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, 29 June 2011

Rollplay at St Mark's Primary School, Basingstoke

My daughter teaches year 5 at this school, and last year, working in groups of 7 or 8, I made iced buns with about 45 of the youngsters from this school - about 2/3rds of the year group.

This year I wanted to reach everyone in year 5 - about 77 kids if everyone turns up. After the experience I had in my grandchildren's school the week before, I knew I could do this easily!

The bread roll recipe (with suggestions for shapes).

Starting at about 8.50 I ran a session in my daughter's class - 23 students, 7 groups of 3 and a pair. I did exactly the same as last week - with one major difference.

"What would happen," my daughter said, "if you didn't use any yeast?" This question came after a fairly lengthy explanation of why we should use lukewarm water  to dissolve the yeast. "Why, nothing, really. The dough would just sit there." So then I thought that instead of the one demonstration from me of how I put a batch of dough together, my daughter could also make a batch - only this time, without any yeast . Which is what we did.

Here's the pics from this session:

We did the same in the second session:

Yeast-risen rolls - and unleavened ones!
And the third session:

I had a bit more time to take pics in the  last session - and I still got away from the school around 3.20, after teaching 74 kids in the day!

Once again, great support, great teachers and great kids!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Rollplay at Derwent Lower School

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:

Tomorrow it's Alfie's turn - up to 30 year one youngsters!

(I have to to say the support from the head, teachers and support staff has been brilliant! The kids were pretty good, too!)

Tuesday 20th June.
30 year one children lined up behind10 tables, each with a mixing bowl, a mug and a teaspoon. W did exactly the same as we did yesterday - but it was necessarily a bit more hectic. Nevertheless, an hour later, all the bread was proving on top of the oven whilst the children went out to PE.

Here are the results:

I've been fortunate these last two days, in that I've been teaching in the afternoon, which has meant I've been able to use the school kitchen - so proving and baking the bread hasn't been a problem.

Tomorrow's session, with 20 or so year 4 children is in the morning. Unless the kitchen can squeeze me in for half an hour, say, around 10.30-11.00, I'll be reduced to using the domestic oven in the staff room - not so convenient.

On the other hand, it's quite likely that a session with the older year 4 youngsters will be more organised than the younger groups. It'll be interesting to see if the results will be any different.

Wednesday 22nd June.
Last one today - and we were able to switch the session to the afternoon. Once again I received complete co-operation from the teacher - although there was no support this time.

Because the children were that little bit older I was able to go into the science of breadmaking a bit more: the byproducts of the action of the yeast - CO2 and alcohol - and how the bakery and the brewery were next to one another in ancient societies. We also touched on the connection between yeast and mammals and how, billions of years ago, we shared a common ancestor. Which is why, even today, we need the same temperature  to thrive.  (I make the comparison between the temperature of the yeast liquid and bathwater: "You don't leap into a bath without checking the temperature first!")

Here's some of the bread we made. Unfortunately, I forgot about recording the results until several children had taken their bread away. I was busy sorting out whose bread was whose, so I gave my camera to my granddaughter, Phoebe, who took as many pics as she could:

About the photo's: I could have just selected some of the best examples - and made a nice portfolio. However, I wanted to  show the bread just as it came out of the oven - and I promised the kids I'd put all their bread on my blog - and I did (mostly!).

To sum up the last three days: I've had a lot of fun, I've met a lot of good professionals who work in an excellent school. And I hope I've shown 60+ children that breadmaking is not at all scary - it's a simple, enjoyable activity!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Bread rolls

(Makes 12)

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

1. Place the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Measure the water and stir in the fresh yeast. Pour in the yeast liquid and 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). 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 flattening the dough out, folding it over and flattening it again. Knead until the dough becomes smooth – and then stop before you get fed up.

4. 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 12 pieces.

5. [Practice this a few times and you'll soon have it perfect!] Give yourself plenty of room on your worktop. Take one of the pieces in each hand and flatten them down with the palms of your hand. Keeping them pressed down, gently move them round in a circle. After a couple of circles, start to ease the pressure off. Still moving in circles, let your hands form a hollow shape. Gradually cup your hands and relax the pressure, whilst still making the circular movement. Your little finger and thumb should make contact in turn with the side of the roll as it tightens up. Ease off the pressure altogether, and you should have a couple of bun shapes! Place the rolls either on greased bun trays or on oven trays lined with baking parchment.

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

    Tuesday, 7 June 2011


    Healthy in that they don't go anywhere near a deep fat fryer!

    To make them even healthier you can use half and half, white and wholemeal flour

    200g strong white flour 
    1 or 2 dsp sugar
    125ml lukewarm water 
    1 rounded teaspoon yeast
    Splash of olive oil

    A jar of jam
    Sugar glaze
    Sugar for sprinkling

    1. Place the flour and sugar into a mixing bowl, and mix to distribute the ingredients. Measure the water and stir in the yeast until it dissolves (dried yeast takes longer to dissolve than fresh). Add the yeast liquid to the dry ingredients, 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, 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 flattening and 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. Or go straight to 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'! Instead, just roll it out into a large square or circle. 

    6. Using a medium size pastry cutter, cut out circles of dough and place half of them on a prepared baking tray - these are the bases. Continue rolling out and cutting out until all the dough has been used up - you're looking for an even number of circles. (The last bit can be turned into a jam pasty!)

    7. Place 1/2 a teaspoon of jam in the middle of each of the bases and place a lid on top of each one. Press down all round the doughnut to seal them. Take a bit of time over this, for if you're not careful, all the jam will leak out. I pick each one up and go round the edge pressing the sides together. Move your finger and thumb against each other - just as you would if you were feeling your earlobe!

    8.Cover and leave to prove until they have grown appreciably in size. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7, for about 10-12 minutes.

    9. Whilst the rolls are baking, make a sugar glaze with a dessertspoon of sugar and 2 dessertspoons of hot water for a glaze. When the rolls are done brush them with the glaze straightaway. Pour some sugar in a dish and place the sticky doughnuts in it top down to cover them with sugar. Or simply sprinkle the glazed doughnuts with sugar.

    Apple puree
    Chocolate spread (either on its own - or with half a glace cherry!)