Becoming a Bread Angel

I spent a fabulous two days with Bread Angel Juli Farkas a couple of weeks ago and learned SO MUCH about baking bread.  As I am planning to sell beer bread at the Hammerton Brewery once a month, I thought I should get my act together and take the Setting Up a Micro-Bakery Course.  It was utterly brilliant.

Before I met Juli, we exchanged some emails about how much bread baking experience I had, and what I wanted to get from the course.  When Juli heard that I was planning on making bread with beer she was on the case STAT, rummaging around in her bread books for recipes.  So the first thing we did when I got to her lovely welcoming kitchen was to make a beer barm from a bottle of Hammerton’s Life on Mars to a Dan Lepard recipe…

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If only I had Smellovision installed on my blog, this smelled DIVINE.  We were excited to see how the bread made with this turned out, and it was SO GOOD.  I’m fiddling around with the recipe, but the Loaf on Mars (geddit?) made to this method will definitely be on the menu for the brewery.  Here are a few loaves I made last week…

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My slashing pattern for the Loaf on Mars is a zigzag…

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ha ha!  Every time I bake it now, I will have some Bowie on the stereo…

At Juli’s house over two days we drank a lot of tea, ate stacks of her delicious bread, and made A LOT OF LOAVES…

Here are a few photos from the weekend…

I was very pleased with my plaiting!
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Loved Juli’s bread book with all her formulas…
This photo will probably only make sense to sourdough nuts like me...
This photo will probably only make sense to sourdough nuts like me…
That bread's got my name on it!
That bread’s got my name on it!
Apricot and hazelnut bread
Apricot and hazelnut bread
Just a few of the loaves I made over the weekend...
Just a few of the loaves I made over the weekend…
Juli and me
Juli and me

I am so pleased to have met Juli and spent two days at her lovely home gossiping about bread, making bread and eating bread.  What a weekend!  She has kindly invited me back this Wednesday for some “shape and slash” training.  Can’t wait…

There’s a sweet post on the Virtuous Bread site welcoming me to the Bread Angels fold and I am loving being part of this community so much.  If you want to learn about making bread or are thinking of setting up a micro-bakery,  I cannot recommend Juli’s courses highly enough.  If you would like to know more about the Bread Angels movement, click here…

The motto of the Bread Angels is “Bake Well.  Do Good.”  I love it.

Like the Brownie Guides would say, I promise that I will do my best…

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Ziggy Stardust Cake

I’ve called this Ziggy Stardust Cake because I used Hammerton’s Life on Mars and man, oh man, was it good? Yes! It was the best fruit cake I have ever tasted. I am not exaggerating. Mr Rathbone said the same.

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Plus, it won first prize in the fruit cake category at the Muswell Hill and District Horticultural Society Spring Show.  I was so proud!

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It is the best. And it lasts forever.* I am going to tweak the cooking time now that I understand how my oven works.  I baked my cake at 150 degrees rather than 160 for an hour and 15 minutes – so a lower temperature and 15 minutes shorter than the recipe suggested.  I’m finally getting to know the oven.  We are almost on speaking terms now…

Also, next time I’m going to replace the figs with something else, as I’m not mad on the gritty texture of figs.  The mixture looked very pretty as I was making it…  It’s rich enough to be a Christmas Cake for sure.

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This recipe is adapted from the Trappist fruit cake recipe in Paul Mercurio’s Cooking With Beer cookbook.

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I highly recommend this brilliant book, as Paul puts it: “If there’s liquid in a recipe, it might as well be beer”. There are lots more recipes in this book I want to try, and I’ll be posting about his divine chocolate brownie recipe soon…

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Who would have thought someone who does such a beautiful pasodoble could be such a genius cook too?

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Ziggy Stardust Cake

125g unsalted butter, chopped

185g dark brown sugar

375g mixed dried fruit

100g dried cranberries

50g dried figs, chopped small

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

60ml sherry

250ml Hammerton’s Life on Mars

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

100g macadamia nuts, chopped

150g plain (all-purpose) flour

150g self-raising flour

Preheat the oven to 160 C (325 F / Gas mark 2-3).  Grease a 22 cm (8.5 inch) cake tin and line the base and sides with baking paper, letting the paper extend about 1 inch higher than the rim of the tin.

Place butter, sugar, dried fruits, spices, bicarbonate of soda, sherry and beer in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Stir to combine, bring to boil.  Remove from heat and stir again to ensure that the butter and sugar are melted.  Pour mixture into a large bowl and allow to cool.  Once mixture is lukewarm, add the eggs and nuts and mix through.

Put all the flower in a bowl, and stir to combine.  Fold the flour through the fruit until well incorporated.  Spoon the batter into the cake tin and bake for 1 and 1/2 hours or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Remove from the oven, carefully remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

  • Paul notes that you should allow the cake to fully cool before you cut it.  He also says that the cake will keep for a week, mine was still good after a week, plus I popped a chunk in the freezer as it was a HEFTY cake.  I’ll report back about how it freezes.  Yum, yum.

Thank you Paul Mercurio for your lovely cake recipe, and thank you David Bowie for the music.  Next time I make this, I’m going to listen to the whole The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars album while I am baking…

Ziggy Stardust