Friday, May 27, 2016

Sheep, bread and little fires

Lately I have been paying particular attention to the things in life that just make me feel happy.   The simple, uncomplicated things that make the world feel right.  Here are some of them.

Sheep in the yards.  Wool makes up the majority of our business and our life, just as it has done for many generations before us.                    

Shearing combs, cutters and a mandatory singlet sitting quietly on their toolbox in the woolshed, ready for the next skillful shearer and woolly sheep to come along. 

A tray of self-sown seedlings dug up from a friend’s garden and gifted to me.  For me, a gift like this means everything.

We have enjoyed a lot of meals in the paddock lately; the weather is perfect for it.  As we shared this simple dinner the full moon quietly slid over the horizon topping off a busy but happy Sunday.

Bread rising steadily in banettons.  

The same bread fresh from the oven, in a tiny slither of morning light before the sun disappeared behind the clouds for the rest of the day, quite literally. 

Fruit bread containing dried apricots and poached quinces from my garden. 

Of course, in amongst the seedlings, picnics and bread there is also routines and school and washing and rampant weeds and the odd tired tear shed.  There is also plenty of good food, magnificent autumn weather and green grass in the paddocks.

Where are you up to with your good things?

Wishing you pretty light and a generous slice of buttered toast this weekend.

Happy Friday, friends x

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The trouble with sourdough

I have been tinkering around with sourdough for around seven years now.  In that time I have tried countless experiments and different methods and recipes but my basic go-to bread has always been white loaves, proved in banettons based on a recipe from the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook.  There was a time when I could churn out twelve of these loaves in one big batch and be reasonably happy with the results.

But, somewhere along the way things started to change.  We bought another sheep property, our children got older and their schooling required more time and commitment. My kitchen started to fill up with other things.  

I have continued to bake through all of this but recently my bread has been misshapen, cracked and either over or under proved.  Bread requires a certain amount of rhythm and lately I have been trying to force that rhythm around too many other things.

Last weekend I went back to basics by mixing up my usual recipe, paying particular attention to each tiny step.  Half of the dough went straight to the freezer to be used for scrolls or pizza bases. I divided the remaining dough into three pieces and gave it plenty of time to rest before shaping. 

I took my time with the shaping, paying particular attention to the seams and ends.

My loaves quietly proved for most of the day before I put them into the fridge for an hour or two.  I find the fridge helps to firm the dough, making it easier to slash the loaves without having the whole thing collapse at that crucial stage.

Before slashing, I made sure my little knife was razor sharp, thanks Terry.

Half of our dinner had already been cooked in the oven prior to bread baking; I had planned this to take full advantage of the oven heat.  As many of you know, bread baking requires plenty of heat but preheating an empty oven always feels like such a waste of resources, to me.

In went the loaves with plenty of water misted on them before I closed the oven door. 

These loaves made my heart sing as they came out of the oven. I am not suggesting for a minute that they were perfect but they were the best loaves I have produced in ages and that made me happy.

Coincidentally, the same day I had a friend ask me for some sourdough starter.  I happily handed over a suspicious package of white, bubbly substance in the street after we had enjoyed friendly bread conversation over coffee.  It was then that I realised all is well in the world of bread.   Like everything in life, it ebbs and flows.  

Has your baking ever gone a little bit off track?  Did you get back on track?

I hope your loaves are delightfully golden and please tell me you have real butter in your house. 

Happy mid-week, friends x

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Ordinary moments

I think it would be fair to say that we all have a hell of a lot of variety in our lives.  We fulfill roles as mothers, wives, teachers, creators, bakers, farmers, carers and friends and so the list goes on.  Many of you probably come under almost all of those categories; however our days are filled with ordinary moments.

Sarah and Anne have both recently written about what is normal for them and about their ordinary moments.  Thank you for the inspiration ladies: here are some of my own normal and ordinary moments. 

Destocking around one third of our sheep due to increasingly dry conditions only to have it rain the day after the last truck had disappeared over the horizon.

The beginnings of beef stock made from the bones of a recently slaughtered steer. 

An unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon spent cutting firewood for the colder months ahead. 

Even toast tastes better cooked in the outdoors, especially when you are cutting firewood. 

I thought that most people had given up on writing actual snail mail letters until my aunt recently mentioned that she had spent an afternoon writing letters to her elderly mother and mother in law.  The very next day I received the most beautifully embellished envelope, letter and handmade gift from Jodie.  So many little bits of pretty paper, string, tags, and stickers topped off with two fragrant tea bags.  Kindness, generosity and inspiration all in one package, thank you Jodie for brightening up my day and our otherwise ordinary mail bag.

Perhaps you aren’t destocking or simmering beef bones or perhaps you are?  

Normal and ordinary looks different for all of us doesn’t it? 

Wishing you a happy Sunday, friends x