A story of currant buns, mice and permaculture

currant buns- cityhippyfarmgirl

currant bunsWhen I was a little girl I used to have a poster from Autumn Story- Brambly Hedge (by Jill Barklem). I don’t know where I got it from and I don’t know where it went, but it had embedded in my mind, and was still remembered fondly as an adult. I loved that picture. Every part of it spoke to me, on a level I couldn’t explain as a kid.

Decades later as a mother now, my own children have several of these books by Jill Barklem. I knew I still loved, and was more than happy to read them whenever I was asked to. But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago when it all finally clicked.

I loved these stories, loved these pictures and was drawn in a sentimental way to the seasonal themes. Not because I wanted to be a mouse, with long held dreams of having a tail. But because they were living a life that I aspired too, (and strangely enough, seems I’ve always aspired to.) It was a kind of ‘duh’ moment, where I frowned a little, and the light inside my head clicked well and truly on.

brambly hedge

Autumn Story- Brambly Hedge

Let me try and explain…

First up a description of what the Brambly Hedge books are about, “…a community of self-sufficient mice who live together in the tranquil surroundings of the English countryside.” Self sufficiency on a community level…damnit, these mice were surely permaculturalists!

With adult eyes, I look at the beautiful pictures in these books. I see kitchens full of preserved goodies, dried seasonal foods hanging from ceilings and berries being collected to make sweet pastry lined pies. With busy tables full of bustling family members,   seasonal festivities, crafting, natural earth building, hell…they even had laden cake stand with hand made tea cosy.

brambly hedge

So many things I held dear, had interest in or aspired to, was right there…in a mouse book. It was hard not to smile and get a little bit excited when I explained it all to Mr Chocolate. By this time, I know he’s well used to odd thoughts and conversations flying from me, but even he agreed that yes, on closer look they did indeed seem to be living a life that I often speak of. With a happy heart, I suggested to my boys, that we read them, one more time before bed, and possibly again the next night. (I never know, it might in turn create a long held dream of their own to have an interest in permaculture, seasonal living…or at the very least, to grow a long tail and a pair of small pink ears.)

currant buns

So what do currant buns have to do with mice, permaculture and childhood books? Well if  I’m going to let myself get completely absorbed in the books, I should have the appropriate food on the table, don’t you think? Currant Buns seemed liked a good choice, and one that a small community of rural living little mice might also enjoy, don’t you think?

Currant Buns

300g starter

2 tsp dried yeast

150g currants

100mls hot water

300mls cream

750g (5 cups) flour

50g brown sugar

250mls water

2 tsp salt

Soak your currants in 100mls of hot water for an hour or so beforehand. Add all your ingredients together except your salt. Mix well, and leave for 40 minutes. Add salt and mix again, (I use my mixer) or knead on a lightly floured surface until well incorporated and dough is smooth. Leave to prove for a couple of hours, with a couple of knock backs in between.  Shape into rolls and place on a lined tray, allow to prove for another hour or so.

Bake at 220 for approximately 15-20 minutes.

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Inspiration with The Sourdough Baker, Newcastle



cityhippyfarmgirl

thesourdoughbaker

There is a heady smell of freshly baked bread in the air as I close the little gate to the garden. The nights dew still sticks to the grass, making a soft squeaking noise underfoot. Following the sourdough signs, the incredible smell in the air confirms that I’m in the right spot.

garden

kids club

I’ve come in search of The Sourdough Baker in Newcastle. Currently baking at the Croation Sports Club in Wickham. Nestled in next to a community garden- sourdough and a community garden? It’s already making me smile and I haven’t even tasted the bread yet.

the baker

The Sourdough Baker is Warwick Quinton, who has been baking in all sorts of formats for the last few decades. I first heard of him through the wonders of Instagram, but several friends and family members had been telling me of delicious sourdough tales well beforehand. With his gorgeous partner Ginnie by his side and a handful of trusty helpers, the bread is woodfired and baked in “Bertha” the hefty black oven.

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Watching the beautiful loaves come out of the oven, lined up the table, and sit in the early morning sunlight. I can’t help but feel a huge amount of bread happiness. It’s these sort of people that I find incredibly inspiring, making a business work out of something that is so obviously dear to their heart.

Any artisan work is a labour of love, and sourdough bread really is a wonderful example of that. That love is certainly here, as I bite down on my thickly sliced bread a little while later. I scrutinise the crumb and take in the taste. So different to my own loaves.

It’s good, really good.

cityhippyfarmgirl

Talking with Warwick on all things sourdough, I find out his methods are also completely different to my own. Reading The Sourdough Baker’s site days later and there were audible pops as my brain explodes just a little.

I knew sourdough was a flexible beast, with many variations on how to do things, but some of his methods I hadn’t even considered. Seventy two hours from beginning dough mixing to end, desem dough sourdough starter and slashing hours before going in to the oven, were just some of them. All bready tweaks that I think I would definitely like to play with down the track.

For a wannabe bread nerd I still have a lot to work on, so visits like this just fuel that wanting to learn. So many variations, methods and ingredients to play with. All things which after about three years of baking sourdough I still find incredibly exciting. As I sat later, chewing on sourdough and musing on all kinds of bready possibilities, ideas began to form. Mental lists of what to play with next and how to go about it were made.

And next time I’m in Newcastle? Well, I know where I’m getting my bread from.

cityhippyfarmgirl

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For recipes, sourdough tales, bread making classes and general information, have a peek at the…

The Sourdough Baker