Sunday, 19 December 2010

Imagine …

What appears to be the contents of the shop window is actually a big display graphic. The whole thing is evidently intended to encourage someone to rent this disused shop.

I can't help thinking that if the shop had really looked like this when it was open, it might still be in business.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Some bakery pictures

Old skool in Falkirk. Though they seem to be concentrating on cakes these days.

New wave, in Edinburgh. The bread here was fantastic.

Ayr. I love the idea that the name was once something to boast about.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

45 minutes

The “sharing tables”
Cutting up the bread.
… is roughly how long it took for my four 1.5kg loaves to be demolished. I was terrified that the bread was going to turn out damp and claggy, but it was fine. I should have made more.

They can’t wait for someone to come over with a knife and are just ripping chunks off the remaining loaves!

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Bread to share

Today is Glasgow Harvest and I made some bread to take along. Everyone likes bread apart from anti-yeast nutters, so I'm hoping it will go down well. Making it also gave me practice in making larger batches of bread — I usually just do one or two loaves at a time, which is not really the most efficient way of using an oven. I decided to make a few light rye breads with a bit of rye flavour, but enough white wheat flour that the dough stays easy to work with.

As sourdough takes a long time, I had to start a while in advance. On Thursday I took the starter from the fridge where it had been languishing for a while, and refreshed it:
50g starter
200g rye flour
200g water
Then late on Thursday I stepped it up with more flour and water:
1000g rye flour
1000g water
450g goop from Step 1

Halp! It’s alive!
I ended up with 2300g of starter, as some inevitably gets left in the bucket, smeared on the walls, etc. It looked like a lot. Often I just make a straight dough with a small amount of starter, but didn't want to risk the finished dough not rising when it's supposed to. By Friday morning the sponge still didn't seem to be doing very much, but by the evening it was escaping onto the kitchen worktop.

Rather than calculate a particular percentage of rye, I decided just to add another 3kg of white flour to make the final dough. That meant I only had to figure out how much water and salt to add.

3000g white flour
1150g rye flour in the sponge from Step 2
=4150g flour.

For a dough of 59% hydration we thus need (4150 x 0.59) = a total of 2450g liquid in dough
1150g water already contained in the sponge
1300g liquid to be added

85g salt (2% of 4150g)

For a bit of fun, I used beer instead of water for the remaining liquid. It's only 3% and rather bitter. I wonder if anyone will notice?

As I’m of the school that believes in a minimum of kneading, 7kg of dough without a mixer isn't too bad. Just get your hands in, mix it up, let the dough itself do the work. Get it relatively smooth on the counter and it should look after itself.

Then just into the oven with it. I can’t wait to have some of this for breakfast.

Dough split up and proving

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Jam making

You can buy jam for next to nothing, so why make it? Well, to use up a glut of fruit. To make jams that you can’t buy. For fun. And, well, some kinds aren’t as cheap as others. Some things like chilli jelly go for ££££ in posh delicatessens. I’m forever picking jars up, thinking “I could make this for about 15p in ingredients,” and putting them down again. Learning to make jam has thus been on my list of things to do for quite a while. Jam goes with bread, so it’s a good fit for the blog. And at the weekend I got my chance.

I wrote about Cookie on my beer blog some months ago. They do lots of cool stuff. Such as playing host to a jam making workshop last weekend. “Bring yourself and some fruit,” it said on the blog. So I did.

Pollokshields, near Cookie, is full of amazing greengrocers. I dropped past one and was looking for some reduced fruit. I struck lucky and found reduced strawberries — some punnets were already mouldy, but I got four big punnets that didn’t look too damaged. The total cost was £2. For 1.6kg. When we started cleaning and stoning the fruit I was amazed how good they mostly were. You’d be extremely lucky to get strawberries this good in a supermarket at full price.

When I arrived at Cookie people were already in the prep room busily washing and stoning a mountain of plums. Hrr hrr, juicy plums, fnarr. With about eight of us around the table, all the fruit was soon ready and we carried it upstairs to the kitchen. It looked far too nice to be made into jam, really. As well as plums and strawberries we had greengages and some raspberries and brambles.

Without much of a clue of what I was doing I was shown to the stove and instructed to stir some sugar until it melted. Typically, it stuck to the bottom of the pot and I had to start again. Slowly the sugar-covered fruit became a fruit-filled syrup, then a sugary, vibrantly coloured boiling mess as the fruit broke down.

What did people do with spare fruit before sugar became so cheap? In the fruit-growing regions of Germany, they ferment and distill it to make Schnaps (proper 40% Schnaps, not the sugary peach liqueur that goes under that name here). Lovely stuff it is too. That is illegal here unfortunately.

Some of the jam will be part of the jam wall at Glasgow Harvest on Saturday. To think a year ago I was looking around for Glasgow food bloggers to add to my blogroll, and could hardly find any. Now it seems everywhere you turn there’s some sort of social food project springing up. Hurrah for that.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010


Under-proved dough is easier to slash, and doesn't collapse after slashing.

Not completely happy with the crumb though.

This is mostly white flour with a bit of chapati flour. Sourdough of course.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

1955 Whitbread XXX Best Mild

Glass of rather flat mild aleI usually write my own recipes for my beer; not that I'm a genius at formulating recipes, it's just that I like to keep things simple and much of the time I barely even think of them as recipes. I can't remember why exactly but I decided to brew an old recipe instead. If you go over to Shut Up About Barclay Perkins you'll get a load of old beers excavated directly from the archives, along with a shedload of other historical information—everyone interested in beer should read this blog from start to finish.

This is one of them, a 1955 Whitbread Best Mild, aka XXX. Here's the make-up as given there:

80.6% Mild malt
4.9% Crystal malt
3.2% Invert No1 sugar
11.3% Invert No3 sugar

Like many contemporary mild ales, the XXX relies on dark brewing sugar for flavour and colour. Modern milds from microbreweries tend to use chocolate malt instead. I like both styles and if you're ever lucky enough to be in a pub that has several milds on at once, it can be fun to note the difference in flavour between an old-fashioned mild and a new-wave one.

This makes things a bit tricky because the invert sugar syrup that professional brewers use is not available to the home brewer (the stuff sold as "brewing sugar" in homebrew shops is not the same thing at all). But they are all essentially a mixture of refined sugar and unrefined sugar in different quantities, so I attempted to fake it.

Mixing treacle and golden syrup to approximate No. 3 brewing sugarAs I understand it, No. 1 is a light coloured syrup and No. 3 a dark one. I substituted golden syrup for No. 1 and for No. 3 I used a combination of three parts golden syrup to one of treacle. I might have erred on the light side with the treacle because it does have a very distinctive flavour and I didn't want it turning up recognisably treacley in my beer.

So my approximation of the recipe is:

2346g Maris Otter (the original is mild ale malt)
141g crystal
93g golden syrup
330g "No. 3" (83g treacle + 247g golden syrup)

Mash 45 minutes at 67ºC; I hate sparging so stopped sooner and ended up with slightly less wort at a slightly higher gravity: 1.038 as opposed to 1.034 in the original.

Hopping: 20g East Kent Goldings (5.8%) at 60 minutes and another 10g at 30 minutes. My hops were a bit higher in alpha acid than the recipe assumes, so I dropped the quantity a little, though it should still be a tad bitterer than the original. Yeast was White Shield which has pretty much become my house yeast at the moment.

The finished beer has an aroma and palate more reminiscent of light honey than anything else. Hops barely discernable, just enough to stop it getting that weird blandness that under-hopped beer often has. As you can see from the picture, it's a light amber and not very dark at all. This matches the expected colour from the recipe, so I'm not unhappy with it. There's no treacliness though, so I might risk increasing the proportion in the next beer I make with sugar.

What's it taste like? Well, I don't expect a 1950s mild to be that exciting, and it isn't. My friends liked it more than I did, though. But look at those ingredients. Damn, this is a cheap beer to make. I wish I liked it more.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Glasgow Beer and Pub Project

Oregon artist Eric Steen is going to be doing an art project in Glasgow during April, based around the beer and pub culture of the city.

His project blog is at It looks like an intensive bit of work. There will be a series of events, called Pub School, every week in April followed by an installation at the gallery. All very interesting stuff:
The Pub School will be a weekly event series in April where the general public can learn about beer, take homebrewing demos, have samplings, learn about the history of it, and possibly even do some pub-crawls. I would love to get homebrewers involved in this by leading some of these demos and workshops. Then on April 30th, I am opening the Market Gallery Pub, which will be a one night installation that looks at homebrewing as an art form. The gallery will be turned into a functioning pub and I would like to feature a large menu of homebrewed beers…
Sounds like a lot of fun. Geoff from Hop Topic will be leading a homebrewing demonstration and the Williams Bros have agreed to recreate the most popular beer at the Market Gallery Pub at their brewery.

Eric is still looking for homebrewers to supply beer for the Market Gallery Pub. If you have spare beer, let him know.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Spent grain bread

I've tried to make spent grain bread before, and I always made the mistake of using too much and ended up with a heavy, soggy brick. These days I don't use any more than a handful. It's tempting to use more, but you cannot predict the water content accurately and it always ends up being too much.

15g sourdough starter
100ml boiled, but unfermented hopped wort from Beata Bitter
100g rye flour
a handful of spent grain from Beata Bitter

Sponge +
200ml water
11g salt
400g strong white bread flour

Bake at 200ºC for 30 minutes and 150ºC for another 20, or whatever suits your oven.

The bread has a very soft, slightly doughy crumb. A bit too soft and fluffy. I might make the dough even drier next time, although it's already only 60% hydration. The supermarket bakeries clearly use malt a lot. It tastes fantastic, malty and sweet. No noticeable hop flavour.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Beata Bitter

The last time I bought some hops there were a variety I hadn't had before – Beata. They were very cheap so I got some and decided to use them in a golden ale to show off their flavour.

15:00 Rubber shoes, on. Circuit breaker, on. Death trap hot liquor tank made of discarded mango chutney drum and Asda kettle element, on.

15:01 Now to decide what to brew.

15.06 Look at hops in freezer. I have Magnum and Beata and East Kent Goldings. Hmm, Magnum as bittering, Beata for aroma? Beata are supposed to be good lager-type hops, and Magnum yer bog-standard clean German high-alpha bittering hops.

4 g gypsum
1100g maris otter
1910g lager malt
100 crystal malt

15.30 Move 10L mash water to mash bucket. Discover it is only 63ºC instead of 75ºC. Curse and put the kettle on.

15:41 Top up mash with approximately 2L boiling water, bucket now completely full but has reached 67ºC.

16.31 First runnings only 1.046 (unadjusted). That's 1.056 adjusted though. Guess I shouldn't sparge too much.

16.53 Batch sparging with another 10L at 78ºC, after 20 minutes: 1.010 at 47º - 1.019 adjusted.

17.10 Boiler coming up to boil, time for a beer and a sandwich.

17.30 Rolling boil, 15g Magnum in, 75 mins starts here.

18.10 Wallpaper hasn't peeled off the walls yet. Another half hour to go!

18.30 Late hops - 15g Beata. 15 minutes more!

00.00 I don't have a wort chiller. Bastard wort is still at 35ºC. When I make a cup of tea it's stone cold within twenty minutes. What gives?

00.10+1 Final OG is 1.046, collected about 15L of wort including trub.

03.30+1 Down to 24º. Pitched yeast.

15.16+1 Still no visible activity.

00.10+2 Tiny bubbles. Start worrying and make another yeast starter.

08.00+2 Foam! Don't need second starter after all. Yay!