September 2006 Archives

Rye & Cracked Wheat loaf, with Sunflower Seeds
Olive bread, already half eaten

Return to baking

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I've started doing some baking the past week or so, this marks the first bread I've baked since leaving Sydney. There were a lot of factors that kept me from baking over the past few months. The most significant though would have to be motivation. I'd bought most of the ingredients required not long after my arrival.

Factors why I have not been baking so much:

  • Decent, stonebaked, grain focused, un-sliced bread affordable and available at the even the small local supermarket
  • The labelling of flour and related products was confusing, I rapidly learnt the words for the different grains, but the milling processes and sensible use of non transparent paper packaging means it's still a bit of a surprise when I open up some packets of flour. However some things seem good, they print the extraction percent on the packet here. Also the availability of non wheat flours is much improved over Australia
  • My baking books only arrived last week, and although I know the correct percentages for various basic loaves by heart, I still end up making some dud loaves when I experiment too far away from the recipes outlined in the books.
  • No sourdough culture, something I regret I did not attempt to start during my non baking period, in Oz I'd rarely been making anything non sourdough recently as I have long preferred the flavour nutrition and keeping qualities of sourdough and also had perfected the art of barely maintaining my starter culture, just enough tender loving care to survive until the next baking round
  • The need for a bit of a holiday from everything that became my life back in Sydney, work, baking, metal. This was essential for rebalancing and centring myself in this new country.

Regardless, the break seems to have naturally come to a close. As I baked two loaves today, one an improvised whole wheat and rye loaf with cracked wheat, sunflower seeds and using a biga as the starter as well as the old bread technique to add depth of flavour. It reminded me a bit of the type of bread Dad would bake out of The Tassajara Bread Book when I was young. This style of bread is what got me first interested in baking

The other also used a biga, but was an Olive Bread, with lower protein content all purpose baking flour, it will hopefully produce a soft and tender crumb with a moreish flavour wrought out of the flour. I'm very happy with the crust on this one, especially as I only fridge'd it for an hour or so, rather than the usual 8+ hours I usually do to get the same crust

Now, a few hours have passed and the bread has cooled, I'm tasting it and it has an amazingly thin crust, which splinter into large chunks as you bite or slice it. The black olives were not the best quality, but they are sweet and have not bled much into the crumb. Nor do they taste obviously of the chemical aftertaste one often finds with commercial olives. The crumb is golden and incredibly sweet. All in all I am quite happy with this bread

A Saturday Drive

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Yesterday, Astrid drove us to a couple of places about an hour away from Stavanger, firstly to Byrkjedal - a picturesque touristy spot, which we ended up enjoying quite a lot.

Then onto Gloppedalsura which is famous as for a battle between the Germans and Norwegians during in April 1940. It was one a few points in Norway where the Norwegian resistance was very strong and the Germans struggled to defeat them. The Norwegians hid without any protection from the harsh and cold weather amongst this, the largest rockfall in Northern Europe, making it very difficult for the Germans to win, but they eventually did, suffering heavy losses along the way.

The landscape here with the scree from the rockfall is fantastic, alien and yet beautiful. I enjoyed this greatly. But it was very cold, even in late summer, no idea how they could cope in April, when there was probably still a lot of snow around.

Finally we braved a long tunnel and a picturesque drive to Månafossen (a picturesque and very high volume waterfall) only to get there, much later than we had expected to discover that the walk would take too long to be worthwhile at this time of the day. Mum had to leave early the next morning and a rapid return to Stavanger to allow her time to pack was decided on.

Astrid and I will try and return to Månafossen, probably for a weekend of hiking and camping as this looks to be a lovely spot, especially when the Autumn colours arrive.

Some pictures have been posted below, more may follow once I sort through them a bit.

NuMusic Festival

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Friday night I went to the NuMusic Festival, a 3 day festival that focused on electronic, experimental and emerging music forms.

With Mum here and not wanting to spend too much, I decided in advance to only go to the Friday evening shows - which was billed as the Hip Hop night

My decision to go on Friday was mainly due to the presence of one of my favourite hip hop bands on the line-up, Dälek. To call them hip-hop is really too narrow of a description, they sample harsh abrasive guitar based soundscapes and twist them into a beat one can rhyme over. The rhymes themselves are appropriately abrasive, deeply black-american political and social commentary.

Dälek were on early and I got to the venue just after they started, I really enjoyed their performance, and chatted briefly to the lyrical half of the duo at the bar after they finished their set.

Wandered around a bit and caught snippets of other artists before returning to the main stage to see Mad Professor, I'd seen him perform in Sydney years ago - but enjoyed this set much more, probably because I have recently been delving deeply into Dub Reggae, a strange thing to do in the land of Black Metal but anyway. He had two very young guys on Mics, geeing up the crowd and doing a bit of rapping, which was one aspect that elevated the set from what I saw in Sydney years back. It was also hilarious to later in the night watch the local blonde Norsk beauties throw themselves at these two baby faced African via South London guys.

Following that I had a quick wander to check out the other stages and quite enjoyed Murcof, a Mexican/US performer who set I caught the tail end of.

Had a good laugh at Louie Austen, who was doing some kind of hybrid of crooner/lounge music backed by some moderately interesting electronic music. It was definitely danceable and unique, he's a great performer and has a long career as a well respected crooner and the combination worked, but i couldn't get past the gimmick, maybe it was that I didn't enjoy the music so much.

Returning to the main stage, next up was one of the high profile guests, DJ Kool Herc, the man who first worked out that people on the dance floor wanted to hear more of the instrumental breaks in the funk and soul records he was spinning and came up with the technique of using two turntables and the same record to extend the break indefinitely. This was the beginning of Hip Hop (circa 1973) and although other DJs ended up making a lot more of their fame (Afrika Bambaataa or Grandmaster Flash) this was as old school as it can get.

Not sure what to expect, I really enjoyed Herc's set, I've developed a strong love for old funk and soul tracks through my love of Hip Hop, and in particular through exploring the often quite obscure sources used by some of my favourite contemporary Hip Hop Producers (DJ Shadow, RJD2, Blockhead and EL-P in particular). So I found myself recognising some of the stuff he played. Later in the set he moved his was progressively forward in time playing some more well known hip hop tracks and closing with a current track that sampled "The Champ" by "The Mowhawks", a track also used by DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist on their Brainfreeze album.

A bit more wandering, not seeing much I enjoyed greatly and I returned to the main stage intending to quickly see the next act then head home as I was getting exhausted. Ended up staying for the entire set by Afra and the incredible beatbox band as they were quite amazing. Those crazy Japanese have kept the beatboxing flame alive since it died out elsewhere in the mid 80s. Very entertaining and amazingly talented, these guys really impressed.

Wandered down to catch some of the stuff DJ Spooky was spinning, which was good, but not great and I was exhausted so I wandered home. Next year with a bit more energy and cash I expect I'll try and go to the entire festival next time as it had a great combination of engaging acts performing in small venues a short stroll from my house.

Sydney for all it's size and draw as a very international city, has really lost all idea of the need for smaller clubs and more intimate festivals, too many of Sydney's events fly over successful artists only to have them do a lacklustre DJ Set rather than performing their own work with the appropriate ensemble of performers, this is partly economics, Sydney is a long way from anywhere and producers/DJs can make a good living by travelling with your box of records in between putting out original product. However I think the real issue lies with greed by promoters and venue owners and the willingness of Sydney patrons to accept sub standard performances.

Dragonfly at Månafossen
A lone tree, Gloppedalsura
Astrid & Diana, Gloppedalsura
Folk Musicians, Byrkjedal
Astrid & Diana at Byrkjedal
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