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, 28 June 2016

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

The Vegan Breadmaking made Easy course starts Tues 28th June 6-8. A 5wk course-making 10 or so different breads.

Intros/labels/register - icebreaker - expectations - what’s going to happen tonight.

My planning:
  1. Demo of a fruit soda bread and a plain one - Students follow suit - bread goes in oven
2.  Demo of high-hydration loaf - Students follow suit - put to one side
3. FDRs - students make 6 rolls - put to prove (check soda breads)
4. Re-visit HH dough - knead it using olive oil
Demo of shaping HH loaf. Oil plastic bags for dough

Bake FDRs

Whiteboard: soda breads: 1 cup flour; 1.5 tsp bp;
either: 1/4 tsp salt Or: 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp m/spice, 1 cup sultanas
1/3rd cup cold water and splash of olive oil
Three cups flour (either all white or 2 w/m to 1 white), tsp salt, 1.5 cups lukewarm water with 1 teaspoon yeast + olive oil
FDRs - 1 cup flour - 1/4 tsp salt - 1/3rd cup l/warm water - 1 tsp yeast

My aim is to change students' attitude to breadmaking - to bring it into your comfort zone. 

Over the next 4 weeks we can make at least another 8 different breads/cakes/

 - and I’d like to spend half a session on GF

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).

Thursday, 16 June 2016

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

[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 my YMCA mate, saying that it was an achievable goal for sometime in the future. He perked his ears up 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 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.

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!

Wednesday, 13 April 2016


Fruity - and spicy!
We had some friends call round this afternoon, and I wanted to make them a loaf to take away with them.

This calls for soda bread, so I quickly knocked up a fruit soda bread with olive oil. The olive oil really softens and rounds the crust - which can often be quite hard on a soda bread.

250g self raising flour
2 dessertspoons sugar
1 dessertspoon mixed spice
150g sultanas
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
155g water
45g extra virgin olive oil


  1. Line a baking tray with some silicon paper and turn on the oven
  2. Into a bowl place the dry ingredients and mix to distribute the spices evenly.
  3. Add the water and pour in the olive oil.
  4. Mix quickly into a dough (I managed in in 90 seconds today)
  5. Tip out onto the worktop, without adding flour  - instead, drizzle with olive oil and knead for several moments.
  6. Then firmly mould it into a round flat loaf, about 3cm thick and place it on your prepared baking sheet. (With practice you can get the mixing and shaping done in less than two minutes.) To allow the heat of the oven to reach the centre of the dough more easily, cut a deep cross into the top of the loaf with a sharp knife.
  7. Bake in the centre of the oven at 220C (or 200C for a fan oven) for 25-30 minutes.

The loaf is ready when it has a good colour underneath and a skewer comes out clean. You may need to put it back in, upside down, for a few more minutes. Place to cool on a wire rack and – for a softer crust – wrap the bread in a tea cloth.

This loaf took 32 minutes from thinking about it - to admiring it!

Breadmaking Workshop in Wellington 23rd April 2016

Breadmaking Made Easy Workshop, 10.00am - 4.30pm 
23rd April 2016 Community Centre, Corams Lane, Wellington TA21 8LL
Dear Student,

This letter sets out what I intend will happen on the day and includes a list of ingredients and utensils which you will need to bring. If you are new to breadmaking, let me reassure you that it is much easier than you have been led to believe.

The session will begin in a relaxed fashion – the first thing you need to do is to find somewhere to park all the stuff that I ask you to bring, get yourself a drink and somewhere to sit down. Then there is a little paperwork we need to complete – I’ll guide you through that, if you can bring a pen that would be handy.

Before we start breadmaking I’d like to spend some time finding out what you expect to get out of the day’s session so that I can hopefully meet all your requirements. My aim is to turn you into a competent home baker (if you’re not already!) able to bake any bread you fancy.

The breads we will be making: Choice of 2 types of soda bread; fancy dinner rolls; cheese bread wraps (lunch); fruit dough to make hot cross buns and Chelsea buns; focaccia; and pizza.

The kettle is always on for a mug of tea or coffee (cost 20p). For lunch we’ll have a couple of the cheesey wraps.

I want to reassure all those students new to breadmaking that my first aim for this workshop is for everyone to enjoy their learning – I always delight in these sessions, and it’s my job to see that everyone else does. Breadmaking is an easy, everyday craft – as you’ll come to realise!

If you have a particular variety of bread you'd like to make instead of one of the breads on offer, I'd be very happy for you to do that. Get in touch if this idea appeals to you and we will see how we could fit it in to the programme. Or if you have any questions, doubts, suggestions at all, please don’t hesitate to ring or email me.

I have a blog - part breadmaking, part vegan cookery - in which I detail all my breadmaking activities. Here’s the post I’ve started about the workshop:

Finally, I’d like to draw your attention to the word ‘Companion’. The ‘com’ part means together – as in community – and the ‘pan’ part of the word means bread. So the word ‘Companion’ can be taken to mean, ‘Someone who makes bread with his or her friends’. Which is exactly what we shall be doing!

I look forward to meeting you and welcoming you on the course.

Regards, Paul 

Flour. Don't forget to specify strong flour, as this is sold especially for breadmaking. Own-brand flours are fine.
Yeast. The most convenient for our purposes is fresh baker’s yeast – if you can’t get hold of any, I’ll have enough for everyone.
Olive oil. This is much cheaper these days, and it does improve the bread. Once again, buy the cheapest you can - £2.19 (I think!) for 750ml at Lidl!

Shopping list:
2 bags strong flour – one white and one wholemeal, or 2 white
Baking powder
250ml olive oil
100g sugar
50g fresh yeast if you can get some – or I'll have some for 10p
Sesame/poppy seeds*
200g sultanas or any dried fruit 
Mixed spice/cinnamon/nutmeg
150g grated Cheddar
Tomato sauce of your choice for the pizza
Dried oregano if you have it*
Rosemary – fresh or dried*
Black pepper*
Some tomatoes/mushrooms/onions/peppers for the wraps and pizza


You will also need to bring:
An apron
A couple of tea towels, both to cover your dough whilst it's proving and to wrap any warm bread in to take home.
Baking parchment or paper (this is unlike greaseproof paper as it contains silicon)
Something to carry away the finished products (a large basket or cardboard box lined with tea towels would be ideal)
Sharp knife

Mug for hot drink

Friday, 18 March 2016

RHUBARB PIE - with the simplest pastry ever! (Vegan)

Who would have thought that a pie could be simpler than a crumble? Yet that's the case here!

Pastry too thick? Not so sure.The filling is just tart enough, and the pastry is almost cake-like!
500g of rhubarb, with 100g of sugar, encased in a sweetened bread dough. Sounds simple, and it is - but it's oh, so flavoursome!

Here's a savoury pie, made the same way, with the method of assembly shown in pics. I used 200g of self raising flour, with 25g of sugar, and my wife maintains the pastry is too thick. So I was thinking that next time I'll use 150g of flour and roll the dough out thinner. But then again, I'm sitting here munching a slice of cold pie (and trying to leave some for tomorrow!), and the proportions seem just right. The pastry, bread, call it what you will, is almost cake-like - it's absolutely gorgeous!