this is not aimed strictly at breakfast. However, sourdough bread, in my experience, makes fantastic toast, so if there's any left over after dinner, it'll be great with a bit of marmalade or honey in the morning. Yum.

Now, I need to go and lie down. the excitement has quite done me in.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

My micro baker

The oldest breakfastboy is 7 and has declared his intention to become an artisan baker when he grows up. He has picked out his delivery van (the most important feature of his bakery, natch) and spends hours poring over his recipe books. He is very fond of recipe books. So fond, in fact, that when I donated some of my old ones to a fair at his school, he promptly spent the money I'd given him on buying one of them back. It's a shame he doesn't extend the same enthusiasm to actually eating any of the recipes he is reading out to me. Not the ones with vegetables in them anyway.

He has recently taken to writing his own recipes. Unfortunately, he hasn't quite grasped the principle of recipe writing, so they consist of spur-of-the-moment quantities of whatever he thinks is likely to be in a cookie or whatever it is, which he then presents to me with a 'right, can we make them now?'. I'm reluctant to squash his creative urges, and I suppose that making them to his invented recipe might teach him to analyse what goes wrong and make them better next time, but I'm equally reluctant to waste 1kg of chocolate chips on what is clearly destined to not work, recipe-wise. Any advice gratefully received.

In line with my current bread fetish, I suggested this morning that we make a raisin and cinnamon loaf together. I really love a raisiny breakfast and I think we're now far enough from the surfeit of dried fruit that is December to contemplate a spicy, fruity loaf, perhaps toasted with a scraping of butter for breakfast. Yum. This one is Dan Lepard's recipe from Short and Sweet, which involves making a sponge of flour, water, yeast and raisins, leaving it for a few hours, then adding more flour, sugar, cinnamon and butter to create a dough. You then give it a few kneads and leave it to prove before baking. The recipe is given in his Guardian column here (look at the bottom of the article for the raisin-cinnamon variation of the main recipe). So, it's one of those most-of-a-day-long loaves, and I thought it would be good for teaching him a little about patience in baking and about how yeast works in dough, seeing as how he wants to be a baker and all. So, we set to with great enthusiasm making our sponge, which bubbled up nicely and we were all ready for the second stage. But I turned around to find him pulling on his wellies and heading off out with his brother and MrB, leaving yours truly with the rest of the loaf to make.  I suppose he's showing excellent promise as a manager of staff and delegator of tasks, also amply demonstrated in the 'tidying up the toys' department *clutches straws*. Still, there are worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon than in the company of GQT and a big lump of raisiny dough.

Here's the loaf. It's a bit...erm...brown on the crust maybe, but it tastes delicious - we have all tested it and approved, ready for breakfast tomorrow. Can you smell the cinnamon? Mmmmmmmmmmm.

Meanwhile, in other news, I came into the kitchen this morning to find that my sourdough starter had escaped from its (closed!) kilner jar and was glooping down onto the counter. It's a lively little fellow for sure. Isn't it amazing that a mixture of flour and water can do that after a few days? Wow. no wonder people become addicted to making bread. I am reliably informed that some bakers name their sourdough cultures, in the manner of family pets, but I haven't thought of a suitable name for mine yet. I'll wait and see if my first sourdough loaf later this week gives me any inspiration.

Friday, 1 February 2013

The search for Borodinsky

I blogged a while ago about Tapa, a wonderful artisan bakery and cafe here in Glasgow. Their cafe food is really great, but their bread is really great. One of my friends, who shall remain nameless, and I, have been known to eat an entire (small) loaf of their courgette and carrot bread, toasted, in one sitting. That particular loaf has now sadly disappeared from their list, which is probably just as well for my waistline, but they still have all sorts of scrumptious loaves to choose from - sourdoughs, Scottish Struan (which has milk, honey and all sorts of grains and seeds in it), rye and caraway loaves, sunflower loaves, you name it. Take a look at their website for details.

One of my favourites is a loaf called a Borodinsky, which is a small sourdough rye loaf with a tangy flavour. While I was leafing through All You Knead is Bread the other day, I came across the Russian Rye recipe and it struck me that it sounded pretty close to the lovely Tapa Borodinsky - rye, molasses, and coriander (seeds and powder). So, I decided to give it a try. It's a very straighforward recipe - rye doesn't require kneading in the same way as wheat flour so it's a bit less sticky too. The Tapa version is a sourdough, but this one uses shop yeast instead, so it's probably a bit less refined than their version. By which I mean elegant, rather than processed of course.

I say a bit less sticky - in fact it is extremely sticky, it's just that you don't have to handle the stickiness much. As I plopped the dough into the pan I was reminded of something quite unspeakable, and was rather sad that the breakfastboys were at school and therefore unable to provide a colourful description of it for you. I will leave it to your imagination, and this here picture:

My first piece of advice to the home baker: do not try to paint a room and bake a loaf at the same time. Multitasking has its limits. The top is very slightly overcooked, but fortunately I was able to get down from my ladder in time to save it from complete incineration. Obviously, I am very far from being a master baker, so I'm never going to be able to emulate Tapa's wonderful master baker baked bread too well, but it was pretty good. The crumb could have been a wee bit lighter, but not bad for a first try. This is quite a lot darker than the Tapa Borodinsky. The recipe suggested using a combination of malt extract and molasses, but I didn't have any malt extract, so mine is just molasses, and I suspect that made it darker than it would have been otherwise. I'll have to try it again with a mixture of the two, and I might try a mixture of rye and wheat flours to see how that works.

Ooh, and look, my sourdough starter has started to bubble. I'm delighted to say that my house is dirty enough to harbour wild yeasts. At last, my years of slatternly neglect of domestic duty are paying off.