We had a bit of unpleasantness on the blog a couple of days ago. I’ve always answered people’s questions as honestly as possible regardless of whether or not they’ve bought my books. But someone popped up and asked about the problems s/he was having with recipes from two top-selling books by other authors. That strikes me as being slightly cheeky and I enquired as to why the question hadn’t been put to the prestigious authors rather than to me.
Not only did this bring a pretty snotty response but I was also pounced upon by a thundering Northern Ireland cleric, who writes like Dr Paisley Snr. on speed, and who never seems to have decided whether to love or loathe me. I conclude he’s finally opted for the the latter and won’t be coming on a Microbakery course after all.
Much as I hate censorship I thought I just don’t want this rubbish on my blog and deleted the posts.
I hope this doesn’t put people off asking questions or making contributions to the blog – you don’t need to buy books from me to do so.
Meanwhile, back in Bethesda, we were getting on with more constructive, positive and enjoyable activities – enjoyable but knackering. At the end of last week we ran our first two day sourdough course using the world famous Bethesda Rugby Club kitchens. The logistics of doing this in someone else’s premises is pretty daunting but at least I now have a load of kit down there for next time. Working with other people is a joy – it’s always a two way process, not simply the teacher and the taught. First time too for the rugby club and they forgot to put the heating on. It was perishing. We had a couple of burners lit on the big Falcon six-burner all day. I had to pop out briefly and when I returned every one had their hands up in the air – they hadn’t gone all happy-clappy on me, they were warming their hand in the heat trapped by the ceiling! Thought I’d take advantage of the temperature and have a couple of loaves proving overnight outside the fridge to compare with doughs fermenting inside the fridge. What happens? Someone from the club kindly comes down in the evening and puts on the heat for us. Result? Overblown balloons of dough that deflated when turned out of the baskets. BUT, one of the students immediately said, that’s exactly where I’ve been going wrong, I’ve been over-proving my doughs. So she learned something and anyway the doughs picked themselves to become just-about-acceptable loaves. And everyone went home happy at the end of the second, and much warmer, day.
This was rapidly followed by a Microbakery course with Adam Newey. Adam who was at the first three Bethesdabakin’ events, produced the Guardian baking supplement from a few years back in which he described me as “Mick Hartley the sourdough genius”. I ruined the effect immediately by repeating it as sourdough genious. I only just discovered this nearly gave him a heart attack because he thought it was his spelling mistake – the ultimate sin for an editor – even in the Guardian.
We had an excellent couple of days. My deliberate mistakes? Well, all the customers get a free baguette when we have a guest baker to give the student the opportunity of shaping baguettes in quantity. I was just drifting off to sleep at the end of day one thinking, that went pretty well, when I suddenly realised – no baguette dough. So I was up at 5.30 a.m. mixing dough before Adam arrived for day two. Then, first bake, I discovered I hadn’t turned on one of the two ovens. I discovered this when the dough was in and I sprayed the sides and realised the fan was pushing round cold air. So rather than remove the dough and heat the oven we tried baking from a cold start. And, what did we find? The bread baked in the same time as that in the preheated oven (50 minutes). They didn’t rise as much but, checked with a probe thermometer, they were well up 98C.
Anyway, two really enjoyable courses as opposed to two miserable posters. Top photo a Brioche Provencale Couronne for the daughter of our good friends Nia & Gruff who has just given birth, and below, some of Adam’s breads – including the hastily mixed baguettes: