Monday, 11 December 2017

In a Vase on Monday - Codswallop

I can just hear my mother say: that's a load of codswallop.  I would laugh and say well it is in a Coddswallop bottle.  Cathy who hosts IAVOM, by complete coincidence as staged her offering this week in an old bottle, and she has had snow, and snowdrops, so do go there and see she and other contributers have come up with.

The colour of the stem is almost the same as the acqua blue of this vintage bottle which still has its marble.  I love old bottles and recently on our visit to Bath, spent the best part of the day at The Museum of Bath at Work, where they have a complete bottling plant, with all the old bottles.  This is one of my top five museums.

A couple of my other vintage bottles are standing in with Festive bits and pieces...

My mother's idea of in a Vase on Monday would be brimming with flowers, but at present most have been beaten down by the heavy rain.  Unlike friends in the Midlands, we have had no snow settle, only a few flurries of sleet to cool the ambient temperature in the conservatory to the very low 5 to 10 C.

My echeveria 'Curly Locks' which was bought at the Wells Plants festival earlier this year, decided to throw up a flower spike.  It grew rather tall, most probably because of the poor light levels.  Since the plant had to be brought inside, and the flower size was starting to be rather top heavy, it made the ideal material for this weeks In a Vase on Monday.

Mistletoe grows in abundance in the area around Glastonbury, and at the great wreath making shindig at Wells WI last week, someone had brought in some vast bunches.

Together with some variegated ivy, aka: love stones, some Rosemary for remembrance, some bay, from the garden and old man's beard which another member had brought , I give you my loose Christmas Wreath, hung against the stone wall by the front door.

All the wreath bases had been made up by a Member's husband from willow and other shrubs from their garden...I can just imagine there was a great pruning spree as there were about 70 wreaths.  I think they have a 'willow' orchard....well we are very close to the Somerset Levels which are renowned for their Willow products.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Cranberry and Nut sourdough Loaf

This is one the December 2017 baking challenges from Jane Mason's Book: Perfecting Sourdough.

I doubled up on the bulk fermentation ingredients, then make half with dried cranberries and pecan nuts, and the second one with hazelnuts and raisins.  For the flours I used a mix of half and half white strong wheat, and creamy spelt.

As always the nuts were first baked a little in the oven till smelling and light golden, then with the fruit they were soaked in some of the liquid overnight, whilst the sourdough from the fridge had its overnight refresh.

These loaves took a very long time to rise, most probably because it was so cool.  They are meant to rise in proving baskets, but I felt more confident using tins for this dough.

They were shaped up and put into tins around 15:30 on Saturday, and by 18:00 still were not ready, so they went into the very cool conservatory for an overnight 'refrigerated' rise...but at 6:00 am they still were not high enough in the tin.  Having been brought them back into the kitchen then, and having been given a boost by sitting on top of the cooling toaster from breakfast, they finally went into the oven at about 11:00 am.

The Cranberry and Pecan Nut loaf is now in the freezer, and will come out for Christmas morning breakfast...but I could not resist cutting into the hazelnut and raisin loaf:

The flavour is topnotch, with hazelnuts warm and mellow, and the raisins soft and tangy in contrast..spread with a little butter and thick honey, then have made a tasty snack with Sunday afternoon tea.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Pumpernickel Rye from Perfecting Sourdough

For this loaf, I used regular wholemeal rye flour as an alternative to the coarsely ground specialist rye pumpernickel flour.  As Mr S has definitely said that he did not want any more caraway seed, I substituted this for fennel seeds.  I followed Jane Mason's recipe from #Perfecting Sourdough where she recommends soaking the seeds overnight in some water.  To give this loaf a little texture, in the soaking water I added some rye berry flakes and a handful of pumpkin seeds.

The dough was rather sticky so kneaded it in the mixing bowl, which worked rather well.  This is probably the sort of dough which, had I had a table top mixer, would have preferred to mix this in a machine.

Looking at the size of the dough, I felt that my standard 500g loaf tins would have been a little small, so opted to use the Silverwood tin, which in my opinion needs about 750g to 800g dough.  As I have been finding turning out long proving baked sourdoughs from steel tins a little tricky recently, I also lined the tin with some baking parchment, as well as buttering it.  This worked rather well.

With molasses in the dough, it is obvious that the finished loaf would be on the dark side, but I think this time the loaf was a little overbaked.  I should have noted this as the loaf was well shrunk from the sides by the end of the baking time. Not to worry, it is getting softer since it has cooled, and given that sourdough bread is probably best kept for a day or two before cutting, there will be a good flavour.

I think the Silverwood tins transfer the heat very efficiently compared to my black heavy non stick tins, and next time will omit placing then on a preheated baking tray.  I usually bake tins on on preheated baking tray which helps the bottom of the loaves bake well.

Monday, 27 November 2017

In a Vase on Monday - Lovestones

The more simple and 'common' the material for my vase, the more I feel that I have to find something to say about it which may be unknown or 'uncommon'.  Its been rather soggy and frosty over the last few days, and maybe it was because of this, we felt like a walk down the lane to enjoy some low summer sun.  In Somerset just along the boundary between the Mendips and the Levels we have hedges and ditches and  banks of evergreen Harts Tongue Fern, with ivy and other twining plants growing in the hedges.  Now the hedges are more or less leafless the outline of trees and longer views are a delight.  Being of short stature this is a bonus, where normally I have to stop at gateways, as a contrast Mr S being tall can normally forewarn me that a great view is coming up.

When I found that one of the old English regional names for Ivy was lovestones, I knew I had found the title for this week's arrangement.  Also it is just right because I love stones too.  Whether it is at the coast, or along a lake, or river, or just on a walk, my eye is drawn to pretty stones.....Just as my eye was drawn to the ivy in the hedgerows.

Ivies are wonderful for wildlife, it flowers late in the season, offering up their late nectar to nourish the last of the flying bees, bumblebees and hoverflies, and the berries too are enjoyed by the many birds here.

Upclose the geometry and texture of the flowers is interesting. Although this is the wild ivy, I do have a variegated ivy in the garden, not shown here, and enjoy the wide variety of shapes and forms in this family.

As always Cathy who hosts this meme has posted a colourful 'up beat' edition of In a Vase on Monday, so do go and see what others have come up.

Monday, 20 November 2017

In a Vase on Monday - Seeing is believing

I had a peep at Cathy's blog, and I had not thought it would be worth my posting, but when I saw what she had posted I thought I should try, so went out into the garden.  I was amazed at what I could cut, and putting them together is a record of how the weather has treated the garden here this year.  Do go and see her arrangement this week.

Whereas yesterday it was bright and sunny, a lovely bonus especially as we had old friends visit for lunch, today it is rather murky and posed my arrangement in the conservatory, where the light would so much better than in the house for the photograph.  I was just about to move the radio off the shelf..but saw that it gave the time and date...just so that I can compare this with post with posts from other years.  Seeing the vase and the date: 20.11.2017 I will believe in the future, and remember this mild but wet autumn.

There's no doubt that Autumn is coming to an end.  I am a bit of a weather watcher, loving clouds and the way many days and seasons are so variable.  I would have said from my experience of previous years that Winter should be well on its way by now.  Yet we still have bees and butterflies in the garden.  We have had a couple of slight frosts...yet this new garden with its stone wall on one side seems to have its own micro climate, with nasturtiums still in leaf and flower.

Contents of small green glazed round vase:  leaves of Mahonia Sweet Caress, Astrantia Major 'Sunningdale Variegated', two types of fuchsia, Wall flower Bowles Mauve, the lovely purple leaf and long flower spike is African Blue Basil I believe, a present from AlisonC, and some nasturtiums.

I remembered seeing the African Blue Basil at the Autumn Malvern Show in 2015, and adding it to my wish list then..., and wrote about it on my post!  The plant been moved to spend the winter in the shed just by the window, but anytime soon it may have to come indoors if the temperatures start to drop too low.