• Caitlin Booker

The global lockdown brought out everyone’s inner baker. We started simply with cookies, but progressed fast into bread making. #homemadebread became a daily occurrence. Not surprising as making bread is wonderfully therapeutic.

The rise of the bread making resulted in a national shortage of flour in almost every locked down country. Personally in the Vaal it was almost impossible to get hold of standard roller mill flour, and completely impossible to get hold of stone ground flour. This got in the way of some serious bread making as I prefer to only use stone ground flour.

Why do I prefer stone ground to roller mill?

The first reason is that stone ground, unbleached flour is a lot less processed. The brand I love (and stock) Millstone has no GMOs, no preservatives, no additives, and is GMOs free. It’s pure wheat, or rye in the case of the rye flour. Being less processed, especially not being chemically bleached is important to me as, well who really wants to add bleaching chemicals even in trace amounts to their food?

Secondly, stone ground flour is considered to have more nutritional value than that of roller mill flours. This is due to the wheat not being stripped of the germ & the bran before being milled. High quality stone ground flours contain the germ, and the bran of the wheat giving them a higher fibre and nutrition content.

Thirdly, flavour, flavour, flavour and one more time for the kids at the back - FLAVOUR! The bran and germ of wheat contains the majority of the flavour. By not stripping it this flavour is brought into the finer ground flours. Meaning tastier baked goods.

Lastly, from personal experience I find that the bread has a much better structure when made with stone ground flavour than roller mill. This is most likely due to the stone ground flour not being as finely ground as roller mill. As well as the germ of the wheat contains slightly more protein, giving the gluten more to feed off.

That being said, many will ask why doughs made from stone ground flours don’t rise as much, or as fast as their counter parts made from roller mill? This is due to the bran in stone ground flour acting like a tiny obstacle that the gluten has to develop around. The bran is also the reason that cakes made from stone ground flour are slightly denser than those made from roller mill. Which to me is great thing as the cakes stay moister for longer. And who doesn’t want longer lasting cake?

If all these reasons of why stone ground flour is just better doesn't convince you to make the switch, I’ll give a few more fun facts about it. Stone ground flour is usually produced in smaller batches, giving it artisanal characteristics as well as allowing for higher quality flour. The smaller batches means that the flour is fresher, often made to order. Meaning the flour spends little to no time sitting in a warehouse. Most stone ground brands are small, family run companies. Now more than ever we need to support small business where possible.

Fun Fact! The Covid-19 crisis, led to a baking spree and flour shortage in the UK. Which made a really amazing thing happen. One of the oldest recorded stone mills, Sturminster Newton Mill in Dorset which is recorded in Domesday Book of 1086, resumed commercial production. A fun thing to go visit when this Covid vibe is done.

With Love,

The Gourmet Hippo

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  • Caitlin Booker

I’m going to be dead honest. I am not handling this coved-19, lockdown bullshit well. I have been an anxious wreck, and have had more than one, not so little breakdowns. A small comfort in all this is, is that I know that I’m not alone. No matter what productive Peggy with her Polly Anna on steroids personality keep posting on Instagram. I am not alone feeling less than fabulous during this time.

The finish product, incredible rolls.

Between the idea of a kak flu that can kill my loved ones or me, and staring down a cancelled season. I feel that its perfectly ok to feel less than fabulous. No matter what this Covid shit has put you in. It’s ok to not feel on top of the world, to not learn seven languages, and master the bagpipes during lockdown. Just look after you, and your loved ones the best you can. Even if that means everyday is pj day.

In fact for the sake of your neighbours sanity, please don’t try master the bagpipes.

Now the way I’ve been making myself feel better is cooking. Absolutely everything, and eating it all! Guilt free. Because its lockdown, fuck diets.

The posts that have gotten the most responses are the ones about bread. Am I popping out to the store just to get rolls? I’m incredibly anxious, so absolutely not. One of great things about having worked in the middle of no where is I have been taught incredible, simple bread recipes. This one I adapted from a combination of them, added steam to the oven, dusted the result with flour and boom baby I had Portuguese Rolls! Or Pao.

After flattening the pieces of dough, bring edges into the center to form a ball.

That being said, this recipe can be used to make a loaf of bread, or any kind of roll you wish. You can leave out the steam for a soft roll. If you choose to do this, I do recommend brushing the rolls (or loaf) with an egg wash to get it all gorgeous and golden. I feel that I don’t need to say this but I will, your cooking time will change for a loaf to about 30 minutes depending on size.

Using the side of your hand, and a circular motion. Roll and shape the roll.

This is a super simple recipe. Anyone can do it. I really mean that. The only thing is the steam in the oven. There are two methods to do this at home. The first is a spray gun, the kind that you use on plants. As you put the rolls in, give the oven seven to ten sprays as quick as you can. Then close the door to trap the steam, and heat inside.

Shaped rolls ready to proof.

The second method is, as you turn the oven on to heat, place a roasting tray or sheet pan at the bottom of the oven. As you put the rolls in the oven pour about a quarter of a cup of boiling water into the heated tray, and close the door quickly to trap the steam.

Why is the steam so important? It’s what makes the rolls all crusty and fabulous.

So, without further chit chat, here’s the recipe! When you make and fall in love with them, don’t forget to tag me in photos of your creations.

Stay home! Stay safe!

Wishing only the best to you and yours, love

The Gourmet Hippo

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  • Caitlin Booker

Happy St Patrick’s Day everybody!

This day has special importance to anyone with Irish heritage (I get mine from my momma). As it is the day we celebrate the Patron Saint of Ireland, St Patrick. There are many legends about St Patrick, which I won’t go into here. But a nugget for any potential pub quiz you might find yourself in, his birth name is believed to be Maewyn Succat.

Me & my Mum when I was a youngen

Globally the day has become synonymous with boozy celebrations. But it is also a day to celebrate all aspects of Irish culture. The most important (in my opinion) being the food.

Irish cuisine is known for being flavorful, no fuss, and comforting. The dishes really are perfect for feeding families, or for when you feel like you need a hug.

The stereotype is that Irish people love potatoes. It isn’t far from the truth, as a lot of traditional dishes do contain potatoes. But, who doesn’t love a potatoe? Fresh, fried or fermented they are the VIP of vegetables.

Speaking of their versatility, today I’m going to share with you a potato bread recipe (also known as potato farl, or potato cake). This is the same recipe that my Grandfather made for my Mom when she was a tiny tot.

So, without further a due, here it is...

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