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.

Monday, 18 August 2014


'Bout time I updated this post - a lot has happened in the last 3 months:

Firstly, I broke the ring finger on my right hand. The accident - a 'texting accident' - was caused by a moment of stupidity on my part - in that I tripped over whilst walking (fairly briskly) and texting. Not good :(

So my finger had to be in a splint for 9 weeks! Which meant I was unable to do certain of my exercises. For a month I did no press ups - I did nothing right-handed with my kettlebell, and, for 9 weeks I couldn't do chin-ups.

I've changed my HIIT routine - instead of swimming back and forth across the pool, for a while I was running round it. First I'd jog around for a minute or so, then I'd do 3 sets of 30 seconds flat out with 30 second pauses in between. In the last fortnight, however, I've changed this to running on the spot in the water. Both these leave me pretty exhausted - but they're getting easier!

There's no reason why someone who's major exercise is swimming shouldn't do this in 4ft of water in the corner of a pool. They might get some strange looks, but, since they'd have a pretty high pulse rate and be very breathless, it'd be worth it!

Whilst wearing the splint, I continued with the double-handed and left-handed kettlebell exercises, improving to such an extent that last week I upgraded to a 9kg kettlebell. And my progress continues apace - in the four kb routines I've done so far with my new 9kg kb, I've completed 81%, 82%, 90% and 94% of the programme I've set myself. In fact the only exercise where I'm not reaching 20 reps is the Sumo Dead Lift - left-handed (I'm still not supposed to do this exercise with my right hand - nor the Swing). Mind you, I'm leaving fairly lengthy gaps between certain sets. Once I can do these sets continuously, I'll think about upgrading again. 

Press ups
For about a month, I couldn't do any press ups. Then I figured I could do knuckle press ups which kept my finger out of the way - I began with 15 each set, rapidly increasing these to 20. Then I was given the all clear to resume normal press ups and I was doing 20 x 4 sets of these quite quickly. Once I got my 9kg kb I put my 6kg kettlebell in a back pack - and I'm now doing 4 sets of 20 weighted press ups with 8kg on my back!

I had to lay off these for the 9 weeks I was wearing the splint. I've now had four sessions (on alternate days) and I'm surprised just how much muscle memory I have retained. On my first session I had four sets varying between 1 and 3 reps. For my fourth session, tonight, I did 3, 5 and a bit, 6 (a PB) and 5! So in only a week I had reached the level I had set before my 9 week layoff - actually I'd improved on that!

I'd been advised by GymBoffin to occasionally do a weighted press up with a really heavy weight on my back - just once every now and again. I haven't done that, but I wore my 8kg back pack to do a one-off chin-up - and managed a full one!

I was encouraged by (link to come) someone on line to have a go at handstands. I would love to surprise my grandchildren by spontaneously doing a handstand in front on them - so I'm on my way to accomplishing these.

I've been putting my feet on the stairs and holding myself on my outstretched arms for 4 x 1 minute every other day (instead of planking). I began with my feet on the third step, and after a fortnight or so, my feet are now on the 5th step - and tonight I extended two of those sets to 90 seconds instead of 60. My next goal is to place my feet high on a wall and gradually get my hands closer until I'm eventually doing a handstand. (After that it'll be a cartwheel! ;)) 

I'm frankly staggered by how quickly I've been able to progress. I couldn't do a single press up when I began my body weight exercises at the end of November last - and I got my first kettlebell (3kg) as a Christmas present a month later.

I have to ask myself, "Why did it take me to the age of 76 to realise that exercise was so beneficial? How come I never realised that I could put muscle on; that I could regain that inch I lost in middle age; that I could improve my posture such that friends began to comment?"

Before I began my weigh-bearing exercises, after practicing Intermittent Fasting for 21 months, I was saying just how good I felt. I was fond of saying that I felt like a forty-year-old - a fit forty-year-old. And now I've put all this muscle on, I feel twice as good as before!

I've got no idea where this is going to end - but I now know I shall never stop trying to challenge myself. I shall never give up trying to improve!

12th May 2014

I can now manage three proper chin-ups! Albeit I don’t quite straighten my arms between each one. But I’m happy with that. Only 17 to go!

HIIT. 2 PBs today. My record, set a month or so ago, was 30 seconds for my 10 widths of the small exercise pool I use. Today I did the first one in 29 seconds – and repeated that for the 2nd stint! I then dropped to 33 seconds for the third run.

Saturday, 10th May 2014
4 sets of 15-20 reps of my 9 exercises. I’m doing 20 reps of my two-handed exercises, and also left-handed and right-handed swings. I’m finding the lifts are still a bit of a struggle, although I hope to increase these to 20 by the end of this month.

Weight-bearing exercises:
4 sets 20 press-ups – as below
Chin-ups. Since I can now do one complete chin-up, GymBoffin has advised me to do one of these - slowly x 4, with 2 minute intervals in between – for the next couple of weeks. I’ll gradually try and up the number of these. (See 12th May update! J )
Plank. 4 x 60 seconds.

I do the kettlebell and weight-bearing exercises on alternate days.

Thursday 3rd April 2014 

Two weeks or so ago, I graduated from 3 sets of daily exercise to 4 sets - both kettlebell and weight-bearing (on alternate days). And this morning I purchased the kb upgrade I've been promising myself for when I reached this level.

I did envisage going from a 3kg kb to a 5kg - only to discover that they were only sold in multiples of 3kg. So, to my surprise, I've come away with a 6kg kettlebell!

I've had a tentative go at swinging it around and manhandling it, and decided that, not wishing to strain anything, I'll drop down to half (ten) or even a quarter (five) of the number of times I carry out an exercise, and build up from there. 

I've been complimented on my improved physique in recent weeks, and, just this morning, I was told that my posture was much better nowadays!

Another change to my routine is that instead of carrying out 20 reps of my press ups - which, up to now have been xfit ones (where you lie on the floor and push yourself up - taking your hands off the floor each time) - I'll try and do several proper press ups, lowering myself down as far as I can, but not touching the floor, first. Then gradually increase those over the coming weeks. 

My long-term goal is to beat my very fit son in the number of press ups in a minute. I'm hoping that, since he doesn't know he's in a competition, I'll take him by surprise - and whop his ass!

Saturday 18th Jan 2014

I've just discovered I've grown back the inch I lost as I aged! I shall create a separate post to explain this - but I'm now back at 5' 7" (my younger height) after being 5'6" for many years. Purely as a result of starting pull-up exercises 7 weeks ago at the end of November. Look out for the link.

Thursday 16th Jan 2014

Here's my version of the kettlebell 2-handed swing. I shall ask Mumsnet's very own gym bunny, BCF, to critique my technique - and she's not known for pulling her punches, quite the reverse.

Not much change to my exercise routine - except that I now do 3 x 45second planks - and I can now lift myself about 15cm whilst doing my chin-ups.

Saturday 4th Jan 2014
When I first looked at IF, I came across several blogs which, whilst extolling the virtues of IF, also emphasised strength training - specifically weightlifting: Martin Berkham - IF and weight-lifting Mark Sisson - The Primal Blueprint Brad Pilon - blogging on IF since 2006 Todd Becker and Hormesis

(All these blogs are well worth perusing - they contain a wealth of info, most of it freely offered.)

I did nothing about this, rationalising that these blogs reflected the particular interests of the blogger. 

However, I've now been practicing IF for almost 2 years, and I've recently added strength building exercises to that regime - inspired, it has to be said, by the womenfolk on the Mumsnet 5:2 threads.

Here's my programme so far:
Back exercises: I had a problem with my back, many years ago, so, since then I’ve been doing two daily exercises to prevent a recurrence:
I lie on my back on the floor with my knees bent and do 100 curls while keeping my lower back on the floor – arms out in front
And then I do the reverse – I lie on my front and bring my head and shoulders up whilst keeping my hips on the floor.

Up until I retired – over 20 years ago, now – I cycled to work, in summer reaching about 120 miles a week – so I was pretty fit.

I joined a gym for a few years – mainly treadmill and cross-trainer.

Then I gained access to a small swimming pool – I spend about 30 minutes a day in there. Some swimming, but mainly I run (jog?) around the pool (in 1.25m of water) 100 times – took me 12 mins 52 seconds the other day, a PB. And I spend 5 minutes going back and forth the length (4 metres) of the pool – my PB with this one is 62 lengths.

At the end of November, I started to look at home-based strength building exercises and came across 5 exercises that can be done at home (4 if you ignore the lunges that are not recommended for anyone with knee problems.)

This was my programme for today:
30 secs plank          x 3 (PB 90secs – I could do more)
20 push ups         x 3
20 squats                  x 3
10 Pull-ups – about 3-4cm         x 3 
(I do these on the stairs overhang. When I began, it was all I could do to hang there for about 5 seconds)

I’d only been doing these exercises for a couple of weeks when I began to notice a difference – I have a heavy portable oven, which I’ve always needed help to move. Not any more, I can handle it myself, now!

Then, once again inspired by Mumsnet, I asked for and received a 3KG kettlebell for Christmas, and I’m building up an exercise routine with this.

This is where I am, ATM:
20 ‘steering wheel’ reps        x 2
2 handed swing x 20 x 2
Sumo deadlift x 20         x 2
Swing x 20 L        x 2
Swing x 20 R         x 2
Clean and jerk L x 20 x 2
Clean and jerk R x 20        x 2

I keep a record of all this on a Word file - and I’m building up to 4 sets of each. Time of day, apart from my morning swim, is variable, whenever I can fit it all in! 

As well as all this, I’ve been looking at the health benefits of cold showers and, after a very tentative beginning, I can now manage over 3 minutes under cold water. Not sure if it’s making any difference, but apparently it takes several weeks before you feel the benefits.

One last thing – I try and do 20 minutes a day bladder muscle exercise. I soon know if I’ve let this one slip – I find myself getting up for the loo in the middle of the night!

I have to say that I’m as fit now as I’ve ever been – I feel like a 40-year-old, a fit 40-year-old. But, since I've only been weight training for a few weeks, I put that down mainly to fasting. 

And confirmation of this is that my age is apparently 47 according to AgeFit, and my Vo2Max is 45! So that’s about 30 years I’ve got in hand.

I haven’t got into HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) yet – tried it with running on the spot, but my knee joints protested – just as they did 30-odd years ago (which is why I got the bike in the first place). 

Sunday, 17 August 2014


I try not to eat fruit and veg out of season, but I do love tomatoes - so, in the summer, when they're very cheap and there's a gIut, I freeze them. The other day I bought half a kilo of pearl tomatoes for 50p which were deemed not for sale by the greengrocer - but they were ideal for freezing.

Simply slice the tomatoes, place them on baking parchment on a baking tray and stick them in the freezer for a little while.

Once frozen, prize them off the baking parchment and place them in a freezer bag.

They're not great for salads - but I don't have many salads in the winter anyway! :)

But they're ideal for topping pizzas and, of course, for fried tomatoes when making a vegan fry-up!

Monday, 11 August 2014


Lunch today - in the absence of any bread - was:
Filled with hummus, tomatoes and mushrooms - with nutritional yeast
50g wholemeal flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 stock cube

Mixed together briefly

33g water
10g sunflower oil from a jar of roasted peppers

Hummus, fried tomatoes and mushrooms, nutritional yeast

Before starting, place a lightly oiled frying pan over a medium heat.

Mix the flour, seasoning, water and oil into a soft dough and divide in two. Using plenty of flour, roll out both pieces out into circles about 15cm across and place one in the frying pan.

Spread this with hummus and add slices of fried mushroom and tomato, then sprinkle with nutritional yeast. 

Cover with the second circle of dough and set a timer for 4 minutes.

When the first side is cooked, carefully turn over the bread and cook the other side for a further 5 minutes.

Not so carefully turned over!
This took me about 20 minutes to make and was simply delicious. When I'd finished it, I could have eaten another one!

I'll certainly be making it again.

Thursday, 7 August 2014


Last Tuesday, I began what is hoped to be a regular breadmaking session at St George's Church Hall, Wilton in Taunton. They will be held from 2-4pm on the 4 Tuesday in the month (to be confirmed).

In the first session, five students - most of them fairly new to breadmaking - made a soda bread focaccia, cheese and tomato sizzlers (wraps) plus pain au chocolat and jam doughnuts. (pics and links to come).

It is proposed that each month we will make a variety of different breads so that students will build up a bread portfolio.

There will be space for about a dozen students on the course, so there's plenty of space ATM!

The next session is planned for Tuesday 26th August, when we shall be making loaves and fruit bread - there'll be a choice between Chelsea buns/Swedish tea rings/apfel kuchens and more.

Friday, 18 July 2014


Here's where I'll post my planning and preparation for this workshop.

And here I've posted the result of a similar workshop I held in High Ham village hall, High Ham, Somerset in December 2013.

Thursday, 17 July 2014


(Read about my 12 month's experience of IF here. Which caused my excellent blood results here!) 

Last week I was invited to address my local Humanist group (Taunton Humanists) on the subject of Intermittent Fasting (IF) - here are my notes for the talk I gave:

In the 1930s, studies on mice discovered that calorie restriction (CR) resulted in longer-living, thinner, healthier mice

…and many studies since have confirmed this finding with a variety of animals – rats, rhesus monkeys, worms – and even yeast!

Around the middle of the last decade several scientist/researchers in the US and in Manchester here, revisited this research and began their own studies.

In August 2012 Dr Mike Mosley’s Horizon programme ,which investigated current US research into longevity, Calorie Restriction (CR) and Intermittent Fasting (IF), was broadcast.

(Here’s a review by Brad Pilon, author of Eat, Stop, Eat, who has been practicing IF since 2006. His is a website well worth browsing!

Friday, 11 July 2014


On Monday and Tuesday next week - 14th and 15th of July - I'll be making bread with Yr 4s and 5s - the whole year groups! About 60 youngsters each morning.

Each child will make two different shaped rolls - of her/his choosing.

Here's the email i've sent to the teacher outlining how we're going to set about it:

Dear Teacher

Looking forward to next week!

Here’s the plan:
For each class of 30, I shall need 10 tables arranged in the form of a U-Shape with a table at the top of the U for me plus a separate table for my equipment/ingredients.

(When I’ve done this before, teachers have found it easier to use the same room for each group of students, if that’s possible, of course.)

Students will be in groups of three, one group to each table. There will be a mixing bowl, cup and teaspoon to each table.

After a demo from me, each group will make a batch of dough. After another demo – this time of shaping – the students will divide the dough in three so each student will have one third of the dough to make 2 rolls each.

Each student’s dough needs to be identified by a number made out a small piece of dough. I’ll give each student a number and demonstrate the way to do this.

Each group of students will share a baking tray, lined with baking paper, which I’ll have with me.

I shall need:
Lukewarm water (for the yeast liquid)
Name labels and marker pen
Flip chart or whiteboard for the ingredients.
A table or tables against a wall somewhere to put my ovens. (In my daughter’s school they used a couple of ovens which were in their activity room.)

Unless you’ve already arranged this, I’ll have small plastic bags for the students’ bread. The name labels can be re-used on the bags, so there’s no confusion.
Just to add that my main teaching aim is for everyone to have fun in my sessions – students, support workers, me!
I think that’s it.
Can’t remember if I’ve given you this link before – it’s about the session I did last year with my daughters Yr 5 intake:
And here’s some info on the educational benefits of breadmaking:
I’ll be there about 8.30 on Monday morn!
Cheers, Paul

I'll put the story up of how the sessions went, next week. With pics, if I can just remember to take some!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

BREADMAKING MADE EASY, Burnham on Sea, Somerset

Andy's 4-strand plait and smiley face!
Satisfying breadmaking session at Burnham on Sea Somerset Skills and Learning centre, this morning.

Only 4 students, one of whom was a regular bread baker, with the other three being novices, attended, and they all went home with 5 different varieties of bread.

Thursday, 3 July 2014


Eric made these Chelsea buns at Longrun House, Taunton, where I run a weekly session:

Garlic paste and roasted red pepper breads
We made the buns by rolling out the dough, spreading garlic paste over it, followed by chopped peppers. The dough was then rolled up and cut into buns.

The other two loaves, made by Vicky and Adrian, were layered with the same filling, then one was given the focaccia treatment, the other was done in the style of a fougasse.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014


I cooked 500g of dried r-k beans today, for the freezer.

They looked so lovely, whilst they were drying out prior to freezing them, I just had to share them with you!

1.171kg of pure wholesomeness! They not only taste good - but they look good as well!
I prefer to used dried pulses for several reasons:
Firstly, the cost. At £1.09 in the supermarket, these are great value for money.
Secondly, the quality is always consistent. That is, provided you turn over your stock so that you're always using 'fresh' beans.
Thirdly, you can use as many or as few as you wish. I tend to just grab a handful from the freezer and add them to whatever veg stew I'm cooking at the time.
Fourthly, they're environmentally friendly. Instead of approximately 5 tin cans, only one plastic bag is needed to package them. So there is less transport cost involved - 500g in the packet as against 2.4kg in the tins.
Fifthly, they are possibly healthier - although the jury's still out on whether tinned foods pose any health risks.

Soaking, cooking and freezing:
Use a large saucepan to cook the beans. Cover with 

[More to come - obviously!]