How we got to this point (Part 3)

I stranded myself in Orkney with a spinning wheel and a quantity of fleece and there just didn’t seem to be much time  for baking.

What comes around, goes around. There is a creative cycle in my life and it keeps on turning and places me back in the kitchen, the home of my first creative love. I cannot tell where the current impetus is coming from. It is just a voice inside, nudging me back to the oven and the hob.

My skills are out of date. I watch The Great British Bake-off and Masterchef in all its variations. I was once a good cook – some would say a great cook – but I know that my repertoire is limited and even worse, stuck fast in the Seventies. I want to catch up. I want to try the new stuff. And I want to make all those interesting things that I never had time to do in the past – the baguettes, the babas, the danish pastries, ciabatta, sourdough…

I ordered up some flour and got myself a couple of up to date books and I started to become very excited.

Somewhere amongst all the ideas milling in my head at night, there was the thought that I really miss baking with fresh yeast. I went to town a couple of weeks ago with Gill and mentioned that I would like to look for fresh yeast. We asked at the local bakery in Kirkwall and they made a couple of suggestions. I looked in the high class grocers, and found none. Gill was more enterprising, when she went in, she asked, and determined that we could buy it by the block – at a pound a kilo. There would be a cost in getting it sent over on the ferry of course.

We wondered if the local shop might buy some in. I rather thought they would sell it on, but it happened that they ordered it by the block for us from the bakery on Westray. We asked our fibre contemporaries if they wanted in on the deal and thus a small bread making buyer’s circle has been formed. Yeast arrives on Monday evening’s boat with the bread delivery and is divided up between bakers at Spinning Group meetings on Tuesday mornings. Early days yet but it seems to be a good system. We are planning joint purchasing of flour and just today I sent off a bulk order for linen couching cloths. My dream of making baguettes is about to come true.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been getting my hand in again and renewing the rhythm of a life with time for bread making in it. I have been making ordinary “no recipe” bread but experimentation has begun and a rather sad Stollen emerged, plus today’s startling loaves from the cold oven recipe.

Immediate plans include those baguettes, a ciabatta experiment, and a sour dough starter. The sour dough experiment should be interesting – I cannot begin to imagine how we can get that to work well in our location and climate, where the air is humid, cool and heavy with salt. What natural yeast can exist here, I do not know – but I am going to find out!

Will you come with me on my journey? It should be fun.

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