Scones and silver sands

We took the ferry from Armadale across to Mallaig to check out the local shops. Being so close to the ferry means that Mallaig is actually closer than our closest town on the island as the crow flies, so it was useful to check it out from a supplies perspective.

There is a fabulous bakery and bread shop in Mallaig called the Bakehouse. They bake a great selection of sourdough breads, scones, cakes and other pastries. The local community stores on our southerly part of the island get bread deliveries from them each week. Alongside a great focaccia we sampled what must surely be the best cheese scones on the planet!

Mallaig is also an active fishing port and here you can buy locally landed fresh fish, langoustine and shellfish. Good to know when the cravings come upon us. It’s getting better, but there aren’t as many outlets for locally caught fish on Skye as you’d imagine.

On the way back to the ferry terminal we took a detour along the coast. Not knowing this part of the coastline at all we were astonished to discover that there are glorious white sand beaches all the way along a ten mile stretch or so. Quite stunning.

We were lucky with the weather. Despite enjoying a mostly dry, breezy day whilst we were out, once we turned for home the rain started in earnest as Storm Dorian swept in and clipped the coast. The crossing was very choppy and visibility almost zero with the rain.

We watched the storm lashing Knock Bay from the warmth of our cosy cottage on the hillside, glad to be home and dry. And thinking, not long now 😊…

Nuts, seeds and malted grains

Whilst we wait for the architects to draw up house plans in readiness for the planning permission application, life goes on.

It’s a blustery, cold March Saturday in London and I am experimenting with my sourdough baking.

I love the crunch of nuts and seeds in my bread, so I’ve added hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds and a few handfuls of malted grains to my dough this morning.

I’m tending towards the “stretch and fold” method of making sourdough rather than regular heavy pummelling of the dough. It seems to trap more air and gives a better crumb texture. I could probably do with the workout, but I’ll sacrifice my fitness for a great loaf…

There’s something very satisfying about a long, slow dough proving. Every time I pass the bowl I can’t help taking a quick peek under the tea towel, and I confess that it’s really gratifying to watch it double in size in a matter of a few hours.

But the real joy is eating big, crusty slabs of warm, freshly baked bread with salted butter, and the satisfaction of knowing that you made this with your own hands. And that you know exactly what has gone into it.

Bread is a very life-affirming thing.

Wild yeast bread

I’ve been baking bread for years but have only recently decided to experiment with sourdough, bread made with wild yeast in the form of a starter, or “mother”.

My “mother” is feisty and active, and I’ve called her Fran after a certain lady I once knew of the same temperament. I started her several weeks ago. She sits in a jar in my fridge gradually maturing and is starting to provide the most wonderful bread.

My hope is that by the time we’re on the island and a fair hop away from the local shops that we won’t have to rely on them for fresh bread, especially if the weather is bad, but that Fran will be turning out a loaf every few days.

Sourdough is an ancient form of bread and is easy to make (starter, flour, salt and water) although there is a bewildering amount of conflicting advice out there on t’interweb.

As with all things, this will take patience and a gradual coming into what works for my oven and me over time. I’ve made five sourdough loaves so far, two rye, three with stoneground wheat flour, and I’m still working through the best way to do this. The latest attempt, shown above, was from a baking in a pot in the oven and looks the most successful so far ☺️.

I’m off to slice this for breakfast now. Have a wonderful Sunday!