Baking with heritage wheat flour

Recently i was given some flour from some wheat grown at Torth Y Tir. Less dense in my fingers than Shipton No 4 and almost certainly ‘weaker’ , that is with less protein (it is the protein that gives the bread dough its strength and stops it becoming a soupy slop), i wondered about how to make sure i produced a loaf of bread with this.

I had heard that flour from heritage wheat can be more difficult to work with; on the other hand i also have heard from a very skilled baker that Jeffrey Hamelman, the famous American baker, recommends that you add low protein flour in the mix for all your bread.

The preferment after 8 hours

I would like to say that i had a long informed think about how to work with it, but i fancy that would be a fib. Instead, i distracted myself from lockdown news by coming to some quick on the spot decisions – i thought it might be good to bake it without mixing with other flour as a start, hold back on water, and use a sponge for a good long preferment to develop it as much as possible and then a long bulk in the fridge overnight.

The Torth y tir loaf just out the oven. The burst crust was a shame

What was interesting about working it was how far it stretched: i probably overworked it in fact – i have been told to be more gentle with the weaker flours. I certainly under-baked it by a couple of minutes, but it still came out to be a tasty loaf with a slightly nuttier and sweeter flavour.

In the autumn, hopefully we will have lots of heritage flour from the Sheffield Wheat Experiment and when we get to bake with it, this experience will be a useful bit of learning.

A pod of challah

I am wondering what the collective noun is for challah. They seem magical things like dolphins, so i am calling them a pod

a school of challah

I loved baking this challah – seeing them laid out proudly, they seemed to gain extra pride from their number stength . I always like the careful braid from three (or four or five or six) unprepossessing ropes of dough, and then a bread with life and magic glazed with egg (or honey solution) and scattered with poppy seeds.

What on earth are pizz-agels?

So, over the past couple of weeks the team at Nether Edge Pizza and me have got together and bakes some bagels in their wood fired oven.

We are planning to do this again, December 8th and December 9th from 8.30-11.30 (or until we are sold

out!) . The menu is available here.

We are committed to sourcing as much as we can from local providers: Birdhouse Teas, Frazers Coffee, cream cheese from Zeds. Spreads from Sheffield Honey and Just Preserves

So what are pizz-agels?


Bagels baked lovingly in a wood-fired pizza oven

Bagel pizza:

A bagel cut open then dressed with tomato sauce and other pizza toppings before being placed back in the oven or under a grill


Grain to plate – planting

Last month i was able to announce that Regather together with Friend’s Field, were planting an acre of land with winter wheat.

The hope is to be able to produce some flour from this and from that some locally baked bread – bagels, bialys,  sourdough…whatever! From grain to plate!

The ace was on to be able to plough in the green manure and prepare the land for planting before it would be too cold for the planting.

Great work from Regather and friends to ensure the field was ready, the ploughing went ahead.

Watch this space for the germination pictures!


Grain to plate – 2018-19

Not long ago i had a brief, almost throw away conversation, with people at Regather. We were talking about where our food comes from and how important it is to understand what happens before it gets to our plate.

This subject spans a wide spectrum of topics – from GMOs to multinationals to deforestation to imperialism to poverty, war….and more.

Friends’ field: green manure for three years

One aspect is fostering an experiential approach to understanding food production.

So, children have been seen increasingly at city farms over the past 30 years; our own Heeley City Farm being a great example; and schemes like Food for Life are dedicated to ensuring we widen our collective understanding of food production and can access tasty and healthy food sustainably.

With regard to bread, the growth of sourdough bakeries has both stimulated and been a product of a discussion about and move away from manufactured bread products. Even so it seems there has not been a discussion at the next level of where the grain comes from and how it is processed . And this contrasts with wider discussions about organic vegetables, for example, or ‘food miles’.

Grain to plate experience.

Hay meadow at Friends Field

When I learnt Regather might be linking up with Friends Field, some dots started to join in my head.

Friends Field is a social enterprise in the wonderful Moss Volley.

15 acres of land that has had green manure for three years cut three times a year and mulched for worms to do their magic.

So last week i hear they will be a planting winter wheat (i.e it is sown in the winter) in an acre and half of the field; and next year via harrowing, planting, harvesting, threshing , milling, bagging and baking, it may land on a Sheffield plate!

There is still lots to find out and do. Not sure yet if it is hard or soft, red or white …. but we will find out soon as it has to be planted by November 5th.


Big up to AFC Unity…

AFC Unity away shirt with tower of bagel logo

I love sport.  And i  love seeing people do great things with it. It is one of the reasons why i wanted to sponsor AFC Unity this season.  Their inclusive approach is so encouraging when so much around us seems to shut people out.

At whatever level we play our sport – and by and large mine across a range of sports can be categorised as ‘competent and energetic but without flair’ – we can have times that trigger, years later, emotional memories. These can be ones of joy (or ones of deep regret) but alwasy emotion

I was struck by this when I read AFC Unity’s Rachel Rodgers’ ‘random fact’ – a delightful sporting memory. I imagine she crackles with glee each time she remembers her moment.

Me? My best memory is scoring no points but exhibiting that hard work trait against an international squash player. The phenomenon of being on the court with an athlete at a world class level was breathtaking (literally!)

Good luck to AFC Unity this season. It is a privilege to sponsor this team.

Bagel school – book your place now!

Book your place on Bagel School now!Have you ever wondered how to make bagels? why not surprise your friends and family with a fresh baked bagel from your own oven?

Come to Bagel School and learn how to do it!

Book your place on Bagel School now!

Running from 10 am – 3pm , the first Sunday of every month between November and April next year, in the commercial kitchen at Regather, you learn how to shape bagels, the type of dough mixture you need to get that familiar bagel chew and get to learn tips and tricks to make them come out just right.

No need to bring any equipment, just a spirit of fun and curiosity.

You will take away your clutch of bagels and a specially designed tower of bagel notebook.

Vegan lunch included.

Book now!

…or buy a voucher – look here find out more

Summer proofing

Summer baking it was blast
I had some bread, proofing so fast
I made some bagels with sesame seeds
They split their crust like shelling peas
Summer days so hard to bake
Oh oh – from night to daybreak

This is the first change of season in the new bakery.  I have been amazed at how the flour is no longer cool but warm to the touch.  How the dough is warm coming out the mixer and already feels airy. And with increased demand (cannot knock that!) this variation makes it hard getting the product absolutely right each time.

I imagine that in big manufacturers where they don’t really bake the bread (:>) they have control of the environment: heaters, air conditioners, humidity injectors and hi tech proofing cupboards.

So in my bakery the only tech i have is my own biological feedback system : my brain and my eyes and they don’t work so well some days.

The problem does  not come from leaving a single  mix longer to proove or shorter, though that is part of it. But more how can further mixes be done in tandem so that the bakery is as efficient as possible?

Whereas before i could do all my mixing and be confident that the first batch would be ready to shape by the time the mixing has stopped, the warmer weather means i have to mix two or maybe three batches then shape; then resume mixing any further batches after this.

It can feel disturbing to change a routine: the routine represents control, long worked for in the early hours, and is also a guarantee of quality –  ‘if i do this then this then this, the quality is assured’. But it is also exciting, a new problem to wrestle with, a new challenge and once sorted, renewed confidence that the process can change and the bagels still be as good.

Thank you to the Green Trianglers

A small corner of Sheffield, a really lovely community set about doing a variety of things together.

This could be music nights, games nights, fund raising breakfasts or participation in a madcap auction of bagels!

A few weeks ago a bag of bagels was auctioned on ebay for the Cathedral Archer Project and some people also kindly gave some donations

Here are links to the receipts from paypal (who somehow auto-magically transfer the money) and from the Archer project for the donations which were sent on to them.

Thank you.