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.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Salt in bread

When I became a breadmaking tutor in the early 90s, one of my goals was to demystify breadmaking; to remove all the many myths that surround the whole procedure – which is, IMO, one of the simplest processes it’s possible to undertake in a kitchen – and show it for the simple craft that it is.

One of these myths is that ‘Salt is essential in breadmaking.

Not true! Bread only needs 3 ingredients - flour, water and yeast (either commercial or wild).

My dad had a small baker's shop, back in the 40s and 50s, and, every now and then, he would be asked by one of his customers to make a loaf without salt. These were, in the main, pregnant women with high blood pressure, who were told by their doctors to reduce their salt intake.

So I've never bought the 'Bread must include salt' line.

There is a whole region of Italy (where they know a thing or two about making bread) that doesn’t use salt in bread. Not at all! Haven’t done so for centuries – and yet the bread they produce is highly regarded. I’m talking about Tuscany

Salt, to me, is just like sugar in coffee – it’s very easy to train the palette to do without it.

When my first granddaughter started eating bread, about 10 years ago now, my daughter-in-law asked me to make bread without salt. I used Dove’s organic wholemeal (here in the UK) and found that, once I got used to it, the bread tasted fine – in fact it was full of flavor.

For myself I use 1% - or 1g per 100g of flour - about half the amount I used to use. I find that quite sufficient – but I can leave it out at any time.

The bottom line is that the amount of salt anyone uses is subjective – it’s entirely up to you how much you use.

It's only today, after writing all this, that I realised I make bread without salt on a regular basis. I gave up using salt in my sweetened breads, over ten years ago - I didn't see the point of using salt and sugar in the same bread. I treat salt as just another ingredient, which I include or leave out as necessary.

The lack of salt in no way affects the dough - nor does it affect the flavour.

We make iced buns, for instance, regularly in my teaching sessions and no-one has ever tasted them and said they are lacking in flavour - yet almost every recipe I looked at on the net contains salt. I have to ask, "Why"?

The only conclusion I can come to is that, "Because it's always been done this way".

Thursday, 16 February 2012


I've been making my own marmalade for a couple of years now, and although I say it myself, it's not bad! I like to use a variety of different fruits - and I include loads of ginger. Up until now I've added a glass of Cointreau just before bottling, but I since I don't have any left I shall use Benedictine.

1.6g citrus fruit - 1kg Seville oranges plus a grapefruit, 3 lemons (I couldn't buy just the one!) and a lime 
500g crystallised ginger
2.5kg sugar
1.75ltrs water  

So far I've spent about 40 minutes slicing up the fruit and removing the pips

Boiled for a couple of hours and ready to be cut into strips
I then boiled the chopped up the fruit for a couple of hours, and, when the mixture cooled, I spent another 40 or so minutes cutting the fruit into strips. 

Just needs the ginger and sugar
Both quite tedious jobs, but they have to be done.

(Updated, January 2013 to say that now, instead of cutting up the raw fruit, I've found that cooking it first makes it much easier to chop, and saves a heck of a lot of time!)

I've never used the pips wrapped in muslin method - I prefer to blitz the pips in the microwave and strain the liquid into the marmalade.

I've now got to chop up the ginger into smaller lumps - another job I'm not looking forward to!

Thursday evening - ginger all chopped up. However, whilst I was doing this I let the fruit catch on the bottom of the pan (it's not the greatest) and had to spend half an hour - or more - scrubbing the black off!

This marmalade task is dragging out, partly because I'm combining it with painting the bedroom! :)

Hope to finish it tomorrow!

Friday evening I managed to complete the task.

Once I got the marmalade to a rolling boil it took about half an hour and about 8 tests before I was satisfied. 

To sterilise the jars I placed about a centimetre of boiling water in each jar and boiled them for a few minutes in the microwave.

Once I'd filled all the bottles and put the lids on I turned them upside down to seal the tops. I also added 1 dessertspoon of Benedictine to 4 of the jars (the ones with a B on them), just to see how what it's like. (I've previously only used Cointreau, but I've run out!) If I like it, I'll add it to the other jars.

The gap remains at the bottom of the jars - as you can see with the one on the left
In total, I've now got 4.7 kilos of marmalade - should last me until the next Seville orange season. :-)

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Wellington Children's Centre

I have been asked by Kelly, one of the organisers, to run a 3 week breadmaking course with their families, on Jan 25th, Feb 1st and Feb 8th. (Story starts at the foot of this post.)

Wednesday 29th February.
Finally, with three families having turned up, we ran the session this morning. These small sessions are often more intense - and cosy, I suppose

[More to come]

Wednesday 22nd February.
Unfortunately, as often happens after a break - and this was a break of 3 weeks - only one family turned up; so it was decided to try again next week.

Wednesday 8th February.
I couldn't make this date, and the 15th fell in the middle of half term so the 3rd session has been rescheduled for the 22nd.

Wednesday 1st February.
The word had obviously gone out, because we had 7 families (all mothers) today! 5 new families and 2 from last week. (Benjy and his dad couldn't make it.)

After a demo from me, everyone set to with a will - half of the mothers with babies on the lap were doing everything one-handed - and the dough was made and the pizzas almost finished before I remembered to take a picture. It was a busy, hectic, session - no-one (except for the two families from last week) had made bread before, so everything was all new.

The pizza dough was 1 mug flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/3rd mug water and a teaspoon of yeast. This was quickly kneaded, rolled out into a circle and covered with tomato puree (made into a sauce with the addition of water) and grated cheese)

The initials on top of the pizza are to identify them - otherwise it would be impossible to reunite everyone with their own.
One of the mothers made a tiny pizza for her daughter - you can just see it next to the topmost pizza in the picture. An idea I think I might pinch for the next time I do a session with very young children. The pizza, being very small, cools down very quickly, so the child can get stuck in to 'her' pizza very quickly.

Wednesday 25th January
We only had a small group in the first session - 2 mums, one dad, two babies and a 3-year-old. It was a very relaxed session where each family made a batch of dough -  and made a variety of shapes. The three-year-old, Benjy, was a delight, taking to shaping the fancy dinner roll shapes with gusto! I've been promised some photos which I'll post when I get them. Next week we're making pizza - and the week after, petit pain au chocolat and jam doughnuts.