Sunday, 22 November 2015

Burnt Offerings

Determined to get to grips with the fire technology Woman gets up at dawn and starts the complicated ritual that begins with sticks and dry grass and ends with yummy food.  Man surprises Woman with camera just when she least expected it!

Perhaps offerings should have been made to the Goddess Fortuna before starting because it still took half an hour or more to get the fire going.

Thankfully a cup of tea was already in hand.  I can't imagine what it would be like if I had to wait on the fire for the first cuppa of the day.  After a short while we have a cheery flame.  More wood goes on and the flame gets larger.  Woman decides it's time to make bread dough.

It's a chilly 7C outside so all bread making takes place indoors.  Regular checks are made on the fire and more wood added as needed.

But at some point Woman forgot to check on the fire and the flames died down significantly.  More wood is brought forth and the oven dome, which was turning white, is now going black again.  This is the first mistake of the day.  It takes four hours to get a roaring fire - white dome and bread dough almost ready to go in.

Bearing in mind that the last time I did this I let the oven cool too much I waited quite a bit before shutting the door to kill the fire.  Before that I experimented with my oven thermometer from my indoor cooker to see what kind of temperatures were in the dome.  It didn't work.  It didn't rise above 150C and my shiny red face definitely told me the temperature was a lot more than that.

Beautiful white dome inside the really hot oven
The kitchen is full of bread dough.  Just about every bowl I own has dough rising in it.  Man retreats to his cave to do... who knows what Man does in his cave?

The next mistake is one I made before - a deliberate mistake if you will.  I know that you are supposed to remove the embers but I still don't really have anywhere to put them.  And I don't have a big enough shovel either.  So I once again, simply pushed the embers to the back of the oven.

I set the timer for half the time (15 minutes) meaning to turn the bread at this point so that it doesn't get too brown at one side.  A tad too much carbon if you ask me!  After all the time and effort it takes to make the bread dough... sigh.

Well I turned them and gave them as much time as I possibly could bearing in mind that I still do want to eat them.  So with about ten minutes to 15 minutes less than the recommended cooking time they had to come out of the oven.

The next batch go in.  Wholemeal this time.  I put less in and tried to keep them to the centre of the oven.  To my sensitive bare arms the oven seems to have lost quite a bit of heat already.  Once again the timer is set for 15 minutes, at which point I will turn them if required.

This is a tad more successful but the bread still didn't get its full baking time, being far too dark to risk leaving any longer.

The last wholemeal loaf is a free form shape risen in a basket which I put on top of the oven where the heat will help with the rising.

I used the peel for the first time.  Plenty of semolina on it and a little juggling to get the bread on and the photo's taken and then in the oven - all one handed (by myself) since Man is still up in his cave.

The customary 15 minutes passes before I open the door and move the loaf about a bit.  It seems to be doing just fine.  I put a cake in.  It's a thing called Yorkshire Moggie - a strange halfway between pastry and cake affair.

The last bread is milk and wholemeal rolls - the only one of the batch that I am confident is properly cooked.

Man returns looking for food and eyes the burned bread suspiciously.  I am sure it will taste alright he says encouragingly.

Woman is up to her elbows in a Victoria sponge mix and the kitchen looks like the day after Armageddon 'I don't have time to make dinner, I'm sorry, if you want something you will have to cook it'.  Man looks aghast.  I can see him thinking... 'but I thought Woman cooks'!

The Victoria sponge (re-christened the Defeated sponge) turns out to be more like a crunchy biscuit.  But it's sponge like in places.  Like the sponge, Woman is a bit deflated.

Man's cooking is just what is needed.  Fried egg, chips and beans... which is washed down with a glass of Prosecco.  This is just how we roll here ....

On cutting the big loaf, it is undercooked.  I knew it was undercooked but it isn't raw and this gives me hope for the rest of the loaves.  The freezer is full.  More practice on the oven is needed but I think it is going to be a few weeks before I make bread again.  Perhaps I should try cooking meat on it next.

Woman marginally happy ergo Man slightly anxious.

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