Christmas Blog 2013 [With Video Present]

Click on the Video above

“Mummy can we have a Christmas tree?”

Struggling to think of where we can find a Christmas tree we explain that we will try, but we may have to settle for the paper one we have made.

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We have some “Birthday” bunting up in our flat as Christmas decoration, Lucas explains to any visitors that it is for “Baby Jesus’ Birthday”. Apparently baby Jesus is coming to our house on Christmas eve with Father Christmas…

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Pointing at the fabric nativity scene on our wall, Lucas questions “What’s those men doing with frankincense and burr?” “Frankincense seems such a big word for a 2 ½ year old, this time last Christmas he was just babbling….

“Mummy, this a present for Redempta and Jedidha and Richard and Joel and Sam….” he continues to list the team as we pack the white boxes with chocolate cupcakes with a frequent enquiry, “Mummy and one for me?”

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We arrive home after the Eye Team Christmas BBQ, Lucas has given out all the bread, bagels, cupcakes and cards he made. “Mummy can we watch the three bears? Can we have a blanket? Can I hold my cake?” We sit either side of Lucas whilst he grips his chocolate cupcake and delicately picks and licks the icing away whilst watching Santa and the Three Bears from 1970.

We ask Lucas what we could put on top of the Christmas tree if we find one. “A star mummy, a star. Its a big star next to the moon in the sky, where are the tractors in Bethlehem?”

For the last two weeks, every morning, Lucas has asked, “Are Nona and Gido (Andrew’s Mum and Dad) coming today?” We explain it is a few days away yet. “They coming in a big airplane, they in the airplane now?” In  a few more sleeps we reassure him… “No Nona and Gido come now! Nona and Gido see a tractor at the airport?”

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As we search for the peace at Christmas, in a world so different to the comforts we know as home, the knitted pattern of our English culture becomes unsewn and we find ourselves questioning more how do we want to celebrate Christmas? The passing waves of  homesickness are momentarily soothed by  watching “‘Love Actually'” and the smell of mulled wine and the hope of finding a Christmas tree (or suitable sized rosemary branch).

As much as we miss England at Christmas, there have been moments here that have left us speechless, moments that remind us what Christmas is really about. Since moving to Nakuru, we have grown close to a Kenyan lady who has six children and we’ve seen first hand how hard life is for her and her children. They live in a shared room without electricity and often without water, there are school fees to pay and many mouths to feed, yet, she never complains, when times are tough, she just works harder, ensuring her kids are fed and educated. This same person visited us this week, not to ask for anything, but to say thank you. Thank you for being her friend and what is more, she gave us a gift, an amazing box of home-grown vegetables sufficient to feed her family several meals. We were left with a lump in our throats and completely humbled by her generosity.

We are very thankful to be spending this Christmas with family in Kenya: Nona, Gido, Auntie Kat, each other and Skype to the rest of our families elsewhere in the world!

For now, Merry Christmas and every blessing for the new year x

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The baking madness for the team’s christmas present begins…

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90 bagels, 80 cupcakes, 16 Loaves of bread, one night…

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How does she do it?

Coffee

Drink Coffee

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The team enjoying our Christmas BBQ

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The final village of 2013 (73 down, 27 to go)  shortly before Christmas, was also a celebration of two of the teams birthday and was celebrated with a Marmalade Cake

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Recipe – Marmalade cake

Ingredients:

175g unsalted butter

175g caster sugar

3 large eggs

175g self raising flour

pinch salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoons chunky marmelade

2 tablespoons milk

Icing:

3 tablespoons marmelade

100g icing sugar

2 tablespoons warm water

 Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180ºC.
  2. Beat the soft butter with the sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Gradually add the eggs beating well after each addition with a little flour on the last addition.
  4. Sift the remaining flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and fold into the mixture.
  5. Spoon the mixture into a prepared tin with baking parchment, bake for 50 mins until golden brown and firm to touch.
  6. Gently warm the marmalade for the icing and spread over the top of the cake.  Leave to cool.
  7. When completely cool mix the icing sugar with the water and concentrically drizzle over the top of the cake.

Joel and Cosmas eating cake

Tusker Malt Loaf

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He snaps my head one way then the other, then presses his thumb deep in to my neck and the panic rises. I know I’m in trouble now as he moves his rock like thumbs over both temples and simultaneously applies pressure to both sides… I start to lose consciousness. This is not what I bargained for when I decided to venture out in to town and get a haircut. For over a year now I’ve been trimming what remains of my hair at home in front of the bathroom mirror using clippers, however I thought I’d make an effort support the local economy by finding a local barber and getting a tidy up there. Apparently this violent head massage is part of the deal. Other unexpected delights to accompany the paid for assault included the applying of elastic sticky tape around my neck. Apparently this was to catch loose hairs but my suspicion is it was there to reduce the oxygen supply to my brain so that I wouldn’t be able to fight back. In fairness to the guy, he did a decent job of my hair and I’ll probably be going back. 

After surviving my new haircut we head back out to the field where we have two film crews with us. One from France called Shamengo and the other from the US, Internet.org who’s mission is to provide affordable internet to 2/3rd of the world currently without access. They plan to demonstrate Peek as a way of the internet being used for good. We reach our clinic site, a traditional tin walled, tin roofed church with film crews in convoy.

The film crew interview one of our patients who has undergone successful surgery at her home nearby:

They ask her what difference the surgery has made to her life.

“I can feed my goats.”

She gestures, “Before I could not see them to give them food. I lost all of them and my grandchildren had to care for me. This made me feel ashamed, as it is I who should care for them. I did not know which of my grandchildren had entered the house so I would shout when anyone came in until I could hear their voice and know who they were.

After my surgery, everything has changed. Look, I see the food to give the goats and now have three and will gain more. I had lost all of them. I see my grandchildren, all of them. I can feed them and am no longer a burden on the family.”

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As the day comes to a close we pull out two loaves of Tusker Malt Bread. At first the team don’t believe me that Kenya’s premiere beer has been used to make this bread but the gentle malty smell is proof enough.  I explain that despite beer being used to prepare the bread there is no longer any alcohol in it and before I can pass on any more of the facts Madeleine has filled my head with, the bread is gone.

Recipe – Tusker Malt Loaf

Ingredients

Pre-ferment

125g Tusker malt

125g strong white flour

3g dried yeast

Final dough

All of the pre-ferment

750g strong white flour

50g wholemeal flour

3g dried yeast

500g water

15g salt

Method:

  1. The night before making the final dough mix all the pre-ferment ingredients together, cover and place in a warm place.
  2. To make the final dough mix all the final dough ingredients (except salt) together, leave to rest for 15mins then add the salt and knead for 8-10mins.
  3. Leave in a covered bowl for about 1.5 hours then stretch and fold the dough 112-15 time. Repeat twice more if time allows with a resting period of 1 hour in-between.
  4. To shape the dough divide into two then roll into a round and leave to prove for 1 hour until a finger indentation stays when pushed into the dough.
  5. Score the top just before placing in the oven and bake at 220ºC for 30-40mins.  For a lovely crust they can be baked in a cast iron dish with a lid.  To do this pre-heat the dish in the oven as the oven warms up, place the risen dough into the iron pan and place the lid on.  Bake for 20mins with the lid on then remove the lid and continue baking for a further 20mins.  This method keeps the moisture in initially but then allows a crispy crust to develop.

The patient patients

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Some chucks enjoying a drink

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One of our team, Cosmas, being filmed examining someone in their home with Peek

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The film crew at the clinic site

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The toilet…

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Mulled Mango Frangipane Pies

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Advent in Nakuru is an odd time, well it is for us at least. We have our advent calendars up and are working on a Christmas tree, possibly a step up on our rosemary branch last year. The sun is shining and the weather is hot (this is not a complaint), but in our DNA Christmas it is a time of being cosy in the cold, being with family and waiting for Christmas to come.

Although this time of year makes us think of home, the massive reduction in the commercial noise that precedes Christmas in the UK is so refreshing. Lucas is beginning to grasp advent and Christmas, what happens and what it means, including eating all of Daddy’s advent biscuits in a unique twist on sharing… For us this is a time of slowing down, reflecting on the year that has gone by and a time of hope.

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The night before we returned to Kenya last month, I had the most odd sensation, my head full of packing I decided to go for a run at 9.30pm on a cold winter evening (we were due to travel at 6am the next morning). Wearing my head torch which pierced through the dark and a very attractive florescent running jacket, I ran out in to the cold air doing a lap of the village and letting my mind return to peace. On the way home I unexpectedly bumped into some friends (who gave me the “your crazy” look) and pointed me to another friend who was in the new local deli which was open late for Christmas shopping, during my run my mind had been shifting its expectations to the world we would be back in the next day, when suddenly the warm and inviting aroma of steaming red wine infused with cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg hit me full on in the face. The deli was full of Christmas food delights, my mouth watered and I savoured that moment which can best be described as the “Christmas feeling”… and took it to Kenya.  These little pies are my attempt at a Kenyan mince pie…a nice little twist on a “normal” one!

Recipe – Mulled Mango Frangipane Pies

Ingredients:

Pastry

150g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

25g caster sugar

75g unsalted butter – diced and chilled

dash of yoghurt

50g ground almonds

1 egg yolk

Frangipane

150g ground almonds

100g unsalted butter, softened

100g caster sugar

2 eggs

1 egg yolk

25g plain flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 lemon, zest

Filling (Mulled Mango)

2 ripe mangos

1/2 sachet mulled wine spices

glass of red wine

100mls orange juice

1 tsp dark brown/muscavado sugar

hand full of raisins

50g cashew nuts

Method:

1. Make the pastry: mix flour, baking powder, sugar and a pinch of salt in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse in short bursts till the texture is like fine sand. Add the yoghurt, ground almonds, egg yolks, tsp cold water and blitz again till dough comes together. Massage the dough in to a neat ball. Flatten in to a disc, cover with cling film and chill for an hour.

2. Halve the dough and roll out to 2mm thickness. Stamp out appropriate sized circles to fit your pie/muffin tins. Press in to the tins and leave to chill for around half an hour.

3. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.

4. Whizz all the frangipane ingredients together in the food processor until smooth.

5. For the filling: put all ingredients (except nuts) in a saucepan and simmer until it is the consistency of mincemeat.

6. Put 1 tsp of the filling in to each pastry case and top with 2 tsp frangipane ensuring filling is covered. Sprinkle the top with flaked almonds and bake for about 20 minutes.

7. Remove from the oven and after around 5 minutes carefully remove from the tins and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

8. Dust with icing sugar for serving.

9. Close your eyes, take in the smell and think of Christmas…

Patients queuing outside the clinic

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Lemon Tractor Wheel Biscuits and a trip to Kitale

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After almost five hours we arrive in Kitale, overlooking Mount Elgon which straddles Kenya and the eastern border of Uganda. Matthew (my supervisor) and I are visiting Kitale District Hospital Eye Unit, the proposed site for two future projects for Peek. We meet a good friend and brilliant Ophthalmologist, Dr Hillary Rono who has transformed the department in recent years to be one of the very best in Kenya. The hospital serves a wide geographical area and is the only eye unit for several million people. The area north is known for being very arid and one of the most difficult places in Kenya to live.

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With 70 clusters complete and only 30 to go, it feels like the end is in sight and so we have started to think about the future a little more. The future of the eye project, the future of the bakery, the future of the team and what is next for ourselves.

This study in Nakuru is providing several areas of key data for eye care. It is the first of its kind in Africa where such a large number of people have been followed up and assessed for eye disease in great detail. This will mean we can estimate at what rate new people are becoming blind and why. The work with Peek alongside it will allow us to show primarily that it works and is comparable to standard hospital equipment. This leads us to what next for Peek.  In Kitale we will run two trails. One will be in the community looking at if we can increase access to care by deploying health workers with Peek in to their own communities and go door to door testing people. The second question is, can we increase the quality of those accessing care at the hospital level by supplying eye health workers with Peek.

The day was a success and after a lengthy journey back to Nakuru which included a good hour off the main road avoiding an accident and squeezing between trucks and lorries we eventually made it home. Thankfully we had been sent off with Madeleine’s ciabatta and chocolate cake to make the journey more bearable.

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Lucas and I have been enjoying being back in our kitchen! Whilst Daddy was out for a long day we decided it was time to fill his advent calendar.  A little late, but better late than never.  I made a material one this time last year when we were feeling really homesick and thought it would be fun for Andrew to collect some vouchers like a “Guilt free lie in” or a “watch the football token”. I recently realised all these vouchers from last year had accidentally been left in and he is insisting they are valid again! Lucas had lots of fun in the kitchen making little tractor wheel lemon biscuits to wrap and put in the advent calendar with the accidental vouchers.  As we put the drop of icing on the biscuit followed by the pumpkin seeds and dried mango he kept dabbing his little finger in the icing, licking it and proudly proclaiming, “I’m a cheeky monkey!” Beautiful times!

Whilst we were back in the UK last month, I really missed Kate (The one with 14 children). I don’t know if I will ever fully understand how she does what she does. She is an endless source of creativity, is as passionate as I am about home cooked food and even loves baking bread. There is always something on the go in the kitchen whether it be homemade mozzarella, mayonnaise or bread and always in vast quantities! Kate home-schools 5 of her children and seems to have time for everyone whilst building their new home on land they recently purchased – literally! She built the roof herself on their cob hut and used old car windscreens for windows). We are just very thankful to have met the Brooks family and such an inspiring friend.

Kate stood by the new cob house

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Recipe – Lucas Lemon wholemeal tractor wheel biscuits

Ingredients:

125g butter

100g castor sugar or dark unrefined sugar

1 egg

100g plain flour

100g wholemeal flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

Pinch salt

Zest two lemons

Toppings:

Pumpkin seeds

Dried mango

Raisins

Almonds

Silver balls

Icing sugar

Method:

1. Combine the flour baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add the cubed butter an rub in with finger tips.

2. Turn the oven on to 180°C.

3. Add the sugar and lemon zest then stir in.

4.Add the egg a little at a time and use the blade of a knife to cut into the mixture until a stiff non-sticky dough forms.

5. Make into a ball, wrap in cling film then flatten into a disc and place in the fridge for 30mins to 1 hour.

6. Remove from the fridge, place onto a lightly floured surface, roll to about 2-3mm thick and begin using which ever cutters you feel like.  Kat had given Lucas a whole tractor set to cut out a tractor engine, cab and wheel etc so we decided to fill Daddys advent calendar with lits of the smaller tractor wheels!

7. Bake on non-stick baking parchment for 5-10mins, keep an eye and the time depends on the size of biscuit, ideally you should take them out when they just begin to brown and cool on a wire rack.

8. Let them cool then the decorating begins stick topping on with a little water icing (icing sugar and water).

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Artisan Ugali Bread | Back to life, back to reality?

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It is a strange feeling being between two worlds – both of which we would now say are “home”. In the blink of an eye between getting on a plane and stepping out, almost everything changes: the temperature, sounds, smells, landscape, expectations.

Learning to shift expectations has maybe been one of the biggest lessons we’ve learnt. In the UK, we expect there to be water, electricity, internet, the train to be on time and being annoyed when it is three whole minutes late. Where as here we were delighted to arrive home and find the water and electricity both being here when we expected otherwise. And when it only took several hours, phone calls and text messages to get the internet to temporarily work we were ecstatic. (Since starting to write this we have had one very short power cut and now have no water…)

Culture shock is well recognised and many would agree that “reverse-culture shock”, when someone returns home after a prolonged period away can be even harder. Walking through London last month and squeezing on to the London underground (which has stark similarities to cramming 25 passengers in to a 14 seater minibus in Kenya) I certainly felt out of place and slightly disembodied. It’s hard to describe, it felt like I was a couple of feet above my right shoulder, watching myself go about the various meeting and discussions I was having…

We haven’t really had time to ponder being back in Kenya. We made it to Nakuru on Saturday afternoon, on Sunday Madeleine had commenced baking and at what my body clock thought was 3am on Monday morning my alarm was shouting at me to get out of bed and in to the field. Madeleine was already out running!

The whole shifting of cultures and countries has had a noticeable effect on Lucas. He’s no longer sure if we are coming or going and so we welcome a period of “normality”, whatever that is…

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My left hand is firmly grasped around my right wrist making a seat for Lucas to sit on.  “Mummy there’s a calf, where is his mummy cow?”, “Mummy I just saw a special white tuk tuk truck”.  The hot sun on my face, Lucas in my arms and an uneasy feeling that I should have remembered suncream.  A large truck with huge wheels rumbles behind us, we stay close to the side of the dusty stoney road, Lucas hides his face in my shoulder as he anticipates the inevitable cloud of dust to follow. I feel the grains or dust from the road between my teeth as I try and breathe through my nose as I carefully tread the uneven surface. Dust seeps into my open shoes and between my toes. “Mummy what’s there, Mummy a yellow digger is there, what’s it doin?”

Our 40min walk into town is greeted with the now familiar staring, a muzungo carrying a toddler muzungo with his awesome hair is quite a novelty!  I try not to make eye contact, not being rude but keeping focus on the unpredictable roads and an awareness that the sun is bearing down on us. We pass our favourite fruit seller and share the usual street exchange “sasa” (how are you), “poa” (fine).  We reach the railway line that connects the port in Mombassa to Uganda and step over it as the smell of street side charcoal burning away, my mind momentarily wonders – just last week we were wrapped up in coats by a wood burner and taking walks with Lucas in our all-terrain buggy (not all-terrain enough for Kenya so we took it back!) rolling smoothly over a well marked path and crunchy golden leaves, stopping to feed the ducks, with the sun low in the sky glistening over the water of the Thames. “Mummy, Mummy I see two swan”——They are both reality.

Recipe – Artisan Ugali Bread

Ingredients:

Pre-ferment:

White strong flour 65g

Water 65g

Dried yeast pinch

Final dough ingredients:

White strong flour 325g

Cornmeal (Ugali) 110g

Water 255g

Olive oil 20g

Salt 10g

Dried yeast 2g

pre-ferment above 130g

Method:

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the pre-ferment and place in a covered bowl at about 25ºC for 12 hours.
  2. For the final dough mix the white flour, cornmeal, water and olive oil leave to stand for 10mins.  Add the remaining ingredients and knead for 8-10mins.
  3. Cover and prove for 45mins.
  4. Stretch and fold the dough 20 times and leave to prove for a further 45mins.
  5. Shape into two rounds, place in proving baskets well coated with ugali, cover and prove for 2 hours.
  6. turn out of the proving baskets onto an ugali covered oven tray and bake at 220ºC for 20-30mins
  7. When you remove from the oven leave to cool on a wire tray.

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Ciabatta and Coming Home

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“Mummy are we in Kenya now?” Lucas asks as we balance our way down the aeroplane steps and feel a lovely welcome of 20°C.  Its dark, night time, and suddenly my wool dress and boots seem out of place! Another world.  Lucas is happy spotting the airport tractors, “That’s a Kenya tractor, it’s got no cab on it”.

The next morning, We peer out of our Nairobi hotel window, “Its Richard, I can see Richards car!! squeels Lucas. We pack up Richard’s matatu and we are off.

We arrive back in our flat with a lovely welcome of watermelon, mangos and avocado…ahhh I cant stop eating the water melon! Lucas works his way through a few mangos.  Kat and her mum (Chris or Mama Kat) have been staying in the flat whilst we are back in the UK and we are greeted with some yummy crisp breads  and fresh bread.  Thank you!

We are continually amazed at how flexible Lucas is especially after all our nomadic living in the UK, doing our usual sofa surfing. During our time in the UK I went on a sourdough course at the E5 Bakehouse (http://e5bakehouse.com/).  They were extremely kind and gave me the day course for free as their support for the bakery here in Nakuru.  A fantastic bakery with great ethics by London Fields in Hackney, I’m jealous of anyone living close by!  The course (which I very much recommend!) was just great and thats where I learn’t this ciabatta.  Thankfully my sourdough starter had survived in the fridge the month away and so it was possible to make these the first Sunday back.  Amongst other things we have been looking in more depth at the possibility of renovated equipment brought from the UK which we could ship, initially after all the slit lamp hassle, customs and shipping costs we decided the local option was best, despite being more expensive. After seeing what we could get for our money in the UK it seemed initially like a good idea but there is more risk  of equipment breakdown and not being able to get repairs done. We came to the conclusion that we need to minimise risk to secure a sustainable bakery and came round in a circle that although expensive, buying new equipment in Nairobi is the best option.

Sourdough is the term used for bread made with natural yeasts.  In the right moisture, temperture and food source (flour) conditions the natural yeasts on flour are cultivated into a sourdough starter that can be regularly fed or kept in the fridge if you are away.  It really improves the taste and texture of bread but also due to the slower and hence longer fermentation of the dough, the bread is more easily digested and has lower phytate levels which means vitamins and minerals are more readily absorbed making it a “healthier” bread.

I slightly adapted the e5 bakehouse recipe to use 60g of millet flour a more common grain here and reduced the white flour by 60g and also substituted 40g white flour for 40g wholemeal flour as millet flour has no gluten and we are unable to buy white strong flour easily and have to use the all purpose flour (a mixed protein flour).  It is a semi-sourdough as it uses dried yeast as well.  I know all the folding may seem a faff but its worth it, well I think so!

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2 weeks ago:

“Hi Madeleine, how was the sourdough course?”

“Amazing – I learnt loads and have a bag full of ciabatta, bagels and bread loaves… oh and the course teacher/baker and owner is up for coming to Kenya to train the staff!”

Most people come back from a course like this with a bag full of bread, not also a baker! We plan now to have everything in place in time for Ben’s arrival in 2014.

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Recipe – Ciabatta (Slightly adapted e5 bakehouse recipe)

Ingredients: Leaven (Pre final dough)

Sour dough starter 20g

Strong white flour 100g

Water 100g

Ciabatta dough ingredients:

Water 250g

Leaven (above) 130g

Olive oil 20g

Malt powder 3g

Dried yeast 3.5g

Strong white flour 230g

Wholemeal strong flour 40g

Millet flour 60g

Salt 8g

Method:

1. Mix the leaven together and leave in the fridge for 12-18 hours

2. Weigh out the four

3. Weight out the white leaven

4. Weight out lukewarm water, yeast, olive oil and malt powder then mix them together with the leaven, squidging it all through your fingers.  Mix in the flour.

5. Leave for 20mins in the bowl

6. Sprinkle salt on the top and mix and leave for 30mins

7. Drizzle some olive oil around the sides of the dough in the bowl and use the dough scraper to release the dough from the bowl

8. Stretch and fold 1, leave for 30mins

9. Stretch and fold 2, leave for 30mins

10. Stretch and fold 3, leave for 30mins

11. Final fold – oil the work surface, knock back into an oblong, fold over itself into thirds, turn 90C and repeat. Put back into the bowl and leave for 45mins.

12.  Heavily flour the work surface.  Spread the dough out evenly, using tips of fingers to stretch.  Don’t flatten too much or you will knock the air out.  Cut into 4 or five strips.

13. Flip onto a floured baking non-stick sheet and allow to prove for 60mins before baking.

14. Bake for about 20mins at 220ºC

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