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Sourdough

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My first step towards ethical eating is to start making my own bread. Properly. No edible paperweights.

If I let myself regularly visit a bakery I will spend a fortune and neither of our waistlines will thank me but if I make my own I can at least manage the cost aspect. Keeping a sourdough starter seems the simplest and cheapest option and the most satisfying for the baker. Well that’s assuming I get it working!

I opted to start with rye flour because it’s apparently a bit kinder and after feeding my experiment with flour and water for 9 days it seemed to be going pretty well. Yeasty bubbles and everything. On day 9 I decided it looked ready to bake with so I put 200g of my starter with 100g wholewheat flour and 300g strong white flour, roughly 235ml warm water and 1tsp salt. I kneaded and left to prove for a couple of hours. When I went to bed it hadn’t risen much at all so I put it in the fridge over night, took it out in the morning and left to rise while I was at work. When I got home it had risen although still not spectacularly but I figured by that point it was probably in danger of overproving so I stuck it in the hottest oven for about 30 minutes and above is what came out.

The flavour was good and it was edible but very doughy, almost as though it hadn’t baked long enough. I don’t think that would have helped though, suspect it was either my starter wasn’t ready yet, bad proving or I didn’t knead enough. So my starter is in the fridge and will be back out next week for more feeding until I get this right!

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It’s been nearly two weeks since I’ve written anything. We have been down in the Isle of Wight to say goodbye to Ross’s gran who passed away and since we got back I’ve been trying to decide what I wanted to write about the trip.

Obviously this week was about family not food and in large parts very sad, but strangely it was also very happy and did revolve around food quite a lot because the whole family was packed into one house talking about their shared memories, laughing and eating together and it was lovely to watch and be part of.

The only thing I actually cooked myself all week was bread and butter pudding. At the time the main reason for this was a profusion of left over buttered rolls and milk which needed to be used up but I think its the perfect recipe for this post because it embodies for me all the things I wanted to express about this trip.

Comfort. Family. Memories. Things that are worth hanging on to.

This was actually the first time I’d ever made B&B pudding myself (or custard) as my own granny always used to make it when I was little which is probably why it makes me think about family so much. This time Ross’s family were the guinea pigs and thankfully it turned out well (Granddad managed two portions and polished off the rest the next day so I’m taking this as a sign of success). The pudding lived up to all my memories – soft and spongy with delicious crispy edges and sweet chewy currants. I wasn’t totally happy with the recipe though because I thought the bread was a bit bland so I came home and made it again last night with a few tweaks. I added more spices and orange zest instead of lemon which gives the pudding an extra warmth. You might think I shouldn’t mess with tradition but I think it adds a little extra zing to a perfect classic. You could go one step further and use brioche or cinnamon bread instead of white bread but this will give you a good basic recipe to play around with yourself.

Hopefully it will come in handy when you need to bribe your grandparents (or some one else’s grandparents), get rid of left over bread or just make something on a grey day that will comfort your heart and your tummy.

Bread and Butter Pudding with Homemade Custard

Adapted from a recipe by Delia Smith.

Serves 4 with one extra portion depending on how greedy your guests are and 1 pint of custard. I have never been a massive fan of custard but I’m converted by home-made custard and the pudding just isn’t the same without it (its also a lot easier than I thought).

Pudding:

  • 8 slices bread
  • 50 g butter
  • 60 g currants
  • 250 ml milk
  • 50 ml double cream
  • 50 g caster sugar
  • grated zest of ½ an orange
  • 3 eggs
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (or ground if that’s all you have)
  • pinch of allspice
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon plus extra for dusting
  • 2 tbsp of brown sugar

Custard:

  • 1 pint milk
  • 55ml single or double cream (you can use single but I already had double for the pudding)
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp cornflour

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.  Butter the bread and cut each slice of buttered bread in half. last night I made mini puddings in ramekins – if you are doing this then cut out a circle from each slice with a cookie cutter or the upside down ramekin and keep the crusts for the top layer.

Arrange one layer of buttered bread over the base of the baking dish, sprinkle with half the currants, a dusting of cinnamon and brown sugar and then cover with another layer of the bread and repeat.  In a bowl combine the milk, cream, caster sugar, orange zest and spices. Whisk the eggs, first on their own in a small basin and then into the milk mixture. Pour the whole lot over the bread and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes (if you are making in ramekins they will only need 25-30 min). Don’t panic if the pudding looks very wet, the bread will soak up all the liquid as it cooks.

While the pudding is baking, make the custard. Bring the milk, cream and vanilla pod to simmering point slowly over a low heat (if you don’t split the vanilla pod you can rinse and dry it and use it to make vanilla sugar but its up to you). Remove the vanilla pod and take the milk off the heat.

Whisk the yolks, sugar and cornflour together in a bowl and then pour the hot milk and cream on to the eggs and sugar, whisking all the time. Return to the pan and over a low heat gently stir until thickened. Pour the custard into a jug and if the pudding isn’t ready yet you can cover with clingfilm and stand the jug in a bowl of hot water to keep it warm.

When the pudding is ready, serve it warm and drowning in custard.

p.s. I also want to tell you about this amazing garlic farm we went to but I’ll leave that for next time x

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