Bake like you mean it Recipe Shed

Nigel, our new doughy overlord

I don’t usually name doughs. Obviously, a sourdough starter has to have a name (Herman, in this house) but others? Nah, not necessary. But my daughter called this one Nigel and Nigel he will forever be.

Nigel is a rich dough. Probably the richest I’ve ever worked with (though, all credit, it was my wife who did the majority of the work). He’s the dough you need to make Liege waffles, the requested birthday lunch for my youngest lad.

As with most recipes, we looked at a few from the internet and cherry-picked the bits that looked like they would work when combined with our usual go-to sources – The Cookery Year Book and Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management. Oh, and we also made more than anyone suggested – there’s 7 of us, it’s a birthday feast, we’re all going to want a few.

Ingredients, stage 1…

  • 240ml milk, luke-warm
  • 180ml luke-warm water
  • 3 sachets instant yeast
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 2tbs vanilla extract
  • 4tbs golden syrup or honey
  • 6tbs sugar – light brown if you’ve got it, caster if you haven’t (we didn’t. I blame COVID-19. We’re just lucky we had the flour!)
  • 2tsp salt

Fit your trusty Kenwood with a dough hook (other mixers are available, trust me you do not want to be doing Nigel by hand!). Put all of the above into the bowl, mix until well combined. The sugar, syrup, and yeast are going to start to react and turn all of the sugar into alcohol and CO2. It’s going to rise like nothing you’ve ever seen before even though it’s the richest damn dough I’ve ever handled and they’re normally shy, quiet, and reserved.

Ingredients, stage 2…

  • ~1kg strong white flour
  • 2 packs of butter (standard Supermarket 8oz packs), softened but not completely melted if you can help it.

Get the mixer on a low speed and add in 3/4 of the flour. Get it combined with the yeasty bad boy you made in stage 1. Now start adding the butter. Couple of tablespoons at a time, getting it thoroughly integrated with the proto-dough you’ve got emerging. Keep going until you’ve mixed in all of the butter, then add the rest of the flour. Leave it on a low speed for 5-10 minutes to give you a gorgeous, smooth, elastic dough. If you try it now, it tastes rich and fantastic.

Take the bowl off the mixer, making sure you scrape down the dough hook (which has a tendency to hang on to nearly a whole waffle’s worth of dough), cover with clingfilm and leave until doubled in size. Timings across the internets vary, most suggesting 1-2 hours. We found 30 minutes was enough in a warm kitchen before we were facing a “magic porridge pot” situation – stop, little pot, stop!

Nigel was then dumped unceremoniously into a much larger bowl, lightly oiled, kneaded briefly, then covered with clingfilm and escorted safely to the fridge where armed guards would stop him escaping and trying to take over the world. Trust me, we feared for the world we’d come down to the next morning.

Having rested in the fridge overnight, letting the yeast do it’s work low and slow (a trick that works like a charm when you’re making sourdough or even just regular bread and have the time to do it), Nigel looked like this:

The dough, risen in a lightly oiled bowl and covered with clingfilm.

Not a world-dominating monster but still pretty damn enormous. If you taste the dough now, you’d better not be driving anywhere in a hurry because damn, it’s alcoholic! Time for the final ingredient:

Ingredients, stage 3…

  • 500g pearl sugar

We’ve got pearl sugar from Amazon, you can get it from wherever you find it. I’m sure there’s a Waitrose Essentials version.

Knead all of the pearl sugar into the dough.

Now time for the magic. Get your waffle iron heating up and ready. I did say you needed a waffle iron for this, didn’t I? Argos have a great little one for about £20 if you’re needing one.

Pull off a chunk of the dough about the size of a golfball, put it in the middle of the plate. Our maker does 2 waffles, so that’s 2 golfballs. Cook according to the iron’s instructions – 3-4 minutes, turn, 3-4 minutes, serve.

And you end up with these beauties…

Okay, so our other waffle iron does clown, lion, and possibly elephant shapes.

Thank you to all of our internet sources for inspiration and information. Particularly Handle the Heat who’s recipe provided the base for ours once we’d translated it into real measurements. Seriously, America, cups? In the 21st Century? We’ve got the metric system for a reason!


Beginning of the End

Teaching consists of looking at current events, saying that this is not a normal year and that next year will be better, and repeating until you retire.

Spotted on Facebook. If I find it again, I’ll credit the post (and get the words right)

Well, another half-term starts in England and many of us are thinking “Well, I did not expect 2020 to go this way”. To be fair, if you did think 2020 was going to go the way it has, you could have warned us!!!!! (Yes, 5 exclamation marks, Terry Pratchett was right). And, as someone else on Facebook pointed out, we were all way off the mark when we answered those “where do you see yourselves in 5 years time?” questions at interview back in 2015.

I can’t help but wonder what else this year is going to throw our way. Vesuvius is probably due to erupt. Yellowstone certainly is due to erupt, if it’s not overdue. The magnetic north pole is wandering, and we’re about due a flip of the earth’s magnetic poles and field, which would be fun. The USA and Canada have their murder hornets, so it can’t be long before they turn up in Richmond Park. So what are we going to have? Death seagulls? Killer grass? Mass food poisoning from the newly re-opened McDonalds? (Seriously, Peterborough, 6 of them? 6?). The sun is looking magnetically active again, we’re probably due a massive solar flare that knocks out telecoms, the power grid, and takes the ISS out of orbit and crashing into an orphanage. One of the world’s dictators – Putin, KJI, Bolsanero, Trump – is bound to push something regrettable before too much longer… The list is depressingly long. It’s as if each month is trying to out-do the one before it in a cycle of Four Yorkshiremen-esque “You think you had it tough in May, right then. Hold my beer and watch this…” October in the Chair reimagined by Clive Barker and then directed by Quentin Tarantino.

This lockdown has made me appreciate a lot of things. The technology that allows me to do my job every day, hooking me up with colleagues over videoconferencing kit in our homes that, until recently, was the domain of high-end tech in dedicated rooms of big businesses and colleges. 10 years ago I was working in the UHI as they developed their videoconferencing estate – near-identical rooms across all institutions so it almost looked like you were in the same room. Oh, and the PS3s because “it was the cheapest way to get a BluRay player” and nothing to do with network gaming at all, honest! It’s made me appreciate the ease of ordering what you need online, be it from Amazon or from a wonderful stationary shop in Bath. It’s made me appreciate just how damn good our local butcher’s sausages are. And it’s definitely made me appreciate my local village shop, that man and his staff are legendary.

But it’s highlighted problems. We’ve got a government that doesn’t believe it’s own lies. A government who is prepared to throw any profession under the bus if it will save their careers. May 20th marked the day our Prime Minister started blaming the doctors for the problems we’ve been having in care homes. While I do want to get back into the classroom and get back to teaching my students, I don’t appreciate the way teachers have been painted by the government and the media. How anyone can stomach to read the Daily Mail is beyond me. HMGov is developing Shroedinger’s Track and Trace app – simultaneously essential for controlling the virus and not necessary at all. Oh, and they’re going about it in ways that, technologically, just won’t work and run the risk of huge breaches of their own Data Protection Act. The data stored is technically anonymous but it’s not exactly rocket science to take this unique identifying number here and connect it to the phone it was logged from. And the less said about DC, the better.

It’s highlighted inequalities. The majority of the kids I teach don’t have access to their own computer. They can’t do the work I need them to do, they need software we have installed at school to be able to do it. And they all need to be able to do it otherwise it’s potentially giving an unfair advantage to those who have. I know the government claims to be doing things to level this playing field, but those promised laptops haven’t arrived yet, haven’t been configured, haven’t had appropriate software installed, haven’t been distributed…

We’re apparently bringing years 10 and 12 back into school so they’ve got a month of face-to-face time with their class teachers before the summer break. But only 25% of them at a time. My school is working damn hard to try and find a way to make this work but here at the code face there’s no information yet. This is not a criticism of my school, they’re an amazing bunch doing everything they can but when the government are changing the guidelines several times a day (41 times in the week before primary schools were due to go back 1st June) you can’t expect anything concrete until the last minute and I’m just going to roll with it.

Who knows what the next few weeks will bring.

May you live in interesting times.

Stuff that doesn't fit in another category

Coding during Lockdown part the first

Well. You begin to understand why “May you live in interesting times” is a curse! We’re living right now through something that will be taught in school history classes in years or decades to come, assuming the human race survives and the Martians don’t seize the opportunity they’ve been waiting for. Perhaps this virus is the Martians testing out a weapon they know they’re immune to. Perhaps I’ve been listening to War of the Worlds a little too much.

Anyway. For those who don’t know, my day job is as an ICT teacher. We, the geeks, are now in the forefront. We’ve been saying you can do all this stuff remotely for a long time and now, finally, we get to prove it.

This is going to be part 1 in a series, don’t know how many parts there will be, it will depend on how long this goes on, where I’ll point to some resources on the internet that will let you continue to learn how to program a computer whether you’re in Key Stage 2, 3, 4, or 5 here in the UK.

Key Stage 2-3 – Hour of Code

A huge range of coding challenges here. Some are harder than others, some are obviously Scratch with the serial numbers filed off and a hasty paint job slapped on – Star Wars, Minecraft, etc. I’m looking at you here. My favourites on Hour of Code are LightBot, Code Combat, and the HTML stuff on there from Khan Academy. The first two are nice, fun activities that teach some really complicated coding concepts in a great step-by-step way, the third is a fantastic introduction to HTML, the language used to build web pages. What better way to spend your lockdown than creating your own in-house website?

Key Stage 2-3 – Scratch

You can’t possibly have escaped Primary School without encountering Scratch. If you can think of a game, you can make it. Mind you, the same can be said for Little Big Planet on the PS4, Kodu on the X-Box, and a few other platforms. You assemble code like Lego blocks, gradually building up more and more complex games as you go. What I love about Scratch is how instant it is. A couple of clicks and you’re moving a character around a screen, chasing something that’s trying to run away from it.

Key Stage 4-5 – Codecademy

Now this is where things get real. Codecademy has online courses for an absolute ton of programming languages and associated concepts. It will keep you occupied for days. Weeks! And what better time to learn a new language than now when you’re stuck inside with only the internet to keep you company.

Bonus challenge. Flexbox Zombies (and other games to learn new stuff)

Every now and then They (the capital T is important) introduce new features into a language you’ve been writing for years and you need to learn it fast. In HTML, They introduced the FlexBox. And then they created Flexbox Zombies to teach you how the whole thing works while killing zombies at the same time. Or training a frog to reach it’s lily pad, or getting aliens to abduct cows for whatever it is aliens abduct cows for. They’re all just a quick search away.

Many, many, more resources are there on the Internet for you. I’ll take a deep dive into those on the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s website for those of you wanting more out of Scratch… Until next time, keep coding. It’ll keep you sane. Or it’ll drive you mad in entirely new and different ways.