Monthly Archives: May 2020

staying at home: more ranting about yeast

summary: empty shelves and once a week supermarket shopping; one-way aisles; viral fatigue; commercial yeast is still in the toilet paper category; differences between active dry, instant, and rapid-rise yeasts; needless additives; ranting and raving again; where IS all the yeast?

yeast salt flour olive oil (april 2007)
bread making ingredients – photo from April 2007

For a long time, I have maintained that there is no real difference between active dry and instant yeast, so have continued to buy active dry. Because that’s what Mum always bought.

Ha! Of course that’s what she bought. It was probably the only kind of yeast she could get easily. Fresh cake yeast?? Were there any shops that sold it in our neighbourhood way back in the olden days?

But now that our Jane Mason starter is serving us so well, I rarely feel the need to use commercial yeast anymore. Still, from time to time, if we haven’t planned ahead and suddenly decide we’d like to have pizza, or naan, or fougasse tonight, it’s nice to have the option of using commercial yeast.

Jane Mason starter - begun July 2017 (continue reading )

Wild Cottage Loaf (BBB May 2020)

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BBB: Let's Keep Baking summary: recipe for Wild Cottage Loaf; Still staying at home – of course we are; no more snow please; spring; information about Bread Baking Babes;

In the centre of the dinner-table, just below the cruet stand, stood an enormous loaf of bread. Mr. Harding, the baker, cooked one for Father every Saturday. It was four loaves baked in one so that it did not get as stale as four small loaves would have. It was made cottage-loaf-shape–two storeys high with a dimple in the top.
– Emily Carr, The Book of Small, p17
[I]f there is anything quite as good as the soft part of the crust from an English cottage loaf (how soon shall we be seeing cottage loaves again?) I do not know of it.
– George Orwell, In Defence of English Cooking, 1945

The closures and confinements are wearing, aren’t they? But once again the BBBabes have helped to ease the pain!

Cathy chose to make cottage loaf. Now that we are being discouraged from going to the cottage, what could be better than bringing the cottage to us?

Bread Baking Babes (BBB): Early American Cottage Loaf

By far the most characteristic and distinctive shape among English breads, one now unique I think to this country, is the cottage loaf, two round loaves baked one on top of the other, the top one always being smaller than the bottom one. This loaf, like all our hand-moulded bread, was baked on the floor of the old brick oven of the cottage, the farmhouse or the village bakery.
[A]lthough the true cottage loaf has all but disappeared, and efforts made in modern bakeries to reproduce it result in futile travesties, to the English the cottage loaf remains the basic symbol of homely, wholesome bread. The shape would still be instantly recognized by any Englishman anywhere, even had he never set eyes on the real thing.
Elizabeth David, English Bread and Yeast Cookery, p.203-204
     The common shape of bakers’ loaves is given by dividing the portion of dough intended for one loaf into two parts of unequal size, the smaller one being little more than a third of the whole. These are made into the form of very thick cakes, and then placed one on the other, care being taken that there should be no flour between them, and then pressed together, and a deep indentation made inthe centre of the upper one, sometimes by the baker’s elbow.
     The loaves technically called “bricks,” which are baked in tins, are of convenient form for making toast or for slicing bread and butter.
Eliza Acton, The English Bread Book, p.184

     [T]here was one thing in the kitchen that Mrs Woolf was very good at doing; she could make beautiful bread. The first question she asked me when I went to Monks House was if I knew how to make it. I told her that I had made some for my family, but I was no expert at it. ‘I will come into the kitchen Louie’ she said, ‘and show you how to do it. We have always made our own bread.’ I was surprised how complicated the process was and how accurately Mrs Woolf carried it out. She showed me how to make the dough with the right quantities of yeast and flour, and then how to knead it. She returned three or four times during the morning to knead it again. Finally, she made the dough into the shape of a cottage loaf and baked it at just the right temperature. […] It took me many weeks to be as good as Mrs Woolf at making bread
– Louie Mayer, Recollections of Virginia Woolf, edited by Joan Russel Noble, p. 157
Pioneers blended grains available to produce breads with interesting texture. These wholesome, unusual[sic] shaped loaves were baked in cast iron pots in the cottage fireplace.
-Red Star Yeast, Early American Cottage Loaf

Wild Cottage Loaf (continue reading )

Delving into the Archives: Onion and Leek Lasagne

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summary: delving into the archives; recipe for onion and leek lasagne; mushroom lasagne; squash ravioli; getting inspiration by re-reading back-issues of SAVEUR Magazine;

I was looking through our photo archives the other day, and realized that I had neglected to rave about the lasagne that T made in January!

Spelled with an “e” — lasagne — in Italy, this is a dish that has traveled very well across the Atlantic. […] There are scores of variations on this layered pasta dish, the most famous being from Bologna, where a besciamella sauce is used instead of tomato.
– John and Galina Mariani, The Italian-American Cookbook: A Feast of Food from a Great American Cooking Tradition, p.177

onion and leek lasagne

This past Christmas, inspired by reading a past issue of SAVEUR Magazine (which one was it???), T ordered a copy of “The Italian-American Cookbook” by John and Galina Mariana to give to me for Christmas. Leafing through the book on Boxing Day, I couldn’t help paying close attention to the recipe for onion lasagna on page 178. (continue reading )

Staying at Home: Isolation Baking and Orange Spiced Butter

Jamie Schler's orange butter with biscuitssummary: the inimitable Jamie Schler has another cookbook out: “Isolation Baking”; still staying at home; baking powder biscuits; delving into the archives: orange spiced butter from “Orange Appeal”;

I really want everyone – everyone – to download and have a copy of my e-cookbook. A small donation to the hotel will be more than appreciated, but don’t worry at all if you can’t… a nice review on Apple Books will be loved as much. And make my recipes!
– Jamie Schler, Twitter, 29 April 2020

How cool is this? Thank you, Jamie!!

Isolation Baking by Jamie Schler
Isolation Baking: Recipes from my (post)confinement kitchen
by Jamie Schler
The book is now available to download (free!!) from Apple Books:

Inside Isolation Baking, there are beautiful photos and recipes galore to make during this extended time of Staying At Home. We already know that Jamie’s cookbook Orange Appeal is wonderful – there are a number of keeper recipes in it in case you don’t have your copy yet. In fact, you neeeeeeeed to get it, even if it’s just for the orange spiced butter in the Orange Appeal recipe for Orange Cardamom Scones with Honey-Orange Spiced Butter on pages 110-112! (continue reading )