“D’oh”

Back near the beginning of the year, you may recall, I began my experiments with sourdough. It was before lockdown and it was just a whim… a vague desire to see whether it was really possible to create, from scratch, a viable culture of micro-organisms with which to make bread. And then came coronavirus and everyone had to stay at home and madly started hoarding random things… including yeast. There was no yeast in the shops and so, suddenly, sourdough became “the thing”. By this time my culture was well established and I was using it for most of my yeasted baking. I’m sure that most cultures that were started during lockdown have long since passed away, but mine is going strong.

Anyway, a couple of months ago Kate (Tall Tales from Chiconia) mentioned that it is traditional to name sourdough cultures. I wasn’t feeling inspired, so I asked Mr Snail to come up with a suggestion. He though about it for a while, and finally proposed Homer… “because ‘D’oh!'”

And so, Homer is our sourdough starter. This meant that when we passed a portion on to a friend, it was naturally named Bart. Apparently Bart too is still going strong.

Anyway, in recent months I have become a little more adventurous with Homer and was delighted to discover what beautiful sweet, enriched dough it is possible to make. I found a recipe for cinnamon rolls that I adapted slightly to make apple Chelsea buns, and it was a triumph… better than my previous attempts made using commercial yeast.

The filling is grated apple with the juice squeezed out through a cloth, then mixed with melted butter, cinnamon and brown sugar. The glaze was made from the apple juice mixed with a bit of sugar (rather than the traditional milk and sugar mix), Although the dough is sweet, it actually doesn’t contain too much sugar, so the result is not sickly, especially if the apples are a bit sharp.

Homer is also now our go-to source of yeast for all bread-making and the packet of commercial yeast is languishing in the fridge, being used only occasionally because I feel I should use it up.

Apple time

Although I was given some windfalls a couple of weeks ago, yesterday saw the arrival of the first of the big apple harvest: lovely eaters given to me by Katy the Night Owl. We eat apple all the way through the year because I bottle it, but there are some recipes that demand fresh fruit, so I can only cook these for a limited time. I absolutely will not buy apples out of season, although some varieties last a good long time if undamaged.

Anyway, I have started our apple festival with an apple plait. This fabulous cinnamon and apple bread is delicious fresh, and once it’s a couple of days old makes the most wonderful French toast. Just the smell of it baking is enough to make me start salivating.

Basically it’s an enriched dough (i.e. it contains egg and milk and butter and take a long time to rise), filled with apple, brown sugar, a little butterĀ and cinnamon. I always make it as a plait, but you could easily adapt it to any shape – swirls, buns, a rolled loaf, whatever you fancy.

The second recipe on my list of things to make when we have fresh apples is Dutch apple pie. This is really nothing like the apple pie I grew up with, and I only discovered it a couple of years ago (recipe here), but it has become a firm favourite in our house… especially since it requires no pastry-rolling and is like a cross between a pie and a crumble. In fact, now I’ve mentioned it, I want to make one for dinner tonight… excuse me, I could be some time…

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