Waiting

Winter is slowly turning into spring here. Lambs are gambolling in the fields, snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils are beginning to poke their heads out of their warm winter beds and the birds are becoming more active as they plan to start their new families. We still have about 6 weeks before our ewes start to lamb, and we are ticking off the days, beginning preparations such as making sure we have all the necessary drugs and supplies, getting all the ewes vaccinated so that they and the lambs stay healthy, and working out which fields each group is going to go to! I am also waiting to find out what’s wrong with my knee. I had the MRI scan last night, so hopefully we will get some answers in about 2 weeks. Whether the news will turn out to be good or bad remains to be seen, but at least we will know what’s actually going on and hopefully have an end in sight.

To keep busy, I’ve started making my own bread. I’d tried in the past and never had a huge amount of success, but after the bread we normally buy went up by 5p a loaf we decided it would be cheaper to make our own. My husband was talking about getting a breadmaker, but I’v had my heart set on a stand mixer for a long time and as they cost about the same (2nd hand) and have far more uses, I persuaded him that was the way to go. I quickly found on, fairly locally, on a preloved selling site, at a decent price and with a huge number of attachments, which appear to be unused and in their original boxes. A few days later, armed with my new mixer and the necessary ingredients, I set about making my first loaf of bread. It had been my birthday recently, the mixer being a sort of birthday present, and my parents had bought me a new set of scales, the type with a dial on the front that weighs in kg and lbs, and a dish that sits on top to hold the ingredients. I put all the ingredients in the mixer bowl and set it going. ‘It shouldn’t be this wet’ I remarked to DH, watching it slop around in the bowl. ‘There’s no way it will be handle-able, maybe the recipe was written down wrong or I shouldn’t have put all the water in’. ‘Just dump some more flour in’, he helpfully replied. I poured in enough extra flour to make the dough at least bind together and hoped we’d get something edible as the result. It rose quite nicely, but by the time it was baked it was about 3 inches high, the flattest loaf of bread I’d ever seen. Despite being more crumpet-like in appearance, with large air holes in every slice, it tasted so much better than the shop-bought loaf. I decided to try again in a day or two but with a difference recipe.

As I sat at the table enjoying a hot cup of tea and reflecting on the bread making experience, I was idly looking at the scales on the table in front of me and thinking that there was a slight design flaw. The kg are marked around the outside and the lbs are marked on the inside of the dial. The needle that points to the weight is fairly wide at the middle and narrows down to a point by the time it hits the kg markings. The only problem is that it is still a bit wide where it points to the lb markings, and it can be hard to see exactly where it is pointing. ‘Well that shouldn’t have been an issue today’, I thought. ‘The weights were all in kg’. A pause, and then, ‘No, I can’t have been that stupid!’. I stared at the scales, thought a moment, then grabbed the half-used bag of flour and weighed it. That confirmed my suspicions. I WAS that stupid. Instead of using a kg of flour, I had used a lb. No wonder it was so wet!

I tried again once we had eaten all the crumpet-loaf, making sure to use the correct amounts this time, and got some sensible, normal bread. I still maintain that my underweighed bread tasted better! We are still in the trialling stage at the moment, but all the bread has been perfectly edible, tasty in fact. The little one actually eats more of the home-made bread than he ever did of the bought stuff. It will take a lot of saved 5p’s to pay for the mixer, but long term I think we’re on to a winner.

Chocolate-Chip Brioche Rolls

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Fresh bread, in my opinion, is one of the best, most comforting and satisfying smells there are. Making bread is also an experience I enjoy. The smell, seeing how it has risen and is all soft and fluffy, and the workout you get kneading it! And just imagine how much better fresh bread is when it has butter and chocolate in it? These are best eaten still warm, with plenty of butter.

7 g sachet dried yeast (2 tsp)

8 oz strong white bread flour

1 tbsp caster sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 tbsp tepid water

2 oz butter, melted and cooled (use real butter, not margarine or butter substitutes)

Pack of dark chocolate chips

Lightly oil a 12 hole muffin tin. Mix flour, sugar and yeast in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the water, eggs and melted butter. Stir to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, until the dough is elastic and smooth. Put in back in the bowl and cover with cling film. Set it in a warm place to rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size. Once risen, knead again for about 5 minutes. Cut the dough into 12 relatively equal pieces. When kneading fruit into dough I find it spits it out as fast as I can incorporate it, so as you don’t want to be messing about with chocolate for too long, here’s my little trick. Flatten out a piece of dough slightly, and scatter some chocolate chips on the table. Press the dough onto the chips, picking up approximately 10. Fold the edges down and under, trapping the chocolate inside. Place in the tin, fold side down so you have a nice smooth top. Do this with the rest of the pieces, and then cover with oiled cling film again and leave to rise until they are light and puffy and reach the top of the tin. If you want you can brush with beaten egg, then bake them at 230ºC for 10 minutes, until golden. Enjoy!

(These don’t keep too well, so make sure you eat them in a couple of days! To warm them up, wrap them in foil and pop them in a 200ºC oven for 5 – 10 minutes.)