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.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Spicy Fruit Soda Bread - De Luxe


Ingredients:
100g wholemeal flour + 1 tsp baking powder
100g s/raising flour, white
(Or you could just use all white flour - I’m just trying to be a bit healthier - you could use all wholemeal should you wish, but it'll be a bit dense.)
100g chopped dates
100g raisins
1 dsp sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
(Or whatever sweet spices you like)
125ml water
1 dsp olive oil* (optional)

Filling:
50g (approx) golden marzipan*
8-12 or so glace cherries, halved

Method:
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then add the water and oil (if using). Using a flat bladed implement (either a stiff palette knife, or a table knife), mix into a workable dough, adding a little water or flour as appropriate. You’re looking for a soft dough that you can handle without it sticking.
Knead (flatten and fold) just until the dough is smooth, with no pockets of flour. you’re just trying to distribute the ingredients evenly.
Flour the dough on top and underneath, then roll out into an oval about 25-30cms across. Place your chosen filling across the oval, placing the halves of cherries on either side of the filling. Save 3 halves for the top of the loaf.
Bring the far side of the dough over the filling then fold over once more, leaving the seam underneath. Tidy the ends by tucking them under.
Cut three slits in the top of the loaf and half bury a halved cherry in each one, with the top of the cherry uppermost. (If you don’t secure the cherries in the dough, they’ll likely fall off as the bread rises in the oven.)
Bake at 180C for around 25 minutes. Keep an eye on it, and if the loaf begins to brown to early, place some baking parchment over the top. (I’ve been known to put the loaf into an empty flour bag to protect it for burning - works well.)
For a shiny finish to the loaf, glaze it with a melted teaspoon of marmalade or similar.

Notes
I made this initially as a Christmas (or Celebration) loaf, using strong flour and yeast, but this is just a quicker alternative.
I try and use as little oil as possible - I’m going to try adding ground walnuts next time, to see what effect that has.
Instead of marzipan you could use yellow dried apricots, pineapple or slices of mango.
When it’s sliced, the yellow of the marzipan and the red of the cherries gives a festive appearance.

Monday, 30 April 2018

A PERFECT DAY FOR DUMPLINGS

20 minutes, and this is what you get - light and fluffy dumplings
There I was, this afternoon, watching Somerset vs Yorkshire - and, gripping as the cricket was, there was no denying that we were cold! 

I had on 6 layers, plus a scarf, hat and gloves - and I was still freezing. I found my mind wandering towards dinner: my wife had made me a veg stew, and I thought, what I really need when I get home, would be some dumplings to go with it. Perfect for this weather.

The stew was full of flavour - half a dozen local, in-season veg + a tin of chopped tomatoes gives a wonderful result. All it needed were some dried herbs and some garlic powder. However, I'd purchased a packet of Morrison's vegan sausage and quite fancied a couple of these cut into chunks in the stew. I also added a handful each of green lentils and butter beans from the freezer. The sausages are quite soft, so I dry-fried the chunks to harden them up. (Better to chop them when they're still partly frozen.)

Dumplings: Here's the proper recipe, with all the measurements, but today I simply put 3 heaped dessertspoons of self raising flour in a bowl, along with 1/2 teaspoon of bouillon powder, some garlic powder, a shake of mixed herbs and a teaspoon of nooch. I added a little cold water and a dsp of olive oil and mixed into a soft dough. I divided this into 4, and shaped them into bun shapes, which I then lowered into the stew.



After about only 10 minutes, the pot is steaming - and they've doubled in size. 
I gave the dumplings about 20 minutes, took one out and very carefully - because they're very delicate at this stage - sliced it in half to see what it looked like:

And here they are, light and fluffy.
I had the stew and a couple of dumplings with some new potatoes and spinach (I've just read somewhere that spinach releases more nutrients when it's cooked then when eaten raw), and it was just what the doctor ordered! Absolutely full of flavour, and it reminded me that I should  have dumplings more often.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

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

The story behind this challenge:
I turned 80 last September, and, to provide some motivation to keep pushing myself, I decided it would be a good challenge 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 well within reach. At my present rate of progress, barring accidents, it's possible I could achieve 1 million p/ups in about 6 years - I did 14000 in March, for instance.

Oh, and I'd also like to be able to do 100 perfect press ups in 1 minute. I can do 100 in 60 seconds, ATM, but I couldn't swear they were perfect press ups - so that's my next goal.

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! :)


Tuesday, 10 April 2018

BREADMAKING DEMO AT THE TAUNTON VEGAN POTLUCK

Tuesday 10th April 2018
More varieties of bread using virtually the same ingredients:



The pie is a bilberry pie (with pastry nibbles) and the fruit loaf has sultanas, dates, cranberries, cherries and chocolate. It was for a coffee morning today - the bilberries are from Lidl (frozen).

Saturday 7th April 2018
Here's another bread using the ingredients for the pop-up pie below. Made them for dinner along with some homemade baked beans (using red kidney beans) and broccoli.



Divid the dough into golf ball sized balls and roll into circles about 10cm across. Place a dessertspoonful - or thereabouts - of lentil and potato curry in the middle and draw up the sides, pinching them together over the top of the filling. Turn over and gently roll out flat. Place in a dry frying pan over medium heat for 5-6 minutes each side.

Here are some other suggestions - pasties, etc - with pics.

Thursday, 5th April 2018
Did a quick breadmaking demo for the potluck - showing just how versatile s/raising flour is.

Simple soda bread

Ingredients:
1 mug (200g) s/raising flour
1/4 tsp salt (optional)
1/3rd mug water

Before you start, put your oven on at 220C and prepare a baking tray - either oil your tray or line it with baking paper (which can be used over and over).

Method:
Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl, stir with a table knife until the mix comes together, then, using one hand, gather it all together into a dough. Tip the bowl up to let gravity do some of the work and wipe the dough around, picking up any stray bits. Add more water or flour as necessary to achieve a smooth, workable dough.

Knead (flatten and fold) the dough a few times to get all the lumps out, then form into a flat disc about 2cm thick. Cut a cross into the loaf, cutting almost all the way through. Place straight into the oven for 15 or so minutes, checking after about 10 - you may need to swap shelves or turn it round 180 degrees to ensure an even bake.

A soda bread is ready when: there is colour across the bottom; a skewer comes out clean; and it breaks apart cleanly. If there are strings of dough stretching between the two halves, it needs a further few minutes in the oven.

Pop up pie:
Make another dough, using the same ingredients (you may need to adjust the quantities to the size of your pie dish). I often use bouillon powder instead of salt, and add paprika, or curry powder in with the dry ingredients.

Cut off one third - for the lid - and, using flour quite liberally, roll the  larger piece out big enough to fill your pie dish. When you get close to the right size, put the dough on some baking paper and place it over the pie dish. If it's still a little small, roll it out a bit more, on the paper, until you're happy. Lower the crust into the pie dish, pressing into the edges, then add the filling. I used one of my favourites, a simple lentil and potato curry. (Make a fruit pie using a sweet dough, exactly the same way.)

Roll out the lid to the right size, then place it on top of the filling. I generally trim the pastry around the pie*, but last night, I simply folded the excess over the top crust. Place straight into the oven at 220C for 20 minutes, turning it round after 10.

*Use the trimmings, as they are, for breadstick-type nibbles.

I also made pain au chocolat, substituting a dessertspoon of sugar for the salt in the recipe above. The method is described in the link, with pics and a recipe for a yeast-risen dough - which does make for a better product in this case, IMO.

The chocolate I used was the 39p bar from Lidl - dairy free (of course) and Fair Trade.

If you have children around, that chocolate will last about 5 minutes - if you get them to help you make the chocolate rolls, it will occupy a morning, and you'll still have half a bar of chocolate left! :)

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Cheese, potato and broccoli (or onion) pasties

(Makes 8 pasties)

Ingredients:
400g (or 2 mugs) strong white flour
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
1 rounded teaspoon fresh yeast
250ml (or 2/3rds mug) lukewarm water
Splash of olive oil (optional)

Filling:
Several large potatoes, cubed and boiled
1 clump of cooked broccoli (or chopped onions)
150g your favourite vegan cheese, grated

Mix these together with whatever herbs, black pepper, etc, you wish

Method:
1. Place flour and salt into a mixing bowl, measure the water and stir in the fresh yeast, then add to the flour, followed by the olive oil if using.

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). Holding the bowl with one hand begin to mix by stirring the ingredients together with your fingers. Check how the dough feels as you mix – it should stay soft and squidgy – and add more flour or water as needed. 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!

4. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and form each one into a bun shape. Using plenty of flour on your worktop, roll each one out into a circle a little bigger than a tea plate. Place a couple of spoonfuls of filling on one side of the circle, lift the other side over to cover it and press the two sides together. (Don’t wet the edges first – that’s a pastry technique.) Form a crimp by pushing your fingertips together – one on top of the edge of the dough and the other at the side of the dough.

5. Place each one onto a baking sheet – either oiled or lined with baking paper – and leave to prove until the dough has become puffy.

6. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for between 12-15 minutes. Look for some shade of brown underneath.

Variation:
Lentil and potato pasties. Cook 100g of red lentils in enough water – takes about 10-12 minutes once the water has boiled. Separately, boil some cubed potatoes along with a chopped onion and flavourings such as herbs, stock powder and perhaps some curry paste. Once everything is cooked, add the potatoes, etc, to the lentils and simmer until it thickens. Use as in step 4 above.

Update, 15/2/18:
Since working with Taunton Association for the Homeless, I've made these with just s/raising flour - they go straight in the oven once shaped, and are quick and easy to make. No faffing about with the yeast, etc.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

CONSUMING DAIRY - Bad for the environment, bad for the cows - and bad for us!


Dairy products are a relatively recent addition to our diet, having only been consumed over the last 10,000 years - and 5 billion people in the world cannot tolerate it.

Michael Klaper MD, on The Dangers of Dairy.

Dairy is Scary - A 5 minute video on the brutal truth behind the dairy industry.


The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine - What the Dairy Industry doesn’t want you to know.



Why milk is bad for us - what the science says.

The environmental impact of the dairy industry.

Monday, 27 November 2017

FAINA - FARINATA

There are a whole range of recipes which use a chick-pea batter - here's my recipe for socca, which is a thin pancake, done in a frying pan.

Faina, or farinata, if I've done my research properly, is a lot thicker, and baked in the oven.

The basic recipe is very simple:
100g chick-pea (gram) flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
300ml water
1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)

However, I love to tinker with recipes, and I wanted something spicy.

So I added a teaspoon of my homemade curry powder, a teaspoon of bouillon powder instead of salt, a teaspoon of Italian seasoning and a splash of mushroom sauce.

I whisked this to get rid of the lumps, and poured it into a 20cm cake tin ( actually, my silicon cake form).

This was baked in the oven for about 20 minutes at 220C.

It came out as a solid slab - and (apart from nibbling it constantly, for it was very tasty), I wasn't sure what to do with it. Eventually, I cut off  about a third which I sliced horizontally and fried lightly for a couple of minutes each side. I had this for dinner with a spicy tomato sauce with cannelloni beans (sort of baked beans) and some curried potato wedges.

I thought it was absolutely gorgeous, and it's one I shall do again. Whilst eating this, I realised that, cut into chunks and fried, it could well be used in a chilli non carne. In the event I made the chunks and added some to a veg curry I was making. This again was a lovely way to use up the faina - and I've still got some chunks left in the oven (which I'm nibbling on every time I go to the fridge!)

I could certainly see me using this in the same way I use seitan - and it's yet another alternative to soya chunks.

Friday, 17 November 2017

BREADMAKING AT TAUNTON ASSOCIATION FOR THE HOMELESS (TAH)

Wednesday 15th November 2017
Peter came today, for the first time, and made these cheese and sausage wraps. Both the cheese and the sausage were vegan - I've decided I don't want any meat or dairy in my cooking. 

They were judged 'very tasty'. Peter also made some fruit pikelets, which he generously shared with some of the other hostel residents.
Violife pizza cheese 
Wednesday 8th November 2017
Andy came for the first time today - and made bread rolls. A baker himself he needed no guidance from me. However, they didn't turn out as well as they could have done, since we used self-raising flour, which was all we had at the time. I promised we'd have strong bread flour for the next time Andy came.

Add caption

Wednesday 25th Oct 2017
Oh dear, I'm such a lazy sod - combine that with my gadfly-like impulses and nothing appears to happen. I haven't stopped teaching at the TAH, I've just been too idle to post about it. Which is a shame because we've made some great stuff. 

I'm going to get in now with a New Year's Resolution (is this the earliest?) to update this blog every Wednesday - when I've something to report.

In the meantime, I'll see if I can't find some pics of the breads my students have made - which deserve to be celebrated!


Thursday, 2 November 2017

VEGAN INFO - AS IT COMES MY WAY

Almost every other day, new health research becomes available, more animal cruelty is exposed, or there's more evidence of the spread of veganism. So when I come across it, I'll post it here.

There's also global warming/climate change - the biggest challenge to our survival. Here are some facts about the effects of livestock raising from the film Cowspiracy.

The evidence is overwhelming - a vegan diet is better for our health, for animal welfare, and, most importantly for the planet. If you call yourself an environmentalist, going vegan is the most effective action you can take.

I have several friends who either have cancer or have family members with the disease, so I've gathered together some of the research on what can be done to fight this.

A whole food, plant-based diet and cancer.

Intermittent fasting and cancer.


Monday, 16 October 2017

Rollplay at Derwent Lower School

(Similar session with my daughter's year group at St Marks primary, Basingstoke)

This week I'm making bread with each of my 3 grandchildren's (9, 7 and 5) classes, starting with:

Monday 20th June. (Further down you'll find my report and pics from the other two sessions.)
First session today, with year 3 - otherwise known as 'Foxes'. 18 children including my granddaughter Olivia, who assisted me admirably.

We arranged the tables in a semi-circle, 2 to a table, one bowl to each pair.

We were making bread rolls, basically (any shape), to this recipe:
1 mug flour, quarter of a teaspoon of salt, 1/3rd mug of lukewarm water and one teaspoon of yeast .
After showing the youngsters how I mix and knead a dough, I demonstrated a few shapes of animals, and also some fancy dinner rolls - with the following results: