Tag Archives: kitchen

April 2013: Bread


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!


August 2012: Jams with Anne


This was our first meeting in our new venue, St George’s Social Club, and we found it a very welcoming new home.

Despite a few minor problems with locating light switches at the beginning, once we were set up things got under way smoothly and you would never have known it was an unfamiliar venue. There was plenty of room for all of us, lots of seating so we could set up as we wished, and the kitchen had four kettles (four!) to make sure there was enough to make tea and coffee for all our members.

The meeting was led by WI stalwart Anne Harrison, who brought with her many years of expertise as a farmer’s wife. She makes brilliant jams (as we were to find out later!) and had plenty of helpful hints for those of us who have never tried it before, or who needed some advice to improve our techniques.

Also at the meeting was Carol Ambler, another WI stalwart who, in her role as an adviser with the North Yorkshire West federation of the WI, helped us to set up the Spa Sweethearts last year. It was the first time she had been back to our group since the early days and she seemed very pleased with the way things were going and the strong membership we have.

As well as finding out about jam making, both Anne and Carol told us a bit more about what it means to be in the WI. They explained about resolutions and the campaigning role of the organisation, but reminded us that at the heart of it is enjoyment: members need to want to come to the meetings and feel they are getting something out of it. There was a lot of praise for our 2012 programme (designed by the brilliant Tessa Birch) and everyone was reminded that the programme for 2013 is being decided in the next few weeks, so suggestions for activities and sessions could be passed on to any committee member.

Once the jams had been cooked and carefully put into jars which were then tightly sealed, it was time for the important business of the night: the tasting. Some of our members had kindly baked scones so we could appreciate the jams as they should be eaten, and there was even some clotted cream to top it off.

Anne had provided a few different flavours of jam for us to try (some people were wandering around with plates which looked like artists’ palettes, given all the different colours!) and they all seemed to go down well. To help keep us on track, she had also supplied a sheet of recipes for us to use when we got back to our own kitchens. Whether it’s for ourselves or as treats for other people, we all felt better equipped to create delicious conserves by the end of the session.