The photo shows my Komo flour mill in action. Using freshly milled flour makes a huge difference to the taste of your bread, cakes, scones and biscuits. When you mill fresh flour the flour smells of wheat. That may sound obvious but I am yet to open a bag of flour and smell the wheat in the same way that you smell it when it is freshly ground. Using freshly milled flour in your baking will lead to your bread and cakes etc tasting and smelling sweet and delicious. Freshly ground wholemeal flour is as nutritious as flour can get. As flour ages it loses its nutritional value. If you are grinding the flour minutes before using it, you get the full nutritional benefit.
Using freshly milled flour in bread making is not without its challenges however. As flour ages the gluten stabilises. It takes two weeks for gluten to stabilise fully. This is why flour from large mills tends to be aged artificially by oxidising the flour before being sent out to retail. Most flour that you buy has been sitting in warehouses and on the shop shelf for longer than two weeks since milling. Using freshly milled flour means that you are working with weaker gluten. The flour is stickier to work with, it takes a while to absorb the water as you add it and it can seem to be able to take a lot more water than normal but then will leach the water back out after allowing the dough to rest. It takes some getting used to when working with freshly milled flour for bread, but the benefits far outweigh the negatives. The taste and fragrance more than compensates for the slightly denser loaf.
When using freshly milled flour in cakes, biscuits or scones the less stable gluten can work in your favour adding a tenderness and lightness to the finished bake that you can’t get when working with an aged wholemeal flour. Using freshly milled wholemeal flour in a Victoria sponge results in an incredibly light and tasty cake. The biscuits and scones will taste better than any you have ever tasted before.
If you would like to learn more about using freshly milled flour in your baking you can join me for a full day class where we will use freshly milled flour to make bread, biscuits and scones. I will also be talking about the benefits of freshly milled flour at this year’s Ludlow Food Festival. This year’s festival promises to be better than ever as they celebrate 25 years. I am doing a Talk and Tasting at 11am on Friday 13th September all about freshly milled flour and you can also catch me later the same day at 3.15pm in the Bake in Time tent talking about bread making.
I have had the Veg Patch Loaf Project in my mind for the last year or so. The idea is that I will plant wheat in our veg patch next to our bread kitchen. This wheat will grow, (unfettered by bad weather, pest, disease or squirrel) and at the end of this year I will bake a loaf from home-grown wheat.
Well, I have finally managed to plant my wheat seeds today. I had hoped to plant some winter wheat seeds in the autumn last year, but with life being busy I didn’t get round to it somehow. I thought that perhaps I had missed the boat. Then, I was reading the latest copy of True Loaf magazine from The Real Bread Campaign and an article reminded me of The Brockwell Bake Association and their project to encourage allotmenteers, schools and community projects to grow heritage wheat. I visited their website and was very pleased to find that I could still order some spring wheat seeds from them. I know that I am far behind most farmers and growers but this is my first time attempting to grow wheat so even though I am really hoping I will get a small crop my expectations for success are fairly low. I am just going to give it a go and see what happens.
Brockwell Bake Association sent me 40g of April Bearded seed.
Here is the planted plot and how it looks today:
The wheat patch at Veg Patch Kitchen
The plot is roughly 3m x 2m with a path through the middle so I can get in and weed. I broadcast the seeds randomly, raked them in and then used a large piece of cardboard (a Shipton Mill delivery box as it happens) laid on the soil to tread the seed in. The canes and string are there as a collie disruption mechanism, in other words to stop our collie, Rascal, from digging up my seeds. For some reason his favourite game is to dig large holes in this particular patch.
I am an erratic gardener. I try my best every year to be better than the last. We always have a degree of success and a fair few meals from our garden every summer and autumn, but my gardening leaves a fair amount to be desired. Inevitably the weeds get the better of me. I hate pulling up self-seeded borage, nasturtiums and poppies because the bees and other pollinators love them so much. As a result our veg tends to be a little drowned out by these. Only the very strong wins through. I am going to try my hardest to be a diligent weeder of the wheat patch and I am hoping that the squirrels and pigeons give me a break when it comes to harvest time (if the crop survives that long). I will report the progress of the Veg Patch Loaf throughout the season. I very much hope I will be able to post a loaf that uses at least a bit of the wheat later in the year. Watch this space.
I was invited by Wot’s Cooking to join them on their Talks and Tastings stage at this year’s food festival at Ludlow. The Talks and Tastings was a more intimate affair than the larger chef demo stages, helping the audience to get a bit closer to the action.
The setting couldn’t have been better.
Ludlow Castle is wonderful and if you haven’t visited before and get the chance make sure you take the opportunity. It has wonderful little rooms like this one, which once you pass through that magical door is rather majestic inside. I doubt when it was used as a castle is was quite as majestic as it is now, it was probably poky, smelly, dirty and cold in there, but now, now it is majestic.
Inside were tables and chairs for about thirty people and a small stage up front for the speaker. When I arrived on the Friday I managed to catch some of the talk by the cheese monger from Ludlow Food Centre. He had bought a whole wheel of delicious cheese, which at the end of his interesting talk he used a very large knife to crack open to share samples.
While I waited for my turn on the stage I took a walk around the festival site within the castle walls. I haven’t been for a few years. Several years ago I judged the Sausage Trail for a couple of years, but it usually clashes with my eldest daughter’s birthday celebrations so it is a festival we normally miss out on. I was impressed by how many improvements had taken place. The flow through the stalls was much better than previous years and there are now several stages of varying sizes where you can take a pew and watch chefs and local food producers doing their thing. There is certainly plenty to see and do. I nipped into the Castle tearooms for a quick cup of tea before strolling back to the Talks and Tastings and managed to catch most of the talk by Our Lizzie. She specialises in teaching vegetarian and vegan food and her quinoa dish sounded delicious, unfortunately I missed out on one of the tasting pots that were handed around.
My talks and tasting was, of course, all about bread making and an attempt to help others catch the bread making bug. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I hope I spread the bread love.
Jon was managing the stage and took this photo of me in action – one day I hope to be photogenic…
On Sunday, Veg Patch Kitchen spent the day at The Greenwood Centre in Ironbridge at the annual Grow Local event run by Transition Town Telford. It’s a lovely community day, with lots of plants available to buy from local growers or you can take your garden tools to be sharpened and experience how to look after chickens in your garden. I had been invited to have a stall to promote Veg Patch Kitchen as a local business and shared a space in the barn with Taste Not Waste and Molly’s Vegetarian Kitchen. Taste Not Waste takes surplus food from local supermarkets and sells it cheaply to encourage people to eat healthily whilst avoiding food waste. Molly, of Molly’s Vegetarian Kitchen has recently set up her catering business providing vegetarian food for events or to eat at home.
It was a great event, busy with local folk buying plants and enjoying the sunshine. It was the first time I have baked bread to sell and it’s quite a different experience from teaching people to make bread. I took along white sourdoughs, brown sourdoughs using freshly milled Shropshire Soissons grain (milled with my Komo mill), focaccia, Chelsea buns and Shropshire butter buns. I had sliced a loaf or two as samples and we sold out. I later had texts and tweets to tell me how much the buns and the bread were enjoyed. It was a great day and I loved the experience.
The last few weeks have been busy, busy, busy. On Saturday 23rd July I demonstrated bread making at Cosford Food Festival. It was the first time I had presented on a chef demo stage and I absolutely loved every minute of it.
In full flow
The next weekend saw me on the chef demo stage at the first Telfood Feastival in Telford’s Town park. This time I was demonstrating bread making in the context of additive free. I discussed the difference between the Chorleywood bread making process (the supermarket loaf) and the loaf you can make at home.
I enjoyed both weekends very much thanks to the organisational skills and professionalism of the Wots Cooking team and I am looking forward to my next time on stage.
We had a wonderful day of baking this Sunday. Three students joined us for a class using different flours. We started the day with tea and cake (as usual) and also sampling a wholemeal spelt and a khorasan loaf that I had made the day before. We then got stuck in making a spelt loaf (some of us made wholemeal and some mixed white and wholemeal spelt) and a khorasan (Kamut) loaf. We used the folding method for the doughs as neither spelt or khorasan benefit from vigorous kneading. The loaves were beautiful when they came out of the oven and word has come through from our students that they were much enjoyed at home. Just before lunch the students were given the choice of making an olive oil dough or an enriched dough. Together they turned out a very tasty looking focaccia with olives, rosemary and sea salt, some gorgeous looking iced buns and some very sticky chelsea buns. We finished the day off by making tortillas on the Esse.
As always, there was much laughter and fun had during the day and we shared a delicious lunch prepared by Leena and drank plenty of tea. I have received some very positive comments from the students about how much they gained from and enjoyed their day with us at Veg Patch Kitchen and that lifts my heart. I must say, I really do love my job.
I was enjoying the day so much that I forgot to take photos of the cooling breads. Silly me!
If you would like to join us at a future class please do contact us.
We had a wonderful day of baking with three lovely ladies last Sunday. The course was bought as a present for one of the ladies’ special birthdays. A lovely day of celebration was had, with lots of tea, cake and a tasty lunch. We made some enriched dough, with two of the course participants choosing to make chelsea buns, another chose hot cross buns and I made iced fingers. They were all absolutely delicious. In fact, the hot cross buns were the best I have ever tasted.
We also made some focaccia and fougasse from an olive oil dough, which looked amazing. I was so pleased to hear that the focaccia has been a big hit back home and that one of the ladies’ sons has made it himself in the week since the course so that he can enjoy it at breakfast time. That is why I started these courses, to hear stories just like that.
A happy day of baking
The goodies produced during the day