No bread is an island

...entire of itself. (With apologies to John Donne!)
I live and breathe breadmaking. I’m an evangelist who would like everyone to make his or her own bread. I want to demystify breadmaking and show it as the easy everyday craft that it is. To this end I endeavour to make my recipes as simple and as foolproof as I possibly can.

I call my blog 'No bread is an island' because every bread is connected to another bread. So a spicy fruit bun with a cross on top is a hot cross bun. This fruit dough will also make a fruit loaf - or Chelsea buns or a Swedish tea ring...
I'm also a vegan, so I have lots of vegan recipes on here - and I'm adding more all the time.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

BREADS AND CAKES FOR VEGAN ACTIVISTS (PLUS OTHER IDEAS I HAVE OCCASIONALLY)

These are some of the cakes and breads I've taken on my CubeofTruth adventures.
In this post:
Chocolate cake 
Summer fruit sponge cake (haven't shared this yet, but I intend to - it's just gorgeous)
Spicy fruit soda bread
Pizza
2 'instant' sweets for afters (well, ready to eat in just a few minutes):
    Chocolate or ginger cake
    Banana fritters (with savoury variations)

Chocolate cake

Ingredients:
175g sugar
25g cocoa powder
175g self raising flour
75g vegetable oil - or unsweetened apple puree
250g water

Method:
Measure the sugar and the cocoa powder, and mix them together. The sharp edges of the granulated sugar breaks up the clumps of cocoa powder, so sieving is not necessary. Add the flour and mix, then add the oil and water. Stir, initially with a dessertspoon, and then with a whisk, and pour into a prepared 20cm (8") cake tin.

Bake at 175C for 30-35 minutes.

Or: Use a silicon cake form and place in the microwave (800w) for 6 minutes. In my experience, not only do you get a quicker cake, but the cake rises about 25% higher in the microwave.

Note: I now make all my cakes in the microwave - only 6 minutes as against 45 or so minutes of oven time.

Here's the whole story, with links to the original recipe, a gluten-free alternative, vegan chocolate spread, and more.

Monday 15th April 2019
Breaking news: This is so good, nearly half the cake has gone already - and it's still warm!


Summer Fruit Sponge variation

Ingredients:
160g self raising flour
140g sugar
25g olive oil
250g fruit puree*

Method as above - 6 minutes in the microwave.

*Fruit puree consisted of 100g dates, soaked overnight; 100g frozen blueberries; 100g frozen summer fruits; 1 banana; 5 stewed prunes and water. All blitzed in my NutriShot blender.

Next time, I think I'll add a separate amount of soaked/stewed dates instead of some of the sugar.

Spicy fruit bread

I'll post the recipe in here when I get time, but here's a link to an online soda bread recipe.

For a spicy fruit bread, instead of adding salt, add 1-2 tsps of whatever sweet spice you've got - mixed spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. I always add 1/2 tsp of ground cloves, as well; 1 dessertspoon sugar, 100g sultanas or raisins, and 100g chopped dates. 

[More to come]
Pizza


Ingredients:
200g (1 mug) strong white flour 
teaspoon bouillon powder
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
1 teaspoon curry powder
4 large sun-dried tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
125ml (1/3rd mug) lukewarm water
1 rounded teaspoon fresh yeast or level teaspoon of dried yeast

Topping:
Rich tomato sauce
Nutritional yeast (notch)
Sliced tomato
Several sliced mushrooms

Method:
1. Place the dried ingredients and the s-d-tomatoes into a mixing bowl. Stir the yeast into the sauce until it’s dissolved (dried yeast takes a little longer to dissolve than fresh) and add it to the flour. 

2. Have a little water to hand to add if necessary, remember, it is better for your dough to be wetter (slack) rather than drier (tight). Begin to mix by stirring the ingredients together with a knife, starting with the yeast, cutting through the dough. When it gets too stiff for the knife, use your hand to squeeze the mixture together. As it forms into a solid mass, keep turning it over and pressing it down to pick up the flour at the bottom of the bowl – but make sure it stays soft. Don’t be afraid to add more water to keep it soft! When all the flour has been mixed in, wipe the bowl around with the dough, turn it out onto the worktop and begin to knead.

3. Knead by stretching the dough out, folding it over, stretching it out and so on and so forth. Do this until it is smooth – and stop before you get fed up!

4. Prepare your baking sheets, take the dough out of the mixing bowl and place it on your worktop. Divide the dough into 1 or 2 equal pieces and form each piece gently into a cob shape. Have plenty of flour to hand and liberally scatter flour over the dough and worktop. With a rolling pin, roll out each piece of dough to the size of your baking sheets. 

5. Spread the pizza base(s) with the tomato sauce and sprinkle with nooch. If the nooch gets soaked up a bit and the sauce shows through, add a bit more nooch. Place slices of tomato and mushroom on top and sprinkle with herbs and black pepper.

6. Leave them to prove until the dough has become puffy at the edges.

7. Place in a hot oven, 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for 15-20 minutes, turning round halfway through if necessary. When they're done the pizzas will lift up all along one side when you check underneath, using a palette knife. The bottom should be browning from the edges.


2 quick puddings:
Chocolate or ginger cake

1. You want cake? You can be eating some in around 6 minutes of thinking of it:

In a cereal bowl place 4 dsps each of sugar and self raising flour - to this add a teaspoon of either cocoa powder or powdered ginger and stir. (You can always this adjust amount the next time you make it.) Then add around 6 dsps of water and one of oil (I use olive oil, 'cos that's all I have, but rapeseed or other oils will be fine.)
Now stir the mix thoroughly and microwave for 2 minutes. Now you have cake.


Banana fritters

Put a frying pan, with a little oil on to a medium heat. 
In a jug, place 1/2 cup of self raising flour and a dsp of sugar. Add enough water to make a paste - stir this to remove all the lumps. Then add a little more water to make a thick batter.
Slice a banana lengthways, then cut each slice into 2 or 3 pieces. Put the banana pieces into the batter and turn them over to coat both sides. Using a fork, lower each piece of battered banana into the frying pan and adjust the heat - you need it to be medium to high. Turn the banana over after a couple of minutes and fry the other side. You're looking for a golden brown on each side.

Variation: Exactly the same method can be used to make battered mushrooms. Except you would use salt (or half a vegetable Oxo cube) instead of sugar. And battered sausages.

Notes. Both these can be made with gluten free self raising flour.

PRESS UP CHALLENGES: 1 MILLION IN 10 YEARS - AND 100 IN A MINUTE

I filmed 40 press ups - about 4 times, to try and get it right - uploaded it here - and now it refuses to play! Back to the drawing board :(
Very strange - I'll try again, of course, but in the meantime, I've managed to upload it to Facebook - so here's a link to that.



Number 2 in the series - My Fitness regime. My 9kg kettlebell routine. (Once again, the above video won't work on here, so I've linked it to my Facebook page.)

Every 3 days I do my kettlebell exercise: 
20 reps of the nine different exercises you see me doing here. Then repeated once more. The whole exercise takes less than 15 minutes, with a 5 minute gap between the two routines.

[Still not working - I'll post it on Facebook, then link to it from here. My kettlebell film on Facebook]
The story behind this challenge:
I turned 80 in September 2017, and, to provide some motivation to keep pushing myself, I decided I would challenge myself to see if I could complete 1 million push ups between my 80th and 90th birthday.
I worked out that if I did 2000 a week, 700 every other day (2000 x 50 x 10 years), I would reach my goal. 

However, after I'd begun, I thought I needed to get some 'in the bank' as it were, just in case I had an accident or something, and couldn't do the push ups for a while. So I upped my total to 1000 every other day. I've now been going just over 6 months - when my total was around 70,000. So my target is so far well within reach. At my present rate of progress, barring accidents, it's possible I could achieve 1 million p/ups in well under 10 years - I did 14000 in March 2018, for instance.

Oh, and I'd also like to be able to do 100 perfect press ups in 1 minute - that's my immediate goal.

20/1/19: I've now settled on a weekly routine, prioritising my press ups. So, Sunday - press ups; Monday - chin ups; Tuesday - kettlebell exercise; Wednesday and Friday press ups, with Thursday and Saturday being rest days.

As an aside, another reason I'm doing this is to show that vegans can be strong and fit into old age - should I ever get there! ;)


13th March 2019
Progress report:
I've now managed 107 press ups inside one minute - 100 flat out, rest, then another 7 for the minute was up.

And, starting off with sets of 35, then going down to sets of 30, I've done my 1000 press ups in 32 minutes 11 seconds.

[Caveat: I have a rolled up towel on the floor, which I touch with my forehead on each dip. It's probably about 7-8cm thick. Gradually, I've been unfolding the towel - so my press ups are closer to the ground. Which is why, last time I tried it, I only managed 87 press ups in one minute.)

My cumulative total now stands at 188,000

My efforts have come to the attention of a wider audience - here's an article about my 1 million challenge. It's been picked up by Plant Based News, and Somerset Live, an online newspaper - and I've even got a mention on the Great Vegan Athletes Facebook page, which is crazy!

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

TOWARDS A VEGAN WORLD - Information as I come across it

As you can imagine, I get an enormous amount of info about the multifarious benefits of a vegan, or plant-based, diet. As I come across it, I shall post it on here:

"Meat is ridiculously inefficient' says British philosopher, Ray Monks. Not only meat - dairy, eggs and fish are also wasteful. Just to take one example: 

"A person who doesn't eat meat or dairy indirectly consumes nearly 600 gallons water per day less than a person who eats the average American diet (National Geographic, 2015). Per day!"

Gary Francione, Honorary Professor (Philosophy) at the  University of East Anglia, asks why the Green Party and Extinction Rebellion are ignoring the vegan solution.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

A VEGAN DIET AND FASTING - BOTH CAN HELP TREAT ARTHRITIS

(21/10/14)
Often, when there's not a lot on the box and I have time to kill, I google the word 'Fasting' or 'plant based diet', followed by a condition, or an activity or somesuch.

I saw my GP last week for something minor and I just happened to mention that my arthritis had been in abeyance for several years. It was just a throwaway remark along with all the other subjects we'd been discussing.

But later I began to think about this, and realised that my arthritis, which had steadily been getting ever so slightly (but significantly) worse - until I stopped eating meat and dairy foods and became a vegan. Since then, while there has been no real improvement in my condition (apart from the amelioration of pain I gained from acupuncture), it hasn't deteriorated in the slightest. In fact, apart from the swelling in most of the joints of my fingers, it would be difficult to tell I had arthritis at all!

So I searched for  'Plant-based diet and arthritis', and found this article which more or less explains why my arthritis has been stable for the past ten or so years. And why fasting, in conjunction with a plant-based diet is beneficial.

Here's the story of someone who has benefited from giving up meat, dairy and eggs.

It's well worth looking through all the success stories on the 'Forks over Knives' website. 

It seems to make perfect sense to me. Thoughts, anyone?

Monday, 8 October 2018

THE EASIEST PASTRY YOU'LL EVER MAKE - and it's vegan!

A Thai chilli non carne pie!

The other half ended up in the freezer
As a vegan, I often find myself thinking out of the box, and here's a pastry which uses no milk, butter, marge or lard. Consequently, there is no need for that tiresome technique known as 'rubbing in' which is supposed to make something like 'breadcrumbs'. 

No need, either, for resting the pastry in the fridge - this is a 'quick pastry'. Or for 'baking blind' - there's no need for any of that faff. Instead, the ingredients are mixed into a dough - kneaded for a few seconds to distribute the ingredients properly - then rolled out and popped into a pie dish. If there is an easier method, I'd like to hear of it!

Monday, 30 July 2018

VEGAN BREADMAKING AND COOKERY COURSE

I'm planning to run a 5 or 6 week course somewhere in Taunton, starting in September. Here's where I shall post all my planning, as details become finalised.

I mean, I don't have a venue, yet, so... 😀

It'll be primarily about bread - but the content would be determined by the students. I'll plan the first session, but after that, it'll be down to the students to choose what we make next. If the decision is, let's make a lentil and potato stew, we can do that - and then make bread pasties and stuffed parathas with the leftovers. 😉

To give you an idea about some of the breads we can make, here's a link to a previous course I ran at The Planet. I'd do it there again, but Wendy is getting so busy, I'm reluctant to add to her workload.

Who is this course for?
Anyone who wishes to improve their cooking skills. I'd really like a mix of vegans and non-vegans. As to how many I could fit on the course, well that would depend on the venue - as would whether children can come or not.  The optimum number for me is 8.

Purpose and cost:
Primarily, I'm doing this to raise money for a TV for the Taunton branch of Anonymous for the Voiceless. We've raised £150, so far, towards a target of £400. As for how much to charge, I'm still thinking about this - obviously, I have to break even, but beyond that, any money raised would go to AV.
At the same time, I don't want anyone not to be able access this course because of cost. 
So I'm thinking of just asking for donations, ATM. 

[More]

Monday, 9 July 2018

VEGAN CHOCOLATE CAKE - How easy is this?

[12th November 2012. There's a doubled-up recipe + pics at the foot of this post.]

The recipe:


Vegan chocolate cake

Ingredients:
175g sugar
25g cocoa powder
175g self raising flour
75g vegetable oil - or unsweetened apple puree
250g water

Method:
Measure the sugar and the cocoa powder, and mix them together. The sharp edges of the granulated sugar breaks up the clumps of cocoa powder, so sieving is not necessary. Add the flour and mix, then add the oil and water. Stir, initially with a dessertspoon, and then with a whisk, and pour into a prepared 20cm (8") cake tin.

Bake at 175C for 30-35 minutes.

Or: Use a silicon cake form and place in the microwave (800w) for 6 minutes. In my experience, not only do you get a quicker cake, but the cake rises about 25% higher in the microwave.

(It's also possible to make an excellent gluten-free version of this cake.)

The story:

Anybody who's taken a look at some of the bread conversations I've had on here will know I'm not a cake maker - bread's my thing.

Whenever anyone asks me if I make cakes I always tell them there isn't time - there's always another bread I haven't made yet!

However, it was the birthday of both my daughter and my son-in-law this week, and there are bound to be plenty of cakes when we meet up tomorrow. And none of them will be vegan.

Apart, that is, from the one I've just made!

I followed this recipe here:

And tweaked it slightly.

It was a bit of a faff, since each step is on a separate page - unless you sign up, which I didn't want to do. And it's in cups, which I've weighed off into gms for the next time I make it - which I will.

166g s/raising flour
30g cocoa powder
198g sugar
1/2 tsp salt
80g sunolive oil
250g water
2 tsps vanilla extract

Stir the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients, mix together and pour into 2 18cm (7") lined cake tins. (I placed 354g of batter in each tin.)

Bake at 175C for 20 minutes.

Here's the cakes as they came out of the oven:




I shall sandwich the cake with the vegan chocolate spread I made yesterday:

And probably spread a bit on top - just to finish it off!


Update, Sunday 31st July:

As I said I would, I 'iced' the cake with a little chocolate spread.

And it went down very well, I must say - much better than I thought it would. My mother-in-law said loudly, "But it's actually very nice!". Everyone at the party who had a taste thought it was lovely and moist - and I had to answer several queries as to the recipe and how it was made.

This was undoubtedly a success - and it's now firmly in my repertoire. This from a guy who'd only ever made one cake in the last 20 years prior to this!  

I'm beginning to wonder if we've been conned all these years into thinking that cakes naturally have to contain eggs and butter (or marge)? Clearly, they don't!

I have asked all my friends on Wildfood for  their opinion. There's a variety of opinions on there with some agreeing with me.

I decided to forgo the salt and the vanilla:  I never use salt in my sweet bread recipes, and I see no place for it here; I couldn't detect any vanilla flavour, but others may.

3 days later. I ate the last remnants of the cake - and it was as moist and lush as when it had just been made. I did think of seeing if it would keep into a 4th day - but who keeps chocolate cake for four days?

(Well, my mother might - she used to extol the virtues of her madeira cake - "It'll keep for a fortnight!" she used to announce to all and sundry. And every time we went home and we were served cake, she felt she had to make good her claim. The damn cake was always well over a week old! In every other respect she was a decent cook. Well, I suppose we all have a chink in our armour!)

3rd November.
After telling my colleagues at my Thursday care home about my cake-making, I was prevailed upon to make one for the residents.

Since we needed a large cake, I doubled up the recipe:
330g s/raising flour
60g cocoa powder
400g sugar
160g sunflower oil
500g water

I left out the salt - decided it wasn't necessary - and the vanilla extract  - didn't have any, and didn't miss either of them! The cake, took about 35 minutes to cook.

I have to admit I was pretty bowled over by the size and appearance of the cake when it came out of the oven:

If you're going to make a cake - may as well make a big one!


That's Melissa's hand applying the chocolate icing
10th November.
The cake tin for last week's cake was borrowed from the care home next door - but this time it was decided we should make fairy cakes:

The doubled up recipe actually made 2 dozen of these. Thought at first we hadn't put enough batter in each one 


But when they came out of their cases and were iced - the size was just right! OK, the icing's not very neat - but that didn't affect the taste one iota!
Friday 16th December.
I've been making this cake weekly since I first made it - and today I made a chocolate log with it:


The cake was too thick so I knew it would split. But using the hints I picked up from Eric Lanlard last weekend (cut off the first 2 cm from the edge you're starting to roll from and place it on the edge if the cake and roll up around it) and those I received from Jemma the chef at Longrun (trim the side of the cake - this is where it gets crisp and prevents even rolling), we managed it.


Next time I'll divide the batter between two Swiss roll tins - and then it won't split! To keep it vegan it was spread with jam. I need a vegan filling for next time.

Monday 26th December.
Wanted to make a couple of Yule logs for the family - but I'm far away from my scales, so I did these with the original cup measurements in the link above.

I used a coffee mug to measure with and made enough to fill two Swiss roll tins and make three large cup cakes.

One was filled with sweet chestnut puree (the puree was mixed with some sugar and soya cream) and the other was consumed as it was - everyone thoroughly enjoyed it.

I'm planning to cover the cake with melted chocolate. I'll post a pic when I do.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

A WEEK'S MENU FOR A VEGAN


(Well, it started out as a weekly menu, but I've since added to it, and I shall add more, I'm sure!)

Breakfast:
Cereal with a plant based milk - or fruit juice makes a nice change

Porridge – made with water - is a good standby.  I like mine with blackstrap molasses – although I no longer draw faces and yachts on the porridge as I did when I was younger! (Still do with the grandchildren on occasion! :-) )

My wife has hers with sultanas (soaked overnight) and banana. (Ugh!)

I only have porridge about once a week - my usual breakfast is spicy fruit naan, covered with mashed banana:

However, I often skip breakfast these days.

5:2 VEGAN COOKERY


Here are some of the 5:2 vegan dishes on my blog:

(My experiences with Intermittent Fasting over almost 2 years)






Ratatouille pie made with a bread dough and a rich ragu sauce




Simple chocolate cake costing around 70p

Chocolate 'Cake in a mug' - adapted to fit a cereal bowl (it's easier to get to!)


Trifle - yes, 5:2 calorie counted trifle. It's just gorgeous



Here's a week's vegan menu - not calorie-counted

GARLIC BATONS - in the oven and frying pan (Vegan)

Saturday 1st July 2017
Since I began teaching at Taunton Association of the Homeless, a couple of years ago, I've made quite a bit of bread in a frying pan, along with the students. When they find accommodation, they may not always have an oven, but they may well have a hob and a frying pan. 

Last week the students on my current Burnham breadmaking opted to make garlic batons, as below, in the oven. So I wanted to see how these would fare, making them in a frying pan.

I used self raising flour, as I often do, these days:
Put the frying pan on a medium heat
100g s/raising flour
Pinch of salt
65ml water

Mixed into a dough and kneaded for a minute or two
Roll out into a rectangle a bit shorter than the frying pan

Garlic spread:
3 cloves garlic, smashed 
Heaped dessertspoon vegan spread -mixed together

Spread the garlic, et, over the dough and roll it up tightly.

Using a little flour and a rolling pin, flatten the dough and place it in the frying pan with a lid of some sort. Bake for 4 minutes each side - the colour should finish up a golden brown. 

Not like this one...

I baked it too long on both sides.

Still tasted gorgeous, though!

I made one for my neighbour - his verdict was, "Stunning!"

Sometime back in 2011.
Whenever I'm offered garlic bread at a gathering it's almost inevitably a supermarket baguette, cut into chunks, slathered with butter and garlic and baked for a while. It's OK, but it doesn't have the depth of flavour of these batons, where the bread and the filling are cooked together. Vary the filling as you will, with herbs, pesto, etc. As a vegan, I use olive oil instead of butter.
Garlic batons. Dough rolled out flat, covered with mashed garlic and olive oil, then rolled up like a Swiss roll


This method infuses the whole loaf with garlic


Ingredients:
400g strong white flour of your choice
1/2 teaspoon salt
250ml lukewarm water
1 rounded dessertspoon fresh yeast
Good splash of olive oil

Filling:
Garlic spread made with around a dozen or so cloves of garlic, peeled and squashed, and olive oil to taste. Mix in any herbs or spices you fancy. Spread with pesto to give it a bit more oomph.

Method:
1. Measure the water and stir in the fresh yeast. Place the flour and salt into a mixing bowl, pour in the yeast liquid, then add the olive oil.

2. Have a little water to hand to add if necessary, remember, it is better for your dough to be wetter (slack) rather than drier (tight). Begin to mix by stirring the ingredients together with a knife, cutting through the dough. When it gets too stiff for the knife, use your hand to squeeze the mixture together. As it forms into a solid mass, keep turning it over and pressing it down to pick up the flour at the bottom of the bowl – but make sure it stays soft. Don’t be afraid to add more water to keep it soft! When all the flour has been mixed in, wipe the bowl around with the dough, turn it out onto the worktop and begin to knead.

3. Knead by stretching the dough out, folding it over, stretching it out and so on and so forth. Do this until it is smooth – or until you get fed up! Either leave it, covered, for an hour or so, or go to step 4.

4. Divide the dough in two and form each piece into a round bap shape. Roll each piece out into a large rectangle – about 20cm by 30cm on a floured worktop. Spread the filling all over the dough and roll each piece up like a Swiss roll, with the seam side underneath. Gently tuck the ends underneath to stop any leakage. (You’ll still get a bit.) Place them on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.

5. Leave to prove until they have risen appreciably.

6. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for between 15-20 minutes. Look for colour underneath.