Monday, 30 January 2012

Bread Matters

Sunrise, time to make bread.
I've been making bread for a very long time. It varied between OK and really nice but I couldn't seem to get consistency in the really nice category. About 30 years ago I bought Elizabeth David's book 'English  Bread and Yeast Cookery' and did a lot of experimenting. I was especially keen to make sourdough but found it difficult to get and keep a starter.
When I was running an organic food shop, we sold nice sourdough from the Village Bakery in Melmerby. The bakery was set up by Andrew Whitley using traditional fermenting techniques and a wood-fired oven. A couple of years ago, I was given his book 'Bread Matters' and it has transformed my bread making! He debunks the myths surrounding sourdough. You can easily make and keep your own starter. It doesn't need 'looking after' or feeding, is always ready to use and is very active. When you are busy it is easy to forget that you are supposed to be making the bread and the dough escapes:-
However, that is not a problem as it is very tolerant - I have even forgotten to bake it and left it in the pantry overnight without ill effect. The bread was made the next morning and the starter saved for another day!
Yesterday I made one of the nicest loaves yet. The long fermentation gives a nice sour tang to the bread and it keeps very well too. The dough feels and smells differently to yeast based ones and is a real pleasure to use. You can buy his book on Amazon, but better to cycle down to your local bookshop and order a copy. You'll have to cycle back when it comes in so will enjoy eating the bread even more as you will have a healthy appetite.
Check out his website here. You can even go on a course, but not until you've been on a spoon carving one first!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Tree Felling

Just spent three days clearing a small section of woodland to allow hazel to flourish for coppicing.
There was a mix of Birch, Sycamore, Goat Willow, Hawthorn and the tallest, Aspen, were 70 to 80 feet high.
The ground is regenerating old spoil heaps and the soil is so poor that despite the trees being less than forty years old, they are all starting to rot. This is not helped by the Ivy, but even the trees free of it are suffering too.
Our house runs on wood for cooking and heating so we should have enough firewood for a few years! The carbon footprint is quite low as the cut wood (we used 6 litres of fuel) can be barrowed up the garden for drying in the woodshed. There may be an odd bit for spoon carving too. I've never used Aspen before so I'll find out today how well it carves! There is also some large diameter Ivy, nearly 5 inches, which seems very dense and worth a try too.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Spoon Club

Just spoken to Mary Lewis at the Green Wood Centre in Coalbrookdale. She is a second generation spoon carver who grew up using her dad's cawl spoons, and is keen to start a local spoon club at the centre one Sunday every month from May to October. Will post details as soon as they are confirmed. This will be a great opportunity for budding spooners to rub shoulders with those with more experience. No formal teaching, just good company and a chance to see what others are up to.
Happy spooning!

New Spoons

new spoons made from very locally grown birch, finished in walnut oil, darker one is stained with coffee!

Spoon Carving Courses

Ooo, first post! Very important message to let people know of the first Lightmoor Spoon Carving Courses in May 2012. Very pleased to announce that 'barn the spoon' will be up here in Telford running two spoon carving worshops. Saturday 19th May for beginners, and Sunday 20th May for developers. Saturday worshop will cover safe use of axe and knives and give you the knowledge to make your own spoons. Cost is £50 per person, max of 8 places. Includes lunch and refreshments. Sunday workshop is for anyone who has covered the basics and wants to develop their skill further. Cost is £65 per person, max of 6 places. Further details from me at (e.mail or i.message if you have ios5).