Hello, I had to take a rather sudden and unexpected break. My job hasn’t been especially busy the last few months, lots of thumb twiddling, not a lot of commission being earned. Then out of the blue we got a new client. A shoe company in the US with a European arm, the whole company had been bought out by Adidas and needed their financial systems migrating accordingly. Cue me on a plane to the Adidas HQ in Herzogenaurauch, about 40 minutes outside of Nuremburg.
It was all very last minute and rushed, I went out for a two week period but came home in the middle. Herzogs is a bit of a shithole and the prospect of spending the weekend there was too much to put up with. So I did 4 flights in 2 weeks and feel an immense need to go plant some trees. Especially as I have more visits due in the next couple of months. More on that later.
The campus itself was fairly nice. The Germans seem like very happy people. Like really genuinely happy. Not this passive aggressive happy bullshit you get in corporations over here. The food was good but a little unhealthy. I had some delicious fried waffles, kartoffeln something or other and one night for dinner I had my food served still in the pan!! I also had deer meatballs. They sure do know how to eat!
So, a pretty good trip, just having to reconcile my conscience about the air travel and being a bit of a corporate whore!
Unfortunately I was so busy I didn’t get an awful lot of time to look around and shop. It was all go from 7.30am to 8pm and then dinner with the team until 11.30pm, then bed, then did it all over again. The second half of the week was interesting. There was a beer festival on so all the hotels were booked and I spent 5 days in 4 hotels. One of which was a shared apartment with this 6’6″ Dutch guy I’d only met once who, on the first night, answered the door in his tighty-whiteys! It’s not exactly the flash international consultant lifestyle I was brought up to expect.
I’m still doing a lot of work for them over the next few weeks, just remotely. I should be going back the week before Christmas for a few days. In Nuremburg there is a proper German Christmas Market on. I suspect they just call it a Christmas Market! Hopefully I have some time to check out their bread and sausages. I ate a lot of both of these and they were some of the best foods I’ve ever tasted. I need to find the names of some of the breads and hopefully track down some recipes.
In the meantime, I’ll be making German Stollen for Christmas. I do this every year and have done for the last 6/7 years I think. This year, I’m going all out. I have dariole moulds and galvanised buckets. It’s very exciting! Watch this space!
This weekend we went to Shepreth Wildlife Park. It was awesome! Ridiculously cold and it rained hard but awesome nonetheless! I’d never been before, despite passing it countless times on the train to London and whenever the stopping train called at Shepreth I’d say to myself “Oh, I must go there one day!”!
So off we went. No sooner had we stepped outside the gift shop when we saw this little chap, a prairie dog:
Then we saw a horse:
You could go and pet them but I was a bit scared of the muntjack (yeah, I know, lame) that was also in the pen.
Then we saw a big fat pig, eating off the floor, too busy to look up!
After a bit of wandering about peering in empty cages (all the animals were hiding from the icy wind in their huts) we came across the best bit. Meerkat Manor! These guys were awesome and put on a lovely little show for us!
Then we saw this little chap:
I’d never seen an otter before (despite growing up in sticksville) and I was surprised by a) how small they are and b) what a racket they make. There were two pairs. Apparently they hold hands when they sleep so they don’t drift off!
Then we saw a couple of Lynxes which were lovely:
Then it hammered it down and I put my camera away but we saw rabbits, fish, tigers, a mountain lion, some birds. Yeah, it was awesome! Def go back in the summer. They have a lovely little picnic area we will take advantage of I think.
Back after a slight break. I made too much bread in one go and made myself ill eating it all! Felt very doughy for a few days!
This week it’s number 9 of Project BreadHead. English Muffins! I love muffins and if you read to the end, I’ll show you why!
White bread flour, salt, lukewarm milk, caster sugar, yeast and olive oil.
Make your milk if necessary.
Take 150ml of the milk and mix with the sugar and yeast. Leave for 15 mins.
In the meantime, sift the flour and salt into a bowl and make a well in the centre.
When the yeast is ready it will look nice and foamy! Mix in the rest of the milk and the oil and stir.
Pour into the flour.
Mix well for about 5 minutes. I got my hands in there!! It will be soft but hold it’s form. Cover with cling film and leave to rise for an hour.
It should be at least double in size when done.
Knock it back and roll it out onto a floured surface. Roll it to about 1cm thick. Cut it into circles. The book said proper circles but all I have is crimped cutters. Doesn’t matter much, when it rises again and then cooks, the crimps disappear! I’m such an amateur! Leave these to rise on a baking tray, covered with a towel, for 30 minutes. Don’t worry if they don’t rise much at this point. They will!
Lightly oil a frying pan and cook in batches. I started with 4 but got bored and then did 6 at a time. Book said fry them for 7 mins each side but mine were quite small so I did them for 5 mins each side. Also because I was bored! 😉
Now, to serve these, don’t cut through them. Score round the middle first…
…then tear them open!
They are better with a rough centre.
Now for the best part. Eggs Benedict! Take the muffins, toast them very lightly, cover them in ham. here I’m using German Brunswick Ham from Waitrose.
Poach some eggs. To do this, boil some water in a pan and add some drops of vinegar, drop in two eggs, reduce the gas, leave for 2 mins, drain and sit on top of the ham.
Cover with Hollandaise sauce and black pepper. Breakfast this morning was absolutely delicious. Even better when you’ve made it yourself!
Busy weekend, made two breads. Feeling very doughy! Number 8 of Project BreadHead. Crumpets! I made some crumpets at Valentines with some heart shaped fried egg templates. They were a bit greasy. This recipe is much better!
Plain flour, white bread flour, salt, milk, water, sunflower oil, caster sugar, yeast, bicarb of soda, more water!
Sift the two flours with the salt into a bowl.
Mix the milk and water and heat to lukewarm. Add the oil and sugar and mix.
Mix the yeast with 150ml of this milk mix. Leave for 15 minutes. This is instead of just mixing yeast with water, not in addition to. You end up with a super frothy yeast mix!
Mix everything into the flour and beat for 5 minutes. It should be quite creamy. Cover with cling film and leave for 90 minutes in a warm place. When it’s done it should have lots of bubbles in it!
Mix the bicarb and water. Mix into the dough. Cover and leave for another 30 minutes. You should have more finer bubbles.
Heat a griddle pan on a medium heat. Add the crumpet rings. Add 1/2tsp of oil. Half fill the rings with dough. Leave for 7 minutes, remove the ring, flip over and cook for 2 mins. Repeat. You should get about 20 crumpets.
Leave them to cool on a wire rack. Serve with butter, jam, honey etc etc!
Back on track now with loaf number 7 of Project BreadHead. This week it’s Shaped Dinner Rolls. I made similar in the last bread making class but they didn’t turn out as nice as these did. Not sure why, it’s a similar recipe. I think that class is cursed, everything I bring home is rubbish. Maybe someone switches it when I’m not looking!
Sift the flour and salt together in a bowl. I got new bowls this week, they’re much better!
Add the egg and the milk and mix to form a dough. Turn out and knead for 10 minutes. I opted not to flour my surface for this one, I wanted to keep the dough quite moist.
Leave to rise, covered with cling film, for an hour. New bowls have more space, can’t escape now!!
Turn out, knead for 2 minutes then cut into 12 equal pieces. I did this in class and they were still too big so I cut into 16. Roll them into balls.
At this point, you have many options with what you can do. Here are the ones I went for:
Trefoils. Roll the ball into an oblong.
Cut into three pieces and stick together.
Braids. Roll into an oblong and cut into three pieces.
Roll the pieces out evenly.
Braid them. Pinch the top of the three pieces together. Then you want to focus only on the middle piece i.e. whichever piece becomes the middle after a movement. Take the middle left, then right, then left, then right, then squeeze the ends together to seal. That would look like 123, 213, 231, 321, 312. If you can picture that!
Batons. Roll into oblongs and slash across. They’re bit more fragile at this size. Looks like a slug!
Cottage loaf. Split into two, two thirds and one third. Sit one on top of the other. Press a hole in the middle with a wooden spoon handle.
Finally, I made a knot but I forgot to get a picture of it. Roll it out really long, then make a knot. Simple!
Leave to rise for 30 mins under some cling film. Glaze with an egg yolk and sprinkle with the seeds. Your choice how many of each, how liberally etc. Bake on Gas Mark 7 for for 15-18 minutes. Then cool on a wire rack.
Enjoy! These are some of the nicest rolls I’ve ever tasted but they quickly lose their freshness so freeze the excess.
Hello again! I’m jumping back to loaf number 5 of Project BreadHead this week after getting a clay pot. Only got one because they’re so big. The smaller ones at the garden centre were plastic. Had a sneaky suspicion that they wouldn’t bake so well!!
Wholemeal and White Flour, salt, yeast, milk, water, butter, mixed herbs. Again, I used milk powder for the milk. The recipe called for chives, parsley and sage but I just went for mixed herbs. It also wanted an egg for glazing but we were out of eggs! Shocking!
Time to prepare the yeast. Mix in with 150ml water.
Cover with cling film and leave to rise.
After about 10 minutes, you should get a nice foamy layer on top.
Prepare your milk mix if using this.
Slowly pour the milk into the yeast and stir to keep smooth.
Sift the salt and both the flours into a bowl. Make a well in the centre.
Pour in the yeast and milk mix. Take some of the flour from the outer edge and cover the centre well. Leave for 15 minutes, covered with cling film.
Add the water, melted butter and herbs and mix to make a dough. Mine was quite wet so I added more flour to absorb the excess liquid.
Knead for 10 minutes and then place in an oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Leave for 1.5 hours.
Prepare a clay pot! Ideally you would do this a couple of days before starting your bake. Buy an ordinary terracotta pot from a garden centre. Liberally coat in oil inside and out and bake on gas mark 6 for 30 minutes. Leave to cool. Repeat several times. I did mine 4 times. The first time you do it, the pot will go really dry. After another 3 bakes, it will retain the moisture from the oil. This apparently makes it easier to remove the bread when done.
Knock back the dough. Don’t knead, just shape and place in the clay pot.
Leave to rise until it comes to the top.
Glaze and add a topping e.g. fennel seeds or wholemeal flakes.
Preheat the oven on gas mark 6. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from the pot and leave to cool. This can be difficult!!
And done! It’s interesting having a completely rounded bread with no crusts. I still question why anyone thought baking in a flower pot was a good idea though. Ah the Welsh! Bless ’em! My pot is going out in the garden now. With a plant in it.
You’re very lucky today. Yesterday, I made two loaves! Loaf 6 from Project BreadHead and the one I’m about to detail below.
Prior to buying the book I’m basing project breadhead on, I enrolled on a course at the local college to learn how to make bread, or more specifically, to pick up some techniques I might not otherwise come across from just reading a book. That course started this week and I’ve already learnt a new skill. Win!
The course is massively over subscribed so I’m glad I got my enrollment in super early. I’ve never really had much success with adult courses in the past. I either get kicked off them due to an admin fuck up, I miss them due to work commitments or the tutor fails to turn up. Well, that last one, he got knocked off his bike and broke his shoulder so I’ll let him off!
When I was at proper school, 14 or so, I enrolled on an evening course to do programming. Actual school was boring as fuck and I needed more! I turned up, signed in, sat down amongst all these 40 somethings and joined in. I picked it all up really easy and surprised the hell out of the tutor and the guy sat next to me who was a professional programmer learning a new language. At the end of the lesson, the tutor took me to one side and told me I couldn’t come back because I was under age and I shouldn’t have been allowed to enrol. She was really apologetic and really wanted me to stay but her hands were tied.
Getting back on track, this course looks good but it’s questionable how good the bread will be that we make on the night given the short amount of time we have. The one I made on the night was a big solid lump of dough. I don’t think it had enough time to rise. Didn’t even eat it, just slung it in the green bin. However the recipe looked good so I decided to make it at home.
3tsp dried yeast, 320ml warm water, 1tsp brown sugar, 300g white bread flour, 200g whole wheat flour, 2tsp salt. The whole wheat flour can be any type you like, I used the granary flour from the first loaf of project breadhead. Sieved out the flakes first!
Mix up your yeast. However, with this one, we’re adding sugar and all the water at once. I’ve done this before and it really helps get a good rise if you’re using whole wheat. I don’t think you need sugar in a white loaf. The yeast will get really foamy and smell like a really sweet beer.
Mix your flours together and add the salt. Make a well in the centre.
Add the yeast and mix to form a dough, then knead for 10 minutes until it gets elasticy. I’ve found that when you work with whole wheat flour, the whole loaf is heavier and drier so it won’t get as elastic and you will need some more water on hand.
Place in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise for about an hour. As I was making the other loaf at the same time and the oven was being used for dinner, this ended up being left on its first prove for about three hours. A new tip learned from the course is that it doesn’t matter how long you leave the first prove. You can leave it overnight if you wish. Doesn’t make a difference to the end result.
Once risen, knock it back and knead very gently for a minute or so. My next new tip was the art of shaping. I’ve never really cared too much for this but I can see it coming in useful for certain loaves. Use the heel of your hand and push the dough away, turning it as you go. Use the palm of your other hand to help roll this around until you have a nice, even, smooth surface. The bottom will still be flat but that’s ok. Roll in flour and place on a baking tray and leave to rise for 30 mins. The second prove you can’t leave for long.
Slice a cross into the centre of the dough with a sharp knife and leave for 15-20 mins. Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 while this is rising. Bake the loaf for 30 minutes. You can use a tray of water to keep the moisture up in the oven to make the bread softer.
Leave to cool on a wire rack. Slice to serve.
I like these rustic breads toasted, buttered and served with an egg! I bet you’re thinking I made that eggcup as a kid and I’ve kept it and it’s really sweet right? No such luck, I’m just really crap at pottery painting, I made that when I was about 23!!
Next week we’ll be making dinner rolls which is perfect timing because I have to make those for Project BreadHead soon too.
Hello. I’m jumping ahead a bit to loaf number 6 of Project BreadHead because I don’t have any clay pots for loaf 5 yet. Hopefully get those this weekend! But in the meantime, here is my attempt at the Split Tin:
Flour, salt, yeast, milk and water. Again, I used milk powder as soya milk doesn’t work so well.
Mix up your yeast in a jar and leave for 10 minutes. Should get a bit foamy and a lot smelly!!
Mix the salt and flour and sift. Create a well and pour in the yeast mixture.
Now, the recipe says you should get a batter and to keep adding flour until fully mixed and then to leave for 20 minutes. It should turn to a sponge and bubble on top. Then you add the milk and mix to a dough. Mine didn’t do that. It just went straight to dough. Not sure why, I think I need a bigger mixing bowl so I can gradually add the flour. I might try this loaf again at some point, it’s a really handy shape for sandwiches so I can definitely see a future use. Knead for 10 minutes and leave to rise for around an hour. I made a second loaf today and left both of them to rise for longer than an hour while I juggled them.
Knock back the risen dough and knead gently for a couple of minutes and shape into a rectangle and place inside a loaf tin. Leave to rise for another 30 minutes.
Use a sharp knife and score down the middle and leave for 15 minutes. Originally, bakers would put two doughs into one tin to create the split but it’s just easier to slice it.
Bake on gas mark 8 for 15 minutes, turn down to gas mark 6 and bake for 25 minutes more. Tapping the bottom should give a hollow sound. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Looking at the result I should’ve sliced much deeper, almost replicating the two dough method.
Serve. Last time it was a Quorn chicken burger. This time it’s roast pork. Much better!!
Well, I’m certainly cooking with gas as I bring you the third bake of Project BreadHead. Fortunately, my gas is provided by the lovely people at Good Energy who are trying their best to make renewable gas!
Yesterday I made a Poppy-Seeded Bloomer. Very simple to make but just as a heads up, it needs about 8 hours of rising so give yourself plenty of time with this one!
Here are the ingredients:
Flour, salt, yeast and water. With poppy seeds for decoration.
First up, if you’re using dried yeast you need to prepare it. Mix the required amount with 150ml water. Cover with cling film and leave somewhere warm for 15 minutes. Give it a stir and top up the water:
Sift the salt and flour together and make a well in the center:
Add the yeast mix and stir until it forms a fairly dry dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl and leave to rise for SIX HOURS!!!
Knock it back and turn out onto a floured surface:
Just a close up on the air bubbles on this. You can see how different the extra proving time makes this dough:
Give it a really good knead for another five minutes and then put back in the bowl and leave for two hours this time. When you return, it may have escaped!
Knock it back and turn out onto a floured surface. Give it another good knead for five minutes and then leave it to sit for five minutes. Roll it out into a rectangle about an inch thick:
Take a long side and roll it up. Place on a floured baking sheet, seam side up and leave for 15 minutes:
Turn it over, fluff it up by tucking in the edges and then make some diagonal slashes with a sharp knife:
Leave to rest for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to gas mark 8. Make a paste from salt and water and brush the top. Add poppy seeds for decoration:
Spray the oven sides with water and bake the loaf for 20 minutes then reduce to gas mark 6 for 25 minutes. This gives it the really crusty texture that works so well on bread like this:
When it’s ready leave to cool on a wire rack. If the underside is still a bit soft, turn off the oven and leave the bread in upside down for about 10 minutes. Then serve:
I made lunch! Quorn Southern Style Chicken Burgers, Curly Kale and Mayo. Delish!
Time for part 3 of my gaming history. In Part 2 we went from 8-bit to 64-bit to 32-bit, in that order! In this part I’m focusing mostly on 128-bit with a bit of PC thrown in for good measure!
As we approached the turn of the century, nay millennia, I was happily bashing away (!) on my PSOne. At some point I had replaced my big grey one with one of these:
It was so pretty. I’m not sure why I replaced the old one, I think this one was easier to play pirated games on. You just added a tab to the CD eject switch and then used tape to keep the cover down. Not that I’d know, having never done it, of course!
In 1999 the Sega Dreamcast was released:
Oh I loved it! It was so ahead of its time. But let’s back up a moment. I was working for a major retail chain, there was an over-running delivery that needed finishing so the boss and I stayed back. On this delivery was the as yet unreleased Dreamcast a customer had pre-ordered. We opened it up and hooked it up to one of the TV’s in store. Mind blowing doesn’t even cover it!
My boss ordered one there and then, on finance, so I had to get one too. I waited until the price had dropped first though. I remember they were super expensive! This was the first console to do online gaming. It was pretty basic, mostly just for uploading scores. It had an internet browser but the modem was dial up. I remember hunting online for a cheap DSL modem from France only to realise that the DSL in this country wasn’t compatible. We’re so backwards in the UK!
I had some fantastic games on this. 18 Wheeler American Pro Trucker, Buzz Lightyear, Crazy Taxi, Dave Mirra, MSR. Man, the list goes on, I had about 60 games all in. The graphics were phenomonal, the sound was awesome and playability of all of these games was second to none!
Sadly, one day I tried to mod the case and drilled a screw into the wrong place and short circuited the board. RIP Dreamcast. Sad face!
Before I jump onto the PS2, I’ll take a moment to salute the Xbox. I’ve never been a fan, the controls are weird and it’s always felt behind the times. However, when it was released, I was the boss at that major retail chain and when we got the customer pre-orders in the night before launch I arranged a night in for me and some of the delivery boys. We hooked it up to a brand new 28″ widescreen TV in the staffroom, got in some beers and pizza and had a blast! I think there was a racing game and a snowboarding game. They were ok but not exactly mind blowing. I feel a bit sorry for those guys who pre-ordered these consoles only to get second hand shit but as long as the major retail chains continue to pay peanuts…
So now we get onto the PS2!
Around this time I was going through a lot of issues, personal life and work life. My crap personal life resulted in me throwing myself into work life before finally imploding. But gaming, and music, pretty much saved my life! I was working the night shift getting ready for a major launch, running behind schedule so I ended up working right through the day as well. I was hella knackered, really discombobulated. I woke up at home with a PS2 in a bag next to the sofa and a receipt. I literally have no recollection of buying it or getting home, I was completely out of it! Oh well, my gain right?!
This console lasted me right the way through the Noughties. It has travelled across the country with me and has been in almost all the houses I have ever lived in. It almost deserves its own part! I started out with all the usual games people had. Mostly just upgrades of PSOne titles. Crash, GT, Tony Hawk, Fifa etc. Then one day, a customer brought in a disc that he said had broken his PS2. It was all scratched and he was trying to claim his system was faulty etc etc. We replaced it. Before we sent the bad stock away, I took the disc home and loaded it up. I’d heard some hype and was really interested. That game, was Grand Theft Auto 3:
Right from the off I was hooked. Don’t get in the car, jump the bridge to the right and you pick up a baseball bat. Then you just start smacking up peds! It was ridiculously violent! I just couldn’t believe it! I tried playing the game but the disc was too badly scratched so I just went and bought it the next day. That game consumed so much of my life. As did the follow up Vice City and then San Andreas. 14 hour gaming days were no stranger to me! I 100% all of them. Albeit with cheats. It’s just such a good series.
Between Vice City and San Andreas, I moved to London. I got a job working for Electronic Arts. I was a tester and all around helper boy on Freedom Fighters. Name in the credits too! There I was introduced to the joys of game modding. I got GTA3 and VC on the PC and started modding away. Cars mostly. I really got into designing 3D cars. I got quite good at it too. This in turn encouraged me to get more into PC gaming.
I had a PC right through this period but as is the case, every new game requires an upgrade and I just got sick of it. I have played every game in the Command and Conquer series, Worms and Doom. I think that was about it! I finally bought a new PC and was able to play games again, if only for a short while. My flatmate was a big Wolfenstein fan and he had Enemy Territory. What an introduction to online FPS’s that was! It was so good and the concept of classes and people working together as a team was something I’d just never seen before. At the time I’d have said the only thing it was missing was the ability to talk to each other but looking at how that turned out on the current systems, I’m 100% certain that I’m glad you couldn’t!
Coming back to PS2, about a year before I bought my PS3, I got one of those modem kits and was able to take Battlefield online. It just wasn’t anywhere near as good. I wonder if this was because most people had migrated over to PS3 by this point or if it was just a shit experience in itself.
Finally, some key games to mention are the Burnout series, Guitar Hero 2, Medal Of Honour (I just kept playing the D-Day landing mission!) and the Tiger Woods series. All cracking games. Like I say, the PS2 lasted me through the Noughties. What other system, PC aside, could have had the longevity of nearly an entire decade? There just isn’t one. Even the Xbox piked out too soon. However, it had to happen one day. I had paid off all my debt and as a present to myself for being so good, I traded in everything and bought myself a PS3 and a shiny new flatscreen TV. Find out what that was like in Part 4!
An onion, some butter, white bread flour, easy bake dried yeast, mustard powder, grated mature cheese, milk and water and some salt and pepper.
The recipe asks for unbleached white flour but I couldn’t find that anywhere convenient so I’ve used normal. For the yeast, you can use a sachet or the Dove’s Farm stuff. I used a sachet just because I have some lying around I want to get rid of. For the milk I had to improvise. I don’t drink milk, I use Soya milk but that’s generally rubbish for baking so I used a milk powder. I made up a mix of 300ml and used this. It’s got a lower viscosity than just milk so I assumed the mix replicated the watered down milk this recipe asked for.
First up, chop the onion pretty finely and saute in about half the melted butter:
Leave that to one side to cool. Sift the flour into a bowl and mix in the yeast, mustard, salt and pepper, three quarters of the cheese and the cooled onion. It gets a bit lumpy:
Make a well in the centre and pour in the milky mix. Stir to form a soft dough then turn out onto a floured surface for kneading. Knead for about 10 minutes. This is such a full and heavy mix and really takes some work but then as it starts to get more elasticy, it gets easier. Roll into a ball and place in an oiled bowl:
Leave to rise for an hour:
Turn it out onto a floured surface, knock it back and knead for a couple of minutes. Split into about 20 even pieces. I managed 16, could’ve gone smaller I suppose! Split in half and use one half to layer the bottom of the pan. Brush with some melted butter:
Add the other half and brush again:
Cover with cling film and leave to rise for 45 minutes:
Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top:
Bake for 45 minutes on gas mark 5. I need a bigger tin, this exploded!
This is a really nice bread. It’s more like a massive cheese scone though. It goes well with soup, toasted or just with butter. Or if like me, you’ll spend hours just picking at it and eating it unspoiled!