Baking


'Slices' of parkin on a plate

Cut but to be wrapped in foil for about three weeks before eating

Last year I was a bit late making parkin. It improves with age and though most recipes say leave it a couple, or a few, days before eating, I think it’s much better left for two or three weeks, tightly wrapped or in an airtight tin. I don’t have a suitable tin so I wrap in it non-stick baking paper then foil.

This year I’ve managed to fit in making it before going to ‘do my thing’ at the Ilkley Literature Festival. I’ve decided not to read my fairy story as I was not happy reading a cut up version. Read all about it, with the fairy story, tomorrow morning.

It’s not difficult to make, in fact very easy; the biggest problem is resisting the temptation to eat it before 5th November, for which date it is traditionally made. The other traditional foods are potatoes baked in the fire, and ‘plot toffee’, made by boiling dark sugar, and perhaps molasses,  with butter until it will set hard when cooled, and ‘toffee apples’ – apples on sticks dipped in the toffee when liquid.

Guy Fawkes

For non-British readers who may not know the significance of 5th November, we ‘commemorate’ the failure of Guy Fawkes, a Yorkshireman (what else?), to  blow up parliament with the king in 1605 (if you want to know more just Google ‘Guy Fawkes’ and Wikipedia has it).

Traditionally we have a bonfire, the children make an effigy of Guy Fawkes, go with it from house to house calling “Penny for the guy”, the money collected being spent on fireworks. Now it’s more usually adults who spend ridiculous amounts of money competing to see who can make the largest ‘bang’. Nevertheless, many communities still have a bonfire and fireworks.

The tradition is gradually being replaced by a massive money-making event five days before, where supermarkets and other shops sell trashy ‘scary’ costumes and kids come asking ‘trick or treat?” Halloween – a corruption imported from the USA of another tradition. It’s horrible.

Parkin recipe.

I won’t give the recipe for ‘proper parkin’ here as I did that last year. You’ll find it in the post of 27 October last year. This year I changed it slightly, putting 50/50 medium oatmeal and pinhead oatmeal as I like the latter.

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The freshly baked bread sliced

It’s time (tomorrow) to visit my consultant (doctor) at the hospital so I needed to have a blood test today. The hospital is about 12 miles away, my family doctor 2-3 minutes on foot. In theory I could get the blood test done at the family doctor but they’ve always ‘lost’ it so I go to the hospital. I usually go very early, before everyone sent by the doctors on their rounds arrive, but this morning I couldn’t do that so I went at lunchtime when it is again quiet. How to fill the time? Clear up the kitchen, read blogs, comment on some and make some bread!

I decided to make my usual bread, lazy bread as the hard work is done by a breadmaker (£10 in a charity shop many years ago). So, I made two tin loaves; I usually do this now as being only two of us the majority is sliced and put in the freezer.

Now, I got told off recently for not putting a recipe, and not making pictures clickable to be viewed at full size, so I’ve put them in a gallery which is one way of doing this (hello 👋 Ilze 😂😇) and am giving my recipe (though I think I’ve done it before). ‘Real’ bakers, tv celebrity bakers will probably have a fit but it works and is great for people who have other things to do as it requires no more than 5-7 minutes ‘doing something’ to the bread, so you can get on with something else. Here’s the recipe (the spelt flour gives an unusual texture, which I like):

500g wholemeal strong bread flour; 168g wholemeal spelt flour; 10g butter; 2.1/2tsp sugar; 2.1/2tspn salt; 7g dried fast acting yeast; 432ml water.

My method is not at all like that given by the breadmaker manufacturer but I never was good at doing what I’m told:

Put the water and butter in the bread maker. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Spoon them on top of the water in the breadmaker. Set the breadmaker on the ‘dough’ programme and switch it on. All that takes a couple of minutes. Leave till the programme is finished (1.1/2 hours on my machine), meanwhile you can read some blogs, comment on a few, and write your own post (or you can sleep till the beep sounds).

Tip the dough out onto a floured surface. Fold over and push with the heel of the hand 12 times. Shape into a round, cut in half, shape each half into a sausage the length of the bread tins, put them in the tins, make three deep slashes in each. Optional: paint with milk and sprinkle on poppy seeds.

Put into a warm place (I put in the top oven set to 50degC). Cover with a cloth and leave till well risen (for me 1/2hr) during which you can have another catnap. Have the oven at 180degC. Bake for 20 minutes. Tip out of the tins and put back directly on the oven shelf till tapped on the bottom it sounds hollow (5-10 minutes. You get to know from the sound of the first tap when you’ve made a few). Leave to cool on a wire tray.

Bloodletting

The phlebotomists at the hospital (Airedale) are great, as are all the staff. Until I began to have these regular pricks I was a bit nervous. I cured it by taking a photo of the needle going in and enjoy the short chat with the lady taking my blood.

The needle for taking blood pictured just about to go into my left arm

Just about two years ago; that’s my arm. The hands are of a trainee phlebotomist

I was even more nervous of the ‘big needle’ which gets stuck in my belly every 3 months. I usually manage to have the same nurse, Hafsa, who makes me laugh and I hardly feel a thing. “It’s a screwdriver, not a needle,” she tells me. I’ve never dared to look. The nurse in Romania this summer, Paula, was equally expert.

The weather

Raining, again.

When I saw Tanya’s picture of her ‘grandma’s bread’ I thought it looked delicious. When I read her post I was surprised, the recipe broke all the usual rules of baking bread (eg no proving, put in a cold oven, etc) so I just had to try it even though I’d said in a post shortly before that I’d settled on my recipe for bread.

I’ll not give Tanya’s recipe here, you will find it on her blog (link at the end). You’ll even learn the Norwegian for grandma. So just some comments.

Sorry, this is not my attempt at Tanya’s grandma’s bread; Petronela deleted it 😱. You’ll just have to believe me that mine look pretty much as the picture on Tanya’s post. This pic is my usual bread.

Sorry, this is not my attempt at Tanya’s grandma’s bread; Petronela deleted it 😱. You’ll just have to believe me that mine look pretty much as the picture on Tanya’s post. This pic is my usual bread.

The closest thing I know to it is Irish soda bread though that uses bicarb of soda not yeast. I make this, usually for Sunday breakfast when we’ve run out of bread and I’ve ‘forgotten’ to make any. It’s delicious and very quick and easy to make but the disadvantage is that you must eat it more or less immediately. Even the next day it’s not good.

Tasty – and tastier

Tanya’s grandma’s bread is just the opposite. It seems to improve with age (I made it three days ago and so far it gets better and better). First it had a very hard crust when it came out of the oven; now it’s soft, but not tough and chewy which I don’t like. Secondly, although it tasted good when fresh it has tasted better with each passing day.

I didn’t have fresh yeast so I used quick dried yeast (1/4 of the quantity of fresh). I didn’t have sesame seeds so I chucked in a load of poppy seeds.

Finally I read (I think misread) Tanya’s recipe as having a quantity of milk with water, but then another 300ml of warm milk to which the yeast is added. This seemed too much liquid to me so I reduced the amount of milk/water by 300ml. It turned out OK so I think that is what she meant.

Final conclusion: very tasty, worth making for the taste. It didn’t seem to me to be much quicker or easier to make as mixing it (by hand) is a messy job and it takes an hour in the oven but I guess it will get quicker with practice. My ‘cheat’ of letting a breadmaker do the work before baking in the oven in my recipe is less hassle.

You’ll find Tanya’s recipe at

https://bakewitht.com/2017/09/17/bestemor-bread-quick-easy-to-make-great-for-the-kids/

I recommend you try it. Great for grown-ups too.

I must be getting back to normal; it’s taken almost two weeks following our marathon trip of approaching 5,000 miles over 45 days. First, yesterday, I made the first ‘full English’ breakfast since our return; today I’m baking bread for the first time (couldn’t bear any more from the shop, even ‘good’ bakeries) and I’m making ‘leftovers’ soup – from the carcass of a roast chicken with some mushrooms. That’s what I call ‘back to normal’.

The two loaves baked today, one still in the tin, the other out

Just out of the oven

It was only laziness that delayed breadmaking till now and I’m sure I’d offend that tv celebrity baker, Holiday Inn or something. I’ve long settled on my own recipe and let a breadmaker do the hard work, do the second rising in the warming oven, so all I do is a very brief knead, divide into two tins and, after doubled in size, put the two loaves in the oven to bake. If I lived in Germany I’d probably be even lazier – I’d buy my bread from the bakery. I prefer the firmer consistency to the airy ‘foam’ we get here.

My recipe, two tin loaves from: 500g wholemeal strong flour; 170g of wholemeal spelt flour, 430ml water; 10g butter; 2.1/2 teaspoons salt; 2.1/2 teaspoons sugar; packet of dried yeast. Sometimes I add sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Today I just brushed the tops with milk and scattered poppy seeds on.

Dinner tonight will be as lazy: beef stew made some time ago, from the freezer, with dumplings. I know, it’s not yet winter but I love stew and dumplings and it’s quite chilly today.

Although I kept a daily journal of the trip on Facebook (Dusty2Romania) I do intend to do at least one post here, about in particular the campsites on which we stayed, from the horrors of Budapest to the excellence of some in Austria and Holland. Soon.

Picture of the goat's milk and geranium soap in its cellophane packaging

Pure soap from Gosia’s Soaps in Poland

My experiences with hospitals over the past couple of years (mostly good) would make several episodes for a hospital ‘soap’ tv series but it’s the pre-tv soap I’m referring to here: pure soap from my internet friend in Poland, which arrived yesterday – goat’s milk and geranium. The physiotherapy and my ‘organic foods’ soapbox come later.

I’ve become good internet friends with Eddy though we’ve never met despite two abortive attempts. It began a few years ago when I had dreams of building a strawbale house in Romania and found his site ‘Winkos: a strawbale building adventure in Poland‘ and found he was from Yorkshire. His wife, Gosia, makes a range of pure soaps and I’ve been waiting for about a week for one to arrive. This morning I washed my face with it – wonderfully creamy with lots of long-lasting colourful bubbles reminding me of soaps in my childhood. Whatever has been done to them? Well now Gosia is making a range of them; you can see the range (20 in all I think, including a shaving bar) and order them – for great Christmas presents? Details of the range, prices, etc are on the above site under the ‘Soaps for autumn 2016‘ menu.

Pumpkin seeds and ‘organic’ foods

Accompanying the soap were pumpkin seeds from what Eddy says has been a bumper crop. Some will be going into the bread I’ll be making later today as they are of course truly ‘organic’. You know what I mean despite the stupidity of the term – they’re hardly mineral or abstract.

One of the things urging me to return to Romania, to live, is that such food is still the norm in the countryside there and I am sure this was a big factor in feeling better than for years after six weeks there this summer. Add to that the taste and living amid extraordinary natural beauty and I might even desert the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales if I can.

Though I have my suspicions about much labelled ‘organic’ here in UK supermarkets, and the higher prices, I was fascinated by a video clip shared by Eddy on Facebook showing a study of a Swedish family, members of which were full of insecticides, fungicides and plant growth inhibitors on their normal diet. After two weeks eating only ‘organic’ food, these had almost completely disappeared. Worth watching.

Physiotherapy

Right leg with 1.5kg weight strapped on with a scarf One of the most frustrating aspects of my recent ailments is the inability to walk any distance. I used to walk 25 – 30 miles in a day without a problem, the only ‘sport’ I’ve ever indulged in. In fact the inability to do this was a major factor in electing to have two hernias fixed last year. I was just getting into my stride, managing eg 6 miles, when after a relatively short walk in May something happened with my right knee and apart from hobbling about the house, with some pain, I rarely managed a mile. I managed at last to see a physiotherapist on Monday and was given a series of twice daily exercises which I began on Tuesday. I managed most in the morning but they triggered another problem so I passed on the second set. However, feeling good this morning I managed almost all and now, several hours later, I’m not having the bad effects of yesterday so reckon I’ll do the second session this evening.

1.5kg 'dumbell' weight

The only one I haven’t done properly is one with one of Petronela’s 1.5kg weights tied to my leg, ie I did only one or two lifts before giving up. But I’m confident I’ll soon be able to do the full set and that I’ll be able to say I’ve been doing that when I next see the physio in a couple of weeks. He did seem to me to know his stuff and made someone who has never done exercises as such in their life before, reckoning I was active enough, optimistic that I’ll be out again on Ilkla’ Moor, wi’ or bah’t ‘at, before long.

 

'Slices' of parkin on a plate

Cut but to be wrapped in foil for several days before eating

It’s a bit late for me to make Yorkshire parkin for 5th November, the traditional ‘cake’ to eat on ‘plot’, or ‘bonfire’ night as it improves if left to mature, to get the vital moist stickiness. The eight days left now is less than I would usually leave but it’s enough.

I couldn’t remember the quantities of each ingredient but having gone onto internet and seen recipes from various ‘celebrity’ chefs, I didn’t find one who truly understood what makes a ‘proper’ (thus the word in the title of this post) Yorkshire parkin. There are three essential ingredients: oatmeal (not porridge, or rolled, oats); ginger (not mixed spice) and bicarbonate of soda (not baking powder). These three ingredients, including the bicarbonate, are what gives Yorkshire parkin its unique taste and texture. I think also you should use dark brown sugar, not light brown as suggested in several recipes.

Out of the oven

Out of the oven

I took the quantities for a 9 inch (22.5cm) square tin from a BBC recipe, doubled them as I was using a much larger tin (a roasting pan, as used by my grandmother), and where necessary changed the ingredients to bring into line with the comments above.

Recipe (for 9 inch square tin)

200g butter, plus extra for greasing
1 large egg
4 tbsp milk
200g golden syrup
85g black treacle (molasses)
85g dark brown sugar
100g medium oatmeal (I substituted a little pinhead oatmeal to make even ‘nuttier’)
250g self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
1 tbsp ground ginger

Method

Butter a 9 inch cake tin (or line with baking parchment).
Set oven to 140degC fan (160degC/gas 3)
Gently warm the butter, sugar, golden syrup and black treacle in a pan until the sugar is dissolved.
Mix together very well the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Add the melted ingredients and mix again very well. Add the milk, mixing well again, and finally add the lightly beaten egg and mix till very well combined.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake in the oven until firm (about 50-60 minutes – it was longer from my larger parkin).
When cool turn out, cut into squares and wrap in nonstick paper then foil (or put in an airtight tin). Try not to eat it for a few days; I prefer a couple of weeks.

By the way, it makes a great pudding; just warm it and pour over a generous helping of custard.

Other parkins

I should say that there are other parkins, notably from over the Pennines in Lancashire. I’ll leave it to others to argue about where it originated.

Other traditional foods for plot night are baked potatoes (in the bonfire, not the oven – taste quite different), and plot toffee (basically parkin without the dry ingredients, boiled till it will set hard).

I was horrified to hear an advertisement for Heinz mustard claiming that hot dogs are traditional bonfire night food. Bull****.

Another 'health' item added to my diet

Another ‘health’ item added to my diet

Fortunately I live in a flat so generally can avoid the horrible little trick or treaters and, worse, their parents. This Halloween money-making scam for the supermarkets, imported in its present form from the USA, is gradually usurping the traditional UK event on 5th November, leaving that to the big boys competing to see who can spend the most money to make the largest explosion.

Short story or poem?

However, this year I cannot ignore Halloween completely as this is the theme given for our short story/poem task in our local writers’ club ‘Writing on the Wharfe‘, to be read at the meeting on 29 October. You’d think it would be easy but I’m struggling, not having the recently discovered short-story-a-day talent of Jenny Malloney or the poetic talent of one of my longest standing ‘followed’, another Jenny – the optimistic pessimist. I wonder if I’ll manage a haiku. If I do manage something I guess it will make next week’s post here.

One good thing about Halloween is that pumpkins abound. Having been advised by my good internet friend Eddy Winko to eat pumpkin seeds, following my most recent post, a good source has suddenly appeared at a price much lower than the exhorbitant health food shop offerings. I’ve acquired pumpkin seed oil for salads but the seeds will readily replace the sunflower seeds I would usually put in the bread I bake.

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