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, 22 October 2013


Since 1 mug of flour requires 1/3rd of a mug of water, the ratio of flour to water is 3:1.

A full mug of flour is easy to judge, but 1/3rd of a mug of water is a bit more tricky. (The mug should be just under half full.)

(Fortunately, adding a little extra flour or water produces the required result – a soft, slightly sticky dough.)

Salt: Salt is not essential, but, if using it, a quarter of a teaspoon is about right. So the student needs to judge this amount.

Water: The temperature of the water is important – it should be blood heat, between 35-40C. 2 parts of cold water to 1 part of boiling water in a jug will achieve this, roughly. (I like to compare it with bath water! You don’t jump into a bath without checking the temperature first.)

Yeast: A rounded teaspoon of fresh yeast is dissolved into the water.

Dividing the dough into 8 pieces (to make rolls for instance). This means cutting the dough into halves (2), quarters (4) and 8ths (8).
1/3rd or 2/3rds  of a mug of water

Planning to make bread at home. Deciding which bread to make. Referring to the recipes. Deciding what equipment and ingredients are needed. Making a shopping list. Arranging a trip to the shops and finding and buying the ingredients.
Collecting the equipment together.

The yeast is dissolved into the lukewarm water.
Yeast needs food, moisture, warmth and time. Given those four things it will multiply very fast indeed. (As indeed will bacteria!)

Yeast and human beings need the same temperature range to thrive - we share a common ancestor from around 1000 million years ago (roughly) - which is why the optimum temperature for a yeast liquid is blood heat.

The action of the yeast in raising the bread: 
Yeast has two byproducts – it produces carbon-di-oxide which bakers require, and it produces alcohol which the brewer needs. Which is why in many cultures these two enterprises were to be found close together! (History!).

As the yeast feeds on the sugars in the flour, more CO2 is produced and causes tiny holes to grow in the dough. These holes increase in size the longer the dough is left to prove (rise).

Chemically risen bread (soda or quick bread) needs an alkali and an acid. Mixed together with a liquid and given some heat, they will create bubbles of gas which raise the bread.
Irish soda bread relies on buttermilk (the acid) and bi-carbonate of soda (the alkali).
Baking powder contains two ingredients which are kept apart in a dry state by some neutral substance such as wheat or rice flour. 2 teaspoons will raise a loaf made with 200g of flour (maths again!)
Or: 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar and 1 of bi-carb of soda will do the same thing
Self-raising flour contains the right amounts of alkali and acid.

The baking bread undergoes chemical changes – about which I know very little.

Bread flour is produced from what is known as a ‘hard’ wheat. (Cakes and biscuits are made from a flour produced from ‘soft’ wheat.)
Hard wheat comes from countries which have a very hot, often short summer. Most of the bread flour consumed in Britain comes from North America – USA and Canada. Australia and Eastern Europe (the Ukraine) also export hard wheat.

Breads I often make include:
Pizzas, focaccias – from Italy
Apfel kuchen – from Germany
Irish soda bread
Petit pain au chocolat – from France
Cornish pasties
Chelsea buns (nothing to do with football!)

Numeracy in breadmaking

I use mugs to measure how much flour and water to use in breadmaking – and I occasionally also use scales and measuring jugs. You’ll find both amounts given in my recipes.

Ratios in breadmaking:

Flour and water:
3 mugs of flour needs 1 mug of water – a ratio of 3:1
2 mugs of flour needs 2/3 mug of water
1 mug of flour needs 1/3 mug of water

 Lukewarm water
2:1 (2 to 1) cold water to hot will give you lukewarm water – or two parts from the cold tap to one part from the kettle. 

Proportions using scales:
200g flour needs 125ml liquid (or 125g) liquid (1g of water is the same weight as 1ml of water, so one litre of water weighs one kilogram) 
400g needs 250ml
800g needs 500ml

We divide the dough by rolling the side of the hand backwards and forwards in a sawing motion. The hand is held vertically - at 90 degrees. By holding the hand at 45 degrees as it cuts through the dough, it's possible to make a 'tail' of dough - handy for shaping tadpoles or mice.

When rolling out a circle of dough I ask students to turn the dough 90 degrees - or a quarter turn - whilst refreshing the dough with flour.
Dividing the dough into 8 pieces (to make rolls for instance). This means cutting the dough into two pieces (2 halves), each half into two (4 quarters) and each quarter into two again (8 eighths).
This also applies when cutting Chelsea buns (and it’s perhaps a bit clearer).
1/3rd or 2/3rds of a mug of water

Multiplying and adding:
Place the rolls on the baking sheet in two rows of four – because we know that 2 x 4 = 8 (or 4 plus 4 = 8)

Roughly speaking, you should knead the dough about 20 times before it becomes smooth and ready for the next step. Count each time you press the dough flat. It may need another 5 or 10 flattenings.
Whisking the sugar and water to dissolve the sugar needs about 100 ‘stirs’ before the sugar disappears.

Currently, 1 bag of flour weighing 1.5kg (1500g) costs 69p at Lidl, 68p at Morrison’s and £1.29 at Sainsbury’s.

Using 500g of flour (which will make a loaf weighing a bit less than 800g), a bag of flour will make 3 loaves – so each loaf will cost roughly 23p with flour from Lidl and Morrison’s and 43p using flour from Sainsbury’s. (69 divided by 3 – or 129 divided by 3.)

The baker needs to judge:
How much yeast to use for the amount of flour;
Whilst mixing the dough: Is it too dry – do I need to add more liquid? Is it too wet – do I need to add more flour?
The right time for the bread to go into the oven - has it risen enough 
And also when it is baked enough to come out - is it the right colour, underneath as well as on top;
Adding ingredients such as olive oil – should I just pour some in, or should I measure it? How long has this bottle got to last before we go down to the shops again? How expansive do I feel?

Literacy in breadmaking.

Planning to make bread at home.
  • Looking at cookery books and on line, then choosing which bread to make – finding the right recipe(s).
  • Referring to the recipes to decide what ingredients are needed.
  • Making a shopping list. Arranging a trip to the shops and finding and buying the ingredients. (Always stock the basic ingredients - flour, yeast, salt, sugar)
  • Collecting the equipment together. (Keep it all in one place.)
A recipe generally has 2 sections – ingredients, a list of what goes to make up the bread, usually one or two words and amounts; and method – often step by step instructions on how to make the recipe. (Imperative verbs)

(In all cooking, it’s a good idea to read the recipe all the way through before beginning.)

Terms. (Some of the words used in breadmaking)            Ingredients:
Measuring                                                                     Strong bread flour
Lukewarm water                                                           Yeast           
Mixing                                                                           Salt                                                           
Kneading (flattening and folding)                                  Sugar                                   
Proving, or rising                                                           Dried fruit           
Baking                                                                           Spices                                                           

Apron (both to protect you from the food – and the food from you), mixing bowl, jug, mug, teaspoon, rolling pin, baking paper,  baking tray, oven, pastry brush

And also:
Soaking (the mixing bowl)
Clearing (the table)
Wiping (the table)
Washing the equipment
Wiping it dry
Putting away

Suggested activities:
Write a couple of sentences about how you feel when you’re making bread.
You could write a poem about making bread – how it feels, how you feel when you’re making it, or when you’re eating it!
You could draw a picture of the bread you made today

Put the word 'Bread' in a search engine and you will get 300 million results (hits). (Try it with the word 'Pizza' and you will get nearly twice as many!) 'Bread rolls' brings 4 million hits, whilst 'Bread rolls recipe' brings in 2 million. So you need to be targeted in your search.

There are different words for bread in other countries – the German word for bread is ‘brot’, which is quite similar to our word. In Italy bread is called ‘pane’, which is close to the French, ‘pain’.

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