Flour Supplies in Lockdown and Soft Pretzels

If you're wondering where to buy flour, in lockdown, I have good news. I know where the flour supplies are. *Taps side of nose and winks*

I have also made pretzels, which counts as more good news because they are delicious, moreish, and adaptable: you can make them savoury or sweet. Would you like them sprinkled with seasalt, glazed with sugar and cinnamon, dipped in chocolate or...? Scroll along for the recipe. But not so fast!
In this post, there is also dinner in a box, a trip to the countryside and an enterprising guinea pig. You don't want to miss the enterprising guinea pig.

Firstly, the flour. In my last post, Where To Buy Yeast In Lockdown, I shared news of yeast supplies. In fact, those very same suppliers also have flour, in most cases, so please, do check out the links in that post, thereby helping to support small businesses who are struggling at this time.

Prior to learning about all those options for flour supplies, I had been returning and returning to the Shipton Mill website, where they are gradually releasing delivery slots in order to manage the unprecedented demand for flour. Finally, on a tip-off from a reader (thanks Ken!) I managed to visit Shipton Mill at a moment when some delivery slots were available and secure myself some sacks of flour.



I ordered 16kg of white flour and 25kg of wholemeal. I think I must be properly grown-up now, to say that I was genuinely excited by the arrival of my flour delivery. And my children were thrilled (I'm sure) to learn that wholemeal bread was back on the menu. We do like a robust slice. My daughter had been waiting ages for her wobbly tooth to come out. Job done! Incidentally, the tooth fairy said that, what with social distancing and all, she'd rather leave the cash on the chest of drawers at the far side of the room and it was alright, she'd see about collecting the tooth some other time, so that was a lot easier than waiting for the child to fall asleep, avoiding the squeaky floorboard and then attempting to be subtle about groping around under the pillow kind of her.

Here's what I wrote in my newsletter on the subject of flour from Shipton Mill. I think it's useful information so I've decided to add it here:

It was during the first (UK) lockdown that I decided to order flour from Shipton Mill. At that time it felt pretty awkward to go shopping, there were no online shopping slots and I couldn't even get flour in my local shops. It made sense to buy in bulk and reduce the number of supermarket trips I was making.

The Shipton Mill website offers a variety of flours. For my first order, I had to take a guess as to which would be the best flour for my needs. In case you are faced with the same dilemma, here's what I know.

For white flour, I chose "Finest Bakers White Bread Flour No.1 (101)" in a 16kg sack. This proved to be an excellent flour for all our baking: bread, cakes, biscuits etc. For wholemeal, I wanted to get an even larger sack (25kg) so that really left me with a choice of two. I first chose "A Strong Canadian And UK Blended Wholemeal Flour" and it was ok, but not great. I couldn't get it to hold its shape very well and we chomped our way through a series of rather dry, dense loaves. The second time round, I ordered the "Organic 100% Wholemeal Flour (205)" which has proved to be much better and, for me, makes a nicer loaf.

We store our sacks of flour in plastic bins from Ikea, using a measuring cup for scooping out what we need. The flour has kept well, in our kitchen, for as long as it took us to use it up (a few months).

The other thing worth knowing about Shipton Mill is that you can get a 15% discount if you submit a recipe to their website - definitely worth doing. It doesn't have to be complicated: just something you've baked and have photographed, since they also want you to share an image.

It's been a good week for deliveries:

Karma Kitchen Boxed

What did you get? What did you get?

Karma Kitchen Boxed

Ta dah!

Karma Kitchen Boxed

Looks better out of the packaging:

Karma Kitchen Boxed

Karma Kitchen Boxed

Karma Kitchen Boxed

Karma Kitchen Boxed.

Karma Kitchen Boxed

Curries, naans and rice. A take-away curry but not a take-away. Frozen food. A meal, ready; but so much more than a ready-meal. (Frozen ready-meals. Shudder.) This is Karma Kitchen Boxed (Punjabi curries cooked, immediately frozen and delivered to your door). I'm very taken with the idea. Decent dinners, cooked by someone else. And, incidentally, vegan.* We have missed some of our favourite restaurants and take-aways since lockdown. Karma Kitchen is still cooking and, furthermore, they are delivering their delicious Punjabi food nationwide. This is The Answer as far as I'm concerned. (The Question was: What convenience food could I eat when I want a break from cooking, that would be tasty, nutritious and reasonably priced?) And no, I am not being paid to say this. I only mention it in case you, too, would like to treat yourself to a yummy curry. Ordering Karma Kitchen Boxed was the kindest thing I did for myself this week.
*I've been vegan ever since I read 'How Not To Die'.

The day we ate Karma Kitchen was a day that we Went Out. We went in the car, to the countryside. It was flowery:

Wildflower - Bugle

And springy:

Primrose and violet

And we saw where a squirrel had been having a picnic:

Squirrel picnic table

It was lovely to return, exhausted from our countryside walking, to a meal that only had to be heated up.

Now, speaking of spring growth, here's the aforementioned enterprising guinea pig:

Guinea pig sitting in planter eating vegetable shoots

Whoops. Petal found my vegetable crops. She's probably had her eye on them for a while. Today, they were apparently deemed large enough to harvest. Peas, carrots and radishes. When I suggested she might like to stop sitting on my seedlings, she went for backup.

Guinea pigs

Looks like an organised gang.

Luckily, they don't eat pretzels.

Ah, the pretzels.

Soft pretzel

Thoroughly un-photogenic, but yummy.

Soft pretzels

Soft pretzels

They are easy to make. Basically it's a fairly normal bread-dough, some fancy shaping, a dunk in boiling water and a stint in the oven.

600g plain flour
1 tsp instant dried yeast
1 tsp salt
380g liquid made up of a slosh of oil, some milk (I used soya) and water

Pretzel ingredients

Put all the ingredients in a big bowl. Mix well.

Pretzel dough

Allow to rise for about an hour, or until considerably bigger:

Pretzel dough

Now, shaping...

This recipe makes 16 pretzels. Divide the dough into 16 pieces and pre-shape them by rolling them up like little Swiss-rolls. Once the pre-shaped rolls have rested for a while, roll them into thin lengths, about 50cm long.

Making pretzels

The traditional pretzel shape is achieved by crossing the strand over like so...

Making pretzels

...Giving it a twist...

Making pretzels

...And folding the twist back on itself.

Making pretzels

Some of ours were more beautiful than others.

Soft pretzel

Let the shaped pretzels prove and rise for a while on a baking tray (or two). These trays are lined with reusable baking sheets to provide a non-stick surface.

Pretzels proving

They are risen enough when the dough is springy to the touch.

The benefit of the shaping is that it holds together well for the next step.

Prepare a large pan of hot water and add in three tablespoonfuls of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).

How to make pretzels

Place the pretzels into the pan, a few at a time. Cook for a few minutes, to develop the chewy surface. The pretzels sink at first and float when done. You can leave them in the pan for a few minutes (even when floating and supposedly 'done') if you like a chewier crust.

Boiling pretzels

Place the boiled pretzels back on the baking tray and sprinkle with, well, whatever you decided upon back in paragraph two. We used chunky sea salt.


Bake in a hot oven (230oC) for at least 10 minutes. Ours looked rather pale after 10 minutes so we left them in for another five. And another. After 20 minutes of cooking time, they looked closer to the colour of shop-bought pretzels and I took them out because I didn't want to let them get too dry.

Eating pretzel

I have it on good authority that these were the Best Pretzels Ever.

The pretzel recipe is soon to be appearing in my recipe ebook, The Recipes, where you can have all my bread recipes in an easy-access, printable format (no scrolling past guinea pig pictures to get to the key information). I say 'soon to be appearing' because this is a growing collection of recipes that I update at intervals. Whenever you buy the book, you'll always have access to all the recipes, even ones I haven't thought of yet, because you can always go back and download the latest version.

If you just want one, basic recipe and a clear, foolproof method to set you on your bread-baking journey, then First Loaf is for you. It's the best place to start if you're wondering whether you can bake a loaf of bread: you can. I'll help you. You'll love it ;o)


Don't miss out

Bread In 20 Minutes