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, 27 March 2012


Sunday, 11th March
Reflections on the day - once again these are at the foot of the post (plus pics!).

Friday, 9th March.

My planning is now pretty much complete and I've added it further down this post.

Stogumber is a lovely little village tucked away on the side of the Quantocks in Somerset. Some little while ago a friend of mine who lives in the village (my old university teacher) suggested we get together with a group of friends and spend the day breadmaking. 

Here's the story:

First the letter I sent out to all the students, informing them of what to expect on the day - and what to bring. This went out to them on Monday the 5th March:

Dear Student,

Breadmaking Made Easy Workshop, 10.00am - 4.00pm 10th March 2012
Stogumber Village Hall

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.

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.

The breads we will be making will include a basic loaf of bread – which can be anything from a tinned loaf or a cottage loaf to a focaccia – and a batch of fancy dinner rolls. But we’ll also be making a range of savoury or sweet breads.

Here are my suggestions, with the breads grouped together:
Fruited bread:
Chelsea buns (This recipe includes the undercover method - but you can just bake them normally)
Apfel kuchen (German apple cake)
Schiacciatta con l’uva (2 harvest bread – or 3 if you soak the fruit in wine!) 

Sweet buns:

Layered breads:

Savoury bread:
Cheese and tomato pizza (plus any toppings you wish to add)
Cheese and tomato sizzlers (or mushroom or onion)

Soda breads – both plain and sweet

We’ll be making as many of these as we can – maybe not all, but most of them.

If you wish, you can prepare a batch of ‘no-knead, overnight’ bread to take away and bake at home. If you want to do this, bring along an extra 500g of flour and a plastic food-storer, with a snap-top lid. The one I use has a capacity of 2.8ltrs.

My aim is to turn you into a competent home baker (if you’re not already!) able to bake any bread you fancy.

For lunch we’ll have a couple of the sizzlers – you just need to bring something to fill them with. The kettle is always on for a mug of tea or coffee.

Bring a large basket or cardboard box to carry all your equipment and ingredients - and the finished products to take home with you!

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.

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 what we shall be doing!

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


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 – I’ll bring enough yeast for everyone.
Olive oil. This is much cheaper these days, and it does improve the bread. Once again, buy the cheapest you can - £2.29 for 750ml at Lidl!

Shopping list:
1.5kg strong white flour
250ml olive oil
100g butter or margarine (for the layered bread)
100g sugar
50g fresh yeast if you can get some – or I'll have some for 20p
Sesame/poppy seeds
A bar of good eating chocolate (milk or plain)
100g sultanas or any dried fruit (soak them overnight – in wine if you like - and bring them in an old jam jar)
Mixed spice/cinnamon/nutmeg
Large Bramley-type apple – or a couple of eaters; Or: Slivered almonds for the Swedish tea ring
100g seedless grapes (either green or black)
Some lemon curd or a few tinned apricots for the Danish
100g grated Cheddar
Tomato sauce of your choice for the pizza
Dried oregano if you have it
Black pepper
Some tomatoes/mushrooms/onions/peppers for the sizzlers 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.
A couple of food-quality plastic bags for proving the dough (I use clean bin bags – which I afterwards use for rubbish!)
Plus you’ll need one to place the croissant dough in whilst it is in the fridge
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

You can also bring the following items – but they’re not essential:
Set of measuring spoons
Any favourite cooking utensil
Your favourite baking tray
We’ll be measuring with mugs, but, if you’d rather use scales, bring them along

Running order:
(Put butter/marg, etc, in fridge)

Welcome and intro’s (name labels) – fire exits - safety generally - icebreaker (what experience do people have? No experience? Do you like to cook, and if so, what? No experience cooking? What do you like to eat?) – expectations – what’s going to happen today – my failings as a tutor. I burn the bread, don’t read my notes, sound as if I’m telling you off (I’m not!), if I talk too fast, tell me to slow down and relax, this is a fun session!
Any Qs at any time - I never mind repeating myself. Emphasise fun aspect. Kettle is on at all times for coffee/teas, etc. (Courtesy of Ken – you might want to make a contribution.)

Discuss how we’ll use the ovens – two domestic, plus my 3 small ovens - need to maximise their use. Check with me if your bread is risen enough to be baked. It will be your responsibility to watch your bread in the oven.

First dough – loaf of bread Or: fancy dinner rolls – 2 mugs or 400g flour, salt, yeast, 2/3rds water and olive oil. Plus extra water. I’ll  demonstrate how I mix a dough – students follow suit. Put to one side   [400g]

Pizza dough – 1 1/2 mugs or 300g flour, salt, some water, 1 teaspoon yeast – add enough water to make a handleable dough        [300g]
Shaping - divide in two and make 1 pizza and 3 sizzlers. Roll out one large circle and four small circles, etc. Add toppings, etc, and put to prove (This is going to be our lunch) Place an initial, made from dough, on top of your bread to identify it
Knead the first dough for about 20 seconds

Demo and explanation of no-knead, overnight bread. I'll shape my rolls and put them to prove.

Dough for croissants, etc – 1 mug flour, etc. Layer with hard fat, fold, and place in fridge [200g]

Knead first dough again

Fruit dough – 1 1/2 mugs flour or 300g flour, fruit, spice, sugar, yeast water and olive oil.  [300g]
Divide in two and make Chelsea and hot cross buns with one half, and either the apfel kuchen, the Swedish tea ring or the schiaccatta con l’uva with the other.

Take out the croissant dough and fold once more – put back in the fridge

Knead the first dough again – should be drying out by now

Make the sweet dough and shape the doughnuts/pain au chocolat/iced buns etc. [200g]

Lunch              (could be earlier). Hand out the knowledge and attitude checklists 

Knead dough and fold croissant dough – place back in fridge

After demo from me, shape loaves with first dough - suggested breads, focaccia, plait, cottage, bloomer (just demonstrate a tinned loaf) and put to prove

Another demo – decide what layered breads are to be made by each student. Squares for Danish and yum yums – long strip for croissants        

Shape and put to prove.

Any time left, make a soda bread and or pancakes or pikelets.

[All through the day we'll be putting bread to prove - checking it, baking it and watching it in the oven.]

What have we learned today?
Feedback checklists to students

Any results from that homework - would be nice if you could email me any pics or stories of how you've passed on your newly acquired skills. I can then post them on here.

Reflections on the day:
On a beautiful spring-like morning I drove the 16 or so miles to Stogumber, through some of the loveliest countryside in England, to Stogumber Village Hall.

11 students turned up (Ken, Russell, Gill, Penny, Joe, Daphne, Mike, Sue, Alan, Mel, Dennis) - some with a lot of experience, a couple with none and a few in between, including several with bread machines. Unusually, in my experience, there were more men than women - 7 to 4.

We stuck with the programme pretty much, in the early stages - but one thing we hadn't bargained on was a problem with the ovens. There were two ovens, alright, but one was a good size, whilst the other was very narrow, so only a few of the oven trays we'd brought would fit it.

This meant that, at times, we built up a backlog of proving bread. I should, at this stage, have reduced the programme somewhat. In the event, students had to take home the last dough they shaped - the croissant dough - to bake.

Here are some pics - not as many as I would have liked, but I just never remember to get round to it!

Russell, Penny, Joe, Daphne, Mike and Sue. Hard at work; or relaxing! 

Alan's  poppy seed plait, rosemary focaccia and bloomer - all from one batch of dough

 Penny drizzling olive oil on her focaccia

Penny's Danish pastries
Those are probably Gill's croissants and Danish pastries
 Gill also took some photo's:
Alan, Mel and Dennis waiting for the fun to start. 
Me, pontificating - as I'm wont to do! 
Looks like Ken's feeling the pressure - and we haven't even started yet!

Several finished pizzas in the kitchen 
Some students working hard - others, not!
Penny adding rosemary to her focaccia
Rosemary focaccia and white rolls

Someone's bloomer - not sure who's.
Gill's granary loaf - which she made at home after the course.
Joe shaping his rolls
Me - just checking!

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