Tuesday 1 December 2015

Task 34: Make crab apple jelly and eat it with bread made in Task 33

Did you just have a Groundhog Day moment when you saw the title of this post?  Perhaps I'd better do a quick recap on Task 33 (which I've already completed) and Task 34 (which has been on the back burner):

Task 33: In September, my older brother David gave me a fabuloso masterclass on bread-baking and jam-making in his contemporary high-tech high-spec kitchen and I wrote the jam labels/scoffed everything. Easy peasy. 

Task 34: I am required to replicate David's efforts in my 15th century low-tech shamefully low-spec kitchen, having had one complete failure at bread-baking 38 years ago and being a complete novice at jam-making. Humiliation beckons.
So how did I get on with Task 34? Let's start with the crab apple jelly.......

Eighteen months ago we planted three crab apple trees in our garden, along with a beautiful flowering cherry, in memory of one of my oldest and dearest friends Sue.  Earlier this year, I was sitting at my desk looking out over the garden and trying to decide what type of jam to make for Task 34. My eyes alighted on the crab apple trees. Could they......would they.....produce enough fruit in their second year with us to be able to make a batch of crab apple jelly? I decided it was worth a shot, even if I could only eke out a single jar of jelly. And the gamble paid off - come early October just look at the volume of fruit they produced!  I picked more than 4kg of apples, which I think is an impressive harvest for 3 baby trees. Sue was a very gifted gardener and I feel sure she was working her magic on them over the summer.

With the crab apples harvested, the next step was to jellify them. Here they are simmering away nicely in the pan on my aged Aga.

I left the juice to drain through a Heath Robinson-like jelly bag contraption overnight. Thank you for that tip Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.  Next step?  'Boil the syrup until it reaches 106c on your jam thermometer,' said Hugh. I followed his advice to the letter, poured the syrup into 4 jars and oh my word.....it set immediately! 

The four jars of jelly sat on the dresser for 6 weeks, waiting patiently for that big moment of having their contents spread thickly over a piece of chunky home-made bread. Last Friday I decided it was time to confront my fear of failure and get baking. Out came David's recipe for a classic white loaf - and the master baker himself was on standby to provide me with remote support by email or phone if required.

David suggested putting the bread dough on top of the Aga for the first dough proving.  Well..........!!!  In contrast with that first attempt of mine when a sad-looking lump of dough remained on strike in my airing cupboard for 2 hours, this time it went completely crazy and doubled its size in half an hour. I was too amazed to remember to take a photo. I knocked the air out of the dough as David had instructed me and placed it in a bread tin. It clearly hadn't taken offence at the rough treatment because it blew up like a balloon again. Into a very hot oven it went. The Aga worked its socks off - and here's the result 30 minutes later. 'Beeeauuutiful' as Paul Hollywood would say. 


I laid the table in preparation for the all-important Tasting.  Do please note the containers I used for the crab apple jelly and butter - I'm proud to say they're the pots I made with Jane back in August, which Jane has since baked and glazed for me (photo on right shows the complete set - such a beautiful finish, thank you Jane!) 


Now for the million dollar question - was the lightly toasted bread spread liberally with crab apply jelly actually edible? I think the best person to tell us that is Andrew. 


His verdict? 'Wonderful!'  That's very kind of you Andrew. Except that he's already worked out the savings that can be made over a year if we don't have to buy ready-made bread and jam any longer - I have a nasty feeling that the success of Task 34 may have just backfired on me......

A big thank you to David and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for collaboratively guiding me through my first jam/jelly making session ever (I really must buy one of Hugh's recipe books as a gesture of gratitude) and to David for giving me the inspiration and confidence to have another go at bread-baking - I promise I won't leave it 38 years until my next attempt.

I'm doing the sixtyat60challenge to raise funds for Alzheimer's Research UK. For further information or to make a donation please visit my JustGiving page at https://www.justgiving.com/Vivien-Hunot  

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