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, 3 May 2011

My Daily Bread

This is the first in a series, and the story begins at the end of the post - my daily bread continues here.

Thursday 28th April.
Cheese and tomato pizzas in my first session today. Matt was going swimming in the afternoon, so he joined us for this session - and made a curried pizza base. To 150g of flour he added 2 good dessertspoons of a mild Madras curry powder. This made (along with the Oxo cube in there instead of salt) a very tasty base. 

After lunch we made 4 batches of Chelsea buns.

In the evening I made 8 Chelsea buns in preparation for the walk  on Friday morning (to get away from all the marital jollities on the TV and radio!).

Monday 25th April.
Busy breadmaking day today!

In the morning I put 400g of dried fruit to soak - 200g apricots (chopped) and 200g sultanas - in preparation for making my breakfast naans later on. (I normally soak the fruit overnight - 24 hours is best - but I forgot.)

[Aaargh! I've just noticed I've missed 150g of self-raising flour from the naan recipe! Apologies to anyone who has tried to make it and found it only made a sloppy mess. :( ]

In the afternoon I fired up the chiminea and made three vegan pizzas - plus a flat fruit soda bread to use up the remaining heat.

In the evening I made the naans and also my usual batch of wholemeal flaxseed rolls.

(Links to all these to come)

Sunday 24th April.
Made a batch of white rolls for my wife this afternoon. While I was making it my neighbour called over to say they were having a BBQ and if we wanted to take the clothes of the line, best to do so now. I thought I'd make a bigger batch of white dough and make the neighbours a garlic and pesto baton.

So I added 150g of flour and 100g of water to the batch and did just that. I needed 1000g of dough for 10 rolls, so I used the rest of the dough - about 250g - for the baton.

Friday 22nd April.
Made 4 banoffee pie breads with the residents of my fortnightly care home. Found a new way of solving the problem of slicing the Mars bar without the slices all clagging together. I sliced them horizontally, then sprinkled the sticky side with sugar before chopping into pieces - much easier than just slicing them!

(Nothing on Thursday, as I took the day off to be with my grandchildren.)

Wednesday 20th April.
2nd Easter Fun Day in Halcon today! 25 children (not all at once, thankfully) came and made 2 sizzlers plus 2 large fancy dinner rolls in the morning session. My granddaughter, Olivia age 7, came with me to assist, and was a great help!

I've been promised some pics of this happy event, and I'll post them when I get them.

Monday 18th April.
Final session (out of eight) at the hostel for the homeless. The breads we planned to make were:
Hot cross buns (including spicy fruit buns), plain naans, stuffed parathas and my version of a Peshwari naan, which contains onions. But, rather than the parathas and plain naans, one of the students made some cheese rolls and grissini.

Make HCB mixture – slightly sticky – and put to one side (one mug flour, chopped fruit – prunes, dates,  apricots and sultanas - spice, etc);
Make dough for naans and parathas – put to one side;
Shape HCBs and put to prove (it was surprising to me how many students, perhaps half, didn’t want to put crosses on the buns, thinking this was a religious symbol. It isn’t - a cross on a sweet bun dates back at least to Roman times.
Shape the naans and parathas, put to prove.
Make Peshwari naans (using self-raising flour), place in a frying pan.

(Recipes, and pic, for these breads are on their way.)

Saturday 16th April.
My wife's niece and family visited today, so, to send them on their way I made a batch of bread rolls. Done in a hurry, they didn't turn out too bad. Story here.

I made some others later on, using a cold oven and no proving. They didn't turn out so well - still edible, but not great!

Wednesday 13th April.
Lots of breads to mention since I last posted - the chief amongst them being the pizza I baked in the chiminea

On Sunday I made my usual bread rolls - which, I have to say, turned out to be very disappointing! As I did last time, I took 300g of starter and added 200g Doves wholemeal and 200g of water. I began this on Saturday morning intending to bake that evening, but events conspired against me, so I made them on Sunday evening. I followed all my usual procedures, including the several short kneadings method, plus I baked them undercover for the first 10 minutes.

They didn't rise as they should and also they are very dry, going stale almost overnight. The flavour is slightly more marked, but overall, I'm not happy!

I'll have to go back to the drawing board, I reckon. The next ones I make I'll do as I did before I began this sourdough ferment malarkey, and see how they compare.

Friday 8th April.
The students in my Family Learning sessions (last one before Easter) made - you guessed it - hot cross buns. They also made sausage parcels (Linda McCartney's).

Since one of the students is without an oven at the moment (she can't afford to get her oven fixed!), I went through the 'Bread in 13 minutes' recipe with her - on this occasion it took about 15 minutes.

Later I had some time to spare so I made some hot cross buns in the frying pan - turned out alright!
They only took about 30-35 minutes all told, and made a nice little snack for my colleagues and I.
Today was my afternoon at the other care home I go to, and 6 of the residents made, guess what? Hot cross buns! Next week I may only have to make them once - although, with the grandchildren coming to stay for a week (yippee!), you never know!

And late in the evening I made the wine up to 5 gallons with the addition of 4kgs of sugar. Interesting pic of the fermentation on here.

Thursday 7th April.
First session hot cross buns with glace cherries added. Placed a seedless grape inside several buns just to see how  they'd turn out (I get bored with hot cross buns at this time of the year, so I like to do something mildly subversive occasionally...). They were lovely - it's something I shall do again. After the success of my chocolate and beetroot loaf last week I quite fancy putting some grated beetroot in the hot cross bun dough next time I make some.

Second session, no Matt, so no curried Chelseas today - or anything else curried for that matter. The others all made mushroom and cheese sizzlers.

They'd been proving for about 5 minutes at this stage.
Tuesday 5th April.
Posted the home-made red wine recipe earlier. I started a batch last night - I've got the fruit and grape concentrate in my fermentation bucket and already there is a lot of activity going on. I've taken a pic which I've posted on that thread. I'll keep a log of the progress of that batch.

Monday 4th April.
7th session of an 8 session course (fortnightly) today with the homeless guys.

Together we made some bread with walnuts - walnut and onion loaf and walnut and date bread. Plus everyone made a basic loaf, using the 'Several kneadings over a short period' method.

Walnut and onion bread

A couple of loaves made with the 'Several short kneadings' method. There's a note of whimsy in the date placed in the middle one of the loaves!
It was very pleasing to hear that one of the students, Brian, told me how he'd made bread over the past two weekends, teaching his friend what he'd learned at the same time. On Sunday he said he'd intended to make a chocolate loaf but there was no cocoa available - so they added instant coffee (an ingredient I've never used!) instead, and included, as well, some dried fruit and pieces of a 'bashed up Easter egg'! I gave him full marks for ingenuity! He saved me a piece, and it tasted OK - not at all of coffee!

I also promised a guy I met in the HFS that I'd post my homemade red wine recipe tonight - but I haven't been able to get round to it. Tomorrow, it will happen.

Saturday 2nd April.
This evening I spent a fair amount of time on the phone to my daughter (who's finally decided to make her own bread) talking her through the process of making a loaf and some rolls. 

Made with Dove's Malthouse flour - highly recommended. The dark specks are ground flax seeds.
After they'd come out of the oven, looking pretty good, she said, "I want to make some more, now!"

Which was very pleasing to hear! I did tell her to follow the recipe here on my blog, but she said she'd rather I talk her through it on the phone!

Friday 1st April.
Made a dozen part sourdough rolls this evening. Read the whole story here.

My ferment is in a right state of ferment ATM :). I've never seen it so active. When I refreshed it, early this evening I left it out on the worktop instead of placing it in the fridge as I have been doing. There is a 2cm cap of foam on top of it as I write. Unfortunately, it will have to go in the fridge shortly. I shall keep an eye on it over the next few days. 

Thursday 31st March.
Some 'tear and share' loaves in the first session, and pineapple and mincemeat upside down bread in the second.

The loaves were made with 160g of flour plus a teaspoon of mixed herbs and three of them contained a good splash of tomato puree. The 'staggered' loaf was shaped by rolling out a long baton of dough, dividing it into slices, then reassembling it on the baking sheet. Next time I make a garlic baton I'll shape it like that - it would be so easy to tear pieces off.

The pineapple and mincemeat loaf was just a simple spicy fruit dough, rolled out and covered with mincemeat - then turned over on top of the slices of pineapple which were placed on the baking paper.
The 'staggered loaf broke apart whilst I was checking the colour underneath.
Would normally have covered the base with pineapple - but we didn't have enough to go round. It doesn't look quite done on one side in the pic - but it looked OK at the time.
2 spicy fruit naans this evening - breakfast for the next 10 days.

Friday 25th March.
3-seeded loaves (sunflower, pumpkin and flax) and petit pain au chocolat with the Family Learning class. Hot cross buns with my year 4-5 group.

In the evening, in preparation for the March for the Alternative, in London tomorrow, I made two pane casereccios - rolled stuffed pizzas (great picnic loaves). I vary the filling every time I make this bread - this time I spread the dough withe Pateole, a mushroom pate, covered that with pesto and added chunks of Fry's polony and Linda McCartney sausages plus slices of fried field mushroom. I sprinkled the whole lot with nutritional yeast. Oh, and I made the dough with sun-dried tomatoes. I also made a large batch of Chelseas - both for myself and to hand out to friends.

I left the Chelseas in the oven too long - they were a bit dry. I made one batch with sultanas and the other with cranberries.
This was a heel of one of the loaves on Sunday. I had a couple of slices for lunch...
...and finished it off for lunch on Monday - still fairly fresh!

Thursday 24th March.
First session, chocolate and beetroot loaf, four loaves with lumps of roughly chopped dark chocolate, and one without - so that I could have a taste;

Haven't made this bread in a long time, but this combination makes a lovely, moist and quite a spongy loaf!

Second session, curried cinnamon buns (made by Matt, the curry freak!) and Belgian buns (which were actually a combination of cinnamon swirls and Belgian buns).

Matt has now increased the curry powder to 2 dessertspoons - to this he added a teaspoon of cinnamon, plus fruit and sugar. When the dough was rolled out, olive oil was spread over and sprinkled with a mix of sugar  and cinnamon before it was rolled up and divided.

Wednesday 23rd March.
Tonight I've made 12 wholemeal rolls with flaxseeds, undercover. Earlier today I made some hot cross buns with a Family Learning class - 12 batches in all!

Monday helped make pane ciocciolato (Italian chocolate bread) and pane casereccio (rolled stuffed pizza).

Just took the rolls out of the oven and I'm having half of one with some tomato and houmous. Just realised I left the salt out - but they're still very tasty. Dove's wholemeal flour - I thoroughly recommend it!

Monday 23rd March.

Sunday 20th March.
My sister-in-law and brother-in-law had chosen to spend today - their 40th wedding anniversary - with us, plus their extended family.

We've had a magical day full of good food, joy and laughter - and memories! Part of the entertainment for the youngsters was making bread this afternoon. Together we made:

Cheese and tomato pizza
Iced buns
Petit pain au chocolat
Healthy jam doughnuts

Here are the results.

Jam doughnuts at the top, plus jam pasty made from the trimmings, and 4 pain au chocolat - all that was left by the time I took the pic!

And the iced buns and the pizza. The picture's a bit hurried as I was trying to take it quickly so the kids could get stuck into the pizza!
I was hoping to include pics of the activity, but, although I loaded them into the computer they seem to have mysteriously disappeared!

Hope to get my nieces to email the pics they took.

Saturday 19th March.
Expecting a load of visitors tomorrow, so made some bread in anticipation:
A vegan and a cheese and tomato pizza
2 large garlic and pesto batons (vegan)
Grissini with sun dried tomatoes
Swedish tea ring, made to a pane al cioccolato recipe

Recipes and pics to follow.

Friday 18th March.
Family Learning at a local primary school - second week of a five week course. Made cheese and tomato pizzas and jam doughnuts. 

Also made jam doughnuts with my year 4/5 group, since I forgot to bring the ingredients for hot cross buns!

Thursday 17th March.
4 batches of pain au chocolat (pic to follow) and a banana and jam calzone in the first session.

And in the second, 3 large jam tarts with tinned pineapple, one large jam doughnut with some leftover dough, plus a batch of curried Chelsea buns. Although perhaps the Chelseas should be renamed Madras buns after Matt put two heaped dessertspoons of Madras curry powder in with the flour!

Wednesday 16th March.
Another session at the SureStart Children's Centre, this time with a dozen pre-schoolers, once again making 'House bread' and some rolls.

Bit of feedback from my session on Monday - one of the parents was heard to say to his partner - 'It actually 
tastes like bread' :-D

Tuesday 15th March.

Decided to go for a pancake-type wrap for lunch today:

50g Doves wholemeal
5g ground flaxseeds
Pinch of salt
125g water.

Mixed into a thickish batter and poured most of it into a hot frying pan - it made a pancake around 20-22cm across.

It was a little too thick, so it took a fair bit of cooking, but it was great. Filled it with some leftover chilli non carne:
That's an errant bit of mushroom peeking out there!
Last night I made a dozen bread rolls, undercover, and with 300g of sourdough culture added.

Monday 14th March.
I had no bread for lunch - and only 20 minutes before I had to leave for work. I'd been discussing a spelt 'wrap'-type bread with a friend just the other day. His recipe was pretty simple:

Spelt flour, water and olive oil.

Method: mix some water with the flour until it becomes a dough, roll out as thin as possible, then place in a hot frying pan until it begins to colour, turn over and cook the other side.

Seemed nice and quick, so I went for it.

Although I had just bought a new packet of spelt, the first flour I saw when I opened the cupboard (after putting the frying pan on a medium heat) was an opened bag of Doves wholemeal - which would be a bit quicker

I weighed 60g of this and added a pinch of salt. I also threw in a teaspoon of ground flaxseeds, which I add to all my bread.

To this I added around 40g of water and a splash of olive oil.

This I mixed into a dough which I divided in two 60g pieces (roughly). I rolled these out, working on them alternately, to around 20cm across.

I gave them a couple of minutes each side, took the first one and spread some yeast pate down the middle, followed by a spread of houmous. As I folded it over, it felt quite stiff - not soft like a wrap, but not completely brittle, either.

As I munched on them both, they definitely got more and more fragile, until, by the last couple of mouthfuls, they were quite flakey.

Very nice they were, and I'll do them again, but any tips on how to get them softer would be much appreciated. The first thing I should do, of course, is to make them with spelt flour as per the original recipe, and see how they turn out.

BTW, my lunch took just 23 minutes.

I was rushing to get to a family centre at Creech St Michael, just outside Taunton. There, with the help of 11 pre-school children and support staff, we made a dozen 'House loaves'!

Make a bread dough with a mug of flour, roll it out and cut out a house shape. Use the trimmings for windows, doors, chimneys, etc. Any leftover dough use as playdough (it is the original stuff, after all!).

Lots of fun - and I'm to do it all again, with the other half of the pre-school, on Wednesday afternoon!

Friday 11th March.
New Family Learning course started this morning - 3 families (one child was sick, otherwise we'd have had four) all made a plain soda bread and a spicy fruit soda bread.

In the first session I go through my usual spiel, asking the parents to sit back and let their child do all the work; and also asking them not to repeat any instruction I give the children. These two requests are far harder for the parents to deal with that is the bread making! That's easy in comparison.

Not doing it for their child goes against everything most parents do at home - they're up against the clock often, they don't want the child to make a mess, so they find it easier to do it (whatever it is) themselves. So, in the Family Learning class I ask them to sit with their back against the back of the chair - if they find their back is coming off the back of the chair, that means they're getting anxious!

About not repeating an instruction of mine: When a child is asked to do something, there is generally a pause, whilst the child processes the information (we're talking 5 and 6 year-olds, here). During that pause the parent often comes in, repeating the instruction, thinking the child hasn't heard, or isn't taking any notice. I just want the parents to give the child time to react.

As usual the parents were taken aback both by the speed and ease of making soda bread, but also how cheap it is! Using a mug of flour it's possible to make 7 small loaves from one bag of flour costing 52p. While the fruit soda bread comes in at around 20-25p.

This afternoon I had a 2 hour session at my fortnightly care home - this time four students, two of whom made banoffee bread (had some bananas this time!) another made a jam and banana calzone while the fourth made petit pain au chocolat.

Thursday 10th March.
Today's the day for my Thursday carehome - I teach between 8-10 adults with varying degrees of disability. The first session, in the annex, is with students mainly in wheelchairs. In this session they need a lot of support, which is always forthcoming.

Today we made a couple of batches of sizzlers - with mushrooms - 2 batches of hot cross buns and a loaf - a calzone, really - containing fruit cocktail and slices of Mars bar. This last was a substitute for a banana and Mars bar loaf - which I call banoffee bread - simply because there were no bananas available. Neither were there any tinned pears, so, in the end we thought we'd have a go with a tin of fruit cocktail. I was told it was very tasty!

The sizzlers nearest the camera were just about to go in the oven
The students in the second session are mostly much more capable - however, there'd been a mix-up and the three most competent students weren't around. So we had a leisurely session with the rest of the students, making hot cross buns, another fruit cocktail and Mars bar loaf (to finish off the tin!) and a German apple cake.

Tonight I shall make my spicy breakfast naan - I've had the sultanas and apricots soaking all day!

Tuesday 8th March.
Another chiminea firing today. Had some new firebricks to try out, and lit the fire before I had prepared any bread dough. However, once the fire was roaring away nicely, I knocked up a quick focaccia (recipe and pics down at the end of the post). Took about an hour all told, for the focaccia to cook - but, despite this, it tasted wonderful.

Monday 7th March.
(Friday's class was called off, so this was the first breadmaking I've done since Thursday.)

Fortnightly session with the homeless group today. We made Swedish tea rings, Chelsea buns, hot cross buns and sizzlers.

We made a plain dough for the sizzlers - a bit stickier than normal, and set this aside while we made the fruit dough - 2 mugs of flour, 1 mug dried fruit, 2 heaped teaspoons mixed spice and several dessertspoons of sugar. When the dough was mixed and kneaded until smooth, it was divided in two. Half made the Swedish tea ring, and the other half made into Chelsea buns and hot cross buns.

Then we brought the other dough back (not so sticky this time), kneaded it a couple of times and made it into sizzlers.

Couple of pics:
A batch of sizzlers - cost around 60p
And several Swedish tea rings. These cost around 45p each for the ingredients.
Sizzlers - Flour, 10p; salt and yeast, 1p; cheese, 19p; tomato or mushroom, say 20p; total 60p approx.
Swedish tea ring - Flour, 10p; sugar and spice, 6p; dried fruit, 13p; yeast, 1p; cooking oil, 1p; flaked almonds, 19p; icing sugar, 1p; total 45p approx.

The hot cross buns and Chelsea buns (6 in all) cost even less - about 25p.

Thursday 3rd March.
Care home today, making bread with 8 residents (one had gone out, the other had a hospital visit). In the morning session we made more chocolate fruit and nut loaves.

This time the added ingredients, apart from cocoa powder and sugar were:
15g chopped walnuts and around 50g of fruit - a mix of dates and prunes, soaked in boiling water for a little while; and also a good dessertspoon of malt.

Two of these were made into loaves such as I made last Friday (pic posted 26th Feb), while the other two were made into a variation of schiacciata con l'uva:

This bread was very tasty - it's the first time in a long time I've eaten three pieces in one go!
In the second session, keeping up the chocolate theme, we made chocolate iced buns - but still with white icing. Oh, and Matt made his curried bread - this time pasties with sautéed potatoes and cheese. The bread dough was made with a veg Oxo cube and two dessertspoons of madras curry powder!

Wednesday 2nd March.
Made a batch of rolls incorporating a sourdough culture. The bread tasted fine - just a hint of a sourdough flavour, but I need to check out a few more of my rolls before I come to any judgement.

Tuesday 1st March.
Another Family Learning session this morning in a primary school in Bridgwater - Westover Green.

It's an established course, teaching numeracy, and I was invited along to bring breadmaking and numeracy together. 

The 6 families - the children were year one students - all made a batch of bread rolls and another of hot cross buns.

There's a literacy course starting soon - and I'll have to produce a handout bringing literacy and breadmaking together (not so easy, I reckon!)

The bread rolls - baked in 4 small ovens

Sunday, 27th Feb.
I needed to make my breakfast naans again, as I'd run out, so yesterday I put 200g sultanas and 200g dried apricots to soak. Late on in the evening I made them whilst watching the England v India cricket world cup match.

400g fruit magically transforms into 700g after soaking. This gives me 1000g of breakfast naan - enough for 9 days!
Saturday 26th Feb.
For a visitor this morning I made a fruity/nutty/chocolate loaf this morning with cranberries. I formed it into a bloomer shape and kept it covered for the first 10 minutes of the baking time. Rose lovely!

This afternoon the sun was shining, so, it was chiminea time!

This time I wanted a variation of a calzone, purely because a calzone, much as I like them, do tend to have a lot of bread round the edges, simply because of the way they're shaped.

So I thought I'd make a pizza without any liquid and just lay another layer of bread over the top without tucking it in - so, covered pizza!

Friday 25th Feb.
Another care home - which I visit fortnightly. On a bit of a roll ATM, with chocolate; we made 4 chocolate and nut rolls. No fruit this time - none to hand - just sugar, cocoa powder, chopped milk chocolate and chopped nuts.

Didn't look too bad:
Very chocolatey loaves!

Thursday 24th Feb.
Bit more relaxed today - just a couple of my regular sessions at my favourite care home.

In the first session we made 2 Hungarian chocolate loaves, an all-in chocolate fruit and nut loaf, a batch of healthy jam doughnuts and a large chocolate spread twist:

(I apologise for the quality of the pics on my blog. My mobile phone clearly isn't up to the task - I'm going to have to start carrying a proper camera around with me.)

The second session saw us making curried sizzlers (that's Matt, the curry fiend!) plus several batches of large jam tarts.

Wednesday 23rd Feb.
10.00am start today, a Fun Day in Halcon - face painting, braiding, playdough, cycle maintenance, sustainable living and much more - plus, of course, breadmaking!

The brief was that students should make something for lunch - so I planned a small calzone and a couple of bread rolls.

For the calzone filling I mixed together 750g grated cheese, two packs of chopped tomatoes, a tube of tomato puree, 3 oxo cubes and a load of dried herbs.

Each student made a batch of dough - flour, salt, water and yeast - divided it in two and rolled one piece out into a small circle. Two dessertspoons of filling on one side of the circle, the other side folded over and tucked in. The other piece of dough made two fancy dinner rolls.

Every student had a number, which they made out of a piece of dough, placed on top of the calzone, so that they get re-united with their own bread.

[Pic to follow]

We got up to 18 students before we had to call a halt. Had some great support from Jane and others.

Late on in the session we decided to make some calzones for the voluteers and staff, so we made half a dozen - which nicely finished off all the filling I'd prepared; result!

The bread took a while to cook, even with four ovens going, and the session went on after 1.00pm.

About 1.10 my wife rang and uttered the words I've come to dread:

"Where are you supposed to be this afternoon?" "Erm.." "You were supposed to be at the Hollies (a local children's centre) at one o'clock!"

Oops! Working swiftly, with lots of help, I managed to get the car packed and I was away. I arrived at the Hollies by just after 1.30.

There I found 10 families with young children who all successfully made fancy dinner rolls. I was lucky enough to have enough flour and yeast with me. Phew! I just managed to get away with it!

Tuesday 22nd Feb.
Early start (I thought) at my local village hall - just 2 doors away - I was there by 8.45, thinking it was a 9.15 start. However, there was no-one around so I went back home to check my calendar - and saw that the session was from 10.00-11.30!

All told we had 16 families participating, making hot cross buns. Had to run 2 shifts, as the most we could get in the ovens was about 10 trays at any one time.

I love these sessions - teaching, kids, breadmaking - my three passions all in one. They're hectic - frantic, sometimes, but I had good support from Sharon and Stuart who organised the session.

This evening I made a batch of rolls - they're in the oven at the moment. For the first time I included some of my 9-day-old starter, so I'll be interested to see if I can detect any improvement in flavour.

I'll let you know!

Monday 21st Feb.
One students 'haul', minus 3 grissini - eaten before I could get my phone out!
(I was very annoyed with myself about singeing the s-d-tomato focaccia.)
Another session today at the hostel for the homeless - this time making 3 Italian breads; Focaccia, grissini and schiacciata con l'uva. (I'll post recipes for these as soon as I get a chance.)

One of the things I like about things about these sessions is that the staff often participate - there is an excellent relations between staff and students. Today the cook and one of the admin staff were able to join the fun.

The students all made a batch of dough - 1 mug each wholemeal and white, 1/2 tsp salt, 2/3rds mug water, teaspoon yeast and a good glug of olive oil. Into this they added 3 or 4 chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

Once the dough was made, it was divided into 3/4 and 1/4 - and to the smaller piece was added a small handful of grated cheese. This was then divided further into 6 pieces and each was rolled out into breadsticks - about as long as the small baking sheets we were using. (Each one was given a small kink, so that, should it be necessary to turn over the breadsticks during baking to finish them off, they'll stay turned over, rather than rolling back!)

The larger piece was then formed into a small cob which was then flattened out and placed on a tray with a definite lip around it (to catch any stray olive oil). The students were then given the choice of making a basic foccaccia and basil: the dough was sprinkled with dried basil, then holes were pressed  into the dough which were then filled with olive oil; or they could lightly divide the dough into four with a s-d-tomato pressed into each section.

Once these were made, we went straight onto the sweet loaf, just using 1 mug of white flour, this time. The salt was replaced with sugar, and the s-d-t with sultanas. Once the dough was made, the dough was pressed out as before, and seedless grapes were pressed into the top.

All this had taken us less than 50 minutes!

There were plenty of 'oohs' and aah's when the bread came out of the oven - and the grissini were pronounced 'awesome'!

Sunday 20th Feb.
All I did today was divide my starter, refresh it and return it to the fridge- and add 25ml water and 50g flour to the discard in preparation for making some pikelets for Tuesday's breakfast. I wasn't sure when I'd need to make bread, and I wanted to make sure I had refreshed the starter at least 3 times.
I also put 50g of sultanas to soak - thought I'd do that separately this time.

Saturday 19th Feb.
Used the second half of the sourdough batter discard to make fruit pikelets for breakfast. The batter had thickened up considerably due to soaking the fruit overnight. Made a couple of batches  - one's gone into the freezer for Monday's breakfast.

In the afternoon I got  the chiminea fired up again and made 2 calzone, one of which I had for dinner. The other, kept in the breadbin for the moment is steadily being nibbled away - it's very tasty!

Friday 18th Feb.
Last session of five on my regular Friday morning Family Learning session today. The group is, by now, very competent, so they were able to make 4 breads in the two hours:
Chelseas and hot cross buns from a batch of sweet dough; and
Sizzlers and sausage parcels from a savoury dough.

Year 4 and 5 (my usual students) were having a Maths test, so following the Family Learning session I had a group of 4 year 3 students making Chelsea buns. They were missing maths by doing breadmaking, so we spent some time working out how many buns we'd make in total if everyone made 8 buns. They enjoyed this so much we went on and got up to 8 x 8. Then we divided the Chelsea buns - first cutting the dough into two pieces, then into four, and then into 8. The buns then go on the baking sheet in two rows of four, since 'We know that two 4s are 8!' When I saw their teacher later she thanked me for teaching them the 8 times table!

Thursday 17th Feb.
At my lovely care home today. Bit of an emergency when I arrived at the Annex for the first session - the electrician was in and had disconnected the oven - and the other oven, in the main house was being used for lunch, of course.

But it was no problem since I just happened to have 2 small ovens in the back of my car! I carry these around to any venue where they either have no oven, or the oven they have isn't sufficient for the number of students.

The was the case at Weston Zoyland on Tuesday - and the ovens were still in my car!

I haven't mentioned my ovens yet - I have four of them (but only ever used 3 at any one time) stacked in my garage, generally. One of them is shown in the YouTube video where I can be seen making sizzlers.

So the session was able to go ahead - we made 1 batch of petit pain au chocolat and three small 'tear and share' seeded loaves:

Here's the petit pains and one of the loaves
In the afternoon session we made sizzlers (one batch - Matt's - had a dessertspoon of mild curry powder in the dough) with cheese and tomatoes/sizzlers. We made one batch with Marmite instead of cheese, as an experiment. Like a fool, I forgot to taste these, so I still don't know if it works or not!

While Newsnight was on I divided and refreshed my starter and made about 8 fruit pikelets for tomorrow's breakfast from the discard. (I would normally make these fresh, but, since I have to leave the house by 8.50, I won't have time in the morning.

Tuesday 15th Feb.

Had my last session at Weston Zoyland today. Unfortunately, two of the children were sick, so I only had four families. They made a batch of fruit dough which made some Chelsea buns as well as hot cross buns - and they also made a focaccia with basil each.

Had some good feedback from the sessions which will please my line manager! 

This morning my sourdough starter was bubbling up lovely, so I refreshed it this evening.

Monday 14th Feb.

Made a batch of wholemeal rolls with ground flaxseeds.

Sunday 13th Feb.
I'm not a great fan of sourdough. I've made it in the past, and it's been fine, but I've always found it unpredictable, and I'm not keen on that. And, since I make what I consider to be very tasty wholemeal bread as it is, I'm not sure the gain in flavour is all that apparent (although the difference in flavour using white flour is definitely worth it).

But I wanted to try another approach, which I detail here. So I began another attempt at a starter this morning. I'll update the post regularly.

Saturday 12th Feb.
Tested some fast-action yeast out today - BBE Nov 2006 - which I've had in the fridge all this time. It took about 30 minutes to start showing bubbles on the top, but that's probably down to its age.

Not wishing to throw it away, I made some fruit pikelets with it, using dried cranberries - I hadn't tried this before, and, to be honest, they were no different to the ones made with sultanas:

And also this afternoon I made a loaf (using method B) for my son-in-law, using Doves malted grain flour, a particular favourite of his.

600g malted grain flour
100g white flour
1 teaspoon salt
60g flax seeds (ground)
475ml lukewarm water (malted grain uses slightly less liquid than wholemeal flour)
10g fresh yeast
50ml olive oil

I made a bit of a hash of this. I wanted to use the 'cloche' method, but the casserole dish I was going to invert over the loaf wasn't big enough. So I put the dish the right way up and, using the baking parchment I had under the loaf, I lifted it into the dish and place a lid on it.

I left it under the cover for twenty minutes, then brought it out and, not sure why, I tried to remove it from the dish - with the result that the loaf went down about a centimetre! It wasn't sufficiently cooked enough to handle.

So the finished loaf was a bit heavy, but, still tasty, I'm told.

(No pics, because somehow they were deleted before I could post them.)

As we had visitors, I thought I’d make some Belgian buns.

My daughter doesn’t like sultanas, raisins, etc, so I turned to some recently bought dried cranberries instead.

I soaked just over 100g in 125ml of boiling water and mashed them with a fork – to get more water in the fruit, and to help cool the water down so I could safely add the yeast.

Once I could leave my finger in the liquid safely, I added a dessertspoon of the 200g of flour (half and half white and wholemeal) I’d already weighed out, plus 10g of fresh yeast, stirred to dissolve the yeast and left it for five minutes.

I added a good teaspoon each of cinnamon and mixed spice plus a dessertspoon of sugar to the flour, then the liquid and fruit and added 36g of olive oil. (It was meant to be ‘a good glug’, but, since they were on the scales already, that’s what the ‘glug’ finished up as.)

The mix was a little dry so I added about a tablespoon of water.

Kneaded until smooth, then rolled out into a longish rectangle. Brushed with oil and sprinkled with sugar then rolled up from the short side. Cut into 8 pieces, placed the baking sheet and pressed out flat.

Put the oven on, covered with a roasting dish and left to prove. Once the oven was up to temperature I put the buns in for 2 minutes to give them a burst of heat to help them rise. (If the bread isn’t covered I only put it in for one minute, not wishing to kill the yeast.)

Just about an hour after starting, they went into the oven for twenty minutes – the first ten covered.

The outside ones were done, but the inside four went back in again for another couple of minutes

Then they were iced and a glace cherry put on top.

This week I had my third session (out of 8) with the homeless group on Monday (I‘ve already written about that here); on Tuesday I had the fourth session with my Weston Zoyland Family Learning session where we made cheese and onion slices and chocolate and banana bread.

Friday 11th Feb.
Friday morning's I've got my regular session at Halcon Primary School, now in my 9th year there. I have, generally, 4 families - sometimes father and child, but more often mother and child. The children are from the reception class and the course lasts 5 weeks. Unusually, on the course I have at the moment, there are three mothers and fathers attending. They all, mothers and fathers, get visibly more relaxed as the course progresses.

Today each family made a loaf of bread - and they all chose to make a plait, three making a wholemeal loaf and the other a white plait. They also made half a dozen iced buns. The deal is the children do most of the work - only when they find they can't do something can the parents step in and help. That's the most difficult thing about this course for the parents - staying back and letting their children get on with it!

When the Family Learning session finished I stayed on to run a session with students from the year 4/5 class. Each week I have four students making hot cross buns (ATM). I have 8 students for the first half of the class - the ones who made it last week teach the children who haven't made them yet, then, once the bread is shaped they go back to their class. The learners then wash up and clear away - next week they'll be the teachers and I'll have 4 new students.

In the afternoon I had a session in another care home, making pain au chocolat. On this occasion I only had 2 students; one of them, Joe, made two batches. (A combination of doctor's appointments and family visits reduced my numbers somewhat.)

I've known Joe for about 10 years, and he's very competent in my breadmaking sessions. However, he's quite stubborn and if he decides he's too comfortable in the lounge, he takes a lot of shifting. Recently, however, I've found a way of tempting him into the session. I offer him some marzipan, which he is unable to resist - once he's had a piece, the deal is he can have another piece once he's sat down at  the table. Once there he  loves it, and, as I said, he made two batches today

Thursday, 10th Feb.
I had my usual 2 sessions in a care home for adults with learning disabilities. In the first session, everyone made a fougasse with a different ingredient, inspired in part by Lorraine Pascal’s Baking Made Easy tv programme this week.

Everyone made the basic bread – using one mug of flour, half an Oxo cube, teaspoon of oregano, dessertspoon of pesto – to which was added one of: sun-dried tomatoes, bottled mushrooms, green olives (we had no black ones) or roasted peppers. Then, using a variety of cutting tools (dough cutter, D-shaped spatula, pizza cutter and scissors) everyone had a go at shaping the loaves.

Apologies for the quality of the pictures; they're not great, I know.

After lunch we made Chelsea buns and Belgian buns. One of my students, Matt, has a bit of a fixation with curried bread - whatever we make has to have a curried component in it. For many weeks prior to Christmas he made nothing but curried cheese and potato pasties - varied occasionally by making smaller ones, rolling them out flat and turning them into parathas (see - No Bread Is An Island!).

Today he made curried Chelseas - just a teaspoon of a mild curry powder in the dough - and they were actually quite pleasant. The rest of the group made half each Belgian buns and Chelseas. The Belgian buns are nothing more than the Chelsea buns squashed flat - when they came out of the oven they're spread with icing and half a glace cherry is placed on top. The Chelseas are given a sugar glaze and then sprinkled with sugar.