What a wonderful time it is when the bees and butterflies come out in abundance, for me it is a sign that Spring is finally here. I had seen the odd butterfly before this weekend but they just kept coming and coming, the first one for me was a great big Clouded yellow, it must have over wintered here as we don't normally see them until May. Then it was the usual Peacock and lots of moths which I don't know the names of, I will wait now for my first blue which won't be long now.
As for the bees, I certainly don't know individual species but there was a lovely big queen bee looking for a home, she kept going in and out of our privvy, which is a lovely old building which we use as a log and coal store.A friend of ours keeps bees and I was talking to him about all the activity, he was saying as it has been so mild there has been a lot of activity with his hives already.
As for the bread, I make all of our bread and like to try different ones, I have tried Paul Hollywoods and other sourdough recipes a couple of times, but have never been over impressed with the results. I even bought myself a proper basket to see if that made a difference.( I can no longer use the basket as when we were away last week my son decided to put the oven on with it in the oven, for those that don't know the basket is made of compressed paper- needless to say it burnt, he realised when the fire alarm went off!).
My mum gave me a lovely bread book last year written by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter it is simply called Bread. I have been working my way through trying different recipes so decided to try this Pain De Campagne Rustique which is totally different to any other sourdoughs I have tried.
As it is French they call the starter Chef and it has a really lovely rustic texture and flavour, I did it the once and it was lovely so decided to check it wasn't beginners luck and tried it again, we all decided it was still lovely so am pretty sure it is fail proof so will now share it.You will need to start making it about 4 days before you want to eat it, but it is really worth it.
Pain De Campagne Rustique
For the Chef For the 1st Refreshment
50g wholemeal bread flour 60ml warm water
45ml warm water 75g wholemeal bread flour
For the 2nd Refreshment For the Dough
120ml lukewarm water 150ml-175ml lukewarm water
115g strong white bread flr 350g strong white bread flr
25g wholemeal bread flr 2tsp salt
1 To make the Chef, place the flour in a small bowl, add the water and knead for 3-4 minutes to form a dough, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for 2 days.
2 Pull off the harden crust and discard, then remove 2tbsp of the moist centre ( mine didn't have a moist centre, it will depend on flour so I omitted this)Place in a large bowl and gradually mix in the water for the 1st refreshment
4 For the final stage in the preparation of the dough, gradually mix the water into the levain in the bowl( Only add 150ml and once the flour has been added you will know then if you need the extra water),then gradually mix in the flour and then the salt.Knead for about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.
5 Place the dough in a large lightly oiled bowl, cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place, for 1.5/ 2hrs, or until the dough has almost doubled in bulk.
6 Knock back and cut off 115g ( Set aside for making the next loaf, keep in the fridge for up to three days, used for the 2nd refreshment in place of the levain in step 3). Shape the remaining dough into a ball- you should have about 350g.
7 Line a 4in high round basket or bowl with a dishtowel and dust with flour( I use a muslin cloth),place the dough seam side up. Cover with lightly oiled clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place for 2-3hrs or until doubled in bulk.
8 Preheat the oven to 230C,450F Gas 8,invert the dough onto a baking sheet( I use a stone), sprinkle with flour, slash the top with a sharp knife, 4 times at right angles to each other, to form a square pattern.
9 Sprinkle with a little more flour, then bake for 30-35 minutes or until the loaf has browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, transfer to a wire tray to cool