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.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Occupy Bristol breadmaking workshop

Wednesday 9th November - The Day!

Well, what a splendid time I had in Bristol today!

I met some lovely people; Sophia, Lynne, Henry, from the camp –  all greeted me warmly and helped in any way they could. Pete and Claudia, amongst my first group of students – all were very keen to learn.

I’d planned as I said above, to make quite a range of breads - we did make the odd soda bread and pizza – but in the end, it was the parathas that proved (sorry!) the most popular.

We were a bit restricted in that we only had 2 hobs to work with - and we had to give up one of these over lunch whilst the soup was warmed up for lunch. But, up until the time I left, just after three, we managed to get everything made.

I began with a batch of plain pikelets – and while they were cooking I gave a demo of paratha shaping using some lentil and potato curry I’d taken along. That was more or less it – once these were cooked and tasted, that’s all everyone wanted to make – apart from Pete who made a cheese and tomato pizza.

Pete's pizza

Henry's paratha's

Pete's paratha's (love the cocked hat!), nearly ready, plus Claudia's, just gone in
As the afternoon progressed, parathas were made with the lentil mix and crumbled cheese; with mincemeat; with apple and mincemeat; with apple, sultanas, mixed spice and sugar – by which point I turned to Henry and said, “You realise what you’ve got there, it’s an apple turnover!” He laughed, “Ah, but it’s also got some ginger in it!”

As people’s confidence with breadmaking grew, there was also the realisation that the parathas could be made of any size – with Lynne making a couple of large ones which could more accurately be called calzones!

I made a celebration loaf, and left it in the tin can I’d taken along, proving and waiting for a suitable saucepan and room on the two burner hobs. Good luck, Lynne, hope it went OK!

When I left there was what could only be described as a melee in the kitchen as about 6 or 7 people were all vying for table and frying pan space. The breadmakers from earlier, notably Henry, were in the middle of it passing on their newly acquired skills. Love to know how all that turned out!

Parathas all waiting for filling - only one rolling pin between all of us

Sophia at the back, Henry on the right, not sure of the name of the guy with the rolling pin
(No, we didn't deliberately line up the bags of flour!)
All in all a very satisfying day. My goal had been to change people's attitude to breadmaking, and leave behind a group of occupiers, able to make their own bread, and not afraid to experiment and try new things – and I’m pretty sure I achieved that!

I left behind a few recipes of the breads we made - and the group know that they can come back to me at anytime for hints and tips. I don't want to lose contact with these folks - they were great!

Planning and preparation:

I've arranged to run a breadmaking workshop with the Occupy Bristol folks on Wed 9th November.

[Updates further down the post - latest 8th Nov]

My aim for the day is to leave behind competent breadmakers, able to make all their own bread - and to have a lot of fun along the way!

When I prepare for a session such as this, my planning evolves over time - I shall lay out what I intend to do in this post over the next few days, and I'm inviting comments while I'm doing so. I'd also welcome suggestions on what breads we can make there, bearing in mind that ATM, they've only got a Calorgas camping stove and a frying pan. I'm hoping that there's more than just one of each!

I intend to begin with some quick soda bread(s). Whilst that is cooking we can get on with the batter for pikelets (plain and fruited) and a yeast-risen dough for pizzas, etc. Flat breads will be the order of the day, of course,  so naans, chappatis, etc, will be on the menu. I'd also like to bring in the Festive season (Yuletide) by making something with mincemeat.

Assuming one stove and one frying pan, here's the equipment we'll need:
Rolling pin
Egg slice
Pastry brush

A source of hot and cold water

A table to work on would be nice

Strong and self-raising flour
Yeast - both fresh and dried active
Dried fruit
Grated cheese
Tomato puree
Sesame and poppy seeds

4th Nov.
I'm certainly hoping for more than one camping stove. I want to make baked bean tin bread - which involves placing dough into a clean tin can - 800g size is the best - and cooking it in a pan of water. This produces a loaf with no crust - which pleased my kids when they were going through a 'no-crust- phase.

I've also done a bit of shopping - bought creamed coconut for the Peshwari naans, marzipan for the Christmas loaf. If I come up by car I can bring everything, but if I come up by train I shall ask my contacts to get the flour, etc.

Possible breads apart from those above - soda bread and yeast-risen baps, cheese and onion slices, stuffed parathas, Christmas loaf, Italian chocolate bread.

Since I haven't made all of the above breads on a camping stove, this weekend I'll be doing quite a lot of experimental baking! I'll post pics of the results.

5th Nov.

Since my bread in a frying pan skills are a bit rusty I thought I’d better put in some practice ahead of next Wednesday’s workshop.

I began with brown soda bread baps – 1/2 mug each white s/raising and Dove’s organic wholemeal, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/3rd mug water. Mixed together, divided into 4, shaped into baps and put straight into a warm frying pan – left on low for a few minutes, then cooked for 3-4 minutes each side on a medium heat.

Whilst this was cooking I mixed up a batch of dough with 3 mugs of white bread flour which I kneaded and divided into 4 pieces.

One of the pieces I turned into sausage and mustard rolls which I flattened out and placed in the frying pan on low. After a few minutes I increased the heat to medium and gave them about 5 minutes each side.

Four soda bread baps on the left; four sausage and mustard parcels on the right - 2 showing the colour underneath.

The dough was stretched out at the sides, pulled over and joined together
This makes a thickish parcel

So it's flattened down a bit 
I fried some chopped onion and mushroom for the cheese and onion slices. I rolled out two thin circles of dough – placed one in the frying pan and covered it with the onion and mushroom mixed with some grated soya cheese, then placed the other circle of dough on top. I had it on low for a few minutes, then cooked it for about 5 minutes each side on medium heat.

Fried onion and mushroom with a little soya cheese

This is the underneath. Have to say it was very tasty, but the bread was a bit tough and chewy, unlike the sausage parcels
Whilst this was cooking I took another quarter of the dough and divided into three quarters and a quarter. The larger piece I rolled out and put straight in a frying pan on low; the other I rolled out very thinly and placed on a floured sheet of baking parchment.

As this was baking I rolled out the last bit of dough and cut out circles for the doughnuts, placing them on floured b/parchment.

I turned the heat up under the pizza base and cooked it for four minutes each side. I then covered it with the topping (mushroom pate, tomato puree + a little water, vegan pesto, mixed together) followed by the pizza ‘lid’.

Using two frying pans I turned the pizza over so the ‘lid’ was underneath – and gave it about 5 minutes on a medium heat.

I filled the doughnuts some with vegan chocolate spread and some with mincemeat, once again proving on a low light for five minutes and then giving them four minutes each side. Except that I forgot to put the timer on and slightly overcooked them.

The whole exercise took about 2 hours twenty minutes, using two frying pans.

I had the onion and mushroom concoction for dinner and we’ve tried a couple of the doughnuts. I have to report that the doughnuts especially were a bit tough and chewy, although they were very tasty. The sausage parcels were well received by my wife. The soda bread baps are quite flavoursome and I haven’t tried the pizza.

I opened a large tin of peaches for a sweet – so tomorrow I’ll use the tin to cook a loaf on the stovetop, in a pan of hot water!

8th November.
Yesterday I made 2 loaves in the tin can - one plain white loaf, one Yuletide loaf with marzipan and glacé cherries. It's a bit more solid than I'd like, but that's because I didn't let it prove long enough.

I also made some naan breads with sesame seeds and some parathas stuffed with curried lentil and potato.

Today I'll be making Peshwari naan + my version of it, which includes chopped onion!

I'll also be experimenting with parathas again - not happy with yesterday's efforts.

This afternoon/evening  I made 4 naans, 4 parathas as above, 3 mincemeat parathas and a cheese and tomato pizza.

I now know that we will have a two hob gas cooker and several frying pans - with about 6 breadmakers. I'm going to be there from about 11 through until around 3, so we may well have others join us.

Because there are only the two hobs, I've scaled back my ambitions somewhat - we won't be making Peshwari naans, for instance, and I've reluctantly decided not to make socca.

However, I'm hoping that the occupiers will make full use of this blog to increase their breadmaking repertoire.

I'll report back on here tomorrow night, and log all the breadmaking we actually do.
[This is a work in progress - I'm working on it when I get a spare moment]


  1. What time will the Weds workshop start?

  2. I'm hoping to arrive at Temple Meads by 10.00am - so I should be with you by 10.30. Otherwise I arrive in Bristol at 10.30 and be with you around 11.00. I'd like to get away by about 3.00pm to be back in Taunton by 4.30.

    It'll take me ten minutes to get set up and we'll be underway.

    If you could gather as many hobs/camping stoves and frying pans as you can, that would be great - and the more participants the merrier in these types of sessions.

    I'll be bringing a couple of mixing bowls - which I'll leave behind - and loads of ingredients. If you could organise a couple of bags each of bread flour and self-raising flour - that would save me a lot of weight.

    I'll put a definitive list of what I'm bringing, and what I'd like you to provide, when I update this post finally tomorrow evening.

    Cheers, Paul