Week 20 just might have to go down in the history books as the best week ever (so far). The three reasons for this are:
- We made some great items in patisserie.
- We had three days in the bakery to develop three of our very own products.
- I rode really quickly on a bike.
That’s all there is to it. Really. But if you require more information then continue reading.
The highlight of Monday, while not school-related, was trying out Martha’s newly-acquired Bar-let portable typewriter. To be honest I am just a bit jealous of her mechanical writing machine. It was made in Nottingham in the 1930s but still works perfectly today. I thought that using a typewriter would be just like typing on a computer that has a piece of paper instead of a screen, but it is very different. The force required to push the keys, the noise it makes, the permanence of the print and the way you can set margins and spacing by adjusting levers and shifting guides turns the process into something magical. Needless to say, I am now on the lookout for a typewriter to call my own.
Otto Thissen was our tutor for patisserie on Tuesday and he did a brilliant job at teaching us a range of products. We whipped up apple strudel with creme anglaise, cherry streusel, sacher torte and tiramisu. I think that list may be the widest variety of items we have ever made on a patisserie day, and yet the class felt very controlled and calm.
On Wednesday we were told that the following three days would be all ours to develop three of our own products – with a few provisos. The first product had to contain sourdough and be fermented for over 12 hours. The second product had to contain butter, milk, eggs or combinations thereof. The final product had to be a traditional baguette, so we didn’t have too much room to experiment with that.
For my first product I decided to take the basic Tartine dough, which is one of my favourite sourdoughs, and add quinoa grains and bulgur wheat – two San Francisco-ish, kind of cool ingredients. My hope was that this bread would a tasty sourdough with the added appeal and health benefits of quinoa. The result was exactly that. The bread had lost a lot of its usual open texture due to the addition of the grains, which is to be expected, but it was also very moist and creamy. I’ve since discovered that this moistness helps the bread last and continue to taste fresh for a few days. Handy!
With my second product I planned to make something that would be sellable at the upcoming farmers market. I figured that with easter not being too far away, a hot cross bun of some sort might be appropriate. I’ve always rejected the idea of chocolate hot cross buns as being untraditional and a bit of a bastardisation of a delicious product, but I put these feelings to one side and had a go at creating my own recipe. I ditched the dried fruit and orange peel and added in a massive amount of dark chocolate and cocoa. For an added twist I topped the buns with a marshmallow cross. This was my first attempt at making real marshmallow and it turned out to be quite a tricky thing to get just right. Over the course of the three days the buns were downsized to little balls due to the richness of the chocolate and buttery dough. By Friday I was very happy with the chocolate dough and reasonably confident in making marshmallow. I’m glad to say that the chocolate balls will be appearing at the Harper Adams Farmers Market this Sunday March 11. Come and buy one if you’re in the area!
There’s not a whole lot to say about my traditional baguettes, except that after making them repeatedly for the past few weeks I am getting better at it. They are, in theory, a very simple product but there is something about them that makes them very tricky to get right. Many elements need to combine perfectly to produce the perfect result. If even one component isn’t quite right it will be reflected in the final baguette. I’m a long way off baguette perfection but at least I’m learning what those important elements are.
That brings me to the third point on my list – fast bike riding. Like the typewriter, this has nothing to do with school, but it did have a big impact on my week. A few of us travelled to Sheffield on Tuesday night to watch and compete in the Rollapaluza roller-racing qualification round. We went with the intention of having a fun night out, having one or two spins on a bike then watching everyone else battle it out. That’s sort of how it panned out, except I managed to get myself all the way to the final and ended up coming second. This came as a bit of a surprise and now means that I have been invited to the national final in London over easter. For a full report on the night you can read my post over at the Bolsover Cycling Club site. I’m using this invitation as a good excuse to get back to London and to revisit some of my favourite bakeries as well as check out some of the others that I missed last time.