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, 13 December 2012

Breadmaking at Parmin Hall, Taunton, November 2012

I shall blog here, everything that happens on the course - link to all the recipes and post all the pics both I and the students take. [Eventually...]

Sunday 16th December
I received these pics from Peter today - finally, I've got around to posting them:

Peter writes:

Made a very tasty Lardy cake yesterday, the recipe was in the iPaper on 
Friday. It came from the River Cottage Bread Handbook (have to confess 
to using the Kenwood for the mixing though) absolutely delicious but I 
may have to go on a Keep Fit course next!!

Baked the cake in an 8" tin and added a small amount of Tate and Lyle at 
the base, inverted onto a wire rack at the end to allow the melted lard 
and syrup to soak back into the dough as it cooled... lovely. I've also 
baked another Christmas loaf, I'm giving it to friends later today as a 
small gift. Fingers crossed that it's as good as it looks.

Tuesday 11th December
Christmas loaves and grissini, plus cheese rolls tonight.
Couple of Christmas loaves and some cheesy grissini

This is Peter's Christmas loaves - as you can see he went mad with the cherries (I've brought 'em, so I'll use em...)  plus some grissini and some cheese rolls

Jennie had brought along sun dried tomatoes and gently fried onions to use, as well as cheese, in her breadsticks. We used up her excess onions in small pockets - a bit like bialys. Her bread smelt absolutely gorgeous.

This was the last session of this 5 week course, and there was some real regret that the course had come to an end. They've been a lovely group and I'm privileged to have taught them.

Tuesday 4th December
Croissants and Lardy cake tonight - plus Katie wanted to make a wheatsheaf:

Tuesday 27th NovemberPane casereccio and [more to come] Sunday 19th November
Two of my students have emailed me pics of bread they made at home - they both take far better pics than I do:

Peter's fancy dinner rolls
And his soda bread
Jennie's bread rolls
Tuesday 13th November, 2012
After a couple of tries, we finally managed to find a hall - Parmin Hall, Parmin Close, Taunton - suited to our purpose - just around the corner from one of the students!

5 students attended - I knew one was on holiday, but another was unavoidably detained at work - and we were able to make a start. 

We began with a simple soda bread, followed by some fancy dinner rolls:

Bridget's rolls

 Tamzin's rolls

Katie's rolls
I did take another couple of pics, but, unfortunately, they came out blurred. Completely forgot to take some pics of the soda breads.

The homework I handed out last week met with a mixed response - I haven't got any pics from the students yet, but hopefully they will come in. I think at least three found time to make them - more on this next week.

Next week we're making Chelsea buns and loaves.

Tuesday 6th November, 2012
The best laid plans, etc...
When I arrived at the hall, half an hour before the session was due to start, I found the place being readied for an evening of bingo! Turns out that bingo has been played in that hall on Tuesday nights for the past 14 years!

So I found myself outside the hall intercepting the students - some of whom had travelled a fair way - before they could unload all their stuff.

When I came home I emailed the students to give them some homework while we try and sort out another venue for next Tuesday:

Once again I have to apologise - especially those who came long distances -  for the monumental cock-up tonight. Not sure who to blame yet - not that that is important, really - hope to find out tomorrow. If you have travelled any distance I would urge you to contact SS&L for your travel costs.

It was good to meet you all, and I know we would have had a good breadmaking session had we been able to continue.

In the past I've had some traumas at the start of a course - I've had no gas supply to the ovens - I've had the automatic gas supply turning off every hour of a 6 hour workshop (when the reset button was pressed we had to relight all the ovens) - I've been locked out of a classroom. However, this is the first time I've ever been turned away - along with my students - from a venue. 

In the locked out case I conducted the first part of the session in the corridor while we waited for the caretaker to turn up with the key. This time I'd like to start the course by interrogating you all by email. I've looked at distance learning in the past, but I've never practiced it - now seems like a good time to start.

I'd like to know what experience of breadmaking you all have; if you have no experience of breadmaking, have you much experience in cooking generally?

I also want to know what expectations you have of the course? I asked this on a previous course and one student, after the first batch of rolls came out of the oven, told me, "You've exceeded my expectations already!"

But, could I ask you to think what you'd like to get out of the course. What are your personal goals? Where would you like to be by the end of the course? My goal is to turn you all into expert breadmakers, able to make any bread you fancy!

I generally finish my sessions by giving everyone some homework - which is to find someone who doesn't know how to make bread (a friend, a relative, a neighbour) and teach them what you've learned today. Can't do that this time, but, instead, I'd like you all to conduct an experiment, if you can find time this week.

You'll need some white bread flour, some water, and some yeast. If you don't have any, try and obtain some. Asda give away, Sainsbury's will sell you 50g for around 20p (both at the bakery counter), Morrison's will tell you it's in the chiller cabinet (but it never is), and Tesco's don't want to know! However, all the supermarkets - and health food shops - sell dried active yeast. It's made by Allison's, in a yellow tin, and it's 64p in the supermarkets, somewhere round the flour shelves. If you can't find this, then fast action yeast (comes in sachets, generally) will suffice - get the own-brand version.

Have a look at this recipe on my blog:
Look at the pics, really, that's what you're looking for when you make these.
Here's the experiment: 
I want you take a jug and shake a fair amount of flour into it. Add a teaspoon of whatever yeast you have, then add enough lukewarm water to make a batter - but don't worry about the consistency, you can adjust that later. Stir it for a couple of minutes, then leave it for 10 minutes (if you want to leave it for an hour, even better). Heat a frying pan - over a medium heat - with a little oil and place a dessertspoonful of batter in it. If it spreads out too much, your batter needs more flour stirring in; if it doesn't spread at all, add a little more water. Try another spoonful of batter, then if you're happy with it, place more spoonfuls in the frying pan. Gradually they will begin to dry from the edges. They won't form many holes yet, but that doesn't affect the flavour of these. As the  batter dries out it becomes slightly yellower. When they dry on the top, turn the pikelets over and cook the other side.

While these are cooking, stir a handful of dried fruit into the rest of the batter, and proceed as above. 

You don't need anything on these fruit pikelets, but I like to add a little homemade marmalade - to both sorts.

Here's the letter that went out to the students last week, setting the scene:

Dear Student,

Breadmaking at Monkton Heathfield Community Hall, Heathfield Drive,
Monkton Heathfield,TA2 8PG, 7-9pm 6th November

This letter sets out what I intend will happen in the first session 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 a stool to sit on. There is some necessary administration to complete, but we can go through this together. If you need any help with the forms I will be there to give you a hand, so there’s no need to worry. Bring a pen if you can remember, although I will have a couple to spare.

Before we start I’d like to spend some time finding out if you’ve had any experience in breadmaking, and what you expect to get out of the course, so that I can hopefully meet all your requirements.

The breads we will be making on the first evening are: Soda bread, and fancy dinner rolls.

Each week you will make 2 varieties of bread – most of them chosen by you and the other students. However, there are various techniques I want to cover, such as ‘No-knead, overnight bread’, using the cloche method, etc. You will be given the recipes for all the breads we make, plus general breadmaking hints and tips. My aim is for you to become a competent home baker (if you’re not already!), able to bake any bread you fancy.

Bring a large basket or a cardboard box to carry all your equipment and ingredients, and the finished products to take home with you!  Coffee or tea is available at 20p per mug – the kettle is always on. (Or bring your own, of course.)

I want to reassure those students new to breadmaking that my first aim for this course 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 haven’t already)!

If you have any questions, doubts, suggestions at all, please don’t hesitate to ring or email me. It’s always nice to make contact with my students before the course begins.

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 friends’. Which is what we shall be doing on these Tuesday evenings!

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

Paul (Course tutor)

Shopping list:
500g strong white flour (own brand is fine)
500g strong wholemeal flour (if you want to make a wholemeal loaf or rolls)
Baking powder
Olive oil (optional)
10g fresh yeast (but I'll have plenty available)
Poppy or sesame seeds for the rolls (optional)

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.
Baking paper (this is unlike ordinary 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)

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