So. Brown bread. This was a nemesis of mine for a while in as far as it can be a little trickier to pull off than a white loaf, but still very achievable for a beginner. Brown flour contains less gluten and so is less stretchy and therefore a bit different to knead, and will rise a lot less. You can of course add gluten, but I personally feel as though this rather defeats the object of making it for yourself.
Getting the flour
On this occasion the baking represents an actual adventure in Bruntonia. The husband was back from university for the bank holiday weekend, and I felt like getting out and doing something, so we cycled to Anglesey Abbey. This is something like 6 miles outside of Cambridge, and a marvellous example of an English stately home. The house there is beautiful, but the real triumph is the grounds and gardens. Having risked the hayfever long enough, we also went to visit the Lode Mill.
There has been a mill on the site for around 1000 years, the current mill is around 300 years old and a masterpiece of restorative work. Most of the workings of the mill are still original, and still being used. You can buy freshly ground flour from there, which I was of course, super excited about. I talked off the ear of the poor guy in the mill about the absorbency of the flour (makes a huge difference to the amount of liquid you need to add!) as well as the fineness of the flour, which was very impressive. The other important aspect is the ratio of white to brown flour – as I have mentioned, brown flour isn’t as gluten-y, so a good way to compromise delicious wholegrain goodness and a loaf that doesn’t resemble a rock is to mix it with a bit of white flour. In this case, I recommend about 1:2 white to brown flour, but it is of course down to personal taste.
Anyhoo, having been escorted away from the mill (you have honestly never seen someone so excited about a bag of flour…) we went to the cafe and tried some cream tea and scones baked with lode mill flour (it was the jubilee weekend after all!). I was suitably impressed, and have made a couple of loaves of bread with my flour since. It is mega delicious, but I have to make it last until I feel ready to take a 12 mile round trip on the pushbike to get some more!
We also signed up to the National Trust as members while we were there, cementing the idea that Chris and I are basically old people already. All the same, their membership is bargainously discounted, especially for young people.
- 300g strong brown flour
- 150g strong white bread flour
- 30g cake yeast / 1 tbsp dried active yeast / 2 7g sachets ready yeast
- 150 ml warm milk
- 150 ml warm water
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- seeds (optional)
If using dried active or cake yeast, you should start with this first. Cake yeast will need to be mixed with 1 tsp sugar. It starts life as a block, but as you mash in the sugar, it will go to a runny liquid. Add the warm milk and whisk together, then give 15-20 mins to wake it up. For dried active yeast, add 1 tsp sugar and the warm milk, and do the same.
Mix together your dry ingredients, then add the yeast mix and the water. Then it’s time to knead baby! Kneading is stretching out the dough – stretch but don’t break it. My fresh flour had an almost sandy texture, but absorbed liquid well to make a beautifully smooth dough. You can read my original bread-baking post here (includes guide to kneading) or watch this video here. It will take a good ten minutes.
Roll the dough up to a ball and lightly oil it. Put it in a bowl covered in a damp cloth for about an hour and a half, or until double the size. Then knock the air out of it, and lightly knead again. At this stage I like to knead in 2tbsp each of sesame, poppy, and sunflower seeds, leaving a few to scatter on top once it’s in the tin. Put into a lightly oiled tin and leave for a further 45 mins to 1 hour.
Bake at 220*c for 10 minutes, then bake at 180*c for a further 15. I then take it out of the tin and bake for another 5 mins to get a good crispy crust.
Leave it to cool and then chow down!
Finally… the wine
The wine has been a bit of an adventure in as far as it got a little mould on the surface. Not the end of the world, provided it hasn’t taken hold too much. It’s normally a natural yeast, which normally has poor attenuation and will die off as soon as it gets alcoholic, so I’ve given it two chances. Anyway, I sterilised a bucket, cloth and a demijohn, and strained off the flowers, raisins and citrus through the muslin. I then siphoned it off into the demijohn, by far the easiest way is with a siphon tube. Just sterilise it first! It will now sit there with a fermentation lock on top and bubble about for another 3 weeks, or until fermentation finishes. I’ll update you then!
p.s. I’ve made more cordial
I thought I had way too much, but it turns out I don’t. There;s still loads of elderflowers, so I’m making a top up!