Today is 2 July 2012, Wimbledon is on. There is a hint of rain.
I am baking bread in the Panasonic breadmaker. Yesterday, I fixed the light switch in the cooker fan by by-passing it so it works from the wall switch. The lavender on my 5th floor, slightly windy and chilly, balcony is just turning out its purple flowers, while the orchid (sitting on my piano) is an impressive waterfall of blooms, 18 inches of white and deep pink. I am hoping to grow Miscanthus Sinensis, a large grass, from seed for my windy balcony. World Botanics is the name on the seed packet, and I also chose Strelitzia Reginae, to try - check back!
Today is 22 February 2013. Well, the grasses grow slowly and don't like drafts (it dries them out at a delicate stage). They are only a few inches. The orchid has worked well, just don't overwater it as it lives in trees and gets moisture mostly from the air. There is a great display of them in Kew Gardens in London's Richmond area.
The bread - that was yeast bread I was making. But I have developed a good recipe for Irish soda bread:
brown flour (coarse, normal [no need for strong flour) 450 grams
white flour (plain or self-raising) 50 grams
bread soda (bicarbonate of soda) 15 grams/1.5 teaspoons
salt (good mineral salt preferably) 10 grams/1 teaspoon
Mix the above well.
Butter 20 grams - rub this in.
Yogurt (can make from milk) 500 millilitres
Molasses sugar (a treacle-like liquid, optional, adds colour and flavour) 1 tsp
Mix well (takes time).
Seeds and bits:
Sunflower seeds 25 grams (these go green in the final baked loaf)
Apricot or date pieces 25 grams (adds flavour bits and colour)
Pinhead oatmeal 25-50 grams (adds texture)
Mix these into the yogurt, rather than the dry ingredients (helps with mixing the molasses sugar in the yogurt, also allows you to see that butter is well mixed into dry ingredients)
Well oil a pan* and dredge with flour.
Pre-heat oven to 220C.
Mix yogurt etc into dry ingredients by folding in, ie mix dry/wet well but not more than necessary. If it is very wet, add some more pinhead oatmeal - do this as soon as it appears to you it is too wet. This is a wet mix, use spatula etc not your hands. Dump into prepared pan. With a knife make a cross in the bread so that the heat can get into the bread more evenly. Cook for 15 minutes at 220C and 40 minutes at 120C. Allow a while for bread to come away from the pan, and allow time for the bread to cool down if you wish to avoid it 'rolling' when cut. After an hour or two, it will cut with a nice texture and a little crumb coming from the shortening butter in it.
Brown bread goes well with butter, marmalade, smoked salmon or other fish.
Oh, the yogurt. It provides a softer texture to the bread than buttermilk, but for a cheaper option than buying (and the expensive probiotics and healthy bacteria probably don't survive the cooking anyway), make it using about 620 mls of milk, heat in microwave to 83 degrees C (850 watt microwave takes about 6-6.5 minutes). You need to add just a drop of live yogurt to the milk at 42 degrees and keep in a thermos at that temperature for about 7-9 hours without opening. Do not re-heat as it will split. I cool it from 83 down to 42 degrees in a metal pan in a basin of cold water - this is for speed and to reduce any bacteria from the air starting to get into the sterlilised milk. I also pre-heat the thermos, add the milk, check the temperature, then add a drop of the yogurt - all for accuracy, as you don't want to kill your starter. The milk will have a skin on the top, which is obviously harmless but either discard or incorporate, as it does not fall apart. The yogurt will keep in the fridge for a number of days, but will then start smelling increasingly suspect as it goes off. The funny thing is that you can make nice fresh smelling yogurt with a drop of even slightly old yogurt, as if the culturing works to maximise the good bacteria selectively, which is another reason I only use a very small amount of starter yogurt - to leave behind anything else.