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, 30 August 2010


I'm a great lover of lentils - they are the most versatile ingredient, IMO, and they're so quick and easy to cook they're almost a fast food!

Here's what I did after coming home late from the cricket on Saturday - it took me exactly 30 minutes:

Boiled the kettle, put 100g each lentils and rice in a pan, covered them with the hot water and left them to simmer.

In another pan, in a little sunflower oil, I fried a chopped onion, a teaspoon of cumin seeds, a couple of teaspoons of my own curry powder plus a teaspoon of asafoetida. (Not for everyone - most people use a pinch or two, but I love the stuff!)

To this I added several chopped mushrooms and some shredded Savoy cabbage. (I like to keep the cabbage in strips.)

After several minutes I added boiling water to this and let them cook until the veg were soft - meanwhile stirring the lentils and rice.

To the vegetables, I added a teaspoon of stock powder, a good dash of mushroom sauce, a sprinkle of dried herbs, several squirts of tomato puree and a dessertspoon of vegan pesto (Meridian).

When the veg were cooked I added them to the lentils and simmered the dish for a little while, while I defrosted, sliced and olive oiled a wholemeal roll. (I use olive oil which has been frozen and kept in the fridge as a spread - it stays solid and acts just like marge.)

With a glass of home-made red wine, this went down a treat! (And there's loads left for tomorrow!)

(Thanks to Mamta, who introduced me to asafoetida!)

Friday, 27 August 2010

Petit pain au chocolat

I'm not a great fan of pain au chocolat made with a croissant dough. I much prefer  them made out of a plain, slightly sweetened dough. (As does Elizabeth David!)

Ask yourself - what could be easier than pressing a piece of chocolate into a golf ball sized piece of dough and squidging the dough around it?

(Here's a step-by-step pictorial guide to shaping these - in an on-line baking session report.)

400g strong white flour
2 dessertspoons sugar
1 rounded teaspoon fresh yeast
250ml lukewarm water
Splash of olive oil

16 pieces of decent eating chocolate

Sugar glaze:
1 rounded dessertspoon of sugar and two dessertspoons of boiling water

1. Place flour and sugar into a mixing bowl, followed by the yeast. Pour the water over the yeast to start it dissolving and add the olive oil.

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 (starting with the yeast first, to dissolve it properly), cutting through the dough. 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 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. Leave to prove for about an hour on your worktop, covered with a dry tea towel. Or place in an oiled plastic bag until you are ready for step 5.

5. When you are ready to proceed, take the dough out of the mixing bowl and place it on your worktop. This time, don't 'knock the dough back'! Just divide the dough into 16 pieces. Use the side of your hand as a 'knife' and cut the dough into 2, then 4, etc.

6. Press the chocolate gently into the middle of a piece of dough and squidge the dough together to seal the chocolate inside the dough. Place seam side down on the baking tray.

7. Cover and leave to prove until they have grown appreciably in size. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7, for about 15 minutes.

8. Whilst the rolls are baking, make a sugar glaze with a dessertspoon of sugar and two dsps of boiling water. When the rolls are done (look for colour underneath) brush them with the glaze straightaway.

Put a dried apricot along with the piece of chocolate in each parcel.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Some recent breads

The one on the left is supposed to be a traffic light pizza, with grated carrot in the middle and  spring onions (the green bits) at the bottom, says my granddaughter. They're both vegan, one with a tomato sauce and mushrom pate - the other with the pate plus vegan pesto.

Jam and banana (and chocolate) calzone. The chocolate was a late addition by my granddaughter.
This didn't last long!

Grape and mushroom calzone
Soft and moist and oozing with marzipan!

Woodburning chiminea come pizza oven

Well, I finally got my chiminea/woodburning pizza oven!
I would have got it earlier in the summer, but we had to get a three piece suite first (don’t ask!), and we ordered one of those last Saturday! (Hooray!)
I bought it from these people – certainly the cheapest I could find on the net at £158.99:
And, as we were passing close by on the way home from visiting my son and his family, we collected it and saved £30 delivery costs.
I’ve put it together and it now sits happily in my garden awaiting its first firing – hopefully tomorrow. I’m told I need to fire it a couple of times before I bake any bread in there – I wonder if I’ll be able to resist! 

I had to finish a few chores first, but finally got around to fixing the door on this afternoon and lighting my first fire:

Just a small fire to start with - not sure about the location, though - just outside the kitchen door..

And here it is in the barbecue mode. No bread yet, but I'll get  a couple more fires going over the next couple of days - and then we'll get cracking!
Click here for more of my chiminea adventures! (Start reading at the bottom.)

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

120 bread rolls for a birthday party

I've been asked by a long-ago acquaintance to make 120 bread rolls for a party next Saturday.

This would have been dead easy had I still got access to my friend's bakery, but, alas, that was long ago.

I should have said, "No, I don't make bread any more, I only teach these days," but - I like making bread, and I thought it was doable.

We agreed that I would deliver in two lots, Wednesday and Saturday - 60 white, 40 wholemeal and 20 granary. 100g rolls (before baking) - I figured I would make them in batches of 20.

I thought I'd get ahead of myself and bake a batch today which I could put in the freezer overnight.

Accordingly, after lunch I began - and because I had plenty of time I thought I'd use method B from this recipe:

1200g white bread flour
12g salt
840g liquid, including 10g of fresh yeast
50g olive oil

I mixed this together and found it extremely wet. I realised I'd only ever used wholemeal flour in these amounts before, and, of course, wholemeal requires more water than white.

So, while I was kneading for short periods every ten or so minutes, I began adding flour to get the manageable dough I was looking for.

Unbelievably I'd added an extra 250g of flour before I finished!

This gave me a dough weighing in at 2350g - giving me 24 rolls in total.

I left the dough, covered by the upturned bowl, until after dinner when I set about shaping the rolls. (I had to keep knocking the dough back, since it kept trying to creep out from under the bowl.)

Four hours after I started, I began shaping some fancy dinner rolls. It took me about a minute a roll - clearly I wouldn't be able to make all the rolls this way, there just wouldn't be time.

By the time I'd shaped the last one, the first rolls were beginning to rise, so I put the oven on to heat up while I brushed the rolls with water and sprinkled seeds - poppy and sesame - on top.

Sprinkled with poppy seeds

And with sesame seeds

I baked them one tray at a time for about 20 minutes, turning them round in the oven after 10.

The finished article:
Poppy seeds at the top, sesame seeds at the bottom

I really enjoyed making these - but with the next 100 or so I'll be much more up against the clock, I reckon! And next time, I'll use much less water.

Day 2:

Made a white batch (1200g flour to 750g water) and a wholemeal batch (1200g to 840g) this afternoon. Both were sticky doughs which I kneaded at intervals.

I left them for an hour, then shaped them. Some of the wholemeal rolls were baked under the roasting tray and some were baked normally. You might be able to see the difference in size, which, in real life is substantial. I had more time with the last tray of white, so I did some more fancy dinner rolls, but mostly the rolls were plain.

The 'undercover' rolls, on the right, came up much bigger than the ones on the left, baked normally.

You've got to admit - I'm having fun!
I delivered the first 3 batches tonight - the recipient was very pleased. I'll finish the order off on Saturday, so the rest will be fresh for the party.

For the last 60 rolls, I was asked to make a few smaller ones, so I reduced the amount of each batch to roughly 1.7kg -1kg of flour to 700g of water for wholemeal, 650g water for white and 625g for granary – with 50g of olive oil in each batch.

I divided each dough into two unequal pieces – 1kg and 700g – and then divided each piece into ten, giving me 10 rolls at 100g and 10 rolls at 70g.

After shaping the rolls I brushed some of them with water and sprinkled them with sesame, poppy and sunflower seeds

It was a 60th birthday party, and the birthday girl said she'd have me back again to make some rolls for her 70th!

I did enjoy making these - but I don't think I'd bother doing it again. Teaching pays better! (and I'll be in my 80s in 10 yrs time!)