Author Archives: shake

Bagels – Apprentice #3

Homemade Bagels

Episode #3 in my plan to work through every recipe in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

I’m not going to tell you much about bagels, but these are way, way, way more interesting than any bagel you can buy in an English supermarket.

They are a faff to make, but also quite a lot of fun if your weekend isn’t too busy. It’s not a task for a working weekday.

Here’s a version of the recipe with much better photos than mine, and a New Yorker’s take on their authenticity. I won’t join that debate… I have no credentials for an official opinion on bagels. But, having made them with my own hands, I’d feel much happier talking to a New Yorker about bagels.

Be aware, this recipe makes a load of bagels (I made 24 of the size you would typically buy here in the UK) and they all need to proof overnight in the fridge. The day I made these I was unusually delighted to find our fridge was empty. I needed two-thirds of the total shelf space in our fridge. Don’t make these bagels just after your weekly food shop.

Also, you will need a bagel eating strategy. The 24 bagels this recipe made are awesome for two days at most.

I can’t shouldn’t eat 24 bagels in two days.

If you’re the same, you should plan for this.

Thankfully, we took most of this batch to a BBQ where they doubled up as fancy burger buns, and very few passed the two day mark when we established their basic life-span.

Shake out.

Artos Greek Celebration Bread – Apprentice #2

Artos Greek Celebration Bread

Artos Greek Celebration Bread

So, it turns out my plan to work through every recipe in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice may be awesome, but it’s not unique…

This big-old list of bloggers have already done exactly that under the banner of the BBA Challenge.

I’m late to party it seems.

A few years late.

Anyway, that means there’s a very good chance I can point you in the direction of all these various recipes as I’m trying them out.

So apprentice bread #2, Artos, is tasty! It’s basically like a giant somewhat more eloquent hot cross bun that’s worth eating any time of year. And it makes great toast for a Sunday morning.

In the photo above, the top of the boule looks sunken. That’s not a problem with the recipe, just some of my slap-dash decision making when trying to navigate our oven-thats-not-an-oven-that-is-an-oven. I proved the loaf in the base of a La Cloche and put the whole thing into the oven cold. The base of the loaf stuck to the cloche, in shaking it out the rest of the loaf got squashed while it was still hot. My bad, not the recipes.

Also, thinking back while writing this post. I should mention that I was out of white flour, and baked this with wholemeal which worked nicely too.

Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it out:

Shake out.

Anadama Bread – Apprentice #1

Anadama BreadHello blog readers.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. So long in fact, that my wife is threatening to demote me to guest blogger status if I don’t get my act together! :)

So here is a post for you…

I’m currently working on the following:

  • Learning more about bread
  • Extending my baking repertoire
  • Extracting as much value as possible out of the bread books I currently own 

And in order to this, I:

  1. Picked a bread book from the bookshelf, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart
  2. Am working through it from cover to cover, testing every recipe, even if it doesn’t appeal to my usual taste for certain types of bread

The first recipe I have tried is for Anadama Bread, and if you follow this series of posts over the coming weeks, you’ll notice that’s because the book is in alphabetical order.

My first challenge was motivating myself to actually make this Anadama Bread.

I’d never heard of it before and quite frankly, from the photo in the book it looked boring. I had spent so long trying to perfect an open crumb, chewy sourdough that anything vaguely resembling a commercial sandwich loaf from a tin seemed like a waste of effort.

But as always when you try something new, you learn something new, and this bread turned out to be delicious (and has been made again since which is a good sign).

The molasses enriches the dough, and soaking the polenta/cornmeal overnight turns it from a coarse grain into a deep and subtle flavour.

I’m not going to type out the recipes from the book, as I’m working through every single bread I’d end up reproducing the whole book, which would look a lot like stealing!

But, if I find the recipes online, I’ll point you in the direction from each post.

Here is the Anadama Bread Recipe: 

Use the tag “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” to navigate all the posts in this series.

Shake out.


english-lights In preparation for taking the car back to the UK, I had to undo this little job. Cars don’t have that nice ctrl-z feature you get on computers, but it was a lot quicker the second time around. I must have actually learnt something.

Also, I’d been looking around for somewhere to buy those light deflectors for the French part of the long drive, and was pleasantly surprised to find these still stuck the old lights.

Alternative Christmas Cards (charity shop books)

Last year, the most enjoyable bit of our Christmas shopping was our alternative Christmas cards and it might be something you want to try for yourself. It’s a bit complex, so I’ve written out the process step-by-step…

  1. Write a list of people you would usually buy cards for
  2. Find your nearest charity bookshop
  3. Buy everyone a book

It’s simple and fun, but you never know what you’ll find in stock and that makes it even more interesting. We spent a couple of hours in an Oxfam Books and delighted the volunteer staff with the total number of books we bought.

I like to look for books I don’t think people would buy themselves, but that they might find interesting. It’s a lot of fun, and a great way to spend time thinking about the people you love. And for people who “don’t do books” there’s usually something funny or silly.

On top of all that, most books in most charity shops costs less than a regular gift card from a supermarket. And the whole cost of your book is a charitable donation, rather than the few pennies in royalties that charities get from most boxed Christmas cards.

You can (and should!) write a message in the front of a book, and there’s a whole load more value in the content than you’d find in any card.

And if I haven’t sold this idea hard enough already, the kind of people who do their Christmas shopping in charity book shops are awesome. It’s a refreshing antidote to the rudeness and madness that takes over the rest of the high street around now.

Photos from Réserve Africaine de Sigean

When my brother came to stay we did some touristy things including a trip to

I’m fascinated by the amazing wildlife we share our world with, but usually find zoos too depressing to enjoy. This was brilliant by comparison. It’s not quite wild natural habitat, but it’s pretty vast and I’d highly recommend it. Also my brother’s knowledge of species and the natural world is scarily good, so he was our tour guide.

Two important lessons I learnt:

  • If you’re going to see some awesome animals, charge your camera. I was only just getting started when mine died.
  • For entertainment, pot belly pigs are on a par with lions, black bears, giraffes and rhinos. They are only beaten by play-fighting Asiatic black bear cubs.

Anyway, here are the few pics I managed to get…

Large and little, Vietnamese potbelly pigs

This is the little one from the photo above

Watching. You.

The early bird…

We left at dawn to do our weekly food shop without losing too much of the day. The views are always amazing on this road, but this time I actually had to stop the car and take some photos on my phone. It’s only by waking earlier enough, that things like this are seen.