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.

Friday, 16 December 2011

My Daily Bread (3)

This is the third post with this title. The first, begun in February, was fairly long - and the second, begun in May, was even longer.

In future I shall try to start a fresh post once a month.

In these posts I chronicle my daily breadmaking 'adventures'. In truth they mainly detail the various breads I make in a working week - and those I make at home. But occasionally,  as in the wood-fired oven pizza events I run occasionally, or the Occupy Bristol workshop I held this week, it truly is an adventure - in that I'm never sure how these things are going to pan out.

I try - but don't always succeed - to link to the recipe of any bread I mention on this thread. But 99% of the time, if you put the name of the bread in the 'Search this blog' box, you'll be directed to the recipe.

(To keep this post on the top of the page, I shall date it a week or so in advance.)

Tuesday 6th December.
Breadmaking at Williton today I was introduced to a  bread I'd never come across before, called a 'Manchip'. One of the students, Diane, was kind enough to bring in enough for everyone. This bread is apparently indigenous to Bridgwater, because I can find it nowhere else (google all you like!):

As you can see, it's a layered bread a bit like a croissant, but straight, about 15-18 cms long, and with jam running through the middle. It's finished with sugar sprinkled over the top.
Monday 5th December.
Taster session at the hostel for the homeless in preparation for a course I'll be running in January.

I met one of the guys who'd attended my course at the hostel earlier in the year - Brian. He told me he'd been making bread in the hostel ever since. In fact he'd made all the bread for a reception for the mayor the previous week. The guests were under the impression that the bread had been brought in, but Brian had made it all!

The session was a taster session, offering pizzas and other breads, and we had quite a good response. In the end we made:

Chelsea buns and petit pain au chocolat:

 And croissants:

Here's hoping for a good turnout when I do a couple of sessions in February (would be January, but the kitchen is having a complete refurb).

Sunday 4th December.
I've loads to add - but this is the main event - The Taste of Christmas Show.

Thursday 1st December.
Used the first session today practicing for Sunday's competition - trying to work out whether walnuts or almonds are best; or if cinnamon works better than mixed spice. Didn't come to any firm conclusions one way or another.

So we made 4 celebration loaves - and one batch of Marmite grissini, for Sarah, who much prefers savoury to sweet!

One loaf was half-eaten before I could take a pic! The closest one could have come out of the oven a couple of minutes earlier!
In the afternoon Matt made a celebration loaf - but with curry. Guy and Will made ring doughnuts, but I forgot to take a pic of these. Eric made this:
The now obligatory chocolate cake - with Melissa applying the icing
Tuesday 29th November.
Had a phone call this morning to say that the new student - Samantha - wouldn't be joining us at Williton this afternoon. A house move had suddenly got in the way. We might get to meet if I run a course in Bridgwater next year.

The session went well, with students making pizzas, sizzlers, jam doughnuts and a chocolate and banana loaves.

It's very noticeable how much more relaxed students are about the process of making bread - I just write the ingredients on the board, and the students go ahead and make their dough. They're no longer beginners.

Monday 28th November.
I was told the finalists for the Taste of Christmas event would be informed by noon today - so I was keeping an eye on my inbox up until about 3 - by which time I'd given up.

However, when I checked about half an hour ago - I was given this message:

Dear Baker

Congratulations! You have been selected as one of the shortlisted entrants into the Taste of Christmas Best Cake in Show Competition!

So I need to get myself and my entry to ExCel, London, by 12 noon on Sunday. My daughter will accompany me (I get two free tickets) so I'll stay overnight with her in Basingstoke and travel up in the morning.
I was going to start my preparations tonight by soaking the apricots in Benedictine - but there's not enough left in the bottle. I'll have to get some more tomorrow. I'll also pick up some good quality sultanas, mixed peel and also some angelica. One thing I won't do this time is include any Benedictine in the liquid for the loaf - and I'll make sure I fold the fruit in very carefully!

Sunday 27th November.

I've been asked to contribute a Christmas recipe to this 'Taste of Christmas, Best in Show' event, judged by Eric Lanlard. I only noticed this evening that the competition closed at midnight tonight - so I've just sent my entry off.

It won't surprise anyone that I've gone for my Christmas loaf:

I'm not sure I did the loaf justice - you've only got 50 words to describe it, and I was a bit rushed. Still, we'll see.

It'll certainly disrupt my plans for next weekend if I make the shortlist! :)

But I'm not holding my breath!

Saturday 26th November.
Made pizzas for dinner - a potato pizza for my wife, and a vegan one for myself.

Friday 25th November.
Finally made the yum yums this morning in my Family Learning group (Barry was very pleased!), along with cheese and tomato pizzas.

Thursday 24th November.
Made a variety of breads today: In the first session at the care home we made two rosemary focaccias, a couple of pizzas and a ciabatta:


...and after. I'm always surprised by how much a ciabatta rises
Whenever I make a ciabatta I wonder why I don't make them more often. It really is an easy bread to make.

In the afternoon we made the now obligatory chocolate cake and a variation on a theme by Matt:

Curried grape and glace cherry bread - plus a vegan chocolate cake. (I  know which I'd rather have!)
 - plus a chocolate schiacciata con l'uva. (No pic I'm afraid.) 

Tuesday 22nd November.To Williton this afternoon for the second session of this 5-week course. Made a variety of focaccias, pain au chocolat and iced buns.

Saturday 19th November.
Lovely weather encouraged me to fire up the chiminea again - first time for a while. I have it down to a fine art, now - 4 pizzas within an hour and 20 minutes, start to finish. (Story and pics here.)

I really need to be more organised to utilise the heat after I've finished making pizzas. As it was I just cooked about five large potatoes in there for future use. Next time I'll make sufficient dough to follow up the pizzas with a focaccia or similar.

Friday 18th November.
Family Learning session - second week in. Loaves of bread and Pudsey bear bread:

Went everywhere for the Pudsey Bear cutter, finally found one in Lakeland

100s and 1000s, chocolate chips and - marshmallows. All we had to decorate Pudsey with

Made with a simple sweetened bread dough,

Thursday 17th November.
Spent the first session making different Pudsey Bear shapes practicing for Children in Need. Only three students in my second session - Eric made a vegan chocolate cake, guy made some currant buns and Matt - well, Matt made some interesting shapes

Here's Matt with his sweetened curry bread cutting out shapes and sandwiching grapes in between!
Once again, that's Mel applying the finishing touches to the cake
Spent Thursday evening perfecting the Pudsey Bear recipe - and failing to send the details off in time
! :(

Wednesday 16th November.
One-off Family Learning breadmaking session at Hamp Recreation Centre (instead of Hamp Primary School - they didn't have a classroom big enough for the 36 participants!) this afternoon. 17 families with 19 children - and each child made a batch of fancy dinner rolls. 

It was a thoroughly enjoyable session. At the start I asked everyone who thought breadmaking was easy - or difficult?
A couple of families - whose mothers both made bread - said they thought it was easy. The rest were either unsure or thought it was difficult.

After each family (with the children doing most of the work) had made a batch of rolls - and fancy shapes, I asked the question again, "Who thinks breadmaking is easy?" and received a unanimous "Yes!" from the group.

Here's some pics of the results:

Tuesday 15th November
First session of the Williton Course this afternoon. Seven new students (should have had 9, but only had 7) who all made a soda bread (either plain or spicy fruit) and some fancy dinner rolls.

Monday 14th November.
Busy week ahead:
Coffee morning tomorrow - but have to leave early as I begin a 5-week 'Breadmaking made easy' course at Williton at 1.00pm - and it's about 15 miles away.
Wednesday morning my friend Paul is coming round to help me set up my new (2nd-hand) MacBook - which means I'll finally be able to watch iPlayer, YouTube, etc, which my current computer won't allow me to view!
Wednesday afternoon I have a one-off session of Family Learning at Hamp Primary School - breamaking with an emphasis on numeracy. I've just been told the session has been moved to the nearby Hamp Recreation Centre since the numbers are too great for the classroom. 
17 families have signed up - that's 34 participants! I will have two support workers for the session so it'll be do-able. I'll need to take my ovens to supplement the commercial oven they have at the centre.
Following this I have my annual review with my line manager!
In the evening I'm giving a talk about Atheism/Humanism to a group of Christians! The title of their monthly meetings is 'No holds barred', so it should be extremely interesting!
Then on Thursday and Friday I have my usual care home and primary school sessions.

Friday 11th November.
Began a new Family Learning class today - 2 mothers and 2 fathers, which is great! Each family made 2 soda breads - one plain and one spicy, fruit loaf.

One of the fathers had previously done the course with another of his children - when asked what breads we should make on the subsequent weeks of  the course, his response was emphatic, "Yum yums!"he said, and told the others just how tasty these were. So that's what we're doing next week, along with loaves of bread.

Thursday 10th November.
In the first session in my weekly care home, wishing to practice my new-found skills, we made - parathas! I took along some more curried lentil and potato for the filling and they turned out rather well. We used a stock cube instead of salt in the dough to give more flavour. And, as Emma (one of more support workers) said, a little curry powder in the dough would be good!

As I've said before, I think, Emma and I have worked together in my breadmaking sessions in various care homes over the past 18 years. She's only recently taken up breadmaking seriously - and last week, for her 4-year-olds birthday she made some smiley-faced pizzas and some crackers, which drew serious plaudits from her guests, I'm told!

These were done in the oven rather than a frying pan - and, as the sliced open one indicates, they could have been rolled out flatter and contained more filling. Having said that, I had a couple for lunch and they were very jolly tasty! 
In the afternoon session, once again I was prevailed upon to make chocolate cake - this time making 2 doz chocolate fairy cakes (vegan, of course!):

Wednesday 9th November.
Visited Occupy Bristol today. This was the day I'd been planning for for the past few days - and I had a ball, I have to say. The occupiers made me very welcome - and I left feeling as though I was leaving old friends. I shall have to go back, I think!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Cheese and onion slices

Cheese twists at the top, and cheese slices at the bottom
1 mug (200g) strong white flour
1 teaspoon bouillon powder
1 tsp mixed herbs
1/3 mug (125ml) lukewarm water
1 teaspoon yeast, fresh or dried
1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)

1 medium onion, chopped and gently fried
100g grated Cheddar cheese

1. Place the flour and salt in a mixing bowl, measure the water and stir in the fresh yeast. Pour the yeast liquid in with the flour, then add the olive oil if using.

2. Have a little water to hand to add if necessary, remember, it is better for your dough to be wetter (slack) rather than drier (tight). Begin to mix by stirring the ingredients together with a knife (or use your fingers), cutting through the dough as it forms. When it gets too stiff for the knife, use your hand to squeeze the mixture together. As it forms into a solid mass, keep turning it over and pressing it down to pick up the flour at the bottom of the bowl – but make sure it stays soft. Don’t be afraid to add more water to keep it soft! When all the flour has been mixed in, wipe the bowl around with the dough, turn it out onto the worktop and begin to knead.

3. Knead by flattening the dough out, folding it over and flattening it again. Knead until the dough becomes smooth – and then stop before you get fed up!

4. Cover with a dry tea towel and leave for an hour or so – or go straight ahead.

5. Divide the dough into 2 pieces and form each piece gently into a cob shape. Have plenty of flour to hand and liberally scatter flour over the dough and worktop. With a rolling pin, roll each piece of dough into a circle around 20cm across. As soon as the dough becomes hard to roll, put it to one side and work on another piece. Dough made with strong flour resists this process, but after a 'rest' it's possible to work it a little more. Place one piece – the base – on your baking sheet.

6. Mix the onions and grated cheese together and spread over the base. Place the other circle of dough on top and divide it into 9 pieces as if you were about to play noughts and crosses – but not cutting all the way through. (Cut twice one way and twice the other.)

7. Leave it to prove until the dough has become puffy at the edges and place in a hot oven, 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for 15-20 minutes. When it’s done the bread will lift up all along one side when you check underneath, using a palette knife. The bottom should be browning from the edges.
Fry the onion with a teaspoon of curry powder

Friday, 9 December 2011

'Taste of Christmas' at the ExCel 2011

Finally, I can relate what happened at the "Taste of Christmas"event on Sunday. 

On the day we – my daughter and I – arrived at the ExCel around 1020, after leaving Basingstoke on the 8.44 to Waterloo. Thoroughly enjoyed the trip on the Jubilee line and the Docklands Light Railway – both were quite impressive. We signed in and received our tickets at the box office and submitted the loaf at the press office near where the judging was to take place:

This was my offering - freshly baked on Saturday evening.
A few of the entries - mine is in the box 
Very disappointed with how it turned out - the shine had completely gone - and I'd given it several coats of sugar glaze

These were the cakes that were sampled - the rest - 20 or so - remained on the shelf.  The actual winner (we found out later when it was too late to take a proper photo!:( ) is the one right at the back - decorated with what looked like mango skins. 

The rest of these pics are of the cakes that were left on the shelf

Eric Lanlard was the judge of the cake competition (more of him later). He told us that, to him, appearance is 50% of the taste. This is obviously very subjective - witness the cakes Eric chose on the day and those he left behind. I can well see why mine didn't get through, but I'm less sure about some of the others.

The first demonstration was at 11.00, so we had a quick look around. We soon found ourselves in 'Chocolate Alley' - every stall seemed to be flogging chocolate - and none of it was cheap. However, the samples were very acceptable, and there was quite a few Vegan chocolates for me to try. I found one chilli chocolate which was vegan, Fairtrade and very, very spicy, so it ticked all my boxes. My daughter bought me a large bar of this - which I won't see for 3 weeks, since I'm to get it for Christmas!

We strolled back for the Gary Rhodes demo and were - well, quite disappointed. In his introduction he was billed as 'The man who's originality and flair changed the face of English cooking' since his appearance on TV in 1987. Well, he showed nothing of this when he demonstrated - how to make a bread and butter pudding! The only difference that I could see between his B&B and my mother's was that he used egg yolks for the custard - and creme bruleed the top.

There was no space for questions, otherwise I would have asked him why he used bog-standard white sliced bread instead of some well-crafted bread??

Complete waste of 30 minutes, IMO!

In contrast, the patisserie chef, Eric Lanlard, was well worth his spot. He made a traditional French Yule log, with a plain sponge and a sweet chestnut spread for a filling. He took a couple of slices off the rolled up sponge and placed them on top to represent branches that had been sawn off. He then coated the sponge with melted chocolate, telling us as he did so that the chocolate should be about 60% cocoa. Chocolate at 70% or more just doesn't have the right balance between sugar and cocoa, in his book.

He was very entertaining and informative - when he was sieving the flour he said there was no need to hold the sieve up high "It won't make your cake rise any higher - sorry, Delia!" He was very insistent about the need for an oven thermometer if there was any doubt about your oven. He said that in his kitchen there were 6 identical ovens - all with different readings!

He also dismissed an old maxim about never opening the oven whilst the cake was inside, telling us that modern-day ovens hold their heat very well and your cake won't suffer.

This was something I'd suspected since I began my cake-making career. I use the oven to make bread at the same time as I'm making cakes - I'm in and out of the oven all the time - and the cakes have never sunk.

To finish off the cake Eric tarted it up with glitter for snow and managed to get a couple of (Easter?) eggs on there as well. It was an excellent demo from an entertaining, knowledgeable chef who came across as a lovely guy. Quite the opposite from the demo above!

He over-ran by a good fifteen minutes - much to the displeasure of the warm-up guy.

Between these shows we had a good wander round - my daughter tasted most things - I was sort of confined to tasting olive oil with bread (I assumed the bread was vegan), wines, rum (I had a good shot of this!) and chocolate!

However, the best stall for me was selling Creole Soda Bread which were more like cakes, really, they were simply gorgeous. I had to have one, so I bought a chocolate loaf - £4, but it was worth it! 

The stallholder told us that they used fruit juice instead of buttermilk and that this was traditional in parts of the Caribbean and the Southern US. I've not been able to find any recipes on line, but I shall have a go anyway - soon.

For lunch we found ''Damas for food' which was selling Damascan food. We each had a bread wrap containing roasted veg and falafels covered with a sesame sauce. Absolutely divine! I'd have liked another one - but I was full up!

Around 3, after the Eric Lanlard demo, we called it a day. I doubt we'd seen everything, but we'd seen enough. Before we left we found Emma some stuff from a cup cake stall which she'd been after, so she was happy. We'd had a great day and returned home tired but content - nibbling on the succulent loaf of 'bread' from Global Fusion!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Breadmaking courses

Wednesday 7th December 2011.
Just heard I'll be running another course in Williton starting 17th Jan, for 5 weeks - and then another in the summer.

In February I'll be running 2 or 3 sessions at the hostel for the homeless where I held a starter session recently, plus another 2 or 3 in the summer.

Tuesday 1st October 2010.
I shall be running two evening breadmaking courses in the Autumn term, both for the general public:

In Wellington from 22/9/10 to 20/10/10, and

In Bridgwater from 2/11/10 to 30/11/10.

I'm starting a new Family Learning course at Bishop Hull Primary School in June for 6 weeks, for 8 or 9 year 3 students and their parents.

I've also been given £200 by West Monkton Parish Council to run 3 more breadmaking sessions under the 'Breadmaking for all' banner.

These will run back to back on Saturday the 18th of September - from 10 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon.

The breads we will be making are two varieties of soda bread and a batch of Chelsea buns.

I've now started working for the Worker's Education Association, which is very exciting.

I've been asked to run 2 courses in the Autumn and Winter for Taunton Association for the Homeless. They have a new training kitchen and a small cafe. The idea ATM is that some of their products may be sold in the cafe (or at least displayed there) and when students  complete the course they would be able to help out in the cafe.

And the WEA have been given some money which must be used up by the 31st of July - so I'll be doing  5 sessions  at the Albemarle Centre in Taunton, which is a drop-in centre for Adults with Learning Disabilities.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Williton Nov 2011 Breadmaking made easy

Tuesday 6th December.
Seeded bread and Chelsea buns:

Tuesday 29th November.
7 students today, making pizzas, sizzlers, jam doughnuts and chocolate and banana loaf:

2 chocolate and banana loaves (one round and one folded calzone style) and some jam doughnuts 

Chocolate and banana bread and jam doughnuts

Cheese and tomato pizza, sizzlers and chocolate and banana bread (you can see the effect of the two elements on the top of the loaf(

Tuesday 22nd November.
Only six students today - the only man on the course, Joe, is on holiday and no new students turned up - which takes the pressure off a bit.

Focaccia, iced buns and pain au chocolat were on the menu - since I only have a few trays with a rim (necessary when baking focaccias with olive oil on top) - half the group did the loaf whilst the others did the sweet buns.

Already - only two weeks in, it's clear that everyone is becoming quite accomplished. Which is great for me - all I have to do now is to pass on a few tips and hints plus the odd technique. :)

However, I failed in a couple of aspects of these classes:
1. The session was marred by me singeing/burning Anne’s pain au chocolat and iced buns. She took it in good part, but I must pay more attention to the ovens. I’ve got 4 ovens in a row – what happens sometimes is that I’ll check the first 3, then get distracted and fail to check the fourth!

 2. And, once again I forgot to take pics! Until right at the end, when I managed to catch Jane, Anna and Mary before they'd completely packed everything away. Not sure which is Jane's and which is Anna's:

Iced buns, pain au chocolat and a rosemary and herb focaccia... above, except it's a plain focaccia

Just caught these as Mary was packing them away in her cardboard box
Next week, chocolate and banana bread, jam doughnuts, sizzlers and pizza! And maybe a new student!

Tuesday 15th November.
7 students for the first session (there were 9 in the register - one was on holiday, not sure what happened to the other one) all making soda bread and fancy dinner rolls.

Had a minor hiccup in that one of the ovens ceased to work halfway through, so we were juggling  a bit to get everything baked - but we managed it. (I take 4 small ovens around with me, which enable me to turn any classroom into a kitchen. When I brought the offending oven home and tried it again, it was back in working order.)

But I've got another lovely bunch - I shall enjoy the next few weeks.

I'm going to try and take a pic of every bread the students make, but I didn't quite manage it this time.

One fancy dinner roll and 5 blind mice! 
Fancy dinner rolls and a fruit soda bread

And another fruit soda bread
Trouble is, I always think of it too late - when the students have mostly packed their bread away.

I'll try and do better next time.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Potato and cheese pizza

200g (1 mug) strong white flour
1/4 tsp salt (optional)
125ml (1/3rd mug) lukewarm water
1 teaspoon fresh yeast, crumbled
Splash of olive oil

BBQ sauce
3 or 4 medium potatoes, sliced and cooked
100g Cheddar cheese grated
Slices of mushrooms 

1. Place flour and salt (if using) into a mixing bowl. Measure the water in the same mug and add 1 teaspoon of yeast. Stir to dissolve then add to the flour.

2. Have a little water to hand to add if necessary, remember, it is better for your dough to be wetter (slack) rather than drier (tight). Begin to mix by stirring the ingredients together with your fingers. Stir round in big circles, pulling the flour off the sides of the bowls into the middle. As it forms into a solid mass, keep turning it over and pressing it down to pick up the flour at the bottom of the bowl – but make sure it stays soft. Don’t be afraid to add more water to keep it soft! When all the flour has been mixed in, wipe the bowl around with the dough, turn it out onto the worktop and begin to knead.

3. Knead by flattening the dough out, folding it over, stretching it out and so on and so forth. Once the dough is smooth either leave it, covered with a dry tea towel, for an hour or so, or go straight to step 4.

4. Without knocking it back (that is; kneading a couple of times), form the dough into a round bap shape. Have plenty of flour to hand and scatter flour over the dough and worktop. With a rolling pin, roll it into a circle around  25-30cm (10-12”) across. Keep turning the dough around and refreshing the flour. The dough should slide on the flour.

5. Cover the base with a layer of BBQ sauce, then place the slices of potato all over the pizza and sprinkle cheese over the top followed by the mushrooms and oregano, and leave to rise - on your worktop is fine.

6. When the dough at the edge of the pizza has become puffy, place in a hot oven, 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for 15-20 minutes. When they're done the pizza will lift up all along one side when you check underneath, using a palette knife or similar. The bottom should be browning from the edges.
      To get a crisp bottom to the pizzas, there are several things you can do:
      • Make sure you keep the wet topping away from the edges – and don’t overload the pizza;
      • Have a heavy metal tray at the bottom of the oven to use as a pizza stone. If you do this, have your pizzas on baking parchment on an up-turned tray – then you can just slide the pizzas into the oven.
      • Finish them off in a large, dry, frying pan.