Sir Edgar Harrington and the Last Wolf...
I have a confession to make - I don’t like real ale; warm flat beer just isn’t for me. Not even the amount of stick I received in my younger years for being the only larger drinker in the Coniston Mountain Rescue Team could force me to change my mind. That said, I think I’ve tasted and cooked bread with nearly every beer made in the county to find the best one for this recipe and believe me it makes a huge difference.
I’ve never been able to work out what it is about certain beers that make them work in the bread we developed, ones I thought would work didn’t and I was certain that the one that has worked best wouldn’t be any good at all!
The beer we settled on, Sir Edgar Harrington’s Last Wolf is produced in a small open door brewery based in Cartmel by Peter Unsworth. It’s housed in the wonderful Unsworth’s Yard alongside a bakery, the best cheese shop in Cumbria and his brother David’s superb drink shop and wine snug. The courtyard has seating where they do pizza nights and I can’t think of many better places to pass a summer’s evening, luckily the brewery also produces a larger.
Last Wolf is a red-brown ale, with a rich malty bitterness, red fruits, and chocolate notes. You can buy it bottled but we get ours in kegs, mainly because we use so much of it across the two restaurants and also because I feel it gives us a better flavour for what we use it for.
As you may know by now it’s really important to me to be able to support small independent businesses, the fact that this beer comes from a small local brewery is great and the fact and that it’s a quality product makes it just perfect. However, there is an added bonus and that is both the beer’s name and the story behind that name.
Last Wolf gets its name from a tale relating to the hunting of the last wolf in England. According to legend the wolf lived in the southern fells of Cumbria (then Lancashire) and met its end on Humphrey Head in the 14th century. It is said that Sir Edgar Harrington of nearby Wraysholm Tower had sworn to hunt down and kill every wolf from his land around Cartmel Forest.
The story goes that the man who killed the last wolf could claim the hand in marriage of Harrington’s ward, the beautiful Adela. The tale describes a hunt through the forest, down to the shores of Windermere and on to Morecambe Bay, where the wolf is finally cornered and killed on Humphrey Head by a mysterious knight known only as Delisle, mounted on a magnificent white Arabian horse.
It turns out the mysterious Delisle is none other than Sir Edgar’s long-lost son, and rather coincidentally Adela’s true love. Delisle aka, John Harrington, had been presumed to have died in battle during the Crusades.
In the aftermath of the slaying of the wolf John and Adela were then married by a passing monk in a cave on Humphrey Head, now known as Sir Edgar’s Chapel, later the couple went on to use the wolf’s head within their coat of arms. On their death they were buried together in Cartmel Priory, where their tomb depicts the couple with a wolf curled up at their feet. To this day Cartmel Priory still has a weathervane on its tower bearing the shape of a wolf’s head celebrating the tale.
Sadly, there is considerable doubt as to the truth of the tale, especially as there’s no historical record relating to a Edgar Harrington when you examine the illustrious family tree of the Harrington’s of Aldingham and Gleaston. Though John Harrington did exist his wife wasn’t called Adela, as for Wraysholm Tower, it was built in around 1485, long after the last wolf had reputedly been slain in 1390, but let’s not let facts get in the way of a good story!
Much less romantic, but nonetheless just as important to this recipe is the flour. I use the malty seeded flour produced by Carrs, a mixture of malted strong white bread flour, oats, linseed, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds. It delivers great flavour along with texture to the bread.
We include molasses in this recipe, it’s key to bringing together the malted flour and the beer. You’ll also need to source some fresh yeast; the flavour is important and it’s why we use quite a lot in this recipe.
In the seven years the Old Stamp House has been open, this recipe is the one I have been asked for the most. It’s incredibly easy to make and I hope you enjoy it. Don’t forget its best served warm and if you can smother it with some delicious Winter Tarn butter.
500ml Sir Edgar Harrington’s Last Wolf beer
105g unsalted butter
45g fresh yeast
750g Carrs malted seeded bread flour
220g strong white bread flour
In a pan gently warm the beer, molasses, and butter, until the butter is soft, make sure it doesn’t boil. Allow to cool to body temperature (around 37°C - test with your finger) then add the yeast and whisk together.
Place all the remaining ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer and attach the dough hook. Turn on to the low setting and gently pour in the wet mix. Turn up and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is stretchy and comes away from the side of the bowl.
Cover with a cloth and leave to proof, the time will depend on the temperature of your room but is normally around 90 minutes or when the dough has doubled in size.
When the dough has proved knock it back and knead it again for 2 minutes. At this point you need to shape. You can do large loaves or smaller rolls dependent on your personal preference.
Once the dough has been shaped place on a non-stick baking tray cover with cling film and allow to prove until doubled in size.
Place in a preheated oven and bake at 180°C until cooked through, timings will vary depending on the size of loaf you choose to make. But it will take at least 24 minutes for rolls and 38 minutes for loaves. The best way to tell is to turn the bread upside down and tap it with your thumb, if it sounds hollow its ready.