Saturday, 14 April 2018

Artisan Duerte

Read a story yesterday about President Duerte headlined; "President hits out at what he calls international effort to paint him as ‘ruthless and heartless violator of human rights’." He threatened to arrest an international criminal court prosecutor if she conducts any investigation into his activities. Sounds like  the kind of thing a ‘ruthless and heartless violator of human rights’ would do.

Have you noticed how everything that's expensive these days is called artisan? Artisan bread, artisan beer, artisan cheese, artisan biscuits, artisan gin, etc. It means nothing more than small-scale or homemade. However, the focus is quality over quantity.

Time was that the only place you could get bread and cakes was from an artisan - it was your local high street baker - every high street had one - and he had to start competing with mass-produced supermarket crap, so a lot were operating at a loss and had to close.

Now, however, the local bakery is on the rise (if you'll forgive the pun), but having made their name in the artisan market, they're faced with the desire to grow and spread - meaning they possibly have to use - to a limited extent - mass production techniques themselves to gain the benefits of scale.

 We have a local baker in Chipping Sodbury - Hobbs House - which spawned a TV programme called the Fabulous Baker Brothers. Hobbs House are now quote big, selling all over the southwest and even have the National Trust as a customer for sandwiches within their region. However, they still use traditional techniques and have focused on winning awards within a niche market as a means of keeping ahead of the competition.

There's a lot of pressure on the big bakery conglomerates to use lower quality ingredients, or ingredients such as palm oil (which has qualities similar to butter), which is resulting in vast swathes of rain forest being cleared for industrial palm oil production.

Yes, artisan can, and more often than not does, mean better and more sustainable products, but some are just using it as an excuse to charge an arm and a leg. I make my own sourdough, artisan bread and have been doing so for nearly 10 years. I simply couldn't go back to supermarket bread again.


  1. Replies
    1. Sourdough:
      Sourdough is made with a sourdough starter – a culture of yeasts and lactobacilli that occur naturally on grain flours and fruits. These yeasts provide the aeration of bread dough and the lactobacilli impart a pleasant, slightly sour flavour to the finished loaf.
      Making a sourdough starter is not difficult – just time-consuming. Take 2 tbsp flour – strong white or wholemeal, depending on what your main bake will be. Mix with warm water to a porridge consistency, cover and allow to stand in the kitchen (do not chill) for 24 hours. It may have started to show slight signs of starting to bubble, which is what you’re looking for. Don’t worry if it doesn’t happen in the first 24 hours – it can take up to 36 hours for the process to get under way.
      The next day, remove half of the mix, add another 2 tbsp four (this is called feeding) and once again add enough warm water to bring it to a porridge consistency and leave for another 24 hours. The gaps between feeds can be as little as 12 hours – I personally prefer 24. Repeat for between 5 to 10 days until your mix froths – your starter is then ready to use or store.
      You can place it in a Kilner jar in the fridge, where it will keep for up to a week before needing feeding again. Make sure you have fed your starter and it has just started to bubble before placing in the fridge – it will keep longer between feeds. I believe it can be frozen, but I have not personally tried this.
      Sourdough Bread – 1 Loaf:
      • 500gm strong, plain flour (if using wholemeal, add about 1/3rd white flour, else the mix will be too stiff).
      • 1 tbsp sugar
      • 1/2 tsp salt
      • Good slug of olive oil
      • Up to 380ml of warm water
      • A good cupful of sourdough starter.
      • 1 tsp caraway seeds, of other flavouring of your choice.
      Simply double the quantities for 2 loaves.
      Put the wet ingredients into a mixing bowl (don’t use all the water, as you may not require all of it and you can adjust the consistency with the remainder while mixing.
      Add the dry ingredients and knead well (I use a Kenwood Chef) for about 5 or 10 minutes. Use the rest of the water to adjust0020the consistency to a reasonably stiff dough.
      Turn out into a lightly greased bowl and cover (I use an oiled plastic bag) and leave on the kitchen worktop (nowhere too cold) until the dough doubles in size - this is called proving. This can take anywhere from 12 to 24 hours, depending on the temperature and amount of starter used. You can slow the process down by leaving the bowl in the fridge (which also helps the characteristic sourness to develop more fully), taking it out several hours before you want to bake.
      Once risen, turn the dough out on to a floured surface and “knock it back” to remove the air. For the final prove place the dough into a bowl you’ve lined with a floured cloth to prevent sticking, or use a proving basket, again waiting till the dough has doubled in size. The shape of the final bow/basket is important to the final shape of your loaf. Don’t over prove the dough, or it will collapse.
      Turn out onto a preheated baking tray – this is where the consistency is important; too loose (or over proved) and the loaf may collapse into a pizza, too heavy and you end up with a large biscotti! Don’t use a baking tin – the dough tends to overspill as it’s rising and consequently won’t fit in the toaster.
      Immediately slam it into the oven and bake for 15 minutes at 250 degrees C (or 230 degrees for a fan oven) and then turn the temperature down by 30 degrees and bake for a further 35 minutes. If you like a good crust, add a tray of water to the bottom of the oven – the steam will generate a strong crust.
      The loaf is ready when it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, or when the internal temperature is above 93 degrees – use a cooking temperature probe if you prefer.
      The loaf will keep for around a week – longer than “plastic bread” – and taste far superior.

    2. Shall copy this out and have go .Thanks for taking the trouble .