Brilliant Course

Simon and Judi came over from Dublin to do my Introduction to Sourdough course, a “one day” course over two days (two hours mixing doughs afternoon day one/five or so hours baking day two, fun and pizza lunch included).

They came with intent, as you might say. Being busy people with family and work commitments they don’t often get to take even short breaks away on their own, so they were intent on squeezing every bit out of their 48 hours. Simon researches bread courses in Ireland and the UK, likes my approach and the fact they can get individual tuition, and books the course. Then, determined to have the best possible time for the two of them, he checks out Michelin starred restaurants and books into a small hotel in Corwen. Then he uses his charm to subvert my timetable (don’t ever try this on me) so the start on day one is earlier to fit in with the boat, and the start on day two is much later so they get to have a good lie in and don’t have too much time between the course end and the ferry back.

So I admire them for that aspect of their trip but also for their determination to get the most out of the course. They are going home with four small Pain de Campagnes, large Multigrain, 5 Seed with Spelt, two Classics, two Black Olives, a Cherry Tomato Focaccia, a Red Grape Focaccia, five baguettes + an assortment of rolls + a box of high hydration pizza dough and some starter. But this lot is going straight into the freezer and their intention is to bake the very next day while the techniques they have just learned are fresh in their memories. Phew!

Great time, lovely people.

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Pain Hirigoyen

Now this is what you call a cheese stall:

Actually it’s less than a quarter of Cremerie Nicole Hirigoyen on the market in Arcachon. Mme Hirigoyen sadly died while we were on holiday a few weeks back. She’d been on the market for decades and, although we never had a conversation, in a sort of way we knew each other fairly well. Her expression didn’t give much away but she remembered us and you could see her thinking, they’re back again, and patiently taking our order despite our crap French.

The last loaf I made before we came back to Wales used up whatever flour I had left, proportionate to the amounts remaining: approximately T130 Seigle 50%, T65 Froment 20%, T110 Wheat 30%.  Given that it was determined by what was available it came out pretty well.

So when we were back in Bethesda I recreated it and named it in memory of Nicole Hirgoyen because it goes extremely well with cheese, not that the French would eat their cheese with bread.

Pain Hirigoyen.- Strong White 20.0%, Wholemeal Wheat 30.0%, Wholemeal Rye 50.0%, Water 66.5%, Starter 28.0%, Salt 1.6%.

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Dead Starter

Steffi came round for dinner Friday night. She shamefacedly admitted she’d killed her starter – she did a sourdough course with me several weeks ago. I couldn’t be angry with her – she had a bottle of finest pear schnapps in one hand and red wine in the other. Plus I didn’t believe her starter was dead.

To be fair, nothing looks deader than a starter that has been neglected for several weeks.

A lifeless putty-like mass covered with a layer a of grey liquid – you can understand that someone relatively inexperienced would think it was beyond redemption. So, while she and the remains of the bottle of schnapps are partying with friends down in Birmingham, all I I’ve had to do was pour off the liquid, scrape off the top layer and stir in equal weights of flour and water. That was Saturday morning.

By Saturday evening you’d have thought it had been lovingly nurtured all its life …

It’s very hard to kill off a starter.

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Well that five weeks went fast.

You remember last year’s report on the state of Arcachon’s bakeries. Here’s the update.

First the good news. The boulanger from La Chocolatine who got himself run over and hospitalised is well back at work:
I don’t know how he does it. He works from morning til night in this tiny space, does most of the serving himself, doesn’t seem to have an apprentice and is unrelentingly cheerful. He also usually has a queue:
And proud of his heritage.

L’Amandine, which was probably the smartest bakery in town, closed last year:
Well, it could have been McDonalds …

Ty Pain is still unoccupied.

Douceurs de Louise, which was a bit fey and lasted only a couple of years, is now even stranger:
They only sell these confections a bit smaller than a tennis ball that are crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside. But people were queuing out of the door that Sunday … what do I know about business?

This one is doing something right:
Been around some years now and always has a queue. But fancy having to state the dough is mixed, shaped and baked on the premises. Lots of chilled and frozen dough in France.

On the other hand, just around the corner:
Was fitted out as a bakery and sandwich bar only a couple of years back. Seems to have gone.

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First Breads

Well we’ve been in Arcachon for twelve days already and haven’t been slouching in the baking department.

Set a new record: arrived Sunday evening, refreshed starter with flour cunningly stashed in hold baggage (only a couple of hundred grams), baked first loaf Monday evening.

I bet you think that’s a Pane Pugliese. Well it’s not. It’s a Pain de Campagne masquerading as a Pugliese. And for all you bakers who think you need a high hydration for an open crumb – this is slightly under 60%.

Next up, Einkorn.

Found a bag of Petit Epautre Integrale (einkorn) down the local Bio shop. Found a formula that I hadn’t baked for about a decade lurking in the spreadsheets and proceeded to screw it up. With starter at 153% I should have treated it as an overnight sponge followed by a single rise. But I made up the starter and gave it eight hours, made up the dough and refrigerated it overnight (fridge much too cold) and then proved it.

Tasted great but when I can afford another bag of flour (500g cost as much as I sell a loaf for) I’ll give it another try.

Followed by a good old fashioned Classic (T65 & T110 flours)

Ist pizza:

I still don’t know where I can buy a better pizza than I make.

With the scrap leftover pizza dough (80% hydration) about three days in the fridge, stumpy rustic baguettes, proved as long as it took for the oven to heat up.

Finally (so far), I was just knocking another Classic dough to keep in the fridge when Sue persuaded me to turn it into Olive Bread with the wonderful Greek cured olives from the market.

I attempted a new sort of single strand braid from memory – I think it only half came off.

Meanwhile, while we huddle round the oven, half of Girondes vines have been destroyed or seriously damaged by frost …

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Cloche Encounters II

The Mark II model from Crochendy Bethesda Pottery – well, same dome, new base. As well as being beautiful it works great. After a couple of tests I reckon 800g dough is about the maximum it will take (670g loaf weight).
New version, with slightly larger dome, on sale in the pottery 40 Bethesda High Street (07952 153955) £65.00 – a great present for the baker in your life.

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Simplicity is beauty in bread:
Orange & Cumin Flatbread

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