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, 21 February 2017

VEGANISM: Reason Nr. 1 - Animal welfare

(There are two other good reasons for going vegan - Global warming and health. I shall post about these as soon as I can - and I'll link to them from here. Necessarily, some of these links cross the boundaries, but I've tried to separate them out as much as I can.)

I was a vegetarian for 2 years - for health reasons - before I transitioned into a vegan. It took me two years for the blinkers to fully come off. Prior to that I’d been a meat-eater for 63 years, with the blinkers fully in place.

There is more and more evidence emerging of the inherent cruelty involved in the livestock industry - here I'm going to present some of it. Much of it comes from the US, but we have our own tragedies over here.

"...with the number of land animals slaughtered every year reaching over 50 billion - plus incalculable numbers of sea creatures."

SWINE - a very British horror story.

And even closer to home:

Pig farm in Somerset.

And here's an overview of the meat industry.

There are some truly inspirational animal activists around - here's James Aspey, one of the most remarkable. Another is Gary Yourofsky, who is perhaps more 'in your face'. (Video starts 20 mins in - you'll need to slide it back to the beginning.)

Here are the top 10 vegan documentaries - each one with its own trailer.

There's more - much more. Do your own research. If you still want to eat meat and meat products after wading through all these links - then please don't call yourself an animal lover!

Monday, 20 February 2017


There are several dishes that can be made with just self-raising flour and water - and here are the ones I've posted so far.

Finally, I've got around to adding dumplings to this list - and, once again, they are simple to make, cheap - and surprisingly good!

Today, I had a rich vegetable sauce simmering on the stove, and I thought it's time I made the effort!

So I took a heaped dessertspoonful of self-raising flour, added a pinch of salt, 2 or 3 dessertspoons of water, and mixed it into a dough. This I kneaded for a couple of seconds, formed it into a ball and dropped it into the hot, bubbling sauce.

It had been in the sauce a minute or two before I took the pic, and it had already grown a little
Six or seven minutes later, I looked at it again.

Doubled in size
After about 10 more minutes I turned it over in the sauce - and left it for a further 20 minutes. Then I took it out and, with difficulty because it was very soft, sliced it in half...

It was light and fluffy - everything you'd want from a dumpling!
I should have made more - in the end, to bulk out the dumpling I tore pieces off a quarter of a soda bread I'd made earlier, and simmered them in the sauce.

Next time I do that, I'll make sure I add sufficient water, because the soda bread soaked up all the liquid - and my lovely sauce was nearly burnt!

I don't think these dumplings require measurements - but for those of you who don't agree with me, here's the recipe:

1 mug or 200g self raising flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/3rd mug or 125ml water

1. You'll need a stew of some kind to cook these in! :)

2. Place the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl, add the water and begin mixing with a table knife or similar.

3. Mix together into a soft dough, stirring and cutting through the dough as it forms, adding more flour or water as needed. 

4. Keep the dough as soft as possible - even a little sticky, since they're going into a liquid, after all.

5. Divide the dough into 8 or 10 or 12 pieces - depending on how big you want them - and form into balls a bit smaller than the size of a golf ball - then place these gently into your stew.

6. Make sure there is enough liquid in your stew to carry the dumplings. Turn them over after about 6-7 minutes. They'll be ready about 20 minutes after going into the stew.

Ring the changes with these - make them with half and half white and wholemeal flour. If you don't have self-raising wholemeal flour, add a teaspoon of baking powder at the rate of 1 teaspoon to 100g of flour.

Add herbs and spices to the flour to pep them up a bit.

I posted this recipe on Mumsnet, and AmberLeaf responded:

"You should try Jamaican dumplings, plain flour and water, sometimes cornmeal [fine] 50/50 with the plain flour."

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

VEGAN CHOCOLATE CAKE - How easy is this?

[12th November 2012. There's a doubled-up recipe + pics at the foot of this post.]

The recipe:

Vegan chocolate cake

175g sugar
25g cocoa powder
175g self raising flour
75g vegetable oil - or unsweetened apple puree
250g water

Measure the sugar and the cocoa powder, and mix them together. The sharp edges of the granulated sugar breaks up the clumps of cocoa powder, so sieving is not necessary. Add the flour and mix, then add the oil and water. Stir, initially with a dessertspoon, and then with a whisk, and pour into a prepared 20cm (8") cake tin.

Bake at 175C for 30-35 minutes.

Or: Use a silicon cake form and place in the microwave (800w) for 6 minutes. In my experience, not only do you get a quicker cake, but the cake rises about 25% higher in the microwave.

(It's also possible to make an excellent gluten-free version of this cake.)

The story:

Anybody who's taken a look at some of the bread conversations I've had on here will know I'm not a cake maker - bread's my thing.

Whenever anyone asks me if I make cakes I always tell them there isn't time - there's always another bread I haven't made yet!

However, it was the birthday of both my daughter and my son-in-law this week, and there are bound to be plenty of cakes when we meet up tomorrow. And none of them will be vegan.

Apart, that is, from the one I've just made!

I followed this recipe here:

And tweaked it slightly.

It was a bit of a faff, since each step is on a separate page - unless you sign up, which I didn't want to do. And it's in cups, which I've weighed off into gms for the next time I make it - which I will.

166g s/raising flour
30g cocoa powder
198g sugar
1/2 tsp salt
80g sunolive oil
250g water
2 tsps vanilla extract

Stir the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients, mix together and pour into 2 18cm (7") lined cake tins. (I placed 354g of batter in each tin.)

Bake at 175C for 20 minutes.

Here's the cakes as they came out of the oven:

I shall sandwich the cake with the vegan chocolate spread I made yesterday:

And probably spread a bit on top - just to finish it off!

Update, Sunday 31st July:

As I said I would, I 'iced' the cake with a little chocolate spread.

And it went down very well, I must say - much better than I thought it would. My mother-in-law said loudly, "But it's actually very nice!". Everyone at the party who had a taste thought it was lovely and moist - and I had to answer several queries as to the recipe and how it was made.

This was undoubtedly a success - and it's now firmly in my repertoire. This from a guy who'd only ever made one cake in the last 20 years prior to this!  

I'm beginning to wonder if we've been conned all these years into thinking that cakes naturally have to contain eggs and butter (or marge)? Clearly, they don't!

I have asked all my friends on Wildfood for  their opinion. There's a variety of opinions on there with some agreeing with me.

I decided to forgo the salt and the vanilla:  I never use salt in my sweet bread recipes, and I see no place for it here; I couldn't detect any vanilla flavour, but others may.

3 days later. I ate the last remnants of the cake - and it was as moist and lush as when it had just been made. I did think of seeing if it would keep into a 4th day - but who keeps chocolate cake for four days?

(Well, my mother might - she used to extol the virtues of her madeira cake - "It'll keep for a fortnight!" she used to announce to all and sundry. And every time we went home and we were served cake, she felt she had to make good her claim. The damn cake was always well over a week old! In every other respect she was a decent cook. Well, I suppose we all have a chink in our armour!)

3rd November.
After telling my colleagues at my Thursday care home about my cake-making, I was prevailed upon to make one for the residents.

Since we needed a large cake, I doubled up the recipe:
330g s/raising flour
60g cocoa powder
400g sugar
160g sunflower oil
500g water

I left out the salt - decided it wasn't necessary - and the vanilla extract  - didn't have any, and didn't miss either of them! The cake, took about 35 minutes to cook.

I have to admit I was pretty bowled over by the size and appearance of the cake when it came out of the oven:

If you're going to make a cake - may as well make a big one!

That's Melissa's hand applying the chocolate icing
10th November.
The cake tin for last week's cake was borrowed from the care home next door - but this time it was decided we should make fairy cakes:

The doubled up recipe actually made 2 dozen of these. Thought at first we hadn't put enough batter in each one 

But when they came out of their cases and were iced - the size was just right! OK, the icing's not very neat - but that didn't affect the taste one iota!
Friday 16th December.
I've been making this cake weekly since I began - and today I made a chocolate log with it:

The cake was too thick so I knew it would split. But using the hints I picked up from Eric Lanlard last weekend (cut off the first 2 cm from the edge you're starting to roll from and place it on the edge if the cake and roll up around it) and those I received from Jemma the chef at Longrun (trim the side of the cake - this is where it gets crisp and prevents even rolling), we managed it.

Next time I'll divide the batter between two Swiss roll tins - and then it won't split! To keep it vegan it was spread with jam. I need a vegan filling for next time.

Monday 26th December.
Wanted to make a couple of Yule logs for the family - but I'm far away from my scales, so I did these with the original cup measurements in the link above.

I used a coffee mug to measure with and made enough to fill two Swiss roll tins and make three large cup cakes.

One was filled with sweet chestnut puree (the puree was mixed with some sugar and soya cream) and the other was consumed as it was - everyone thoroughly enjoyed it.

I'm planning to cover the cake with melted chocolate. I'll post a pic when I do.

Monday, 6 February 2017

FUNDRAISING FOR YMCA AND TAH (Taunton Association for the Homeless)

Wednesday 10th August 2016
Final total raised was £850 - meaning £425 went to support the homeless in Taunton, and £425 went to the YMCA roof fund in Taunton.

Wednesday 13th July 2016
This morning I was invited in to BBC Radio Somerset, where I gave two interviews on the Breakfast Show. In the first (02:04 into the show), lasting about 5 minutes, I was given the opportunity to explain the background to my challenge - and I was also given the chance to outline the part Intermittent Fasting (5:2 diet) had played in my overall fitness.

Then, later on (at 2:25 on that link), I was brought back on to show the announcer, Claire Carter, how to do a proper press up - by lying on the floor and pushing yourself up. As you'll hear, under my guidance, she managed her first ever!

Press ups on the radio - it doesn't get any more rock and roll than that! :)

Shortly after this I went over the road to the lawn in front of County Hall where they filmed me in action.

Previously... [I've done it! Just completed 1175 press ups in one hour. Update at foot of post.]
On Friday the 1st of July I shall attempt to complete 1000 press ups in under one hour. I'm asking for sponsors to contribute 1 penny per press up - but, of course, I'll accept any contribution, no matter how small.

Here's my Just Giving page, where anyone interested can donate.

Initially my goal was to raise £300, but I feel I can do better than that, so I've increased my target to £600. 

Here's the story of how all this came about.

Just over 4 years ago I started Intermittent Fasting (IF) after reading about it helping to keep prostate cancer at bay. I joined a forum on Mumsnet devoted to IF and I’ve been practicing 5:2 ever since, losing 24lbs in the process. I’m now doing 6:1 for maintenance.

Two and a half years ago, I was encouraged, on an associated Mumsnet thread, to take up home-based exercises - and learned how to do a proper pushup. The ethos of the thread is that you should keep pushing yourself to see what you can accomplish.

This is a post from the thread last November:

Someone, can't think where, recently mentioned 1000 press ups in a day. I was idly musing on this with the YMCA manager, Keith, saying that it was an achievable goal for sometime in the future. He perked up his ears and said that could be a fundraiser - "78-year-old bloke does 1000 press ups in a day.

So that’s where the challenge came from.

TBH, I’m amazed at how quick my progress has been. If it tells me anything, it tells me we’re all capable of doing more than we think.

I put my fitness down to three things - first of all, the amount of extra energy I get from regularly practicing Intermittent Fasting - IF; secondly, body weight exercises and HIIT; and thirdly, the fact that I’ve been a vegan for the past 13 or so years.  

I'm actually well on course to beat my target with just under three weeks to go. 1000 press ups in an hour requires an average of 17 every minute. And initially I thought I'd go for 20 every minute for the first 300 or so, then drop down to 17 a minute, finishing on 14 a minute. But, the more I trained, the more I realised that I can manage 20 a minute for the full hour. And to make sure I'm really comfortable with 20 a minute, I'm currently doing 25 a minute. Yesterday I did 500 in under 20 minutes.

Tuesday 14th June 
Tonight I had a full dress rehearsal - I completed 1200 press ups in 59mins 20 seconds. I did this in sets of 20 every minute - and I felt fine, but the last 3 or 4 of each set, once I'd reached 1000, were hard. But I know that those are the ones which will improve my performance, so I didn't mind too much. From now on until the day of the challenge, I intend to train on every 3rd day, doing 25 every minute - probably up to 200 or so - but I'll see how I go.

Friday 1st July
Well, I did it! 1175 pushups in one hour - witnessed by YMCA staff and a Somerset County Gazette reporter!

I intended to do sets of 20 pushups every minute, on the minute, aiming for 1200 - but there was a bit of slippage somewhere, since I ran out of time. :(

I can't deny I found the last couple of press ups of each set were getting tougher as I neared my goal; but still, each set averaged out at around 16-17 seconds. 

And I can't deny that I got my body lower at the beginning of the exercise than I managed towards the end!

But, all in all, I'm very happy! :)

If anyone wishes to help me celebrate my achievement, my Just Giving page link is towards the top of this post.