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.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Teaching breadmaking - and other things

Since I took up teaching at the age of 55 - and never thought I could be a teacher before that - I'm of the opinion that there are many others who could teach, given the opportunity.

So this part of my blog is aimed at those cooks, not necessarily bread makers, who think they have something of value they'd like to pass on to others.

I was trained as a teacher of adults, but I've sort of drifted into teaching families (parents and children) - and a large part of my teaching is with Adults with Learning Disabilities and Difficulties.

My teaching style is relaxed, non-judgmental, welcoming. [Carl Rodgers]

Always at the back of my mind when I'm teaching is my early training as a teacher of adults, when we examined the many 'barriers to learning' that hold a lot of adults back from returning to education.

So I try and make the learning situation as friendly and as relaxed as possible.

(I'll add to this as I get time.)

Worksheet for a Family Centre session

Welcome to the wonderful world of breadmaking
Morning everyone! With the help of your child, you are going to make a ‘sizzler’ (a bit like a wrap), and playdough – out of which we’ll make a house and other things.
Session aims: To show you just how easy and satisfying it is to make bread; how much fun you can have making bread with your child; how little home-made bread costs; and how healthy and full of flavour home-made bread is!
Please note:
• This is a fun session for you both, so you can relax and enjoy yourselves
• Let your child do as much as possible – only step in if your child is too young to do the task we’ve set for her. Or you could do the activity together, like mixing the dough hand over hand
• Give your child time to react to any request or instruction – it takes a little while for it to sink in
Labels: Everyone needs a large name label: if I’m busy with someone else, come and help yourself. Please write in large letters so I can read it from a distance!
One batch of dough:
300g strong white flour
1 rounded dessertspoon of fresh yeast
200ml lukewarm water
Method: Crumble the yeast into a jug and add water up to 200ml. Stir and add to the flour. Mix into a soft, squishy dough. Knead the dough (flatten and fold) just until it is smooth. Divide the dough into three pieces and put two to one side. Cut the other into 2 pieces.
For the sizzlers : Sliced tomatoes or mushrooms and grated cheese
Demo from Paul
Shape and put to prove. (Put your child’s initials, made out of dough, on top of one of the sizzlers – then we can re-unite you with your own bread!)
Now the playdough (if you run out, just let me know):
  • Here’s a few ideas for different shapes. Put them on a sheet of baking paper as they’re shaped:
  • ‘House’ bread: roll out the dough, cut out a triangle and a square and form a house shape. Cut out holes for windows and put a boiled sweet in the hole. Make doors and a chimney from the trimmings..
  • Teddy bears, made with different size balls of dough – one large for the tummy and five small ones – rolled out a bit for the arms and legs. Your child will decide where eyes, mouth, buttons, etc, will go.
  • Little person – roll out a piece of dough like a sausage, slit one end for the legs, make two diagonal slits halfway up for the arms and two little cuts for the head. Tuck in the head to make it neater. Make little balls of dough for eyes, etc.
  • Snake bread: Roll out a piece of dough to about 15cm long and coil it on the baking tray. Use little balls of dough for the eyes. Make a little tongue and slit the end.
  • Hedgehog rolls. Make an oval roll and point one end for the nose. Use little balls of dough for the eyes. From behind, snip spikes with a pair of scissors held at about a 30-degree angle.
  • Caterpillars – small balls of dough placed next to one another with a larger one for the head
  • And of course you can invent your own shapes!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Grandchildren and breadmaking

Collected the youngsters, Alfie, 4, Olivia, 6 and Phoebe, 8, on Sunday, to stay with us for a few days over the half term.

Yesterday morning we decided to make some bread – pizzas for dinner were on the agenda, plus assorted other stuff.

In the event, Alfie made a sweet dough and the girls each made a plain dough.

1 mug bread flour - 1 dessertspoon sugar (for the sweet dough – nothing for the savoury dough) - 1/3 mug water - 1 tsp fresh yeast

Alfie made half a dozen pains au chocolat (a la Elizabeth David – not the unpleasant [to my taste] croissant variety). Phoebe made four doughnuts and a small pasty with the rest of the sweet dough. 2 containing (her idea) a glace cherry and chocolate spread, 1 with a glace cherry and apple sauce, and one containing all three ingredients.

I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed the cherry and chocolate one!

After much playing with the dough (the original playdough!), Olivia produced a ‘snake pizza’ which looked more like a rabbit, Phoebe made a cheese and tomato pizza, and I made one with Pateole spread and vegan pesto.

(Can see I’m going to have to work harder at this if I’m going to blog about every bit of breadmaking I do…)

Friday, 12 February 2010

Beginners, start here…

Breadmaking is seen as a scary thing for some people, but all my teaching is geared towards removing that fear and showing it to be the simple cooking tool that it is.

The fact is, that if you mix flour, lukewarm water and yeast together – you  *cannot* stop your bread from rising!

All my recipes follow the same path – and they all follow three simple breadmaking rules.

The three simple rules which you should bear in mind when making bread are:

1. Use strong, breadmaking flour – look for the words ‘strong’ or ‘bread’ on the packet. Plain flour will work in an emergency, and a mixture of strong and plain will work fine.
2. Use lukewarm (hand hot) water, and don’t put your dough anywhere too hot. Forget airing cupboards and radiators, the bread will rise on your worktop.
3. Give your bread time to rise after its final shaping and before it goes into the oven. White bread will double in size – a pizza base should look puffy compared to when you rolled it out.

And that’s it!

There’s also a couple of things to bear in mind, but aren’t rules as such:

1. Make sure your dough is soft and squishy – never be afraid to add more water whilst you’re mixing the dough.
2. If you have the slightest doubt whether your bread is done or not, put it back in the oven for a few more minutes. Look for colour on the bottom of your bread.

Yeast: Whatever yeast you’re using – fresh, active dried (comes in a tin) or easyblend (comes in sachets), treat them all the same.

Mix the yeast in the lukewarm water until dissolved, then add it straight into the flour.

As a general rule, use half as much dried yeast as fresh – so if the recipe says a dessertspoon of fresh yeast, use a teaspoon of dried.

But don’t worry too much about the amount of yeast you use: the more yeast you use, the faster your bread will rise; the less you use, the longer it will take.

A bread dough made with 400g (2 mugs) of flour will make a medium-sized loaf, about 8 bread rolls, two or three pizzas or 8 sizzlers (wraps, really) – or any other savoury bread you can think of!

I want to use this blog to demonstrate just how easy and accessible home breadmaking can be (is)!

Breadmaking is far easier than pastrymaking, and the dough is much more forgiving. What's more, virtually anything that can be made with pastry can be made with a bread dough – which can be completely fat free!

Apart from all this, there are several other reasons for making your own bread:

It's a lot cheaper - a 1.5kg bag of own-brand white flour, which will make three large loaves, currently costs around 70-80p. A 25cm (10") cheese and tomato pizza can be made for around 70p. And you can make a small batch of Chelsea buns for the price of one in a baker's shop.

It's healthier. You control the quality of the food you feed your family. Check out the number of ingredients on a wrapped sliced loaf.

It's more convenient than buying your bread - one of my students, who lives about 300 yards from a large supermarket told me she thought it was quicker to knock up a batch of rolls rather than nip to the supermarket.

At home you can make many different varieties of breads that you cannot even buy – or are very expensive to buy in the shops.

If you'd rather have organic bread it's much cheaper to make your own. If you want bread without salt, you have to make it yourself. The only way to make breads like pane casereccio (filled with Italian sausage and Gruyere), tarte Alsace* (a thin dough covered with creme fraiche, then thinly sliced onions then lardons of bacon – or slices of mushroom and tomato) is to make them yourself.

*Recipe to come

It's very enjoyable, dammit! It's fun to make your own bread - it's very satisfying to see a batch of terrific-smelling, great-looking bread come out of the oven. You get a sense of achievement you cannot get with any other branch of cooking (IMO!) (But beware – it can become very addictive.)

And if you're around kids, it's lovely to share the experience with them. Kids and breadmaking just go so well together.