Ingredients - what's in my cupboard and why?
I'm often asked about ingredients. It's not what I've got as much as why have I got it?
So, I thought I'd run down what's in my cupboard and why?
But first....what's not in my cupboard? Flour? Why not...because that's in a different part of my room. It's not a bakery...it's the utility room...but it's my space and I jokingly call it 'the bakery'.
- Strong White Bread Flour - my staple flour. I used to buy Heygates or Nestrop Empress. Both are excellent flours. At the moment, I'm using Aldi Strong White. It's milled in Hertfordshire from British wheat and is a glorious 13.3% protein. It makes excellent bread. When it wasn't available, as it was missing for a while during Lockdown 1, I used to buy bulk from Nestrop. But I can't honestly say I noticed the difference.
- Strong Wholemeal Flour - or 'whole grain' as it's often referred to. Again, this is Aldi Wholemeal, milled in the same Hertfordshire mills as their Strong White and an excellent coarse flour.
- T55 flour - I always have a supply of T55 flour at home. I use it when I want a very light bake or when I'm making baguettes, pizza bases or anything 'French'.
- Rye, Spelt, Khorosan and Emmer - my 'coarse flour' collection. Very often, I use these as the base for my sourdough starters or to 'strengthen' a bake.. I buy these in single kilo bags as required. usually, I source them from Dove Farms, courtesy of my local Tesco.
- Granary - Multiseeded flour makes lovely bread. Currently, I have Hovis flour. It's easy to buy and it works!
Salt - I always buy a non-iodised salt. Halen Môn is our own Welsh sea salt from Ynys Môn, the Isle of Anglesey. Kosher Salt is equally good. It just needs to be free from interference and chemical additives.
Dried Milk - I prefer to use dried milk rather than fresh when I'm making yeasted breads. Partly because I don't have to allow for it when working out the hydration levels of the dough. But mainly because it's lighter and enriched with Vitamin C, which helps to give the yeast a slight boost. I also like the fact that Kublai Khan and the Mongolian Tatars sun-dried their milk in the time of Marco Polo. If it's good enough for them, it'll do for me.
Sugar - I only ever use dark demerera sugar, as unrefined as I can buy. Sometimes, I'll use treacle (molasses) instead or honey or golden syrup. It depends on the recipe
Oil - Olive oil for Italian and continuental bakes. It's lighter than butter and helps to create a lightness in bread as well as aids shelf life.
Mixed Fruit - for hot cross buns and fruit bread: sultanas, raisins and chopped peel. I also hold a small selection of spices that I use when making fruit bread or buns : cinammon, nutmeg, ground ginger and mixed spice.
Malt Extract - sometimes used instead of sugar, always used when making malt loaf. There's no taste quite like it.
Butter - only unsalted for bread baking. Buy decent butter, the bread deserves it.
Sourdough Starter - The 'mother lode' is kept in the fridge and refreshed 24 hrs before baking.
Water - I only use filtered water. I have a Brita filter jug in the door and I use chilled water to retard my sourdough starter to allow it to feed overnight and room temperature filtered water for all other uses. Before I bought the Brita I used the cheapest still bottled water from the local supermarket.
Seeds and Grains
I've been adding seeds and grains in all manner of combinations for years. I buy in bulk and usually add a mixture with the rest of the ingredients. If I can be bothered, or if I think enough in advance, I'll toast them first to draw out even more taste.
Chia - a wonder seed. Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, anti-oxidents, iron and calcium.
White Sesame - rich in fibre, proteins and helps to lower blood pressure.
Black Sesame - rich and smoky, they are full of anti-oxidents and has been proven to lower blood pressure.
Pumkin - although calorie-dense, they are rich in manganese, magnesium, iron, zinc, niacin, dietary-fibre, protein and phosphorus.
Sunflower - rich in fibre, Vitamin B and Vitamin E
Brown linseed - otherwise known as flax. Benefits include reduction of chloresterol and helping to lower BMI
Malted Flakes - ideal for scattering on top of the dough prior to baking. They have a nuttiness that is lovely.
Caraway seed - for that pungent anise-like flavour found in Mediterranean breads
Poppy seed - rich in thiamine, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc.
I always have a supply of instant, dried yeasts for yeasted breads. I buy Fermipan or Mauripan in bulk (500gms) and freeze what I'm not using at present. Then I decant about 50gms at a time into a small jar.
I have used Dove's Farm and Allisons, both with success. There is always enough shelf life in the product to buy in bulk.
We bake bread because we know it's better for us than buying 'shop bread'. It's nutritious, it's fun to make, it helps out well-being and, whilst it might not save us much money, it's all part of the adventure.
Doesn't it deserve good ingredients?
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