Tag Archives: Goals

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.

A month of only water

Water dropsThis challenge to drink only water for a whole month is proving to be really, really hard. So this quote found on Explore is a welcome motivator…

[T]he real value of a real education [has] almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

‘This is water.’

‘This is water.’

It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true: your education really IS the job of a lifetime.

Goal: learn about and make my own dairy products

I am a big dairy fan.

I love cheese, I could eat it every day. (Maybe I will – there is always a cheese course whenever we eat in France.)

I love to bake with yoghurt but also enjoy it with stewed fruits or accompanying the many Persian dishes that my Mother makes.

And who could resist delicious bread smeared with salted butter, or tender, buttered vegetables such as asparagus or green beans?

For my birthday last year Shake bought me Ashley English’s book “Home Dairy”.
Not only would it make economic sense to be able to make our own, but I’m sure it will be lots of fun too!

I haven’t yet read too much of the book, but from what I have seen so far I think it will be a great guide and is also full of lots of lovely looking recipes – Strawberry, Chevre and Balsamic Ice Cream? Yes please!

Again, once we are settled in our new home I will keep you updated with my progress.

My parents have friends who keep goats so I’m already looking forward to homemade goats cheese, honey and my darling Shake’s sourdough bread with lots of ground black pepper! (We first tasted this wonderful combination here on our anniversary last year)


Goal: Learn to sew


SEW Hip! Strips & Bricks © by Sewing Daisies

I know goals are important, from both a business and a personal perspective, but I’ve always had a hard time setting them for myself.

Before Shake and I decided to move to France, we would spend time thinking about how we wanted to live our lives, what our days would look like. This felt easy and I could really picture our future together. Most of my goals relate to day-to-day skills I would like to learn and one day share with our son.

Learning to sew

I would love to be able to create something new, as well as mend what we already have. We would love to be as self-sufficient as possible and I see this as a very small step towards this. Obviously I don’t yet have the skills to create fabrics or thread, but if I could use what is around us, that would be great!

I think I have an old sewing machine from my Great-Aunt in France and once we are settled I will dig it out and see what I can do with it. I imagine I will be watching many youtube tutorials and asking lots of people for help!

It would also be wonderful to sew by hand, and maybe this would be the best place to start?

There have been two Soule Mama posts recently which have inspired me to sew even more.

How proud would I be (in many years’ time!) if I had taught my son such skills that he could simply run off and create something practical to fulfill a need of his!?

In the short term, I really want to make a similar book to this for him for his first birthday – just over 9 months to go!

If you can recommend any good books, videos or websites to help me to learn to sew, I’d be really grateful if you would leave a comment!


Goal: Carving spoons and other useful things

In our new life, I plan to make more time for spoon carving.

I’ve done a bit in the past, but my tools are now in France so I’m itching to get back to them.

Shoehorns I carved for Christmas presents last year (Lime and Hazel)

Spoon carving is not and never will be a job for me. It’s a craft, or maybe a hobby; an alternative to television that’s infinitely more engaging and rewarding. It’s a great way to pass a winter evening by the fire, or a summer evening in the garden.

With a small hatchet and a couple of knives that I’ve learnt to sharpen myself, I can turn a branch into a tool. And in doing so, I can show my son something of the real value of human time. The pure economic madness of carving your own utensils is itself a challenge to the madness of ‘pure’ economics. Because time is not valued only in terms of money. In carving spoons (or other utensils for that matter) there is experience, history, skill, resilience, self-satisfaction, art, relaxation, meditation, utility, exercise (mental and physical) and the ever present chance of cutting off your opposable thumb if you don’t pay the job enough respect. I concentrate when I’m coding websites, but never like I do when I’m swinging an axe to carve a spoon.

One day I hope to be as good as this:

This learning is not to be rushed.

Shake out.

Goal: Building a brick oven

Following my review of Your Brick Oven, I thought I’d write a little on my plans for building an oven once we get to France.

The smallish clay oven I built previously.

The in-laws have already asked me to build a big clay oven in the courtyard of their group gite (holiday home), but I’ll put the idea of the brick oven to them instead on the grounds of its longevity. Clay ovens are best suited to communities with lots of clay, not many bricks and enough skills across the generations to maintain and patch them up year after year. While building with clay is a wonderful (but knackering) process a well built brick oven could last decades rather than years.

There are plans to renovate another of the empty buildings as a sort-of restaurant dining room where big groups can cook and eat together, so that feels like a sensible site for the oven. Though it will be built outside, I’d like an oven door to be accessible from inside the building for baking during the winter. While my previous clay oven worked well enough at Christmas time in the rain, it wasn’t so much fun running in and out the house with the dough.

I’m picturing using the oven in a couple of scenarios.

Here's a crude sketch I did on my phone to illustrate

Firstly, I want a big oven that’s suitable for cooking dinner for a group of twenty or more guests at any one time – good enough for a small restaurant or a big dinner party. This would take a lot of wood to heat up so you once it’s lit you use the heat for cooking a whole load of meals for the week ahead. Basically spending a whole day cooking food and using the changing temperatures of the oven as it slowly cools, like they did in the old days. Pizza, bread, roasts, cakes, drying herbs etc.

I’d also like the option of baking bread during the week without using all the fuel needed to soak (that’s wood oven lingo) the big party sized oven. So I’m thinking of building a double oven. One big and one small right next to each other.


Goal: Building a shaving horse

This goal is nice and simple; build one of these:

19th century knowledge carpentry and woodworking shaving horse 1

This has been on my todo list for a while, but it wasn’t worth starting once we began planning our move to France.

After I’ve knocked one of these together, I’m looking forward to working with the draw knife that came with my Erik Frost carving set. It’s been untouched until now as no modern clamps or tools do quite the job quite as well as an old fashioned shaving horse.

And if I recall, I think there were shaving horse plans in my favourite book, William Copperthwaite’s ‘A Handmade Life‘, so this feels like a good time for a quote:

“I want to live in a society where people are intoxicated with the joy of making things.” -William Coperthwaite

Shake out.

A goal: Learn French well

Livres anciens © by zigazou76

This one is a little more obvious maybe, but I hope to learn French; not just well, but really well (eventually).

Right now I’m practising the basics every day as I drive to and from work and in the next couple of months I hope a little more will settle in my mind.

A quick tip: I ripped my French with Michel Thomas CD’s to iTunes and interspersed a selection of French language music between each track to break up the spoken word and spend some time tuning my ear into listening. This made it much easier to listen to the CDs day after day – especially when I’m tired and driving home from the office.

The good news is I have time. I have as long as it takes our little one to learn to speak, and then as long as it takes him to delve into the depths of literature on offer, to get up to the same level. I think that should be OK with a sustained effort and I’d hate to not be able to talk about great books and the beauty of language with him.

Reading and writing is hugely important to me in English, and in the long run I hope to find the same pleasure in the French language. It’s exciting to think about how many new books there will be to explore!

À bientôt


This week

I almost didn’t meet my first goal!

Next week I will have to focus a little harder in those spare moments when baby is sleeping, maybe leave the folding of nappies or that much needed shower for a later time, when Shake is home ;)

20120422-124759.jpg – as of this week we are smiling!

There are a few items that have caught my bleary eyes during the week that I thought I would share:

Our friends made us a variation of this cake - delicious! I’m dying to make my own and will share with you when I do.

With our impending move, I love reading about facts and figures on France. I especially like point 36!

In the past 3 weeks we have been to two weddings here, with baby(!), both of which were beautiful and ridiculously happy days :) The food was extremely impressive, seasonal with high quality ingredients. I especially enjoyed the desert for the ladies – elderflower jelly with seasonal berries, lemon posset, meringue and vanilla ice cream, served in a Le Parfait preserving jar (the men had deconstructed millionaire’s shortbread, in case you were wondering).

As a new mother, lists such as this catch my eye, although they don’t always make me feel better!

Wishing you a lovely week


Making time

Just over 5 weeks ago we had a baby :)

He is an absolute dream come true, but I now wonder what on earth we did before he was here?

It has been far too long since my first/last post but I’m not sure why. I love the thought of this blog and what it represents and it will be a lovely space to share our new adventures.

So, in line with Shake’s goals I am going to make more time to blog and try not to use our little man as an excuse. My goal will be to blog at least twice a week, initially.

Wish me luck!



Baby Bake n Shake