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.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

SPLIT PEA SOUP (vegan) - why have I waited so long

I have just finished my first split pea soup for many years - a bowlful leftover from yesterday's evening meal. And I'm filled with regret that the last spoonful has just disappeared…

I was looking in the back of a top shelf of a cupboard for a container to put some lentils in, when I came across a jar containing some old split peas. I've no idea how old they were, but they must have been 5 years old, at least. 

OK, I thought, I'll give these a go!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

MY WRITING GAME - and a song, 'Number bonds to ten'

I've just been reminded of this game I used to play many years ago, with the children at my wife's playgroup. I used to unwind after a night shift practicing pencil control with them for an hour or so.

Basically, it’s a ‘magic writing game’ – which requires three crayons. The thick pencil types are the best (Stendler?). You write or draw something with a yellow crayon and put a green dot where you want the child to start. The child draws over the yellow lines with a blue crayon - and, hey, presto, the yellow turns to green! Magic!

For the playgroup children – I would have a table with about 5-6 kids at a time – I’d prepare pages with lines drawn in yellow, with the obligatory green dots. Straight lines, zigzag lines, bouncy lines, jump up lines, etc. Then at the bottom of the page I’d just have a couple of green dots and the kids could draw their own lines.

[Pic to come]

The children took great care over following the lines – and it was easy to see at a glance round the table how successful they’d been. Lots of green meant they’d been pretty good - blue and yellow lines, not so.

The next step was to do the same thing with their names – it was a goal of the playgroup that the children should all be able to write their own name before they left.

I’d prepare a sheet each with a line of each letter of their name. So, for Oscar:

A line of capital ‘O’s across the top of the page – with the green dot at around 11o’clock on the O. Then a line each of ‘s’, ‘c’, ‘a’, ‘r’, remembering that, with small characters, every letter is begun at the top, except for ‘d’ and ‘e’, which start in the middle.

Then a couple of lines of their full name, with a space at the bottom to do their own names free hand.

Once they could write their own names, I’d prepare sheets with letters that all began the same way – I called these ‘families of letters’, so, r, n, m, p, b, h are one family, c, o, a, d, g, q, are another.

I also made up little booklets with a story that each child could relate to. Nothing fancy, “Sometimes I go to playgroup where I play ‘bump the finger’* with Paul”. I wrote the words on one page, which they would magically turn into green – and they would write the same words on the opposite page. To prepare them for this, depending where each child was, I’d have separate sheets for each of these words.

 (*Bump the finger is the first pencil control game I’d play with the kids. We’d have a blank sheet of paper, the child would have a pencil, and, while I moved my finger around the page, the child would follow it and say ‘Bump’ every time they caught up with me. As I moved my finger around I would say, ‘Up the page, down the page, across the page, left, right, up to the right-hand corner, over to the left-had corner, etc. We always finished with large zig zags across the page. Inevitably, my finger would move faster and faster, and we would both collapse in fits of giggles! Even the older children would love to play this in between pages of the yellow game.)

Every now and then, we’d stop doing the pencil control sessions for a song about numbers. (Number bonds to ten.)

To the tune of ‘Knees up, Mother Brown,’ I’d sing:
One and nine are ten
Two and eight are ten
Three and seven and four and six and five and five are ten

The last word with gusto – and arms akimbo, of course!

I imagine the 'Yellow game' could be tailored for an older child. As long as it’s seen to be fun, and kept short and sweet.

[Need a couple of pics of the  ‘Yellow games’ pages.]

Friday, 20 December 2013

CHEESE AND TOMATO PIZZA - with a soda bread crust (with vegan variation)

Makes two 30cm (12") pizzasReady in a jiffy, and very economical, costing less than 0.70p each.  (I need a photo of the basic, cheap pizza - coming soon!)

Topping: Rich tomato sauce, grated cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms and peppers
Same again - except that one diner didn't want any mushrooms
Not the cheapest topping, as in the recipe - these were made with what was in the fridge
Obviously not vegan - but there's a vegan topping given below

Sunday, 8 December 2013

KNEADING - a waste of time?

My 8-year-old grandson, Alfie, demonstrating an effective kneading technique.

Here's a 'beginner', Rob, kneading dough one-handed in my workshop in High Ham on the 7th December this year. Only later did I find out he was a potter!

But how much kneading should you do?

For many years I've been telling my students that kneading is an over-rated pastime. IMO, all kneading does is to mix the ingredients throughout the dough.

We don't have time, often, in my short sessions with students, to knead for as long as some recipes ask for. 10 minutes is common, but I've also seen 15 minutes kneading specified in the odd recipe - and even 20 minutes in one case!

Well, I have to tell you that kneading for 2 or 3 minutes can be quite pleasurable - even therapeutic - but 20 minutes becomes a chore. And as my wife will tell you, I try and avoid chores!

The bread in my sessions always turns out well, but the question is, would the outcome be better if the dough was kneaded for longer?

I realised I couldn't remember ever doing a side-by-side comparison to test this hypothesis - so the other afternoon, I set to.

I made two identical batches of dough:
200g strong white flour
1/4 tsp salt
5 grams of fresh yeast
120ml lukewarm water (so, 125ml yeast liquid)

I kneaded the first dough until it was smooth - which took about 30 kneading actions or approximately 30 seconds. The second dough I set to and kneaded for 10 minutes!

This was fairly painful for me - the first thing I noticed was that my arms tired after about a minute and a half - so I  changed my action from flattening and folding to rolling the dough with both hands, than folding in the ends when the dough became long enough and rolling it out again.

Then I changed to kneading it with one hand - alternating from one to the other. After about 5 minutes,  it was noticeable that the dough had changed - it was becoming more responsive, by which I mean that it had become 'springier' to the touch.

After ten minutes, I compared the 2 doughs - and it was clear that the second dough was much smoother than the first. 

I covered both batches with an upturned bowl, and left them for a couple of hours.

After a couple of hours, the kneaded dough had risen more than the minimum knead dough.

For the purposes of this experiment, I took off sufficient dough from each batch to make a bread roll. (The rest of the dough was intended for pizzas for dinner for myself and my wife! :) )

When knocking back prior to shaping, there was no discernible difference between the feel of the two doughs.

After an hour's proving, there was no difference that I could see between the two rolls - they both appeared to have risen the same amount.

Not the best rolls I've ever made - but is the one on the right a touch biggerr
I needed to look at the crumb, so I cut each roll into two pieces and compared the. Again, I could find no difference.
It was immediately apparent that I hadn't left the rolls long enough to prove!
(And both pizzas appeared exactly the same.)

So my conclusion is that there is no real difference in outcome between a 10-minute kneaded dough and one given only 30 seconds-when the dough is left to prove for an hour.

My next task will be to make the bread without giving it two provings - and this time, I'll make one batch of dough which I'll then divide in two, give one 30 seconds and the other 10 minutes.


 Saturday 7th December 2013.
I have to report that the workshop went very well! All the students left with half a dozen varieties of freshly made bread - and the confidence that they have the ability and the knowhow to attempt to make any bread they fancy. 

12 students turned up - our target audience, and all enjoyed a day of successful breadmaking. About half of the students had breadmaking machines - about which they were rather embarrassed, which they had no need to, of course! My view about bread machines is that they are just another kitchen tool - one containing a small mixer and a small oven. Machine users are at least controlling the quality of the food they eat - and I think they bring people into breadmaking.

I didn't take many pics - but here's what I've got. Amanda, one of my students from the Hornblotton course who arranged this day, took quite a few more. She intends to publish them on the village website - and I'll post a link to them when this happens.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013


19th November 2013

Christmas Breadmaking Workshop, 10.00am - 4.00pm

23rd November at Hadspen Village Hall

Dear Student,

This letter sets out what I intend will happen during the day and includes a list of items which you will need in the session. If you are new to breadmaking, let me reassure you that it is much easier than you may have been led to believe. It is indeed, ‘easy peasy’! Oh, and it’s also a lot of fun, as you’ll find out!

The session will begin in a relaxed fashion – the first thing you need to do is to find somewhere at the side of the hall to park all your stuff, get yourself a drink and a chair to sit on round the tables in the middle.

Before we start breadmaking I’d like to spend some time finding a little about each other, and what you expect to get out of the day’s session so that I can better meet all your requirements.

Lunch. We’ll be eating around 12.30-1.00, and everyone will make their own. All you need to bring is a little cheese – say 50g – and a tomato or a mushroom.

Here’s the programme for the workshop as it stands:

1.     Soda bread focaccia
2.     Potato pizza - lunch
3.     Xmas loaf
4.     Mince pies/tarts/doughnuts
5.     Fun with mincemeat
6.     Stuffed mushroom en croute and grissini

I have a blog, which I call “No bread is an island”, in which I write about – among other things – my teaching practice. On here I’ve started a post, “Hadspen breadmaking”, which contains all (most) of what you need to know about the course, including my planning:

Keep an eye on this, if you can – and check out the many recipes on the blog, including those for the breads I’ve already mentioned.

If you’re interested in sourdough, I’ll have some of my sourdough starter with me. Bring along a container – a small jar would be fine – if you’d like to take some home with you.

I have several aims for this course, one of which is that everyone should enjoy himself or herself! Another is that everyone will make good bread. At any time during the day the kettle can go on for a mug of tea or coffee. Cost 20p.

I'm sorry if this all sounds a bit daunting. Please let me assure you that it will all fall into place quite easily. If you have any suggestions, (or concerns) at all, please don't hesitate to contact me, I'm always very happy to talk to my students about bread.

Finally, can I 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 ‘Companions’ are people who make bread together! Which is what we shall be doing over this Saturday!

Best regards,

Paul Youd (Course Tutor)

You will need to bring:
Several tea towels, both to cover your dough whilst it's proving and to wrap any warm bread in to take home.
Something to carry away the finished products (a large basket or cardboard box lined with tea towels would be ideal)
Mug for hot drinks
Sourdough container (if you’re interested in this)

You can also bring the following items – but they’re not essential:
Kitchen timer (if you have one)
Set of measuring spoons
Any favourite cooking utensil – sharp knife/scissors are always useful
Your favourite baking tray
Your favourite weighscales

Wednesday, 13 November 2013


There was a request on Mumsnet for advice about making pizzas with a kids club.

Since I make bread with kids all the time, I responded with some tips - which I thought might be handy for anyone else in that situation. So here's my reply:

That's exactly what I'll be doing tomorrow morning - and it's what I did last year at this children's centre.

Only we've got just 90 minutes instead of two hours! [smile]

Some tips:
Plain old cheese and tomato topping is fine;
Use fresh yeast if you can get it - Sainsbugs will sell it to you for 60p for 200g (at the bakery counter). The bread rises faster, I find, than when using dried yeast;
Use a dessertspoon of yeast (teaspoon if using dried). (Both will dissolve quickly in the lukewarm water - fresh quicker than dried.) The more yeast you use, the quicker the bread will rise.
Place the rolled out pizzas on some baking parchment before adding topping;
Nick off a piece of dough to form an identifying initial or number. If you look carefully at the pizzas on my blog you'll see an initial on each of them;
Accept as much help as you can get - many hands make light work and all that;
Don't forget to allow for clearing up time afterwards;
Have some scissors to snip a piece of pizza off for the kids to sample - easier than a p/cutter.
Don't forget bags to take the rest home! 

Please don't stress about it - you'll have a great time, and so will the kids! I'm never sure who gets more out of these sessions, me or the kids!

Feel free to come back to me if you need more info. I'd encourage anyone to get involved in teaching cookery to kids.

Best wishes

I post on several food forums and I'm always surprised a the disparity between the expertise shown on show and the

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

A 'must-listen-to' lecture on 'schools in the cloud' by Prof. Sugata Mitra

Part of BBC Radio Three's 'Freethinking' series.

"Educational researcher Sugata Mitra is the winner of the 2013 TED Prize. His wish: Build a School in the Cloud, where children can explore and learn from one another."


Absolutely fascinating!

Friday, 1 November 2013


Alex with his fancy dinner rolls. As can be seen by the identification number  10 (top right), Alex was my 10th customer. His sister Holly also made a batch of rolls.
Sunday 27th October 2013
Just a quick note to say that the day went well - I was told the fair had been a resounding success and that mine had been the busiest stall of them all - out of about 15-20 stalls altogether.

I had a total of 25 customers: one was a real expert, one or two had made bread before and several had breadmaking machines - but mostly they were complete beginners. They were of all ages from 3 to over 80 and there was a 50-50 split between women and men.

I gave them a choice of a simple, quick soda bread, which would take about 15 minutes, or a batch of fancy dinner rolls or freeform shapes, which would be ready after about 30 minutes. Once again the choice was half and half.

The recipes we were following:
Soda bread
1 mug self raising flour (this contains the right amount of raising agent)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3rd mug water
(Cost around 5p)

Bread rolls

1 mug strong bread flour 
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3rd mug water
1 dessertspoon fresh yeast (this is a lot, I know, but it meant the bread rose quickly)
(Cost 9 or 10p)

Saturday, 26 October 2013


Friday 18th April

Saturday 8th Feb - Oscar is now 5 months old and beginning the weaning process:

Here he is enjoying a banana with his mum and dad.

Thursday 24th October 2013
Just returned from a wonderful visit with Oscar - and his parents, of course! :)

He's into his 8th week now, and visibly changing almost every day. 8lb at birth, he's now 12lb - and absolutely thriving, as these pics will show:

Sunday 13th October 2013

Granddad and grandson

This next sequence was taken over several minutes whilst Oscar was waking up after his sleep:

And here he is having a conversation with his mum. 

Sunday 29th September

Here's Oscar with my son, his uncle Ben:

Thursday 5th Sept 2013
Now we know - it's Oscar Charles, just hours old.

Monday 2nd Sept 2013
I'd like to announce that our wonderful daughter has just - less than an hour ago - given birth to a bouncing baby boy!

Her lovely husband called us with the news about an hour ago.

She went into the birthing pool, in Basingstoke Hospital, around 10pm yesterday, and we received the call just after 1.00 this morning. So the labour must have been about 3 hours or less!

Mother and baby are both doing well - in fact, the baby is now feeding!

The baby has still to be weighed - and there are no names yet.

I'll post these details as soon as they become available - hopefully with a pic.

We now have 4 grandchildren - 2 boys and 2 girls! How neat is that?

I started making bread (this is a breadmaking blog, after all!) earlier and earlier with each grandchild, so I reckon I'll have this new baker - I mean baby - I'll have this baby playing with dough by about 4-5 months old. And kneading dough by about a year old!

3rd Sept
As promised, here are some pics of the babe (no names, yet, but we live in hope!) who is, by common consent, the Most Beautiful Grandson in the world!

These were taken at about 14 hours old

Talk about fingers and thumbs…However, the reason I'm posting this pic is to show that my son in law had his chest waxed - so that he could maximise skin to skin contact. Respect!

3.64kg - 8lbs exactly! Probably the most embarrassing pic he'll ever have taken!
He's now 48 hours old and is a happy, healthy baby - with two loving parents, he's got every advantage going - except a name!

With two wonderful parents (not to mention 4 great grandparents), he doesn't yet realise just how lucky he is - and how lucky we all are!

After 3 days deliberation, we now know!

Can't wait to get to know you properly over the coming years, Oscar Charles!