The Festive Mincepie …

According to Wikipedia:

A mince pie is a small British fruit-based mincemeat sweet pie traditionally served during the Christmas season. Its ingredients are traceable to the 13th century, when returning European crusaders brought with them Middle Eastern recipes containing meats, fruits and spices.

According to this baker:

A mince pie is a small thermonuclear device with the capacity to burn, maim and destroy any baker worth their salt, and if, after that, they’re still alive their capacity to drive to insanity is not to be reckoned with!

The Moorbakes MincepieA Moorbakes Mincepie. Do not be fooled by its appearance! This is a weapon of mass baker destruction!

Let us now look at the hazards surrounding this small and innocent looking object of festive feasting…

Making the pastry

We all make our own pastry, right? So just how thin can you roll it out? What if it’s too thick? Do I blind bake, or fill it and bake it with the filling? Will I get a soggy bottom! Just that thought on its own should be enough to put you off for life – and if you thought Paddington has a hard stare, have you seen the combined might of both Mary and Paul? Even though they’re not next to you, you know that your customers will be inspecting and checking now… Enough to make the most seasoned baker think twice.

But lets assume this doesn’t put us off. What next?

The mincemeat filling

Buy it or make it. If making it, do you see if any of your carefully stored apples are still edible or go out and buy local apples (at this time of the year?) organic or not? And what about the suet. Do you cater for vegetarians or go traditional with beef suet? So you go vegetarian – does it contain palm oil from a carefully managed source, or are you killing baby orang-utans? Have you got the fruit to sauce ratio right? Enough sugar (fair-trade raw cane sugar, of-course!) Almost enough to make you give up and just buy the damned things!

OK. We’ve sourced the mincemeat…

Pastry top or not?

And if you do decide to add a cap to it, (would you ever sell them topless?) traditional pastry or something a bit more modern – marzipan or frangipain perhaps? Round, star shaped, or something else? Decorations? What a holly-leaf shaped piece of pastry with that? Just how much time do you have when hand-making 100’s of the things anyway?

Finishing it off…

If you’ve got this far, you’ve made your mince pies, you might even have sold a few or given them to friends, but do they look OK? Worry not – icing sugar to the rescue! A light dusting covers a multitude of sins – trust me on that one, and look at the photo above…


Beware! Mincepies have the thermal properties of a small nuclear reactor. Freshly baked out of the oven, they’ll reduce your mouth to a melted mess. Microwaved to warm up? Oh no – they have the capacity to absorb all the energy the microwave can throw at it, and then some. A mincepie will sit on your plate, innocently looking appealing until you put it in your mouth. At that point, you’ll realise that the filling is still at a temperature that would make any nuclear scientist proud.

Top baker tip: Keep a glass of cold water handy. Helps out put the ensuing mincepie induced mouth fire.

Safe and enjoyable mincepie eating to everyone, everywhere!

Busier than normal…

The past 10 days has seen the local co-op in Buckfastleigh closed for refurbishment. This has given the small retailers in town a chance to shine and show what they can do!

I’ve been baking almost double the bread for the Seed and Holne community shop which has been great fun! It’s good to see a few more people enjoy hand-made organic breads. Lets hope they continue to do so, even though the co-op appears to be back in business.

Making a Sourdough loaf

It takes the best part of a day to make the Moorbakes sourdough bread, so I thought I’d put together a page on how it’s is made….

Step 1: Lunchtime the day before

So I start at about lunchtime and need to work out what I’m going to be baking for tomorrow… Sourdough isn’t something you can make at a moments notice – this is a 20 hour process! So for tomorrow I’ll be making 3 small Maltsters and 3 small Devon Rustics. Fortunately these both use the same starter (white wheat) so I only need to make up one lot of levain.

First job is to make up the levain, or starter. For the above 6 loaves, I need just under 650g of levain – I only keep about 500g of the mother in the fridge, so I use the mother to make the levain for the bread. I take the mother out of the fridge, measure out enough to make up the levain add in flour and water, mix, cover and leave in a warm place for the next 8 or 9 hours. (Not forgetting to top up the mother and put it back in the fridge!)

levain-1This is our starter mixed with flour and water. It’s not looking that exciting yet…

If I was only making 2 large or 3 small loaves, I could skip this step and take 320g of the mother and use it directly, however it’s impractical to keep much more than that mother in the fridge, so this two-stage process works well and it very easy to scale up if I were making 2 or 4 times the amount of bread I’m making here.

That only took a few minutes, but it’s the start of the (almost) day-long process.

Step 2 – Mix and Knead the Dough

… Some time later – at about 9:30pm to be precise, and this is what the levain looks like now:levain-2

…it’s now a light and airy mix, full of bubbles with a nice tangy smell and taste to it. It smells and tastes like it should  (I always taste a tiny bit just in-case!)

This is split between 2 bowls – one has the white + wholemeal mix for my Devon Rustic loaves and one has the Shipton Mill 3-Malts and sunflower seeds mix for the Maltsters.


Add water, salt, a bit of kneading and there we are:


After kneading, a little bit of vegetable oil is rubbed round the bowls and the dough is transferred back into them and covered and left to rise overnight. They’re going to get about 9 hours rising time!

Step 3 – Scale, shape and rest/prove

Now it’s about 7am which isn’t too bad a time to get up. Quite reasonable for some! The dough has risen slowly and gently overnight and now we have 2 full bowls of nice soft and sweet smelling dough:

drustic2Devon Rustic dough, after an overnight rise

maltster2Maltster dough, after an overnight rise

Nothing special here for people who already make bread – tip the dough out, divide it up using the scales to make sure each piece is the right weight, then pre-shape in preparation for the final shaping on the baking trays:


proving…final shape and proving on trays

Step 4 – Decorate/slash and bake

When they’re ready – usually after 45 minutes to an hour, it’s time to get them ready for the oven.

provedThe maltsters get a dusting of flour and 3 cuts, the Devon Rustics get sesame seeds and 3 cuts too.

ovenIn the oven

The loaves get a roasting at about 240°C for 11 minutes with a good slug on water in a tray at the bottom to create some steam, then the oven is turned down to about 210°C for a further 21 minutes before they’re checked for readiness and removed to cool.

coolingCooling on a rack

drustic3Devon Rustic


After that, they’re bagged and labelled and take up to the shop where they’re sold and hopefully enjoyed by happy customers!


Afternoon Tea for the Buckfastleigh New Plan Consultation

We were asked to provide an afternoon tea for the local town plan consultation day (well the first of several I understand!)

bflconsSo this is about a third of what was made – topped up several times during the afternoon. It was a rather busy day, but fortunately spread over several hours.

  • Cheese Scones – With North Devon extra strong cheddar.
  • Scones with local (Scoriton) clotted cream and strawberry jam (jam on-top, of-course!)
  • Chocolate cake made with marmalade
  • lemon drizzle cake
  • Buckfastleigh apple cake
  • carrot cake
  • gluten-free banana cake
  • sandwiches made with north Devon cheddar, Bovey tracey ham, and egg mayonaise.

Add in gallons of tea and coffee to wash it all down with and it was a great afternoon.