Friday, 27 July 2012

Decimation * 9

So it turns out the squirrels have developed a rather effective tactic of sitting on the wheat to flatten it, then nibbling off the ears. Combined with some effective backup from the portly pigeons means what there was of my crop has largely disappeared.

I have a feeling it's time to admit defeat, though I will be more conservative with my bench-flour in future.

What's left of the harvest.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

All ears

Various threats are still present from fungi to pigeons but I'm still hopeful there will be something of a crop.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Wheat from chaff

So some of the plants are still quite stunted and a bit yellow but the healthier ones are starting to sprout ears; you never know we may get some flour yet....

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Not wheat but bread

No real news on the wheat front, it's a bit yellow but it is still growing.
So I thought I'd provide a recipe instead.

Here's my standard white sourdough, an amalgamation of things from:

This recipe assumes you have a 100% hydration starter for which you'll either need to grow your own or befriend a baker that has one ;-)  It will make two large loaves which should just about fit in most domestic ovens.

Take 100g of your starter and add to it 300g of strong white flour and 300g of cold tap water.
After leaving it overnight, covered and at room temperature, it should be full of lots of little bubbles like the above.

Add to your bubbly leaven a further 700g of strong white flour,  350g of warm water (around 30 degrees Celsius) and 15g of salt.  Mix it all together with a scraper or a wooden spoon.

What you should have now is a shaggy mess of a dough (see above).   If you're kneading by hand I use the French technique as popularised by Richard Bertinet (Google is your friend) but if you're using a mixer then five or six minutes at a low speed should do it. 

Hopefully what you have after kneading is a smooth elastic dough that has lost the shaggy-stickiness it had to start with.
Form it into a ball and place it in a lightly floured large bowl.  Leave it for around an hour at room temperature.

You should notice that it has risen some when you come back to it.  What you do now is give it a series of folds,  these are  a bit like a very gentle knead that's intended to ensure your bread ends up nice and light.  So empty your dough onto a lightly-floured work-surface and gently spread it out.

Now take the top edge of the dough and fold it two-thirds of the way down  giving it a good stretch as you do so.
press down the bottom edge to stick it in place.

Turn the dough around and do the same fold with the other edge.

Rotate the dough and again fold the top edge two-thirds of the way down the body of  the dough.
Turn the dough round and to the same with the other edge so you have a square-ish parcel.
Turn your parcel upside-down and place it in a lightly floured bowl.
Leave it covered for another hour at room temperature.

Once the hour is up repeat the above folding procedure and return it to the bowl.
After the final hour of rising (making three in total) your dough should have doubled in size.

Since this recipe makes two loaves tip the dough onto a lightly-floured work-surface and divide it in two.

Shape each half into a loose ball.

Take a bowl that's large enough to accommodate twice the volume  your dough and  line it with  a clean tea-towel.
Flour it well and after giving your ball of dough a final shaping to make it into a nice tight ball place it smooth-side down into the bowl.  Cover it and leave it for anywhere between two and four hours at room temperature.  You're looking for the dough to have roughly doubled in size, the exact timing depends a lot on the temperature and how active your starter is.  At least an hour before your dough is finished proving turn your oven on to 250 degrees Celsius to get it good and hot.  If you have a baking stone then don't forget to put that in the oven to warm up along with it but if you don't have one a sturdy oven tray should go in instead.

Lightly flour some baking sheets and gently turn out your proven dough onto them.  Slash the surface with a simple pattern to help the loaf expand in the oven and make it look pretty (use a very sharp blade to do this, though a bread-knife does fine too).
Making sure your oven is up to temperature shoot the loaves off of your baking trays onto the hot stones or trays in the oven.  Mist the inside of the oven with some water from a spray gun or by pouring half a cup of water into a dish in the bottom of the oven.  This steam will help the bread to achieve a good oven-spring.
After five minutes turn the oven temperature down to 220 degrees Celsius.
Leave the loaves for a further 25 minutes to finish cooking.
After this time take them out of the oven and tap their bottoms - if they sound hollow they're done if not return them to the oven for a further five minutes.
Once baked remove them from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
Only bad bread gets eaten warm ;-)

Hopefully all of that made some sense and you now have more bread than you know what to do with :-D

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

To rust we shall return.

So I've come to the conclusion that what I had assumed to be frost damage may in fact be a fungal infection called yellow rust.  So I've treated it with some fungicide which probably won't do much for my organic accreditation but will hopefully be enough to salvage some of the crop.  It is at least still growing...

Yellow rust?

Still growing...

Monday, 9 April 2012

You are what you wheat.

So it's been a while since I've posted an update but the good news is the wheat has started growing.  The bad news is that there is some marked yellow discolouration on many of the leaves that I'm taking to be frost damage.  So fingers-crossed but not feeling massively optimistic at this stage.