Sunday 3rd May 2020 - Baking Tales!
Since the start of lockdown, on 23rd March, the country has taken to baking. This has resulted in shortages of ingredients such as flour, sugar, dried fruit, yeast and the like. Fortunately, I had good supplies of the main ingredients but forty two days into lockdown, most of these are running low. I was able to top up with caster sugar and yeast from our village shop but now, despite Michael’s best efforts for us villagers, his shelves are devoid of caster sugar as well as self-raising flour. During lockdown I have made several loaves of bread, with mixed results. I have a bread maker which I use for making pizza dough, with the excess made into a small round loaf. However, I have never used it for producing loaves of bread. The first loaf made in the machine took well over three hours from start to finish and was not impressive. It was a bit on the heavy side. I then tried the quick bake programme which had quite good results. The next step was to make a larger quick bake loaf. This was awful and when used to make a sandwich, the bread stuck to our teeth. Not wanting to subject the local gull population to it, I have found it is not too bad when toasted. Another programme produced a fruit loaf. This was dry and this too ended up being toasted but in the end we subjected the gulls to the last few slices. So, all in all, the only successful bread from the machine was the small quick bake and if it wasn’t for it being great for making pizza dough, the future of the machine would be in jeopardy.
As for cakes, I made a fruit cake, all-in-one sponge, madeleines and small cherry cakes, before deciding scones would be next in the oven. Warm, buttered with some of my homemade raspberry jam, sounded appealing but when we bit into the scones and started chewing, we experienced a strange twang on our tongues. No prizes for guessing where these are going, yes the local gull population will once again ‘benefit’ from a baking failure. But what was this twang? We recognised it as being the same as the dumplings I made in the winter of 2018/19. At the time we thought it was the flour or the suet. I changed both these but the twang was still there. Result - no dumplings in our casseroles during the last winter. It wasn’t until I woke the following morning that it came to me – it’s the bicarbonate of soda, used in both dumplings and scones, which is the culprit. But if this is the case, why was the all in one sponge I made, using bicarb, okay. Peter came up with the solution. The sponge was made using an electric hand whisk which ensured all the ingredients were thoroughly and evenly incorporated in the mix, whereas the recipes for both dumplings and scones require hand mixing that could result in uneven blending of the ingredients, leaving small pockets of bicarb, giving the twang when baked. Anyway, there has been a pause in baking until I can get some more caster sugar. Thank goodness I had an emergency packet of plain chocolate digestives tucked away which we are now eating with our afternoon cuppa, and very nice they are too.
Enough of my baking tales. I have posted a couple of photos today, the first of a grey start to Saturday, a day which soon perked up, was sunny and warm and we rounded off with a BBQ in our garden. The second is a flowering shrub which is partially overhanging a footpath in the village. The mass of vibrant yellow flowers are nothing short of spectacular.