Tag Archives: baking

April 2013: Bread

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Our speaker for the April meeting was Dave Francis, who taught us some of the basics of making sourdough bread.

It’s always great to have someone who is very passionate about their craft and Dave certainly is. He gave us a real insight into how bread is made, from start to finish, and explained the differences between traditional methods and those used to mass-produce loaves for supermarkets, which was very interesting.

The first half of the evening was mostly taken up with making our own dough. Everyone was given the right ingredients and set to work mixing and kneading. It was a messy process and involved a lot more water than most people were used to, but Dave seemed happy with the results and instructed everyone on what to do with the dough once we got it home.

After we had tidied up and had a quick cup of tea, it was time to hear a bit more about the process of making sourdough, including how the starter (the bit which gets the whole process going when you begin mixing) is made.

Dave had thoughtfully brought in starters at different stages to show us what their appearance, size and – most distinctively – smell should be like. We all got a chance to have a look at what we should be aiming for, and some of the ladies even had a go at grinding the raw ingredients which looked like very hard work!

In true Blue Peter style, Dave produced some sourdough loaves he had baked earlier so we could all try a piece. It was a useful guide for us so that, when we baked our dough at home, we could get an idea of whether it tasted as it should, particularly as sourdough has a very different flavour to ordinary bread.

It was a really interesting evening and even those of us who had baked bread before learned something new. Dave has also allowed us to reproduce his recipe for perfect sourdough, which can be found here: Sourdough.

Happy baking!

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February 2012: AGM and the Great Sweethearts Bake Off

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Is there any better way to spend Valentine’s Day than by eating a lot of cake with some lovely people, and then judging them for their skills?

As our February meeting fell on the night when a lot of strange people want to spend time with their loved ones, we were unsure what sort of crowd we would attract.

We needn’t have worried, however – our fabulous bakers and eager tasters turned out in sufficient numbers to ensure a lively evening and a great competition.

The night began with our AGM, which is a vital part of our role as a WI. It was nothing too onerous, however: a bit of an update on our finances, a look back on our first year-and-a-bit together, and a talk about where our annual membership money goes from Carol Ambler, one of the wonderful federation advisers who helped us to get started in those early days.

We were then introduced to the committee members (most people probably had no idea who they were because they spend every meeting running around like lunatics!) and a vote was taken on who our president should be for the coming year. The lovely Bex Brown was re-elected by a landslide, which we were thrilled about – she has been the heart and soul of the group since it began and works incredibly hard to make it all run smoothly. Of course, she has the backing of a great committee to help her out!

After the business of the night was complete, we moved on to the bake-off. The instructions had been simple: bake something and bring it with you. The result was an incredible array of sweet things, from biscuits to brownies, and lemon drizzle to loaf cakes, to suit all tastes.

With so many entries, we decided to split the competition in two: large cakes (ie one big cake which required slicing) and small cakes/biscuits. Everyone was encouraged to try as many different samples as possible and then to vote for their favourite in each category.

Incredibly, almost every entry got at least one vote, showing that a good cake really is a matter of taste. All of the entries showed a lot of skill and time had gone into the competition – you would expect no less from the WI! However, there could only be one winner – or, in this case, four winners and a best in show.

We chose a runner up and a winner in each category. The overall winner, with the most votes out of both categories, was Debs Wynn. She had baked an incredible raspberry cheesecake with brownie base, using the very clever tactic of including a range of delicious cakey elements to try to please as many people as possible. Each category winner was given a first place rosette, while Debs got a special Best in Show rosette.

It was a very successful first AGM and bake-off, as well as a brilliant way to spend Valentine’s Day. Roll on next year!