Apr 092017
 

I made these loaves yesterday using kefir as a leaven. I received quite a few questions on Instagram about how I use the grains, so I thought I’d put up this post with some ideas. I’ll also include below the recipe for these particular loaves.

What is kefir?

Kefir is very interesting stuff and very useful.
Milk kefir grains
Here’s a picture of the grains. They feel sort of rubbery – a bit like Copydex when you make it into balls (you -did- do that didn’t you?). They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, some big flat discs, some little bobbles.

It’s a very special sort of organism called a ‘SCOBY’: a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts. The bacteria are mostly lactic acid bacteria and these coexist and work together with the yeasts.

The lactic acid bacteria convert sugars into lactic acid and carbon dioxide. The yeasts do the same, producing carbon dioxide and very small amounts of ethanol.

The acidification of the milk means that the curds and whey separate out. As you can see starting below.
Kefir milk drinkHere’s our breakfast drink production. This is about 500ml of milk with the grains. Here the milk has been on the grains for about 5 hours. We strain off the grains in the morning and top up the milk and leave at room temperature. In the winter, we often flavour the milk drink with home-made rose hip or blackberry syrup. The drink is slightly tart and sometimes a little fizzy. The kefir is also great used to make smoothies.

The grains readily multiply. So we either give excess grains to friends or pop them on the compost heap.

It’s the actions of the lactic acid bacteria and the yeasts that mean you can use the kefir to leaven bread. Instead of feeding on the sugars in the milk, they feed on the flour.

Kefir bread recipe

I’ve previously posted about this here. But for these loaves I changed the process slightly. I made plain white bread using Shipton Mill No 4 flour as I wanted to make bacon sandwiches the next morning. White bread is always best for bacon 😉

This makes enough for 2 loaves of approximately 750g each.

Ingredients

Poolish

Live strained kefir 285g
Strong white flour 215g
Date syrup (or honey) 50g

Dough

Poolish from above 550g
Strong white flour 650g
Fine sea salt 15g
Warm water 280g

Method

Start the poolish the afternoon before you want to bake.

Mix all the ingredients together in the bowl you’ll mix the dough in (saves on washing up). Cover with plastic or a damp tea towel. Leave in a warm place until the next morning. The date syrup or honey gives the kefir a quick sugar rush to get the leaven started. By the morning, you should see the poolish slightly bubbly.

Then add the other ingredients and knead in your Kenwood Chef or similar for 6 minutes or do it by hand.

Cover again and allow to rest for 2 hours or so. Then fold as I show you in this post for pain de campagne.

Cover and rest for an hour: fold again. And finally cover and rest for another hour and then fold. Cover and rest for an hour.

Divide the dough in two. Shape to your fancy – there’s some shaping tips in a video in the pain de campagne recipe above.

Allow to prove for about a couple of hours. And while this is happening, preheat your oven to 230°C.

Slash the bread artily. Bake the bread for 15 minutes at 230°C with some boiling water in a tray at the bottom. Then take out the tray, turn down the oven to 190°C and bake for a further 30 minutes.

Other uses for kefir

I use the kefir to culture cream to make cultured butter. My recipe for this is here. You can also use the cultured cream like crème fraiche.

If you culture milk/cream until it splits into curds and whey you can make cheese.

Strain the curds through muslin until you achieve your desired consistency. This is like a ricotta/labneh. It’s very good made with goat’s milk.

You can add salt and herbs, chilli or other spices to taste.

If you press the cheese in a strainer or cheese basket (use a cheese press or some heavy weights like a bagged brick or tins) you can make a hard cheese which you can age.

The kefir grains will also ferment other ‘milks’ such as coconut and almond.

If you want to delve deeper into the mysteries of kefir, visit Dom in Australia who is a mine of useful information and bad puns. Here’s his page on Dom’s kefir cheese pages to get you started, but do explore further.

 Posted by at 13:13
Feb 032016
 
Sourdough pain de campagneOver on Instagram, my friend Carla has created something of a stir with her bread. As you can see below, Carla has made beautiful pain de campagne to a recipe I developed using some of the great bakers’ ideas as my inspiration.

 

The smell..the feel..the loud crackling..this is my BFF bread.. thanks @carl_legge 😙

A photo posted by carla (@carla_tomasi) on

Carla & I have both emailed out a few copies of the recipe. But Carla and Samantha @pastafrolla were insistent that I should publish something about it and for me to break my blog hiatus. So here goes…
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 17:07
May 302014
 

Fermented mustard greensI wish I’d got to know mustard greens (and reds and goldens) much earlier in my growing adventure. They are such a tasty, versatile and good-hearted vegetable. And some of the varieties are great green manures, ground cover and biofumigants.

Here at Legge Towers we sow them in mid to late summer so that we can put them in the polytunnel to over winter. They get cut down by frost outside in winter, but in the polytunnel, sometimes with a little extra fleece protection they do fine.

They make a good quick green manure which may survive a kind winter, but you can also re-sow early in spring. Certain varieties (like Caliente) are good before potatoes as the gases given off by the leaves when cut down can help prevent wire worm and other pests – this is the biofumigant. You need to cut down and work in the leaves quickly though. More info on this here.

Just to say, we don’t tend to use them in the spring and summer. This is because there’s plenty else around and because we find they bolt quickly if it gets hot or dry for long (it does occasionally happen).

The mustards give us with little leaves for salads to start with. Then we get bigger leaves to use in stir fries or as a steamed/wilted veg. You can also make a lovely mustardy pesto with them. In the spring they produce wonderful flower shoots to use like sprouting broccoli.

Very tall mustard greens at end of seasonThen, as you can see they climb!

By this time, I’m thinking of the next crop that will occupy the space for the summer months. This year, I didn’t want to just compost the remains (after shredding the woodier parts). I thought I could use the more tender parts to ferment to make a tasty snack and accompaniment.

And did that work well? Oh yes. Read on to find out more. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:21
Apr 172014
 

Hop Shoot All you need is a few hop plants (humulus lupulus), some malt and sugar, water and the help of Andy Hamilton.

At the end of the summer, we had loads of the female flowers which are the hops on our plants. So we stripped them and dried them on a rack on top of the woodburner. I vacuum packed them to keep them fresh until I was ready to brew.

In the new year I got out my copy of Andy Hamilton’s Booze for Free and Buhner’s Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers. They are both excellent books that I highly recommend if you would like to use foraged produce to make alcoholic drinks. And who wouldn’t want to? 😉

Hop beer recipe

I diverged slightly from Andy’s recipe. This was partly intention and partly stupidity. I substituted some of the white granulated sugar for molasses sugar. This was to make a darker beer with a deeper taste. I also used 1.5kg of malt extract instead of 1kg. Next time I’ll read the can properly…  Andy was very helpful on Twitter because he helped me by recommending which type of malt extract to use. Cheers Andy.

Ingredients

13 litres water
1.5kg Cooper’s Amber Malt Extract
55g dried hops
500g granulated sugar
250g molasses sugar
5g ale yeast

This made 12 litres of beer.

Method

You’ll need a big saucepan, I used the maslin pan I make jam in.

Take 6 litres of the water and add the malt extract and sugars. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add the hops in a large muslin bag and simmer for another 30 minutes. Take out the hop bag and compost the hops. Your compost heap will love them. Tip the brew into a fermenting vessel and add the rest of the water and leave to cool to room temperature. I measured the specific gravity at 1060. This is higher than Andy’s recipe because of the extra 500g of malt extract.

Leave the liquid covered to cool until the next day and then add the yeast. Sprinkle in the ale yeast in and stir well. Cover and leave to ferment. I put my vessel on a seed propagator to maintain a 20°C+ temperature.

Leave to ferment until the specific gravity approaches 1000 and is steady. With mine, the SG settled at 1010. This gave me a beer of about 7% ABV (alcohol by volume).

Siphon the beer off the sediment into a barrel or beer bottles. Add 1tsp of sugar per litre of liquid to provide a secondary fermentation to give some fizz to the brew. Leave for 10 days to ferment and settle.
Hop Beer in GlassThis made a good dark beer with a grand malty taste with a touch of hop bitterness. It tasted a lot like Theakston’s Old Peculiar. That was easy 🙂

Watch out for more country beer recipes…

What’s your favourite beer?

 Posted by at 11:16
Mar 112014
 

Kombucha sourdough bread finished loaves & crumbThis successful experiment could revolutionise my baking. It means that I can bake sourdough bread in 24 hours without the need to keep an active leaven refreshed.

The bread is gloriously moist and chewy as sourdough should be. This has a big malty wholemeal taste with a rich, crisp crust. It’s not at all sharp or tangy, I know I can make a more ‘sour’ loaf if I use an overnight fridge retard to extend the fermentation time.

If you’d like to find out what I did and how to make this bread, please read on.
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 12:25
Feb 222014
 

Finished bottle of currant champagneIf you want a fizz that tastes spectacular, this recipe is for you. In under a month you get the full bright fruity taste of currants with a mildly mouth puckering tart-tannin background. The aroma is the wonderful woodland smell of crushed currant leaves. All this surrounded with lively & youthful fizz. I’m delighted with this discovery.

In truth, I had a freezer full of a mix of red, black and white currants. And I needed the space. In the spring, we enjoy the taste of quickly made elderflower ‘champagne’, so I thought I could experiment and do a similar thing with the currants.

It worked. And some.

To find out how easy this is to make (and other fruit ‘champagnes’), please read on.
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 15:55
Jan 202014
 

Wine barm bread sliced
It’s funny how things spread.

My twitter pal Jessica read the earlier post on how to use a cider barm to make sourdough bread. Serendipity is a wonderful thing as Jessica was racking wine that day. So Jessica contacted me on Twitter…

Jessica Bread Tweet

And so Jessica did. I’m very grateful to Jessica who sent the pictures she took and the recipe notes for her bread so I may share it more widely. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 17:22
Jan 012014
 

image_2

When I saw on twitter that my Twitter chum Julia Moore had:

Decided adding culture to some of our freshly pressed apples would be one experiment too far

I was intrigued and showed her my Bouza bread beer experiment post. Despite my references to ‘vomit’, Julia changed her mind and took up the challenge.

I’m so pleased Julia did this and her guest post below charts her progress. A second post will show how she used the remains from the cider fermentation to make a cider barm bread.

Julia says:

I hope this little experiment encourages someone else to have an idea and then just have a go 🙂

Precisely the attitude I promote on this blog! To find out more, please read on… Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:19
Oct 202013
 

Apple custard cake Parisienne, slicedToday is the day to celebrate the wonderful variety and bounty that apples give us.

To help us celebrate, here’s a list of some of my favourite recipes.

Apple recipes

Apple cider vinegar
A doddle to make, very healthy for you and lots of fun. You can use damaged apples, or scraps. So this is a great way of using every apple you have.

Blackberry, apple & chilli chutney
Beware, this is addictive. You use two of the season’s great fruits. The more you make, the longer you can enjoy.

Apple, almond and date cake
One of my most favourite cakes courtesy of my mum-in-law. With some great examples of other people’s results from this recipe.

Apple custard cake parisienne
Crispy, spicy, custardy. It’s a joy to eat.

Apple wine
And what better way to celebrate than with this easy to make wine recipe?

I hope you like these, What’s your favourite?

 Posted by at 09:16
Apr 022013
 

Evernote Camera Roll 20130322 220654

I love the way Twitter works. In particular how ideas get propagated: across the world in an instant and inspiring new networks of enthusiastic people. And also how physical things are shared too.

This kefir bread is the result of both such things. My apologies for the pics – they’re taken quickly on an iPhone and the bread didn’t last long enough for me to take anything posher for you.

I sent Joanna at Zeb Bakes in England some kefir. As part of her experiements, Joanna (a great baker) decided to make kefir leavened bread blogged by her friend Cecilia. Joanna has written a very instructive blog post about her experience. And Cecilia is a Kiwi (New Zealander) living in mid-west USA.

So, with all this helpful stuff to read, I had to have a go at this.

As you can see from the pictures, the loaf turned out very well indeed. It was a soft bread (apart from the crisp crust), slightly sweet with a background tang. It makes lovely sandwiches and toasts well (browns very quickly). We had it au naturel, with marmalade and toasted with cheese and it went well with all of them.

You need to think a couple of days ahead as you need live kefir milk to start fermenting a flour ‘sponge’. You then add this sponge to a bigger quantity of flour to ferment the final loaf.

I’ve tweaked the recipes that preceded this to use a higher amount of kefir in the sponge and reduced the water to match. To see my recipe, please read on…

 Posted by at 17:36
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