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 28 March 2012

BREADMAKING in Hornblotton, Somerset

Friday 8th March 2013
I've just been informed that the course has been (almost) fully subscribed, with 11 students enrolling. Only 9 weeks away, now! I've asked my line manager to give those students the web address of this blog. I feel it would be good for the students to get a sense of what I'm about before the course starts.

This course will take place on the 5th and 12th of May, 2013.

I will post all my planning on here, as it develops.

(It's a long way ahead, but that's how forward thinking the WEA is!)

Here's the blurb, from the brochure:

"Breadmaking made easy - from basic breads to artisan loaves" (C3523832)

Students will make a range of breads from fancy dinner rolls, through artisan loaves to Chelsea bun, Danish pastries and a variety of savoury breads - and have some fun along the way! Students will be given the opportunity to create a sourdough starter to bring to the second session. The content of the second session will mainly be decided upon after discussion with the student, but it will include 'Overnight, no-knead' bread.

Oops! I'd forgotten I posted this last year - I've put my letter to students, etc, in a new post!

Tuesday 27 March 2012


This was made with the help of one of my Adults with Learning Difficulties students - and there's a batch of Chelsea buns on the same tray. 
Two harvest bread*

200g (or 1 mug) strong white flour
1 tablespoons sugar
100g (or 1/2 mug) sultanas
1 dessertspoon fresh yeast or 1 teaspoon dried yeast
125ml (or 1/3rd mug) lukewarm water
2 tablespoons olive oil 

Seedless grapes and a dessertspoon of sugar 

1. Measure the water and stir in the yeast to dissolve. Place the flour, sugar and dried fruit into a mixing bowl, pour in the yeast liquid, then add the olive oil.

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, 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. Either leave it on your worktop under an upturned bowl for an hour or so, or go straight to step 5.

5. Roll the dough out to a circle about 1.5cm thick, place it on a prepared baking sheet and cover with the grapes. Sprinkle with sugar.

6. Leave to prove until the dough is risen and puffy and bake at 200C (Gas mark 6) for around 15 to 20 minutes - but check after 10.

*The term ‘Two harvest bread', comes from the fact that, in Tuscany, the sultanas are from last year and the grapes from this. (If you soak the sultanas in wine it becomes ‘Three harvest bread'!) 


200g cornmeal
100g sultanas 
2 dsps sugar
2 tsps gluten-free baking powder
150ml (plus) water
Good splash of olive oil 
Plus a handful of seedless grapes, halved.

1. Put the oven on at 200C and line a baking tray with baking parchment.

2. Place dry ingredients in mixing bowl and stir a couple of times, using a spatula or table knife.

3. Working quickly (the baking powder starts to react when it meets the water.), add sufficient water to bring it together as a dough - I found I'd used 162.5g (my scales are divided into 25g segments - the pointer was just halfway between two markers!)

4. Place on baking parchment and roll or push the dough out into a circle about 2cm thick. Cover with the grapes and place in the oven for about 20 minutes

5. It's ready when a skewer comes out clean.

The term ‘Two harvest bread', comes from the fact that the sultanas are from last year and the grapes from this. (If you soak the sultanas overnight in wine it becomes ‘Three harvest bread' and the wine now becomes a dessert wine!)

The bread has an unusual texture - it seems a little grainy when you first pop it into your mouth, and there is a slight 'metaliccy' taste.

But I had some last night and found myself going back several times for another nibble, which is a good sign!
I had a chunk for breakfast, split and spread with apple puree. It was very acceptable.

(I'm certain you could make this into a pizza dough by leaving out the sugar and fruit. I'd be tempted to brush the surface with oil before putting on a tomato topping.)


Sunday, 11th March
Reflections on the day - once again these are at the foot of the post (plus pics!).

Friday, 9th March.

My planning is now pretty much complete and I've added it further down this post.

Stogumber is a lovely little village tucked away on the side of the Quantocks in Somerset. Some little while ago a friend of mine who lives in the village (my old university teacher) suggested we get together with a group of friends and spend the day breadmaking. 

Here's the story:

First the letter I sent out to all the students, informing them of what to expect on the day - and what to bring. This went out to them on Monday the 5th March:

Dear Student,

Breadmaking Made Easy Workshop, 10.00am - 4.00pm 10th March 2012
Stogumber Village Hall

This letter sets out what I intend will happen on the day and includes a list of ingredients and utensils which you will need to bring. If you are new to breadmaking, let me reassure you that it is much easier than you have been led to believe.

The session will begin in a relaxed fashion – the first thing you need to do is to find somewhere to park all the stuff that I ask you to bring, get yourself a drink and somewhere to sit down.

Before we start breadmaking I’d like to spend some time finding out what you expect to get out of the day’s session so that I can hopefully meet all your requirements.

The breads we will be making will include a basic loaf of bread – which can be anything from a tinned loaf or a cottage loaf to a focaccia – and a batch of fancy dinner rolls. But we’ll also be making a range of savoury or sweet breads.

Here are my suggestions, with the breads grouped together:
Fruited bread:
Chelsea buns (This recipe includes the undercover method - but you can just bake them normally)
Apfel kuchen (German apple cake)
Schiacciatta con l’uva (2 harvest bread – or 3 if you soak the fruit in wine!) 

Sweet buns:

Layered breads:

Savoury bread:
Cheese and tomato pizza (plus any toppings you wish to add)
Cheese and tomato sizzlers (or mushroom or onion)

Soda breads – both plain and sweet

We’ll be making as many of these as we can – maybe not all, but most of them.

If you wish, you can prepare a batch of ‘no-knead, overnight’ bread to take away and bake at home. If you want to do this, bring along an extra 500g of flour and a plastic food-storer, with a snap-top lid. The one I use has a capacity of 2.8ltrs.

My aim is to turn you into a competent home baker (if you’re not already!) able to bake any bread you fancy.

For lunch we’ll have a couple of the sizzlers – you just need to bring something to fill them with. The kettle is always on for a mug of tea or coffee.

Bring a large basket or cardboard box to carry all your equipment and ingredients - and the finished products to take home with you!

I want to reassure all those students new to breadmaking that my first aim for this workshop is for everyone to enjoy their learning – I always delight in these sessions, and it’s my job to see that everyone else does. Breadmaking is an easy, everyday craft – as you’ll come to realise!

If you have a particular variety of bread you'd like to make instead of one of the breads on offer, I'd be very happy for you to do that. Get in touch if this idea appeals to you and we will see how we could fit it in to the programme. Or if you have any questions, doubts, suggestions at all, please don’t hesitate to ring or email me.

Finally, I’d like to draw your attention to the word ‘Companion’. The ‘com’ part means together – as in community – and the ‘pan’ part of the word means bread. So the word ‘Companion’ can be taken to mean, ‘Someone who makes bread with his or her friends’. Which is what we shall be doing!

I look forward to meeting you and welcoming you on the course.


Flour. Don't forget to specify strong flour, as this is sold especially for breadmaking. Own-brand flours are fine.
Yeast. The most convenient for our purposes is fresh baker’s yeast – I’ll bring enough yeast for everyone.
Olive oil. This is much cheaper these days, and it does improve the bread. Once again, buy the cheapest you can - £2.29 for 750ml at Lidl!

Shopping list:
1.5kg strong white flour
250ml olive oil
100g butter or margarine (for the layered bread)
100g sugar
50g fresh yeast if you can get some – or I'll have some for 20p
Sesame/poppy seeds
A bar of good eating chocolate (milk or plain)
100g sultanas or any dried fruit (soak them overnight – in wine if you like - and bring them in an old jam jar)
Mixed spice/cinnamon/nutmeg
Large Bramley-type apple – or a couple of eaters; Or: Slivered almonds for the Swedish tea ring
100g seedless grapes (either green or black)
Some lemon curd or a few tinned apricots for the Danish
100g grated Cheddar
Tomato sauce of your choice for the pizza
Dried oregano if you have it
Black pepper
Some tomatoes/mushrooms/onions/peppers for the sizzlers and pizza

You will also need to bring:
An apron
A couple of tea towels, both to cover your dough whilst it's proving and to wrap any warm bread in to take home.
A couple of food-quality plastic bags for proving the dough (I use clean bin bags – which I afterwards use for rubbish!)
Plus you’ll need one to place the croissant dough in whilst it is in the fridge
Baking parchment or paper (this is unlike greaseproof paper as it contains silicon)
Something to carry away the finished products (a large basket or cardboard box lined with tea towels would be ideal)
Sharp knife

You can also bring the following items – but they’re not essential:
Set of measuring spoons
Any favourite cooking utensil
Your favourite baking tray
We’ll be measuring with mugs, but, if you’d rather use scales, bring them along

Running order:
(Put butter/marg, etc, in fridge)

Welcome and intro’s (name labels) – fire exits - safety generally - icebreaker (what experience do people have? No experience? Do you like to cook, and if so, what? No experience cooking? What do you like to eat?) – expectations – what’s going to happen today – my failings as a tutor. I burn the bread, don’t read my notes, sound as if I’m telling you off (I’m not!), if I talk too fast, tell me to slow down and relax, this is a fun session!
Any Qs at any time - I never mind repeating myself. Emphasise fun aspect. Kettle is on at all times for coffee/teas, etc. (Courtesy of Ken – you might want to make a contribution.)

Discuss how we’ll use the ovens – two domestic, plus my 3 small ovens - need to maximise their use. Check with me if your bread is risen enough to be baked. It will be your responsibility to watch your bread in the oven.

First dough – loaf of bread Or: fancy dinner rolls – 2 mugs or 400g flour, salt, yeast, 2/3rds water and olive oil. Plus extra water. I’ll  demonstrate how I mix a dough – students follow suit. Put to one side   [400g]

Pizza dough – 1 1/2 mugs or 300g flour, salt, some water, 1 teaspoon yeast – add enough water to make a handleable dough        [300g]
Shaping - divide in two and make 1 pizza and 3 sizzlers. Roll out one large circle and four small circles, etc. Add toppings, etc, and put to prove (This is going to be our lunch) Place an initial, made from dough, on top of your bread to identify it
Knead the first dough for about 20 seconds

Demo and explanation of no-knead, overnight bread. I'll shape my rolls and put them to prove.

Dough for croissants, etc – 1 mug flour, etc. Layer with hard fat, fold, and place in fridge [200g]

Knead first dough again

Fruit dough – 1 1/2 mugs flour or 300g flour, fruit, spice, sugar, yeast water and olive oil.  [300g]
Divide in two and make Chelsea and hot cross buns with one half, and either the apfel kuchen, the Swedish tea ring or the schiaccatta con l’uva with the other.

Take out the croissant dough and fold once more – put back in the fridge

Knead the first dough again – should be drying out by now

Make the sweet dough and shape the doughnuts/pain au chocolat/iced buns etc. [200g]

Lunch              (could be earlier). Hand out the knowledge and attitude checklists 

Knead dough and fold croissant dough – place back in fridge

After demo from me, shape loaves with first dough - suggested breads, focaccia, plait, cottage, bloomer (just demonstrate a tinned loaf) and put to prove

Another demo – decide what layered breads are to be made by each student. Squares for Danish and yum yums – long strip for croissants        

Shape and put to prove.

Any time left, make a soda bread and or pancakes or pikelets.

[All through the day we'll be putting bread to prove - checking it, baking it and watching it in the oven.]

What have we learned today?
Feedback checklists to students

Any results from that homework - would be nice if you could email me any pics or stories of how you've passed on your newly acquired skills. I can then post them on here.

Reflections on the day:
On a beautiful spring-like morning I drove the 16 or so miles to Stogumber, through some of the loveliest countryside in England, to Stogumber Village Hall.

11 students turned up (Ken, Russell, Gill, Penny, Joe, Daphne, Mike, Sue, Alan, Mel, Dennis) - some with a lot of experience, a couple with none and a few in between, including several with bread machines. Unusually, in my experience, there were more men than women - 7 to 4.

We stuck with the programme pretty much, in the early stages - but one thing we hadn't bargained on was a problem with the ovens. There were two ovens, alright, but one was a good size, whilst the other was very narrow, so only a few of the oven trays we'd brought would fit it.

This meant that, at times, we built up a backlog of proving bread. I should, at this stage, have reduced the programme somewhat. In the event, students had to take home the last dough they shaped - the croissant dough - to bake.

Here are some pics - not as many as I would have liked, but I just never remember to get round to it!

Russell, Penny, Joe, Daphne, Mike and Sue. Hard at work; or relaxing! 

Alan's  poppy seed plait, rosemary focaccia and bloomer - all from one batch of dough

 Penny drizzling olive oil on her focaccia

Penny's Danish pastries
Those are probably Gill's croissants and Danish pastries
 Gill also took some photo's:
Alan, Mel and Dennis waiting for the fun to start. 
Me, pontificating - as I'm wont to do! 
Looks like Ken's feeling the pressure - and we haven't even started yet!

Several finished pizzas in the kitchen 
Some students working hard - others, not!
Penny adding rosemary to her focaccia
Rosemary focaccia and white rolls

Someone's bloomer - not sure who's.
Gill's granary loaf - which she made at home after the course.
Joe shaping his rolls
Me - just checking!

Monday 26 March 2012


A brilliant (not my word) Family Learning session at the far end of Somerset this morning! Up at the crack of dawn (7.15 - well it is for me!) and out of the house at 7.45 for the 35 mile trip to Castle Cary primary school, where I had up to 15 families waiting to make bread.

In the event, there turned out to be 12 children and 10 parents in the session. One or two of the mothers had made bread, with varying rates of success, and there were a couple of students with experience of bread machines, and that was it. Lots of cooking going on, most making cakes with their children, but very little bread.

One of the students was a French chef, who managed a local eaterie - even he had never made bread!

After a demo from me, they all made a batch of dough, with the youngsters showing quite a bit of competence (these were year 2 children, aged 6 and 7). Then they divided the dough into 2 pieces, one large and one small. The large piece was turned into 4 or so rolls of varying shapes while the other bit was to be a pizza.

I'd taken my four small ovens along, but it was still nice to see a domestic oven in the small kitchen adjoining the "Hive" as the activities room was called.

Here's the setup - with 2 shelves in each of the small ovens and 3 in the large one. 11 in all - but with 2 trays each holding 2 batches, there was room for all the batches of bread at one time.
One of my small ovens in action

The batch on the right was hopelessly burnt, so I gave the family the bread I'd made for the demo - on the right

Each batch was numbered - that's number 5 on the left, not sure about the other one!

Another batch
One of the youngsters breaking off a bit of bread from his roll

More shapes and another taster for someone!

Pizzas proving

More pizzas

Proving and baking
Ready to eat...

And pretty well all gone!
The hardest thing for the adults in these classes is - not doing it for their children! The breadmaking is easy - keeping your hands out and letting the children get on with it is difficult for the adults. But I delight in showing them just how competent their children can be, when given a chance.

Before I left I gave them all some homework - to find someone who doesn't know how to make bread and teach them what they've learned today. Not only will this spread some breadmaking ripples around, but the students themselves will enhance their own breadmaking skills.

The feedback was universally positive - they all loved it and would like some more of these sessions!

One comment I particularly liked, when asked what the parent had enjoyed about the session, was:
"Sitting back and watching my child do baking and not needing any help. You never know what your child can do."

I must add, in conclusion, that I had great support from the course organiser, Maureen, and the class teacher, Emma. Thanks, guys!

Monday 5 March 2012

Autolyse - an investigation

Sunday 4th March,

Here we go again! :-)

Beginning at 9.15am (bit more organised this time!) I combined 450g wholemeal flour and 500g of water into a sloppy dough, covered it with a dry teatowel and left it on the worktop.

2.00pm: Added 5g fresh yeast and 30g (ml) cold water and gave the gloopy mix a vigorous mixing for about thirty seconds, to ensure the yeast properly reaches all parts. My 'D-shaped spatula with handle' is  particularly useful for this:
Just flour and water at this stage
By 6.15pm it looked like this:

Now it's bursting with life - the yeast is doing its work
Now I added the rest of the ingredients - 150g strong white flour, 90g ground flaxseeds, 7g salt and 54g olive oil - and mixed into a shaggy mass:

Doesn't look much, does it?
Now I shall give it several short kneadings at intervals over a period - and eventually, after I'd got it to the stage where it could be left to prove for an hour or so, I realised I'd done it again! I'd missed out 100g of wholemeal. I added 150 to 450 and got 700! :( And me with an 'O' level in maths!

This is always a sticky dough, and this was pretty sticky - it was taking me longer than usual (more short kneadings than is normally the case) to get it to a stage where it could be shaped. But eventually, after I'd reached that stage, I realised what I'd done.

So I added the 100g wholemeal, with 60g of water and another 5g of yeast (it was getting late and I was up against the clock) and kneaded it all together. Eventually I was happy with it and shaped it into rolls.

I've decided to reduce the size of my rolls, somewhat, so I divided the dough into 14 instead of 12 and shaped into rolls:

Need to huddle them together somewhat so that they would fit under my roasting tray - using the 'undercover' method
Eventually I baked them off, finishing about 1.45am!

They were weighed off at approximately 104g each - and, after baking and cooling they weighed between 84 and 98g. The ones in the middle, of course, lost the most moisture.
I've had a couple of these rolls today, and there's no doubt they're very tasty. But then, my rolls always are. The only difference I can see is that, once again, they seem to be a tad lighter than my usual rolls.

The next batch I make, after freezing, I'll take, along with one from this batch, to a group of friends and do a blind tasting with them.

Hopefully, I'll get my maths right next time!

[More to come]

Saturday 18th February
Had to make some more rolls today, so I thought I'd have another go at an autolyse.

Starting at 7.10 in the evening I mixed 550g Dove's wholemeal with 485ml of water and left it for a couple of hours.

Later than I meant to, around 9 o'clock I added 8g of salt, 60g of flax seeds and the rest of the liquid - 55ml which included 10g of fresh yeast, plus 50g EVOO.

I couldn't understand why it was so wet - for over an hour I was giving it a short knead, leaving it for ten minutes, kneading again, etc, and eventually I thought, "I'll have to go with this." To test if it was OK once moulded, I shaped a roll and left it for ten minutes. It was fine.

I then started weighing out the rolls - divide the dough into six pieces, weigh them around 220g then divide each piece into two before shaping. Puzzlingly, I found I was about 100g light??

Only then did I realise that I hadn't added the usual 150g of white flour I was supposed to add, to give me a hydration of 70% (700g flour + 60g ground flaxseeds to 535ml water).

Stupidly, instead of working out that I needed around 60g flour and 40g water, I added some white flour without measuring it - so then I had to keep adding water to achieve a workable dough. Eventually,  after much faffing about I got it to my liking.

The mix ended up about 60g heavier than my usual, so my rolls will be bigger by an extra 5g.

I then went ahead and proved and baked them - under cover as is my wont - and I'll check them tomorrow to see if there is any difference in flavour.

I didn't come back as I intended - but I have to report that, while I could detect no difference in flavour, they did seem to be a tad bigger and lighter than my usual rolls. However, since there are so many variables (especially the way I mishandled the ingredients) that I can't say it was down to the autolyse process. More work to be done!

Friday, 9th December
In a recent conversation on the BBC Food message board about the effects of adding salt to a dough and when you should add it, the subject of the autolyse method of making bread came up.

I first have to say that, experienced bread baker as I am, I’ve not looked closely at this method of preparing a bread dough before.

Reading about the explosive increase  of flavour experienced by users of method I knew I’d have to investigate further – which meant a side by side trial!:(

(I have to say the bloke who’s method I’m following – perhaps mistakenly – is full of contradictions. We’ll come to them later.)

So: needing to make a side-by-side trial, whilst making a batch of rolls to take up to my daughter for my weekend trip to London, I divided my dough in two.

Batch A:
300g wholemeal
50g white
30g of ground flaxseeds (this is how I get my Omegas)

all mixed together – 50g of the mix set aside with 4g of salt added (the handful the author describes)

To the remainder I added:
269g of yeast liquid – including 4g fresh yeast
25g EVOO

Batch B:
300g wholemeal
50g white
30g of ground flaxseeds
4g salt

all mixed together – 50g of the mix set aside

To the remainder I added:
266g of yeast liquid – including 4g fresh yeast
25g EVOO

I mixed each of these into a dough, then left them – for about 30 minutes. When I came to add the rest of the flour – in one case – and the flour and salt in another, I mixed the flour into the dough and left it. I have to say that the dough – despite using the same amount of water as I usually do – came together in a much less sticky dough.

I have to say I could find no difference in flavour between the two batches. The flavour overall is excellent - but then, it always is!

Here's another conversation where adding salt whilst autolysing doesn't seem to make any difference.

Tonight I'm comparing half a batch of rolls using the autolyse method with half using my usual 'several short kneadings' method of making bread.

Thursday 1 March 2012

Swedish tea ring

Made in by one of my students, Sarah
200g (or 1 mugs) strong white flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tsp each mixed spice
100g (or 1/2 mug) dried fruit (currants, sultanas or raisins plus mixed peel)
1 dessertspoon fresh yeast or 1 teaspoon dried yeast
250ml (or 2/3rds mug) lukewarm water
2 dessertspoons olive oil (optional)

Sprinkle with icing sugar

1. Measure the water and stir in the fresh yeast. Place the flour, sugar, spice and dried fruit into a mixing bowl, pour in the yeast liquid, then add the olive oil.

2. Have a little water to hand to add if necessary and begin to mix by stirring the ingredients together with the fingers of one hand. Squeeze the mixture together and 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. Leave to prove for about an hour on your worktop, covered with a dry tea towel. Or place in an oiled plastic bag until you are ready for step 5.

5. Roll the dough out into a rectangle, 30cm by 20cm. Brush with oil, sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon and scatter 25g flaked almonds over. Roll up the dough along the long side, as you would a Swiss roll, and bring it to rest on the seam. Place it on a greased baking sheet (or one lined with baking parchment), and form it into a circle. Tuck one end into the other and pinch the join together.

6. Leave to rise appreciably. With a sharp knife, or a pair of scissors, slash the ring halfway through at intervals of 4-5cm.

7. Bake for approximately 20 minutes at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7. To check if it is done, lift one side with a palette knife; if it all lifts together, and there is colour across the base, it is done.

8. Place on cooling tray and dust with icing sugar.