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.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

FAMILY LEARNING AT HALCON PS

Chelle, one of the parents on my latest course, is a very keen student and makes many of the breads we make in the sessions at home with her children.

She's very kindly sent me some pics of her baking activities; here are some of them:




[More to come]

I've been running a Family Learning breadmaking class at this school in Taunton for over 13 years. The main thrust is family learning - parents and children learning together - the breadmaking is just a means to an end. However, the breadmaking is very serious - no child leaves Halcon without being able to make bread.

We began with year four children and their parents - but it didn't take long to realise that parents quickly became comfortable in the school surroundings - and not a few have gone on to take an active part in the school, listening to children read, etc. So the age was gradually dropped, and now we have year one children coming to the session. And very accomplished they prove to be.

Each course runs for 5 weeks, and every week we make two varieties of bread - generally a savoury and a sweet.

The families go home with recipes of the breads they have made - and I always give the children (especially) some homework. This is to go home and find someone who doesn't know how to make bread, and teach them what they've learned.


Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Gluten free, vegan chocolate cake



(This is a GF variation on a vegan chocolate cake I developed for a family get-together last year.)

Ingredients:
165g Dove's gluten and wheat free self raising flour
25g cocoa powder
200g sugar
80g vegetable oil
250g water

Method:
Measure the dry ingredients, sifting the flour and the cocoa powder, then add the oil and water. Stir, initially with a dessertspoon, and then with a whisk, then pour into a prepared 20cm (8") cake tin.

Bake at 175C for 35-40 minutes.

Or: Use a micro-wave friendly cake form and microwave for 6-7 minutes (800W). Rises better!

Here's the original recipe.


Thursday, 6 November 2014

VEGAN SPANISH OMELETTE using a gram (chick pea) flour batter


[Pic to come]

Ingredients:
2 medium potatoes, diced and pre-cooked
1 small onion, chopped and pre-cooked

3 sun-dried tomatoes, cut into strips
1 medium mushroom, sliced

Topping:
4 slices vegan cheese
1 medium tomato, sliced
Nutritional yeast – to sprinkle
Black pepper and cayenne pepper, to taste

Plus:
Gram flour batter made up with
40g gram flour, 100g water and a little salt

Method: 
Chop the potatoes and onion and simmer them for a few minutes until soft. Drain (saving the liquid) and gently fry in a little oil.

While these are sautéing, make up the batter and whisk to remove any lumps.

Add the s-d-tomatoes and the mushroom to the frying pan and heat through, tossing once or twice.

Gather the veg in a neat(ish) circle in the middle of the frying pan and gently pour the batter over and into the potatoes. Any escaping streams of batter should gently be turned back over the potatoes.

Place the slices of cheese over the potatoes, followed by the sliced tomato and the nooch. Finally, add the black pepper and cayenne.

Fry for a further 5 or so minutes, until the batter is almost cooked.

Place under a hot grill for around 5 minutes, then serve with fresh home made bread spread with a little olive oil.

Also, see: Socca (gram flour pancakes).

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

BREADMAKING WITH 'MY DAY' SERVICES,


Tuesday 3rd November
Today we made petit pain au chocolat - with three new students, this time. Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera, so I have no pics of the lovely bread that they made - but hopefully others who did take pics will send them to me so I can include them here.

The session went well, with a great bunch of people and some very good support. Lots of potential from the new students - I'm expecting great things from them.

Next week we'll make something savoury - possibly sausage parcels.

Tuesday 28th October
1st (taster) session, making fancy dinner rolls with just the one student this afternoon. It was a gentle introduction into breadmaking with the MyDay team.

I've known the director of MyDay for well over 10 years, but we haven't seen each other in a long while, so it was really good to catch up. We have so much in common in our ambitions for the care of people with special needs - this is going to be a very special relationship, I'm sure.

ATM, I'm committed to two more taster sessions - one next Tuesday and one on Thursday. Then we'll see what take-up we get and go from there.

Here's the first batch of bread - fancy dinner rolls - made by the student:



He had some help with the shaping - but he had a lot of input into these rolls!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

MUSINGS OF AN AGING*, HEALTH CONSCIOUS, INTERMITTENT FASTING VEGAN!

(*Aged 77 and counting!)

Put simply, my goal is to live healthily into old age. If that leads to greater longevity, well, that would be a bonus, but it's not my main concern.

So I am health conscious, and, since I began intermittent fasting (IF) in Feb 2012, I've become more and more aware of how we can take control of our own health.

Intermittent fasting plays an integral part in this, of course, its benefits are legion. (Just off the top of my head I can think of half a dozen health conditions that are countered by IF.) But there are other interventions that are necessary in order to maximise one's health - in my opinion.

Exercise and IF complement each other perfectly - but there are, of course several types of exercise which are covered in depth here by my guest blogger, GymBoffin. Last November I began a home-based exercise routine and in December I began using a kettlebell. Later I added High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to my routine.

A plant-based diet. I've been a vegan now for around 10 years, and I'm more and more convinced that this contributes greatly to my all-round good health and sense of well-being.


Thursday, 30 October 2014

A BASIC LOAF OF BREAD - 3 different methods


 There are several methods I use to make a loaf of bread, depending on how much time I have available.

Method A uses the traditional flour to water ratio of 1lb of flour to 1/2 pint of water (500g flour to 315ml). I used this for many years, both at home and it was also used in the bakery where I worked for a while. The dough is mixed, kneaded for a short time, shaped and put to prove.

However, over the past couple of years I’ve become aware of the benefits of adding more water to a mix – the dough rises better and the bread also keeps longer.

There are two methods I use to get more water in a mix, these are detailed in Methods B and C.

Method B is a bit more ‘hands on’ – involving several short kneadings over a 30-45 minute period starting with a fairly sticky dough. Each time the bread is kneaded, the dough gets less sticky. Then the dough is left for an hour or so to rest before shaping and baking.

Method C is what I call the ‘Overnight, no-knead loaf’ and is the easiest method of the three. The dough for this is simply mixed together, left to prove overnight and results in a loaf that’s full of flavour. For this I find a food storer with a snap-top lid is invaluable. I use one which holds 2.8ltrs.


Method A. If I want to make one in a hurry – say in my sessions or I want to make one for a visitor to take away with them, I make this loaf:

Ingredients:
500g (3 mugs) strong flour, all white – or a mix of white and wholemeal. I use 400g wholemeal to 100g of white
1/2 tsp salt
1 dessertspoon fresh yeast or teaspoon of dried active or fast action yeast
315ml (1 mug) lukewarm water
2 tablespoons olive oil (optional, but improves keeping qualities)

Method:
1. Measure the water and stir in the yeast until it has dissolved. Place the flour and salt in a mixing bowl, pour in the yeast liquid, then add 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). Begin to mix by stirring the ingredients together with a knife, cutting through the dough as it forms. 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 flattening the dough out, folding it over and flattening it again. If the dough is too sticky, instead of putting extra flour on your worktop, place some in the bowl, put the dough back in and turn it round to coat it all over. That way you keep the flour under control and you won’t be tempted to add too much. Knead until the dough becomes smooth – and then stop before you get fed up!

4. Oil a large loaf tin and have it ready, shape the dough by pressing it out into a rough rectangle and rolling it up tightly. Put the dough into the tin with the seam underneath.

5. Or: For a freeform loaf, shape the loaf by pulling up the dough at the sides with your fingertips and pushing it down in the middle; do that all round the dough. This will have the effect of smoothing the underneath of the dough. Then turn it over and shape it into a round. Place it on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.

6. Cover with a dry tea towel and leave to prove on your worktop until it has grown appreciably in size. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for about 25-30 minutes.

7. The loaf is ready when it has browned on the sides and bottom. You may need to put it back in upside down, for a few more minutes. It is better overbaked than underbaked.


Method B. If I have more time, but I still want to make it in a morning, or an afternoon, I’ll use the ‘Several short kneadings over 30-40 minutes’ method:

Same amount of flour, salt and yeast, but 350ml of water.

This mixes into a fairly sticky dough.

Once it’s mixed together, pour a little oil on your worktop and place your dough on top of it.
Pour some oil over your dough and begin to knead – but only for a short time – say 10-20 seconds.
Now place your bowl over the dough and scrape off all the dough from your hands.
Leave the dough for 10-15 minutes and repeat the short kneading action, using oil to make it easier to handle. Once again invert the bowl over your dough and leave it for 10-15 minutes.
Repeat the above once more and your dough should by now be manageable without the oil.

Leave it to prove for an hour or two on your worktop. This period of rest gives the bread a better rise.

Form it into your preferred shape and go to Step 4 or 5:

4. Oil a large loaf tin and have it ready, shape the dough by pressing it out into a rough rectangle and rolling it up tightly. Put the dough into the tin with the seam underneath.

5. Or: For a freeform loaf, shape the loaf by pulling up the dough at the sides with your fingertips and pushing it down in the middle; do that all round the dough. This will have the effect of smoothing the underneath of the dough. Then turn it over and shape it into a round. Place it on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.

6. Cover with a dry tea towel and leave to prove on your worktop until it has grown appreciably in size. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for about 25-30 minutes.

7. The loaf is ready when it has browned on the sides and bottom. You may need to put it back in upside down, for a few more minutes. It is better overbaked than underbaked.

Method C. But the best and easiest method is the ‘Overnight, no-knead loaf’. This is left to prove overnight and produces by far the most flavoursome loaf. For this I find a food storer with a snap-top lid is invaluable. I use one which holds 2.8ltrs.

Once again, 500g flour to 350ml water, but use half the yeast.

Mix the dough together (I mix it in my food storer, so there’s less washing up) but don’t bother to knead.

Just put the lid on and leave it on your worktop. Generally I make it the following morning, but I have left it for over 48 hours in the past and it’s been fine.

When you’re ready to bake it, place it on your worktop and fold it over several times. It should be quite manageable. If it’s too wet, you may want to knead in more flour – say 25g at a time.)

Then continue from Step 4 or 5:

4. Oil a large loaf tin and have it ready, shape the dough by pressing it out into a rough rectangle and rolling it up tightly. Put the dough into the tin with the seam underneath.

5. Or: For a freeform loaf, shape the loaf by pulling up the dough at the sides with your fingertips and pushing it down in the middle; do that all round the dough. This will have the effect of smoothing the underneath of the dough. Then turn it over and shape it into a round. Place it on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.

6. Cover with a dry tea towel and leave to prove on your worktop until it has grown appreciably in size. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for about 25-30 minutes.

7. The loaf is ready when it has browned on the sides and bottom. You may need to put it back in upside down, for a few more minutes. It is better overbaked than underbaked.

Note: There’s no doubt that more flavour develops the longer flour and yeast have to mature together. However, in my experience it takes at least 4 hours for the difference in taste to become apparent. That’s why I haven’t included an initial proving time in loaf A.

I find an all wholemeal loaf too heavy for my taste, so I always include some white flour in the mix just to give it a bit of a lift.



My reasons for treating all three types of yeast the same are given in this thread on the old BBC Food Board (now defunct, but the archive is still there):

A word about yeast. Mostly I use fresh yeast it’s just the easiest to use and the most convenient; occasionally I’ll use active dried yeast; and rarely the fast action yeast.

If you can’t get fresh yeast, use dried active yeast (Allinson’s, in a yellow tin, currently 65p; kept near the flour shelves) – half the amount.



Notes:
Use every loaf that you make as a marker for the next one.
Dough too wet? Reduce the water by 25g.
Too dry? Add another 25g of water next time.
If you do make changes to the recipe, make a note of what you’ve done.
Try and get into a regular bread making routine: Practice makes perfect, etc, and every loaf you make will improve. 

MONTHLY BREADMAKING SESSION IN TAUNTON


Monday 27th October 2014
3rd session, 5 students (with 3 apologies, so numbers are building up), 4 of whom made pizzas and chocolate rolls, and one (who had just popped her head round the door to check where we were) came with no ingredients, so she made a batch of fancy dinner rolls and some iced buns.

Cheese and tomato pizza - with olives

Leaky pain au chocolat! Some chocolate leaks more than others.

Next month we're making a fruit dough (possibly apfel kuchen or schiacciatta con l'uva) and cheese and tomato sizzlers.

Monday 20th September 2014
2nd session, 4 students this time, who all made a loaf of bread, 
All these loaves were made with a 4-strand plait - one freeform and two tinned




Two-toned loaf-half white, half wholemeal and white, shaped into a 4-strand plait and fitted into a bread tin
…and Chelsea buns:


Each batch of Chelsea buns, made with around 150g (small cup) of flour  and 100g of sultanas  costs less than half the price of a Chelsea bun in the shops

Next session, on the 27th of October, will feature cheese and tomato pizzas and petit pain au chocolat (again!) - but also one of the students would like to make croissants.

7th August 2014

Last Tuesday, I began what is intended 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. 


Italian soda breads - or, soda bread focaccias! The one at the top right is a failed attempt at a gluten-free version!


Add caption

Fancy dinner rolls and sizzlers



Pain au chocolat, jam doughnuts and jam pasties

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.