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, 25 July 2016


Looking good - both the students and the bread! :)
My local village, like many villages in and around Taunton, has seen a population explosion in recent years.

I wanted to do something for my community - and a communal breadmaking session seemed to be the obvious thing for me.

So I put an article in the local Village News:

Village Bread-making Course – are you up for it?

I have been teaching bread-making in and around Taunton and beyond for over twenty-three years. I know that making your own bread is easy; it will save you money; and it is healthy - you control the ingredients you are feeding to your family. Not only that, it’s very satisfying - and very enjoyable to boot! 
I strongly believe that the process of making bread together is a positive unifying force; shared working and learning allows people to get to know and support one another. It is also an activity that has few age barriers.
With this in mind, I would like to run a weekly communal bread-making course for any one who is interested. It would be wonderful if groups could consist of both long-standing residents of the parish and those who are new to the area.
The course would cover basic breads such as loaves and rolls, but also - depending on students’ requirements - other breads, such as German apple cake, Swedish tea ring, croissants, calzones, focaccia, etc.

Before I go any further, I need to gauge how much interest there would be in such a bread-making course. By expressing interest you would not be committing yourself. The course would be held somewhere in the village and would be on days and and at a time to suit as many of those interested as possible.

If this is for you, please get in touch.

And 7 people did just that! (6 from the article - and one, Jane, saw my message on Streetlife.)

BREADMAKING AT THE PLANET CAFE, (Taunton's newest vegan cafe)

Wednesday 19th July 2016 - 4th session
Croissants and choice of Rye bread or ciabatta.

Michele had been asking about rye bread - which I make very infrequently, if at all. Since rye on its own can be quite tricky, I thought it best if she were to make it with a mixture of rye flour and wholemeal. Janet made a similar loaf whilst the others went for ciabatta.

Here are some of the ciabattas:

Thursday, 14 July 2016

FUNDRAISING FOR YMCA AND TAH (Taunton Association for the Homeless)

Wednesday 13th July 2016
This morning I was invited in to BBC Radio Somerset, where I gave two interviews on the Breakfast Show. In the first (02:04 into the show), lasting about 5 minutes, I was given the opportunity to explain the background to my challenge - and I was also given the chance to outline the part Intermittent Fasting (5:2 diet) had played in my overall fitness.

Then, later on (at 2:25 on that link), I was brought back on to show the announcer, Claire Carter, how to do a proper press up - by lying on the floor and pushing yourself up. As you'll hear, under my guidance, she managed her first ever!

Press ups on the radio - it doesn't get any more rock and roll than that! :)

Shortly after this I went over the road to the lawn in front of County Hall where they filmed me in action.

Previously... [I've done it! Just completed 1175 press ups in one hour. Update at foot of post.]
On Friday the 1st of July I shall attempt to complete 1000 press ups in under one hour. I'm asking for sponsors to contribute 1 penny per press up - but, of course, I'll accept any contribution, no matter how small.

Here's my Just Giving page, where anyone interested can donate.

Initially my goal was to raise £300, but I feel I can do better than that, so I've increased my target to £600. 

Here's the story of how all this came about.

Just over 4 years ago I started Intermittent Fasting (IF) after reading about it helping to keep prostate cancer at bay. I joined a forum on Mumsnet devoted to IF and I’ve been practicing 5:2 ever since, losing 24lbs in the process. I’m now doing 6:1 for maintenance.

Two and a half years ago, I was encouraged, on an associated Mumsnet thread, to take up home-based exercises - and learned how to do a proper pushup. The ethos of the thread is that you should keep pushing yourself to see what you can accomplish.

This is a post from the thread last November:

Someone, can't think where, recently mentioned 1000 press ups in a day. I was idly musing on this with the YMCA manager, Keith, saying that it was an achievable goal for sometime in the future. He perked up his ears and said that could be a fundraiser - "78-year-old bloke does 1000 press ups in a day.

So that’s where the challenge came from.

TBH, I’m amazed at how quick my progress has been. If it tells me anything, it tells me we’re all capable of doing more than we think.

I put my fitness down to three things - first of all, the amount of extra energy I get from regularly practicing Intermittent Fasting - IF; secondly, body weight exercises and HIIT; and thirdly, the fact that I’ve been a vegan for the past 13 or so years.  

I'm actually well on course to beat my target with just under three weeks to go. 1000 press ups in an hour requires an average of 17 every minute. And initially I thought I'd go for 20 every minute for the first 300 or so, then drop down to 17 a minute, finishing on 14 a minute. But, the more I trained, the more I realised that I can manage 20 a minute for the full hour. And to make sure I'm really comfortable with 20 a minute, I'm currently doing 25 a minute. Yesterday I did 500 in under 20 minutes.

Tuesday 14th June 
Tonight I had a full dress rehearsal - I completed 1200 press ups in 59mins 20 seconds. I did this in sets of 20 every minute - and I felt fine, but the last 3 or 4 of each set, once I'd reached 1000, were hard. But I know that those are the ones which will improve my performance, so I didn't mind too much. From now on until the day of the challenge, I intend to train on every 3rd day, doing 25 every minute - probably up to 200 or so - but I'll see how I go.

Friday 1st July
Well, I did it! 1175 pushups in one hour - witnessed by YMCA staff and a Somerset County Gazette reporter!

I intended to do sets of 20 pushups every minute, on the minute, aiming for 1200 - but there was a bit of slippage somewhere, since I ran out of time. :(

I can't deny I found the last couple of press ups of each set were getting tougher as I neared my goal; but still, each set averaged out at around 16-17 seconds. 

And I can't deny that I got my body lower at the beginning of the exercise than I managed towards the end!

But, all in all, I'm very happy! :)

If anyone wishes to help me celebrate my achievement, my Just Giving page link is towards the top of this post.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Portfolio for students

This post is intended as a resource for my students, giving them an idea of what breads can be made on my courses. The pics have been gathered from over the past couple of years.

It's by no means an exhaustive list, if there is a bread that a student would like to make that isn't here, then we'll have a go at making it.

To begin with, here's a comparison between the three types of yeast, with a half and half white and wholemeal flour mix.

Dried active yeast (100% pure yeast) Sainsbury's 'fast action' dried yeast (93% yeast plus additives) and fresh yeast

After an hour's proving, the dried yeast and the fresh yeast doughs were slightly better risen. The fast action yeast dough would catch up, given time
I've divided the breads into three categories:

Plain breads - tinned loaves, freeform loaves, focaccia, ciabatta, etc,

Grissini with chopped sun-dried tomatoes. The slight kink enables you to turn them over easily to cook the bottoms if they're not done enough.
I think this was two thirds wholemeal and one third white - 800g of dough just comes up to about 2/3rds of the way up the tin
Fully risen and ready to bake. I should have put it in the oven earlier and allowed the loaf to rise in the oven - oven spring as it is known. 
Think I may have added sesame seeds to the mix - I made this last December, and I can't remember. Looks like it!
A batch of white rolls, huddled together to form a loaf

They were proved and baked for the first 10 minutes under a metal toasting dish - hence the flat top

Well risen, but it's not easy to see the crumb as my camera isn't that great!

More rolls - wholemeal this time.
Fancy dinner rolls

I made 70 altogether for a friends birthday party

Savoury - pizzas, sizzlers, pane casereccio,

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

Pane casereccio. Dough rolled out flat, covered with a filling, rolled up and the ends tucked in
The finished article. The filling leaked a bit - bursting with good ingredients, I say!

From memory, the filling was mushrooms, peppers and onions poached in a little sauce. Traditionally a PC would contain Gruyere and Italian sausage, but, in truth you can put anything in there!
Haggis en croute - plus some spare breadsticks

Yeast-Rise canap├ęs - mushroom pate, pesto and mushrooms

Field mushrooms, stuffed with pesto and mushroom pate, and covered with a tasty bread dough
(dough flavoured with bouillon powder and curry powder)

Vegan pizza with mushroom pate (Pateole) and pesto, peppers and tomatoes

Sweet - spicy fruit buns, Chelsea buns, petit pain au chocolat, jam doughnuts
Swedish Tea Ring. Fruited dough rolled out as if for Chelsea buns, but covered with oil, sugar and flaked almonds. Rolled up, formed into a circle and cut half way across at intervals. Dredged with icing sugar.

Chocolate and banana bread. One circle covered with chocolate spread and banana, the other placed over the top and tucked in all round

Then given a sugar glaze when it is baked

The gooey, soft, middle. I never seem to put enough filling in - the bread always rises too much!
Christmas loaf (or Celebration bread). The slices will show up yellow, red and green - very festive! It's a variation of a stollen - and the dough can be as rich or as plain as you wish

My grandchildren call this 'Traffic light bread'!

A sugar glaze just finishes it off
Belgian buns made with soaked cranberries. The method is very similar to Chelsea buns - the difference being the dough is rolled up along the short side making for a thicker roll - the slices are cut thinner, making for flatter buns.
Huddled together - I should have put the smallest ones in the middle

Decorating isn't my strongest suit. I'm always happy to see my students bread made neater than mine - not too difficult!
Large jam tarts, made with a sweetened dough
Iced buns and croissants

Italian chocolate bread

Thursday, 30 June 2016


Tasty tomato pizza (Cost, around 70p)

150g (1 mug) strong white flour 7.5p
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp curry powder (optional)
100g (1/3rd mug) lukewarm water
10g fresh yeast 4p (from Sainsbury's - free from Asda)
25g sunflower oil from s-d-tomatoes (free)

Topping:Half a tin of tomatoes, reduced, with a tsp soya sauce and dried herbs - 20p
One sliced mushroom and tomato - 10p(?)
A little Roasted red pepper - 10p
3 s-d-tomatoes, chopped - 20p 
A sprinkle of nutritional yeast (nooch) and oregano - pennies 

Saturday, 18 June 2016

EAT, FAST, AND LIVE LONGER - How I began Intermittent Fasting

[14th August 2013 - discharged from the Lung Clinic.][Notes from a talk I gave to Taunton Humanists in March about Intermittent Fasting - including all I've learned over the past year.][Walking is no longer enough - my extra energy levels since fasting][Intermittent Fasting and the Hunger Switch] - why we feel more hunger on non-fasting days.]How it all started, for me:I began this eating programme (it's not a diet, it's a way of living - WOL) on the 27th Feb 2012. The story begins at the foot of the post if you want to read about my journey in chronological order. The links to the various research documents I've come across are posted as I found them.In early August 2012, Dr Michael Mosley presented a BBC Horizon programme on the subject of fasting, including Calorie Restriction (CR) and Intermittent Fasting (IF). This backed up everything I'd discovered  about the health benefits of fasting - and I switched from 50% of calories on two days a week to the full-blown 25% of calories (600 calories or less).

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

BREADMAKING SESSIONS with the Taunton Association for the Homeless (TAH)

Wednesday 15th June 2016
Jam - and chocolate spread - doughnuts again today, requested by Becky. We were joined by first-timers Ian and Trevor, who both did very well. No time for a second bread, since I was keen to get to the cricket*. And no pics, either - I completely forgot! :(

Next week, pizzas.

*Unfortunately, the cricket was rained off - ah well!

Wednesday 8th June 2016
Last week's students asked to make Chelsea buns today - but 3 different students attended, none of whom liked sultanas! :(

So they all made jam doughnuts:

...and Lianne's, showing the inside of one.
They were pronounced 'gorgeous' by Lianne.

Friday, 10 June 2016


Just added a 'Sponsor me' button to my blog- I'm fundraising for both the TAH and the YMCA by doing 1000 press ups in an hour. Click the button if you're at all interested!

Thursday 9th June 2016
Here's my latest seitan - made with leftover veg and potato stew + vital wheat gluten and flavourings:

Two ways to cook this - one half baked in the oven, the other half dry fried
All I do nowadays is to weigh off the leftover stew - today around 350g, then estimate how much wheat gluten I'll need - and I went for 150g.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

MY DAILY BREAD (from the BBC Food Messageboard Archive)

For several years until its demise in 2011, I posted regularly on the BBC Food Forum - which was supported by a lively community of foodies, who freely contributed advice and swapped recipes and was  a hive of activity*.

I've recently rediscovered the Messageboard archive, which is still there for anyone to access - and found a long-running thread I ran about my breadmaking activities which I thought would be of interest to the readers of this blog.

I began the thread in February 2007 and my last entry is in Nov 2010. I had a lot more teaching in those days - at times 25 hours a week - and I wrote about practically every bread made in my sessions. There were recipes from other posters, of course, and, all in all, I consider it to be a pretty good resource for anyone interested in breadmaking.

*There were two offshoot forums from the BBC Boards, created and administered by former BBC posters:

Wildfood, and The Food Board Refugee Centre

Both are well worth seeking out.

Amusing clay oven (The Dragon!)

Sunday 22nd May 2016.
Here's a reminder of the Dragon oven for my wood-burning mate @CannyFradock. We'll be firing it up again on 24th June for a team building day - you know you have an open invitation, Terry!

Friday 30th March 2012.
Hard to believe I haven't visited this oven - or this post - for 7 months!

However, I was asked by the Halcon Primary School head to run a session with some of her students and also some from a visiting school, instead of my usual Family Learning session.

As I'm always happy to do some outdoor pizza-making I didn't have to be asked twice!

The first thing to notice is that the missing tooth has been replaced:

Just lit the fire
And away it goes
1 beaker flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/3rd beaker of lukewarm water and 1 teaspoon of fresh yeast for each pizza 
Rolling out the pizzas
More rolling out
Topping the pizzas
Fire on one side, pizza on the other. This one is perhaps a little close - but nobody minded!
Some of the finished pizzas. The baking parchment is trimmed before it goes in the oven, otherwise it just burns up and curls over the pizza.
We made 11 pizzas, cooked in just over 40 minutes - not bad for the first firing of the year! We had 9 children, one of the teachers made a pizza, and I made one as a demo, which went to the support team.

It was a lovely session, enjoyed by everyone, and, all-in-all, a good start to the Dragon pizza-making year!

Wednesday 24th August.
Lovely summer morning - but not too hot for firing up an oven!

I'd been in touch with Crannyfradock (from the Wood & Pizza Oven Forum), who'd indicated he'd love to come and work the oven whilst I looked after the breadmaking. As luck would have it he had a spare day off and legged it down from Newport to Taunton for the day.

I hadn't seen Terry since the Besthesda Baking weekend, back at the beginning of July, so it was fantastic to see him again. And to work with him was a real pleasure.  (I also had a couple of hardworking support workers with me looking after the making and shaping of the breads.)

This time I thought I'd introduce a variation on a theme, so we offered chocolate and banana bread as well as cheese and tomato pizzas. These caused a bit of a problem in that the kids generally made them chunkier than was good for the oven - it was difficult to oversee the kids so that they rolled the bread out thinly enough - so that the outside of the loaf was sometimes cooked before the middle. However, we didn't receive any complaints!

I've got a couple of pics which I'll upload soon.

It's a bit sad that the summer's baking is all behind us! But I'm a lot wiser now than I was at the beginning!

On a brighter note, I was able to make sure that Terry didn't leave Taunton without a couple of gallons of scrumpy to remember us by!

Wednesday 17th August.
Weather not so good today - started out fine, but around 11 am the rain came down. I was sort of alright in that there is a bit of roof overhanging the oven, so I was dry whilst standing up - but when I bent down to tend the oven my backside got a bit wet!

Not that I had a lot of time to think about that as the pizzas came thick and fast. I'm getting much more accomplished tending the oven - to the extent that we broke a couple of records today!

Record number one:
A pizza cooked in 40 (forty) seconds!

Record number two:
Between 45 and 50 pizzas in 2 hours and 32 minutes!

Whereas previously I've been averaging a pizza every 4 minutes, I've brought the average down to one about every 3 minutes.

This is possible because of the increased heat I've been able to maintain in the oven. I am now much more pro-active about keeping the fire going in the oven - and the copper tube has proved very useful on the odd occasion when the flames had died down. And I was also able to put two pizzas in the oven at once after I'd cleared away the coals at the beginning.

Every now and again, because of the increased organisation of the pizza-making groups (6 at a time, first come first served, book your place when you register), there was a gap in the proceedings and I was able to concentrate on building up the fire again. After these pauses I just cleared the glowing embers away to each side and put the next pizza in the middle. It was after one of these occasions that I cooked the 40 second pizza - great fun.

A house pizza...

...and a tree pizza. Both on their sides, sorry!
I'm also a bit quicker in recognising when it's time to switch the fire from one side to the other - which only takes seconds.

Towards the end of the session I began snipping off the surplus paper from round the pizza:

A puffed up pizza, which took less than a minute in the middle of the oven

The pizza is identified by the letter K - not everyone followed the rules and put a number on their pizzas, that's why I'm not able to be specific about how many we made.
As long as there's some baking paper under the pizza it slips off the peel nicely. Once the bottom is crisp it's fairly easy to slide the peel underneath to bring it back out. (Although I still had to call in the tenon saw to reach a couple of pizzas that had slid out of reach of the peel.)

Halfway through the morning we realised we were going to be short of wood. A quick foray to the local Asda (only 400 metres away) resulted in a donation of several broken pallets. This gave us more than enough wood - and loads for next week as well.

Only one more Wednesday left with the pizza oven, and I want to try and set a new record. If I could get 60 pizzas through in under 3 hours, I'd think the summer well spent!

I'd like to thank Andy and Shane for the wood-chopping, Steve for the Asda trip and the backroom staff of two Jennies, Nan and Bob (not all at the same time!) Thanks, guys!

Wednesday 3rd August.
There was supposed to be less pressure on us this week, since the Family Centre was organising a coach to the seaside - Burnham on Sea, to be exact - but it didn't turn out like that.

Once again we made half a dozen pizzas for the staff - and then the youngsters piled in to make theirs. By the time we called a halt to any more budding bakers at around 1.00 the identifying number on top of the pizzas had reached 41 - so, with the six we'd made previously, we'd still made 47.

This time I had some help with the oven - my friend Andy kept me well supplied with wood to keep the oven at optimum temperature. I only let the embers die down once - and they were soon brought back to life with a few puffs from the copper tube, which worked very well indeed!

This week I've got something else on the Wednesday, so we're leaving it until next week before we fire up again.

When we do we're going to have quite a crush - with the youngsters who went on the trip joining the ones who didn't go. So we're going to have groups of up to six (we can take 8 if several come as a family) with the last group starting at 12.30. Hopefully we can then get everyone through to finish at around 1.30.

(Best laid plans, etc!)

Wednesday 27th July.
First Fun Day of the summer holidays and it was a bright, clear warm - not too hot - morning when I got there early to light the fire. But I was too late, one of the volunteers, David, had already fired up around 8.30, which was perfect since it meant we could start baking at around 10.30!

I figured that between 10.30 and 1.00 we could bake the 30 or so pizzas I anticipated we'd be making, no problem. I took along 4 bags of flour, 2 kgs of cheese and 5 tubes of tomato puree (to make the passata).

However, starting baking about 10.30, we'd reached the 30 pizza mark by about 12.30 and there were still loads of youngsters wanting to make a pizza. Eventually one of the staff had to dash off to the local S/M to replenish supplies - we'd run out of everything, including baking parchment!

It was fantastic! Kids of all ages from toddlers (with a bit of help from mum or dad) up to about 12-13, all got their hands stuck in and made some dough. The shapes - well they were all sorts of shapes, some of them even circular! But they all thoroughly enjoyed themselves!

In the end, counting the pizzas I'd made for the staff for lunch, we made about 60 pizzas. It was hard work and pretty hectic - especially for my support workers who were supervising the making of the pizzas - but terrific fun.

Loads of recipes disappeared, so hopefully a few of the families will follow through and make some at home.

The large 'S' denotes staff - got these ready before the hordes arrived. Just as well we did, otherwise there would have been simply no time!. 

Starting to build up nicely 
One of the youngsters' pizzas - that's the number 2 on there.

Left this one in a fraction too long- the oven was at its hottest then.
This was the last one out - at about 2.15. It took about 2 minutes, the same as the first one nearly 4 hours earlier!
Some reflections:
Although it was all very enjoyable it was only later that I realised that I hadn't had much to do with the actual making of the pizzas - which is what I'd rather be doing, really. I had two helpers supervising the dough making - both called Jenny, coincidentally - and they worked incredibly hard in a small, rather airless room for most of the day.

I, on the other hand, was out in the sunshine playing (literally!) with fire! I haven't got quite into the routine yet of keeping the fire going on one side, chopping wood, sticking the pizzas in, monitoring them, turning round them when one side started to cool off (that's what I should have taken as my cue to move the fire over to the other side of the oven) then taking them out. But by the end of the summer I should be a whizz!

(I could really do with someone to do the oven duty and allow me to take over the making of the pizzas, but not sure this is going to happen.)

I had a couple of hairy moments:
Twice I let the flames die down and the wood I put on wouldn't catch for what seemed ages. I was putting smaller and smaller bits of kindling on and eventually some baking parchment - and still it wouldn't catch! And a couple of times I lost a pizza in the back of the oven when I'd pushed it with the peel instead of slipping it underneath. I was saved by a rusty old tenon saw, which just caught underneath the edge of the pizza. It's pretty dark at the back of the oven at times - I could do with a torch so I can see what I'm doing. Also I need a longer, straight peel - the one Dominos gave us has a kink in it which means I can't get it to the back of the oven.

Wednesday 1st June.
Another Fun Day at Halcon. They have these every Wednesday of every school holiday now, and I'm always invited along to run a breadmaking session. Normally, this is held in the local church hall, but, now that children from the local school (Halcon Primary School, where I run a weekly Family Learning session) have built this wonderful clay oven, we were going to use it for the first time.

The guy who built it (Frank Blaker, who has built several of these - all different - over the last few months), couldn't get to us until about 10.15, so the oven wasn't lit until about 10.30.

First firing - with intent!
Which meant that we couldn't start baking our pizzas until around 12 when the oven should be at full temperature. With around 20 kids wanting to make them for lunch, this was a problem.

We decided to make mini pizzas - each youngster making 2 using half a mug of flour.

Proving - and waiting for the oven to heat up.

The first pizzas to come out of our new oven!

Coming thick and fast, now!

4 more - on a peel donated by the local branch of Domino's.
This was a real learning curve for me. We didn't rake out the embers, as I'd expected, but just pushed them to one side. We started off baking them on oven trays, but eventually just put them on the floor of the oven - on baking parchment. In the beginning the paper burned away in between the pizzas, and it was a delicate job getting the peel underneath the pizzas to get them out of the oven.

Frank had to leave at about 12.30, so I was on my own. He told me we could place some wood on each side of the oven, to burn, to keep the temperature up. But I didn't carry this part of the operation out properly, as the oven began to cool and each batch was taking longer and longer.

We eventually finished up around 1.30, much later than planned. We'd managed to get 22 small batches through in about an hour and a half - but I'm sure I can do better with practice!

As I said earlier, the Fun Days will be happening every Wednesday through the holidays so I should get plenty of practice through the summer!

Wednesday 20th April.
Here's an oven that's just been built at a local community centre:

I'm hoping to be involved when it's fired up for the first time!