Thursday, 22 February 2007

The 2 golden rules of how to keep your real bread fresh.

Most of the bread we eat is home baked. There are two reasons for this. Firstly I enjoy making bread, it's just plain good fun. Secondly it tastes better, a good sourdough just can't be bought around here - you have to bake it yourself.

One thing you notice with homebaked bread, even with a robust sourdough, is that it seems to stale more quickly than a sliced white. There are a few reasons for this, mainly to do with strange additives which are in mass produced bread to make it seem fresher. You don't want to know about those if you eat a lot of that kind of bread, you'll just feel bad.

Bottom line is that keeping your bread fresh is a simple matter, boiling down to two simple rules.

RULE ONE : Fridges suck
Do not put your bread in the fridge. Unlike everything else you eat, which is preserved by the cool of the fridge, bread actually stales QUICKER in the fridge. It's all very sciencey to do with chrystalisation of starches. All you need to know is that bread goes stale quickest at 5'C which is probably exactly the temperature of your fridge.

RULE TWO: Plastic bags rule
In addition to the sciencey chrystalisation part, bread can dry out which makes it seem staler. Put your loaf in a plastic bag! The useful pic below should help you understand what this looks like!

Follow my two simple rules and your bread will last longer. I promise.

french country bread in a bag

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Boaters coffee - flavour works at last

This week I've been trying a few of Boaters flavoured coffees. I usually don't like artificial flavours, but for some reason I'm getting hooked on these.

Boaters coffee

Might not seem to be an experiment, but honestly, for coffee purist freaks like me, trying Chocolate Marshmellow Coffee is an experiment and a half.

Boaters coffee

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Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Make a plate!

This is the future. I honestly hope I never have enough free time to build one of these things, because I would. Oh yes I would!

Making plates every time you need them sounds like fun, but where does the left over pasta go? Appeals to the materials chemist in me though. A hack to make this work with old black vinyl records would be sweet though.

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Sunday, 11 February 2007

Hot Buns - Bun in 90 seconds

Camcorders lying in cupboards are a waste of atoms AND electrons. So this afternoons bakeathon needed to be documented, speeded up, and shared with the world.

Here is the recipe:

5g fresh yeast (or about half a 7g packet of dried)
400 grams of water (or 400ml - its the same thing)
150g of Strong wholemeal flour
450g of Strong white flour
about 5g of salt
15g of olive oil (not your good stuff, just olive oil)

Mix everything in a bowl, knead for 10 mins, rise as a single lump for an hour, then proceed as shown in the video, raising the individual buns for about 30-45 mins depending on how warm your kitchen is.

Bake at 220C for 12 - 16 mins

(based on a truncated version of a recipe in the excellent BREAD MATTERS: The State of Modern Bread and a Definitive Guide to Baking Your Own by Andrew Whitley)

UPDATE - Dale over at embedmyvideo has been kind enough to put this up for video of the week. Go look!

Saturday, 10 February 2007

Bird feeder + Webcam + Recog Software = Cool data

It's been snowing for a few days and our garden is amazingly full of birdlife this afternoon. A few attempts with the SD9 to capture a decent pic have left me annoyed and frustrated. A quick surf for some bird photography ideas pops up a Make video for a webcam bird table recipe.

It may have to wait for slightly more clement weather, but I have to build one of these, push the feed through some image / face recognition software and play with recognising the robins from the finches. Flow that data into some tally software and I can build some cool bird table traffic data that even Bill Oddie would be jealous of.

Who needs a leaven: Pasta drying fun

Bread is still king, but sometimes you need your flour to take a more sauce friendly form. Thumbing through Giorgio Locatelli (here) the pasta looked so good I had to make some. But how to dry it. A nice cantilevered arrangement of heat rack, wooden spoons and refridgerator worked pretty well.

The basic kit (+ a half dozen eggs). The pasta machine IS essential btw, without it the stuff is just WAY too chunky.

The sliced up pasta, I got so into the process I totally forgot to take pics ahead of this point.

The general idea can be seen here. Wooden spoons used to pick the pasta up from the slicer attachment, then jammed into the bar above the fridge. Leave overnight.

Look how curly the pasta got. A quick tip if you try this though - put a bowl under your rack, or at least make sure you have a cleared worktop, as a fair amount of the pasta snaps and falls as it dries.

Sunday, 4 February 2007

magnets + blend

Magnets are on my mind a lot justnow, as I'm looking for time and resource for a few projects that are rattling around in my head. Meantime the odd magnet google is all I get to do. Guess what I found! Pointless but fun, normal service resumes next week.

Delia wholemeal bread bizarre flour heating technique

Randomly surfing for bready inspiration I found old school sensible cooking from somehow irresistable. Especially when the intro to one recipe starts "The poet Pam Ayres once said... ". Joy. Her wholemeal loaf has the most bizarre first step ever - warming the flour in the oven. Why not just add hotter water before the yeast is added?