Friday, 11 November 2011


Cardomom buns made by Maria, who is Danish. Delicious.
As the Eurozone crumbles, the age of austerity looms. Big business/finance/government is failing. What to do? Think small. Think independent. Think DIY punk. Be resourceful. 
What has value in a world where money is uncertain? Gold, silver, water, fuel*
I'm not advocating that you dig a well in your garden (although that wouldn't be a bad idea), keep chickens, grow vegetables, convert your roof to a solar panel, in short the survivalists handbook made real. But being self-reliant is a virtue and increasingly a necessity.
If you've lost your job and finding another seems unlikely, try not to lose heart. Get whatever benefits you are entitled to and make that tiny dream, germinating in the back of your mind, into a project that will sustain you whilst you downsize. This is not failure. Turn whatever you do have into something you can use.
One suggestion: if you have a roof over your head, an oven, some flour, salt, yeast and water, you can start a bakery in your house. Screw the rules, just do it. If you like it, you can find out about the regulations later.
I did this last summer, Rose Prince's children have a Saturday morning bakery from their house in Clapham, Jane Mason of Virtuous Bread sells bread and classes from her home. Britain needs decent bread. 
Maria Mayerhofer has a boring job as a data analyst or something. She's gone part-time, only three days a week and has converted a grotty Kilburn/West Hampstead (St.Johns Wood if you are an estate agent) council flat into a beautiful modern kitchen where she teaches baking.
Last night I went to her pretzel making class. I've made them before but you can always learn new tricks from others. I also needed a refresher course as I'm making large soft pretzels for next week's Barbra Streisand dinner. It's also one of the nicest things in German cuisine.

Basic recipe:
5g dried yeast (double it for fresh)
6g sugar
410g strong white flour
6g salt
230g warm not hot water

For boiling:
1 litre water
 2 tbsps baking soda (more accurately use food grade lye, using the appropriate safety procedures, but this appears to be impossible to obtain in Britain)

For baking:
1 teaspoon water
1 egg
2 teaspoons kosher salt or sel gris

  • Mix the dry ingredients together, making sure the yeast doesn't touch the salt directly, then add the water and knead for 10 to 15 minutes. (Or put in a food mixer and mix for 3-5 minutes on a low speed).
  • Put the dough into the bowl and cover with a plastic bag. Leave to prove for an hour until double in size.
  • Knock back the dough and divide into sections of about 70g using a digital scale.
  • Roll each ball of 70g into a long sausage of about 10 cms. Leave for a few minutes to rest, it become easier to work with and doesn't 'ping' back. Continue to roll out the other balls.
  • Then roll the rested 'sausage' into a longer rope of around 50-60cms.
  • Loop it into a circle, take two ends and twist them twice, then loop back into the traditional 'praying' pretzel shape. The pictures will make this clearer.
  • Place your formed pretzels onto a greased baking sheet or silpat.
  • Let them rise for ten minutes.
  • Then put the water and baking soda into a saucepan and bring to the boil, then simmer.
  • Gently lower a pretzel, using a slotted spoon, into the hot water and cook for 15 seconds each side. You will see that they expand.
  • Place boiled pretzel onto a greased baking tray and repeat until all the pretzels are done.
  • In the meantime, mix the teaspoon of water and egg in a small bowl and egg glaze the pretzels with a brush.
  • Sprinkle with kosher or large sel gris salt.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes at 220c or on the top shelf of the Aga baking oven until the pretzels are a golden brown.
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  • Eat with mustard and a pint of micro brewed beer.
    Blowing into the bag to make sure it's puffy.

     The gluten or window test. This isn't ready, it breaks, doesn't stretch.
     Learn to knead. Hold with one hand, push away with the other, then curl it back, flip around, start again.
     Maria's sour dough

    A production line
    Boiling them
    Egg wash

    Classes can be found here: Bake with Maria

    *Interesting that these sources of wealth are all found underground, apart from food. Pluto is the god of the underground but also the god of wealth. Our current woes stem from abuse of the system by the plutocracy, the very wealthy. There is a reason that I call my restaurant 'underground' and will not change this despite legal threats. It has strong links to transits in the world chart. I started The Underground Restaurant just as Pluto entered Capricorn (the banks, the establishment), opposing Cancer (food, the people). 


    1. Baking soda is the same thing as Bicarbinate of soda, yeah?

    2. Hey, funny you should be posting on such a topic...I was just sitting here feeling rather glum about how my quest for improving my life has kind of fallen flat (I think it is just one of those dark sunday days really more than anything else...) in terms of finances and feeling a bit unlucky in the work place despite so much effort trying to find the right job...and then I saw this which was like a little flickering glimmer of hope...not much but something...thanks! :) xxx

    3. Those pretzels look amazing - a bakery at Blackheath Sunday Market has lovely soft ones which are similar. They also have pretzel rolls, shaped like a hot dog bun and studded with salt on the top.

      Cathy, a food and home loving Cancerian

    4. Cathy: that sounds gorgeous...but I never get to Blackheath :(


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