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Sourdough proving

I’ve probably said it before, but Mr Rigg is the baker in our family.  I think mainly because I just told him he was going to be, and he’s got on with it, and does it quite well now.  It’s one of those skills that improves each time you do it, so it doesn’t make sense for me to attempt a handmade loaf of bread (I’m sure I could manage the ‘bung the ingredients in the bread machine’ version).

For his birthday, I bought Mr Rigg a kilner jar of sourdough started from Hobbs House Bakery.  With me attempting to avoid yeast as much as possible, I really wanted to encourage him to try a sourdough, and we are now onto our third loaf.

Homemade sourdough bread fresh from the oven

The first couple we had teething issues with – Mr Rigg and I both like to try something once and be perfect at it instantly, or we usually give up.  They seem to cook too quickly on the outside but not on the middle, they were still too undercooked in the centre, and just general niggles like that.

I’m pleased to say Mr Rigg has persevered, and last week’s loaf was a great improvement.  As you can see in the pictures above and below, it rose well in the oven and had a good texture inside.  Right in the middle we discovered it was still a little sticky and could have baked for a little longer – but we are learning, and improving, and most importantly not giving up.

Homemade sourdough

The only downside is that I’m finding it difficult to cut out wheat with all this delicious bread floating around the kitchen, something I’m attempting to do as part of my pregnancy.  I’m determined that my final month of being pregnant will be wheat and gluten free, so perhaps we won’t be baking in August.

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Picnic in the Dordogne

If you’re still following along with our travels in the Dordogne – thank you!  You are very patient, but I do hope that you are enjoying it or gleaning some information if you are planning a trip there yourself.  I find personal blogs one of the best ways to find information about a new place we are travelling to, they are so much more insightful that generic tourist websites.

So, every morning that we got ready to leave our lovely little gite, we had this little friend to help…

Holiday in the Dordogne

Hehe, isn’t she sweet?

Little French dog

A leisurely morning was spent finishing up spelt sourdough bread spread with local honey, and picking up provisions from the market at Excideuil.  This was a very good market, spread out along a long street and up to a square.

Market at Excideuil

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After much umming and aahing we finally decided to go crazy and get ourselves a breadmaker.  I have been scouring Amazon reviews and settled on this Panasonic one which we picked up this afternoon from the Trafford Centre.  We’ve never used one before, previously making bread with only pure muscle power and the oven, but have decided to go for a breadmaker for the following reasons:

1) We want to be able to control exactly what goes into our bread.

2) We want to feel less reliant on supermarket/cornershop bread in an emergency – i.e. when we realise there’s no bread for breakfast or sandwiches, we want to know we can set this going before bed and wake up with a warm loaf of wholesome bread.

3) We want to have some fun and try out some interesting bread flours, which ordinarily we might not have done – the breadmaker, in theory, will make it easier to do this.

I’ll keep you posted on our attempts!

Following yesterday’s post on processing large amounts of pumpkin puree, we put the first lot to use in a Pumpkin Cinnamon Spice Bread.  I followed a recipe from Sunny Side Up in San Diego for Pull-Apart Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Bread.

Originally the recipe came from this Pumpkin Spice Pull-Apart Bread with Butter Rum Glaze created by Willow Bird Baking – a brilliant blog full of delicious sounding recipes.

It is such a delicious, soft bread that I will definitely be making it again – I would like to try it with less sugar and more pumpkin though. It involves making a bread dough that has the pumpkin puree in, then rolling this out, brushing it with butter and covering in a sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg mix.

You get to then press it in with your fingers…

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Tonight we had to make something quick as Mr Rigg was heading out for a bike ride with Buddy.  So I made our favourite scrambled eggs on delicious Campanou bread (a French country style loaf) from Barbakan.

I boiled some asparagus, fried mushrooms in butter and added some pretty pink thyme flowers, before lightly frying the asparagus in the mushroom pan to give it a bit of glisten!  All on top of the scrambled eggs and soft bread it was lovely.

This is a fantastic new website with a map tool to help you find ‘real bread’ and locally produced flour near you.  Just pop in your postcode and it shows you places nearby that sell high quality bread and local flour. 

Here’s my map (click on it for a larger version):

There’s some places I’ve not heard of before that I’d like to go, and there’s some places that I knew baked their own bread, but I didn’t know how good they were at sourcing local ingredients.  This website gives you a series of ‘ticks’ for most places next to each of their loaves of bread.

The Smokehouse near us looks like this (click on it for a larger version)…

Website: www.realbreadcampaign.org

For Christmas Eve dinner we like to eat a baked Camembert and nothing else.  It is pure indulgence and feels very wicked, but it is a tradition of our own making and it feels like something special.

We bake the Camembert in its box – just take the lid off and pull open the paper.  This time I scored the cheese with a cross, added a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a garlic clove, sliced in half and wedged into the cut cheese. 

After about 15-20 minutes it comes out as gooey liquid cheese encased in its rind – which is my favourite part of it.  It goes a bit crispy but chewy at the same time.

Usually we just have a bowl of rustic bread, roughly cut into hunks to dip into the cheese.  This year we also opened a jar of Real Ale chutney to go with it. 

Although I can be a purist when it comes to dishes like this, refusing to dilute the taste of hot runny cheese and bread, I must admit a dab of chutney with it was delicious.

We ate it in front of a cosy log fire…

Does anyone else have Christmas traditions they’ve created for themselves?

Mr Rigg is home from work, we’ve got the Christmas carol’s on, the Camembert is out of the fridge ready for tonight’s baked Camembert cheese fondue, and I am feeling tremendously Christmassy.

Our night before Christmas involves eating a lot of gooey cheese with chunks of sourdough bread and going to midnight mass at our favourite little village church in Dunham Massey.  And we have snow.

Wishing everyone a very happy night before Christmas!

Image: Pretty Little Green Things

What to eat for lunch when the fridge is almost bare?  My solution is homemade hummous and toasted pitta bread – all which can be made from what’s in my cupboards and freezer.

My homemade hummous is inspired by some my friend Jane made – it’s a simple matter of whizzing together a tin of chickpeas and olive oil, with lemon juice, garlic, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. 

Today I’ve used 1 medium garlic clove, juice of about 1 small lemon (I find getting the amount of lemon juice right is what makes or breaks this hummous), and about a teaspoon of ground cumin.

Today I’m eating my hummous with toasted pitta breads from the freezer.  Pitta breads freeze fantastically and I always try to have a packet in the freezer ready to toast whenever I’m out of fresh bread. 

They can be easily popped in a toaster or if, like me, you are toaster-less, simply bung them under a hot grill for a couple of minutes on each side.  Beware of hot steam escaping from the pittas once toasted!

Here’s me eating my lunch in my not-so-romantic working space…

I am behind on sharing the good meals that we’ve been eating this week – mainly thanks to an inspiration visit to Bath Farmer’s Market last weekend.

This type of meal – nibbly bits, antipasto, food to share – is one of my favourites.  It always starts off feeling like a bit boring, eating up leftovers, making something out of odd bits in the fridge, but then it usually turns out wonderful.

We had melting delicious Coppa, Homewood Old Demdike ewe’s cheese and a candy stripe beetroot salad all from Bath Farmer’s Market.  The beetroot I sliced thinly, spread on a plate and lightly drizzled with olive oil, a spritz of lemon juice and some black pepper.

There was tiny slithers of garlic salami from Abbey Leys Farmer’s Market, and a tomato salad with quick-pickled shallot, black olives and capers.  You can quickly take the tang out of raw onions in a salad, by chopping them finely and soaking them in vinegar for 10-15 minutes before you need to use them.

Accompanied by the flowerpot loaf from Bath Farmer’s Market and some good quality salty butter, it was a quick but tasty dinner.  Not at all boring.

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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