Madeleine: For me the farmhouse loaf is the “house special”, the easy one to whip up that everyone in the home loves.
Our new addition of a proving bowl has added character to what we are calling the “White Cottage Loaf” after our current Oxfordshire home. The loaf is one third white, one third malted and one third wholemeal flour with lots of pumpkin and linseeds…the pumpkin seeds add great flavour!…Lucas loves the idea of pumpkin seeds but just hasn’t quite worked out how to chew them with his five teeth! He loves this bread toasted with ricotta or with butter and honey (treat!) The most cute bit is when he waits for the toaster to pop and then nods his head in approval at the toaster doing it’s job! As a family we have spent many a morning in our garden with toast and of course real coffee (fond memories… we will miss our lovely garden!), Lucas toddling down the garden at great pace, beaming with excitement at the horses in the field beyond and squawking with excitement when he finds the chicken eggs in the coop…(He has however recently worked out how to let the chickens out…leaving me running round the garden chasing the escapees) The cutest thing is his version of cock a doodle do! You have got to hear it. I feel it would be rude not to introduce our three chickens if you haven’t met them. Daisy-Rose, Bradshaw-Brooks and David Peckam (he’s the fastest! and must get very confused as we keep calling her a him!) I will miss Lucas foraging his way round the tomatoes, runner beans and black berries, so special. One of the things we will miss most about living here is our LOVELY neighbours, I baked the loaves in the photo above for them.
Inspired by my passion (obsession?) for child health and as a temporary alternative to the hospital paediatric medicine, for the past 3 months (whilst on a career break until we return from Kenya) I have been volunteering a day a week with the Real Bread Campaign run by Sustain (The alliance for better food and farming http://www.sustainweb.org/about/). The Real Bread Campaign is all about bread without any of the unnecessary additives that make it rise faster and keep longer, community baking and baking in schools. http://www.sustainweb.org/realbread/, One of their sister campaigns is the Childrens’ Food Campaign http://www.sustainweb.org/childrensfoodcampaign/which of course I see to be incredibly important. So bring on the real bread and have fun making you own ‘White Cottage Loaf” I am definitely excited about experimenting with different ingredients in Kenya…A new house special will be developed once we settle in.
Andrew: You never know who you are going to live next to when you move to a new area. When we looked at this house last year; we saw the corridor kitchen, cold bathroom and toilet that is pretty much outside and thought this was probably not the house for us… Then we saw the garden, this open, allotment style plot with open fields beyond it. The guys next door had this phenomenally organised garden and what can only be described as a 5 star hotel for chickens sat at the bottom end of it. Across the gardens is a shared path which makes it incredibly sociable, especially in summer when all the neighbours’ kids get together to play and all the adults chat over barbecues and bonfires. Now that we prepare to move out we have got used to travelling down in the dark through the kitchen, which is best viewed in the dark when Madeleine has been feeding her baking obsession, to the cold bathroom and out house toilet and I think it is fair to say we’ve loved every minute.
Our neighbours have been a real highlight and we have felt a sense of community here which has been very special. Our immediate neighbours, Rich and Sarah have been regular recipients of Madeleine’s baking and have been so unbelievably helpful from the day we moved in, it will be hard to imagine ever finding such good neighbours anywhere else.
White Cottage Loaf (So named as we live in a row of white cottages…as do our lovely neighbours!)
Ingredients (For two loaves – just half if you would like just 1):
333g Strong white organic flour
333g Malted bread flour. (I use Doves Farm Organic MIxed Grain Malthouse bread flour)
333g Wholemeal organic flour
10g dry yeast (Allinson and Doves farm do a tin of dry yeast that has no additives).
10g salt (this is a lower salt loaf so toddler and heart friendly)
630g warm water
Handful of pumpkin seeds
small handful linseeds
1. Weigh out flours, yeast, salt, pumpkin seeds and linseeds into a big mixing bowl. Lucas loves adding the flour and especially gradually putting the seeds in.
2. Make a well and gradually add in the warm water and get mixing with your hands, bring together into a rough dough and then tip out onto worktop.
3. Bring together and start kneading ….at this point I break a bit off for Lucas to let him play with. He enjoys sticking his fingers in it and throwing pieces at the kettle!
4. If you have some pre-prepared old dough add this in now (this adds flavour and texture)
5. Knead for 10 minutes until the dough is elastic and stretchy. Make the dough in to a ball by cupping your hands around it and place it back in to the mixing bowl with a sheet of cling-film over the top.
6. Leave the ingredients to get to know each other over night (the yeast will feed from the flour and water producing plenty of carbon dioxide air bubbles giving the bread a lovely bounce). If you can’t leave it over night, placing it somewhere warm for 40 mins to 1 hour until doubled in size will do the job. If you can prove it over night this adds flavour.
7. Once proved, scrape it out of the bowl, bring it roughly in to a ball and cut it in half with a knife.
8. Make half the dough in to a “round” by cupping with your hands and place the smoothest side down in to a floured proving bowl (or a loaf tin if you don’t have one). If using a loaf tin, flatten it in to thirds as though folding an A4 letter and put in to a pre-floured loaf tin ensuring a 1cm gap at the narrow ends of the tin (this gives it the best chance of being the typical loaf bread shape we all love).
9. For the other half, wrap in cling-film and leave in the fridge for up to 48 hours. You can then take it out and continue from here at any point when you have time. Make sure you allow to reach room temperature before doing so.
10. Your active dough should now be proved again (second and final time I promise, for 40 mins to 1 hour). Cover in cling-film and leave in a warm place until the dough behaves like a memory foam mattress, i.e. you stick your finger in and the indent remains. If it springs back the dough is under or over proved, there is an ideal window of about 15 minutes in which to get it in the oven to get the maximum rise.
11. When proving pre-heat the oven to 250°C.
12. When the dough is proved, if using a proving bowl, gently tip it on to a floured oven tray. You’ll see lovely concentric circular indentations. Cut a cross in the top to allow maximum rise (see the pictures). A loaf tin can go straight in once the cling-film has been removed.
13. Once in the oven, spill a small glass of water in to the base of the oven and close the oven door. This will create steam which produces a nice crusty crust and helps with rising.
14. Bake for 20 minutes at 250°C, then at 200°C for a further 20 minutes. You can leave longer if you would like more crustiness.Remove from the oven and cool on a wired rack so air can get to the base. Breath in the stunning aroma of warm, freshly baked bread.
16. Make yourself a drink and wait impatiently for the bread to have cooled enough to be eaten.