Perusing the list of events over at the Real Bread Campaign, I spotted 'The Eye Bread Festival (Herefordshire)' and wondered about going. It wasn't exactly on the doorstep, but with stalls and demonstrations and so on it seemed worth a look. Googling for some more information, I found some about the previous year's inaugural festival, but very little about this one. We decided to take a chance on going up there (via Cardiff - for unrelated reasons - across our second choice of Severn bridge) and arrived at about 1ish to find the day in full swing with band playing, bakers baking and corn dolly man corndollying for all he was worth.
It was £3 each to get in, but there was free entry upon presentation of a loaf of your own home-baked bread. Sadly this detail hadn't been included in the information available on the web, so we were a bread free zone. I offered to show the lady a photo of one of my recent loaves, but for some reason this chicanery wasn't acceptable and we had to fork out the sick squid.
In the main room were several stalls - some very interesting but-far-too-easily-melted-on-the-long-journey-home flavoured butters (note to self, take insulated bag next time), some delicious looking but sadly made-with-animal-rennet cheese, some amazing chutneys and relishes, oodles of honey and beer, and a bookstall heaped with books about bread and bread making, and a very interesting book about building your own wood-fired bread oven. I called Tallboy's attention to it, and while he agreed that it was an interesting intellectual exercise, he flatly refused to contemplate actual construction. The book remained unbought, despite the best efforts of the brace of persuasive booksellers behind the stall.
On the central table were examples of people's baking - a harvest sheaf, some school children's imaginative output, and the home-baked loaves which had gained their creators free admission. No, it's not rankling at all. Honest. A couple of them were an unusual shape that I'd not seen before, and I wondered if they were a special type of bread, but I realised after a while that they were cylindrical because they had been baked in a cake tin. I rather liked them.
Further on, out past the bar and the tea room, were the other delights on offer. A pizza wagon with its own wood-fired stove, a band, a display about bread and bread making over the years, the corndollyist, Victorian girlpower butter churners (we really should have taken an insulated bag), a stall selling an interesting range of flour and a demonstration area with shiny stainless steel workbench. As we milled around a bit between areas, a gentleman waved an A4 sheet in my general direction and offered me the chance for a mere fifty pence to participate in a quiz, the prize for which was a £10 book voucher. Muttering that I wasn't from round these yer parts, I declined - but he said this was no problem and that by simply placing my telephone number at the top of the page I could still participate without problem. Some of the answers I pulled out of my head, and others (such as the length of service of an apprentice baker in medieval times, of which fact unaccountably I was not cognisant) I gleaned from the helpful display.
I bought two bags of flour: Bacheldre Watermill's Stoneground Strong Malted 5 Seed flour (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, golden linseeds, sesame seeds and fennel seeds), and Stoneground Rye Flour. The additional 3 kgs in my bag did get in my way a bit when I tried to take photos so I had no option but to hand it to Tallboy for the rest of the visit. Ho hum. I also bought some pots of What A Pickle's Red Onion Marmalade and tongue-tingling Roasted Red Pepper and Chilli Jam just to up the weight stakes even more.
A stir of excitement in the demo tent forewarned us that something was about to happen, so we plopped down on a pair of seats with a good view of the demonstration station. We were rewarded with an hour of excellent demo and commentary from Peter Cook of Price's bakery in Ludlow. Peter showed two types of dough - sourdough and a packet breadmix made up with beer as the only liquid.
Peter brought along a pre-fed sourdough mother which he used to make his dough, but he had also brought along a recently started mother to help him explain how you got things going. Throughout his demonstration he was happy to take questions from the growing crowd, and gave commentary and background and insights. I was surprised at first by the response to his weighing the liquid instead of measuring it against the scale on the side of the jug, but then remembered back to my day in the Bertinet Kitchen and how alien it felt to be weighing and not measuring by volume. I hadn't considered that the scale on the side of the jug wasn't desperately accurate, and it took me a while to break the habit.
Once again, I was able to sit back and appreciate the pleasure that there is to be had from watching an expert do what they do best. Peter's handling of the dough was magically understated but without fail it did what he wanted it to. He went on to mould and shape the dough in various guises, again without apparent effort but always with an impressive result.
Peter was kind enough to share his recipe for a sourdough dough with us, and even kinder to give me permission to reproduce it on the web - which I propose to do here (I noted the quantities at the time on my phone, so any errors in the following will be mine)
650g strong white flour
200g stoneground rye flour
100g stoneground wholemeal flour
390g sourdough mother
He recommended leaving the mixed dough for 30 minutes before adding the salt. Mother can be included at the lower value of 10% where it's being used for flavour only with the leavening provided by fresh yeast. I'll be trying this recipe tomorrow.
Laden down with our purchases, we repassed the book stall where we resisted the lure of the build an oven book, pausing only to deposit our completed quiz form at the door and take a photograph next to the village sign. There was no way I could pass up an opportunity like that...
And that was it for the Eye Bread Festival. Except that there was a message on my mobile a day or so ago, kindly informing me that I'd won the quiz and could I please provide an address for the voucher (valid for Border Books in Leominster). The book on building your own wood-fired bread oven was a tenner. And it was on the Border Books stalls at the festival. And they still have it in stock. Looks like I was meant to get it after all...
The mouse is definitely the Best Bit
A caterpillar family showing some interest in a flower
The home-baked loaves