We’re quite taken aback by the number of individuals and organisations doing good work related to the baking industry. Schools of course, also community development projects through to historical preservation initiatives. I didn’t think we’d have to make a difficult choice to give away the granite hand-mill to one good home over another, but, to my surprise, we did. In the end we plumped for a project in the Orkney island of Westray (where the earliest representation of the human form in the British Isles was discovered). There, they are developing a hands-on activity centre for visitors to learn how the first farmers lived when they settled 5000 years ago, including the grinding of ancient grains. It sounds like an amazing place to visit, hopefully we’ll hear more from them as the project develops.

My bees seem to have made it through the winter very well with some of the hives teaming with them. At both the sites where I keep them, there is an adjacent oil-seed rape field (that bright yellow crop that requires sunglasses to look at). The bees go completely mad for this abundant source of nectar and pollen and will fly 3 miles to get to it and will collect even (as now) the weather is a bit cold. Spring honey is a mixed blessing. It is certainly a bonus...but the downside for both man and bees is that oil seed rape honey sets firmly within a week or two and so has to be removed right away as otherwise, the honey is of no use to man or bees. The creamy result does taste nice though!

Last week I had a guest tutor Nick Barnard at the Sourdough School teaching about the health and nutrition of sourdough bread. Nick is one of the owners and founders of Rude Health and has written a book with the same title. During the day, we got talking about breakfast and muesli in particular. We’re always being told how important it is to have a healthy breakfast but it can be easy to fall into the habit of eating exactly the same thing every day – especially breakfast – and that can get to be a bit boring. I’ve found one good way to add variety to weekday breakfasts is to bake a loaf and slice it up then at the weekend it can then be eaten fresh, or frozen and taken out to defrost the night before they’re needed. Then all that’s needed is a couple of minutes in the toaster, some butter and maybe a little jam or honey.

This bread combines a healthy breakfast favourite with flavours reminiscent of our recent hot-cross buns recipe and makes a delicious breakfast alternative to sugary cereals. I was delighted that Nick and the team at Rude Health have given us 30 boxes of their delicious muesli to be given away with the first 30 orders that include bread flour.

Thank you Nick and Rude Health!

Recipe: Spiced Muesli Bread


About an hour before you want to make the dough, put the muesli into a small bowl along with 150g cold water. Cover and leave to stand.

In a small bowl, mix the yeast with 30g of the warm water and ½ tsp caster sugar. Allow to stand for about 15 minutes, until it has developed a slight froth on the surface.

Measure the flours, salt and spices into a large mixing bowl and give them a stir to combine everything evenly. Add the honey, softened butter, egg and yeast mixture along with the rest of the lukewarm water and, using either a wooden spoon or your hand, mix the ingredients to form a dough.

Tip the dough onto the work surface and knead for about 10 minutes. The dough will be quite sticky – a dough scraper is really helpful during kneading if you have one. With rye flour and muesli in the dough, you won’t get it to be as silky and stretchy as a white dough, but you’re looking to develop a reasonably elastic texture. Return the dough to the mixing bowl and cover with a clean, damp cloth. Leave at room temperature for about 1½ hours, until the dough has almost doubled in size.

Roll the bread up and pop into a buttered and floured 2lb tin. Cover the bread with a damp cloth and leave to rise for 45 minutes.

While the bread is proving preheat the oven to 200°C/400F/gas 6. Brush the top of the bread with a little milk, then bake in the oven for 35 - 40 minutes.

Remove from the oven, put the bread a cooling rack, brush the runny honey on and enjoy the smell of warm spices filling the kitchen as it cools.

(Makes 1 2lb loaf)

150g Rude Health muesli
150g cold water
9g sachet Bioreal organic yeast
275g lukewarm water
½ tsp caster sugar
400g organic “00” white flour, plus extra for dusting
100g organic rye flour
7g fine salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground mixed spice
½ tsp ground allspice
30g clear honey
25g unsalted butter, softened
1 small egg
a little milk to brush the tops of the bread before baking
1 tbsp of runny honey to finish

Vanessa Kimbell runs the Sourdough School, Northampton


What’s New This Week?

We’ve just added two beautifully made peels or paddles from our friends at Netherton Foundry in the heart of England. The short-handled ones have been designed specifically for us, made by hand, the long-handled and short-handled black iron peels have a handle made from oak. If you want the very best peel, one that looks great in your kitchen, these are for you.

Black Iron and Oak 12" Short-handled Peel | £57.49

A hand-made short-handled black iron and oak peel made by Netherton Foundry in the heart of England. Attractive and highly functional, this peel should last a lifetime.

Black Iron and Oak 12" Long-handled Peel | £85.20

A hand-made long-handled black iron and oak peel made by Netherton Foundry in the heart of England. Attractive and highly functional, this peel should last a lifetime.

Do you have a sourdough question for Vanessa? Send it to us and the best ones will appear in our next postbag edition and receive a dough whisk.

Suggestion Box

Are we missing something? An usual flour, a particular tin, or a special piece of equipment you’d like to see on our shelves? Let us know and if we decide to stock it, you will receive the very first one of the item you suggest.