Tag Archives: books

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.

“The days are long, but the years are short”

Maybe it’s because we are at the start of a new year (Happy New Year!), because our boy is becoming ever more independent, or maybe it’s because I miss my family dearly, but the above quote really resonated with me this morning.

My Christmas gift from Shake was this book and I just love the concept. The quote was from the author, Gretchen Rubin, and here is a short film to accompany it – I would normally cringe at this kind of thing, but today I didn’t.

I seem to be one of the few people not publishing resolutions for 2013. That doesn’t mean there aren’t areas of my/our life to be worked on, but they are personal and not especially food related ;)

We three wish you all a very happy and healthy 2013. Having suffered with the dreaded norovirus around New Year you’ll just have to excuse our absence for now. We are taking our time to get well again and feel inspired by food!

I’m sure it won’t take long.


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.

Macarons in the making

Coffee macarons – first attempt.

I was tempted not to write this post. I definitely didn’t want to include any photos, but here we are!

For our anniversary (first year is paper) Shake bought me a little french book on making macarons. He always manages to pick something I have been thinking about without having told him! 

Today whilst baby napped I decided to make my first batch. I was really strict about measuring the ingredients accurately (very unlike me…) and borrowed an electric whisk for the egg whites as I wanted to make them as best I could.

I actually had to whisk the whites in the spare room so it didn’t wake the boy up – that’s one disadvantage of his room being next to the kitchen!

People seem to be daunted about making macarons, and having tried now I can see why! So, the purpose of this post is to document what went wrong and what I will change for next time.

Macarons resting

I am happy with my measurements, but having carried out some research after I made my mix, it is suggested to use egg whites that have been left out for at least 24 hours! Oops. Well, next time I will plan in advance.

Another factor I can change is that I think I needed to mix the mixture?batter? a little more as when piped onto the tray the macarons had little peaks (you don’t want to know what Shake said they looked like…!). I used a damp finger to smooth them down before baking, but this is apparently a sign of under-mixing.

Cracked macarons

I’m not 100% sure what was wrong with the shells above, but it might again be due to the mixture not being mixed enough? Or I didn’t leave them out for long enough before baking? Or they were in the oven for slightly too long? Hmmm….who knows!

Interestingly, these shells came off of the paper very easily, whereas the shells from the shelf above stuck to the baking paper. I say “interestingly”, but actually this was annoying!

I used a tip I read here (from the Macaron Queen :) ) and put some water under the sheet for a few minutes and they did mostly come off.

I made a coffee buttercream to fill the shells and we did sample a few.

They tasted pretty great, but obviously not as good as these (yet!).

If you have made macarons before and have any suggestions/hints for me I’d love to hear them!





Favourite posts this week

Storms brewing…

:: A couple of books that I would love, but I don’t really need…

:: Will bear this in mind (I hope) when we have a toddler

:: Planning a trip to Paris just to go here. Maybe here too :)

:: Ooh mushrooms, I have missed you.

:: This really made me laugh – maybe I’ll try it one day.

:: Curious about this.

:: Just stunning.

:: Everything is Incredible.

Have yourselves a very lovely weekend.

We are going to a 1st birthday party by the river and preparing for a film crew (with french moviestars?!) staying in the village! :)



Tartine bread, cast-iron combo cooker alternative

Photo credit to an endless banquet

If like me you’ve read Tartine Bread, but can’t find any shops nearby that sell the lovely cast iron double dutch oven combo cookers recommended, there is an alternative.

Or at least I thought there was…

Then before I’d finished writing this post I ran into a problem.

Emile Henry tagineOur Emile Henry tagine is meant to be invincible to heat. The manufacturers claim you can move this straight from a freezer into a 500 degree oven without causing any damage.

But after a few weeks of (very successfully) baking bread every day ours has cracked.

Maybe this isn’t the cause of the problem, but I can’t think what else would do this after 5 years of use.

Cracked Tagine

So moving on, I had a look at dutch oven combo cookers for sale online, but ended up ordering a La Cloche Baking Dome instead. It looks made for the job.

Fingers crossed.

Right now

:: chuckling at these adorable apricots. Too cute!

:: reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. This novel tells the story of Hadley Hemingway, wife of Ernest, and their life together in Paris. I’ve only just started but am really enjoying it so far.

:: counting down the days until we depart. 11 days of work for Shake, 19 until we go!

:: drinking lots of hot water with honey and lemon. This has been a poorly mummy week, so glad to be getting better.

:: thinking about my friends having babies. I can’t wait for our little man to have lovely friends to play with. It’s also a great way to distribute his newborn clothes!

:: wishing baby would stop growing, that time would stand still a little while and for my mind to focus on the priceless moments I have with my boy.

:: writing letters to my boy so that I remember this time. I have a terrible memory and there are some things I really don’t want to forget. Birth story?

:: researching lots of fun trips and activities to entertain our guests in France, we have visitors for the first 3 weeks already and more coming in August :)


Birthday books for simple living

My lucky day

I was a little ill on my birthday this year, but I received an exciting selection of books. I’m sure that many of these will be invaluable for our coming adventure.

I always ask for books, and my family always apologise for only buying me ‘boring’ books but I can assure you that none of these books are boring to me in the slightest. I’m so grateful they’re willing to humour me.

You can expect reviews over the coming months. First on their readability, and then a follow up once I’ve put them through the real hands-on test.

You can look forward to:

  • Basic Butchering of Livestock and Game
  • Your Bread Oven – Building it and baking in it (I have another post coming soon with one of my goals – you’ll never guess what that might be)
  • Small-Scale Grain Raising (only considering the possibility right now, I’ve no idea if this is actually viable for us)
  • Crust and Crumb (expect lots of photos of bread experimentation here)
  • The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (as above)
  • Gaia’s Garden
  • The Encyclopedia of Country Living (most books that try to cover such a wide range of topics only touch the surface of each, but at a glance this looks really useful)

I’ll spare you Experimental Design with Applications in Marketing and Service Operations and I’m not sure this blog is the place for Dawkins either, but they’ll can help keep my mind active.