Monthly Archives: August 2012

Pain Poilâne meets Tartine Bread

They say a baker’s score is their signature, and my initial A actually works quite well as a cut. (Plus you can call it anarchy bread if you’re that way inclined)

I’ve been baking daily using the Tartine Bread method and I’m really pleased with the results. Each day I’ve been trying a different mix of flour, starting with the suggested 90% white / 10% wholemeal, testing varying amounts of white flour, grey flour, wholemeal and rye (up to 10%). The technique holds up well for all these combinations, so I decided to push on with my original goal of producing something similar to a Pain Poilane.

The snippet I had from Wikipedia was that Pain Poilane is 70% grey flour and 30% spelt, which was as good a starting point as any. I found spelt flour (farine d’épeautre) at one of the Bio stores nearby, but was a little put off by the price (over double the cost of wheat or rye).

Due to the extra expense of the spelt flour, a part of me was hoping the difference in taste would be negligible (as the recipe was tasting pretty good already). But it was a hit, and has had the best reviews from all the family. So great for the taste, but a shame about the price. Now I need to find a local mill that can offer a better price if I’m buying larger quantities.

Collapsed a little due to (forgetful) overproofing, so the crumb is tighter than planned

The Lake

The Lake, Massac

Sometimes you just need to get out of the house.

You pack a picnic, get your boys ready and head off in the car.

Picnic lunch

You drive down a road you haven’t driven before.

You pass through quaint little villages.

You find a lake, with fruit trees, benches and much needed shade.

You stop. You eat lunch. You breathe.

Picnic baby


You vow to return and pick some of those plums.

Your boys are happy. So are you.





Recycling and carpentry

We bought a few boxes to sort out our recycling, but in this part of the world the sun and the wind make short work of any plastic bin you might leave around outside, so I built a box to sit by our front door. It also doubles a bench of sorts.

Recycling and carpentry

Building a simple frame from reclaimed fence posts

The design evolved from the wood that was available, rather than any master plan. It’s made entirely from scrap or discards from other projects; fence-posts filled with nails, shelves from a broken unit, trim used as temporary support on some previous building work etc. But with a coat of appropriate treatment and a couple of coats of paint, this should last for many years.

The lid was made from bits of an old shelving unit

This particular shade of blue complies fully with the in-laws/landlords brand guidelines. :)

Ready for the great outdoors

Favourite posts this week

Gifts from a neighbour

:: Many congratulations to Lucy who is now, officially, a professional pâtissière! The exam sounds terrifying…

:: I love seeing London through the eyes of tourists :) Lovely photos from a lovely blog.

:: This is so true! The chocolate aisles are amazing but far too tempting. I just have to skip them altogether ;) Instead we go to see the cheese…

:: An amazing kitchen makeover! Not to everyone’s taste, but I think it’s FAB. Especially love how so much of it has been recycled from other people – one person’s trash is another’s treasure, right?

:: Fig, Apricot and Marscapone Tart -yes please! I’m sure there’s a fig tree in the village that would give us a hand with this.

:: I REALLY want sushi after seeing this review.

:: How to save tomato seeds – helpful next year, I think.

:: This would be perfect for lunch or dinner right now. I love Ottolenghi. It’s just criminal to put the oven on at the moment.

Hope you are all having a great weekend!





Potential site for aquaponics project

Potential site for aquaponics project

This spot looks like the most likely place for my aquaponics/intensive food production experiment, though I’m still a long way from designing and costing out the system. There is power nearby, and plenty of roof space for harvesting rain water. It’s protected from the wind, and a nice combination of sun and shade (for plants and fish respectively).

I’ll clear it out soon and take some measurements, but the field will come before this, and probably the brick oven too.

Le Moulin Neuf

Le Moulin Neuf, Lanet

For a farewell meal with Shake’s parents we went to a lovely restaurant two villages away in Lanet, along the river Orbieu.

Before the current proprietors took over, the site was known for Pisciculture alone. Now they have combined this with the restaurant, serving their own trout (caught to order!) alongside other delicious dishes, at very reasonable prices.

We made friends with their pets too…

Making friends before lunch

We didn’t all choose trout, but sampled at least one of each item on the menu; veal, beef, and salmon. Although the menu was small (and nothing for vegetarians, we’re in France of course!) each dish was beautifully presented and so delicious. My meal was accompanied by a vegetable clafoutis with their home-grown produce. I will be trying that myself soon…

Shake’s salmon

Oh, I can’t forget dessert! I didn’t manage to take a photograph before I started eating (bad blogger) and I really shouldn’t shown you an almost empty plate, but I will as it was amazing!

Nectarine and raspberry dessert

Tiny cubes of nectarines, raspberry jelly, vanilla ice cream and raspberry coulis topped with a super light meringue. Ooh it really was great!

We will just have to go back and take some more photos for you. Or, come and visit and you can take us our for lunch ;)



It’s not exactly vegetarian country around here

Here’s a photo from the recent village fête:

Local lambs, cooking meswi. Later served with salad and haricot.

Though we eat a lot of vegetarian food to help manage the environmental (and economic) impact of our diet,  we’re not vegetarian. And when we eat meat we like to know as much about it’s story as possible. In this case, the lambs were reared by a friend of a friend. We’re not on first name terms, but maybe we will be by this time next year (more likely once I can pronounce a few of the more obscure French names too!).

As for the fête, the social committee organise drinks and dinner for the whole village, who in turn make a contribution to the committee. It’s a lovely community event with the vast majority of the village turning out. In this way, food really can contribute to society.

Couiza Bio Festival

Festival entrance

Last weekend we visited the (14th!) annual Bio (Organic) festival in Couiza.

We weren’t looking for anything in particular, but were hopeful to see like-minded people and enjoy the surroundings with baby.

Alongside the produce market (fruits, vegetables, honey, bread, cheese, wine, herbs, seeds…) were craftspeople (selling clothes, handmade leather shoes, wicker baskets, tools, pottery, children’s toys), demonstrators, films, lectures and a whole area dedicated to green building/construction.

Bio market

The location was beautiful – stalls set alongside the river Aude – and the weather just perfect.

I especially enjoyed a stall where a lady had recycled children’s clothes into handbags – very creative! The place was full of families who would have probably been interested in the section for clothes swaps. Had we known this was here we would have brought the many clothes baby has now grown out of!

We didn’t stay for too long but I am already looking forward to the next festival when my french will hopefully be considerably better. One of the talks was about the role of the midwife in France – in the UK I was told to have a home birth next time so it would have been useful to listen to that lecture!

Market stalls



Tartine Bread: simplified recipe notes

Worth the effort. This sourdough is made from the Tartine Bread recipe.

This isn’t much use on it’s own, but I’ve seen a few people find this site when looking for Tartine Bread so I thought I’d share my notes for any one else baking from the same recipe.

I mentioned in the past that the book is pretty confusing to follow (though well worth the effort), so I ended up writing these notes out on a piece of paper that I keep in the front of the book.

If you haven’t already read the book, do that first as this is deliberately in note form. And for those of you who’ve read it, I hope this helps.


- 1 tablespoon of starter
- 200g 50/50 white/wholemeal flour
- 200g water

1) Mix
2) Cover
3) Wait 12 hrs


- 1000g flour (900g white, 100g wholemeal)
- 700g water, plus 50-80g (work up to 80 for increased hydration %)
- 200g leaven
- 20g salt

1) 700g water in bowl, add leaven and stir
2) Add 1000g flour, mix and leave for 25-40 mins
3) Add salt plus 50g-80g of additional water, mix by hand and transfer to glass bowl
4) BULK RISE (3-4 hrs at average temperature. Adjust time and taste by managing temperature)
5) During bulk rise, turn every 30 mins for first 2 hrs
6) BENCH REST dough onto work surface, flour, cut, flip, fold and rest for 20-30 mins
7) SHAPE and place in rice flour dusted baskets
8) PROOF (3-4 hrs at average temperature. Adjust time and taste by managing temperature)
9) Pre-heat combo-oven/tagine at 500F/260C
10) Dust base of loaf, flip into base of combo-oven
11) Cover, reduce to 230C and bake for 20 mins
12) Uncover and bake for 20-25 mins


Shake out.

A bad cake day

oh what a mess!

This post is for my benefit more than yours, sorry.

Last week we bought a crate of nectarines on sale as they are coming to the end of their season. I planned several different ways to use them up, but more on that another day.

One of my plans was to make a few cakes to freeze for those rainy days when we want something comforting but summery.

I found a simple enough recipe online (I won’t bother sharing now…) and more or less followed the recipe.

This was my first mistake. I really should have followed it all.

The recipe told me to bake the cakes for 15 minutes and then add the sliced nectarines and continue baking. I was in a rush so didn’t bother. Suprise, suprise, they sank to the bottom and stuck there.

You can’t find baking powder or self-raising flour here, so I decided to mix my own. I sort of followed the guidelines but I wasn’t as specific as I really should have been. Mistake number two!

Lastly, whilst I could have made the cakes in two batches, as I had made double the amount of mix, I tried to squeeze it all into 4 small tins. Mistake number three!

So, as you can imagine, the fruit sank so the cakes weren’t pretty; the mix turned into some insane bubbly science experiment and almost all of the tins overflowed (all over the oven too).

I was so angry at myself. I was rushing as baby was asleep but was due to wake up, but that’s not his fault.

I was upset at the thought of wasting so much mix and those lovely nectarines. I was upset at having wasted my precious free time, I mean I could should have been cleaning or washing something.

Also, I was just plain embarrassed. Cakes are my thing! I should have been more precise.

Anyway. Shake ate what was stuck to the tins and anything else he could get his hands on. Of course he said it was delicious (and that I was being a drama queen :) ). The cakes were trimmed where necessary, fruit rescued and placed back on top and they are now safely in the freezer.

It doesn’t matter that they look dreadful, they will still taste fine and maybe by winter I will laugh about it too ;)