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.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Gluten-free pancakes - also dairy and egg free!

I've been making pancakes with just self-raising flour and water for a while now.

Yesterday I thought I'd try it with gluten-free flour - and, what do you know? It works! Recognisably good pancakes using Dove's gluten-free self-raising flour.

I've put this on a separate post so that it will show up on a gluten-free search.

Refer to the other thread for the method.

Or, simply mix a batter with your chosen flour and add water to make a batter.

Heat up an oiled frying pan - and away you go!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Breadmaking at Children's Centres

Saturday 14th April 2012.
Lovely session at the Hollies, Taunton, this morning with around 10 or so families.

My intention in these sessions is just to show parents how easy it is is to make bread, and give them some ideas on making it with their children.

The recipe I use is a simple bread dough:
1 mug bread flour
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/3rd mug lukewarm water
1 teaspoon fresh yeast

I demonstrate how I make the dough, then the families join in with  the parents encouraging their children to do as much as they can. The ages of the children varied between 18 months and 4 years old.

One of the parents, Keith, totally got the whole thing very quickly. He made a batch of rolls whilst waiting for his partner and another child:

Keith - and the first rolls he's ever made!
In the meantime his daughter had gone off to play with some of the toys. When Keith's partner and other child arrived, they made a similar batch with Keith teaching them how to do it!

Meanwhile, everyone else was getting on with it, too:

Sorry about the fuzziness - but I've left it in for the two batches at the top. It's a pity, because Martin (I think it was) had made a birds nest with four eggs in it - at the bottom left hand corner

There's Jasmine's bread at the top

Finally, these are Hope's rolls

Tuesday, 10 April 2012


(Makes 8 medium size)

300g strong white flour
100g rye flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 heaped teaspoon fresh yeast
250ml lukewarm water
2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)

A pan of simmering water
4 tsps bicarbonate of soda

1. Measure the water and stir in the fresh yeast. Place the flour and salt into a mixing bowl, pour in the yeast liquid and 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. If the dough is too sticky, instead of putting extra flour on your worktop, place some in the bowl, put the dough back in and turn it round to coat it all over. That way you keep the flour under control and you won’t be tempted to add too much. Knead until the dough becomes smooth – and then stop before you get fed up!

4. Put a large pan of water on to boil, about 2 centimetres deep and put the oven on at 220C, 425F or gas 7. Place the dough onto your worktop and divide it into 8 pieces.

5. Roll each piece into long ropes about as long as your forearm and hand. Take one of the ropes about half way along and hold it up. Pinch the halfway mark slightly. Take one end and position it about 2cm on the other side of the pinch mark. Do the same with the other then adjust the position of each end so that all three holes are the same size. Pinch the joins quite firmly to attach. Place on a floured board.

6. Let them rise for a little while until you see that they’ve increased slightly in size and take them over to the pan of water. Add 4 heaped teaspoons of bicarb to the water. With the water just simmering, gently lower several pretzels into the water, one at a time. Don’t overcrowd the pan because they will plump out somewhat in the hot water.

7. Using an egg slice, flip the bagels over after 30 seconds (wet the side of the pan first, so they don’t stick). Give them another 30 seconds, take them out, place them on a prepared baking sheet and put them straight into the oven.

8. Now bring the water back to the simmer and repeat with the rest of the pretzels. The pretzels are done when they are brown underneath - about 15 minutes in my electric oven.

If you wish, you can sprinkle these with coarse salt – brush with water, first.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Gluten-free, egg-free, parkin

This is a variation on my vegan parkin recipe - simply substituting gluten-free flour for the wholemeal and increasing the baking powder slightly:

100g porridge oats
100g gluten-free flour (I used Sainsbury's white bread flour - that's all I had in)
3 tsps baking powder
4 tsps ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
100g sugar
80g vegetable oil
220g lukewarm water
100g blackstrap molasses - warmed and added after the oil and water

Mix the dry ingredients (only sieving the baking powder), then add the oil, the water and the molasses.

Stir with a spoon and whisk until smooth, then pour into a 8" cake tin. I used this star-shaped silicon cake mold which is 9" across between the points, and 6.5" across the middle and it's 1.5" deep.

Just before baking...

And just after baking
Bake for about 40 minutes at 175C - and it's done when a skewer comes out clean.

Apart from being a bit lighter than the one made with wheat flour, it was indistinguishable - the combination of the ginger and molasses along with the porridge oats make this a truly memorable cake.

My son was well pleased - he always has a problem with the gluten in ordinary cakes.

I've since tried it with Dove's GF brown flour, and it seems to be a little heavier than the white GF flour - which is closer to the original, I think. 

Friday, 6 April 2012

Hot cross buns with Alfie

My 6-year-old grandson, Alfie, was keen to make some buns with me.

Earlier in the day I'd soaked some dried fruit in anticipation, and, about 4.30 in the afternoon Alfie and I began:

Start with a spatula...
...get your hands in
Then, get...

...really stuck in!
We made the dough before dinner, then covered it with an upturned bowl and left it on the worktop.

After we'd eaten, we started again:

The dough had risen to fill the bowl, and was ready to shape

Cutting crosses in the top of the buns

Baked - and two went missing before I could take a pic! It was a very wet dough which makes it a little difficult to shape properly
I told Alfie to divide the dough into twelve pieces - so, under my direction, he cut it in half then divided each half into 3 pieces. Then each piece was divided in two. Alfie did all this, using my dough cutter. Then we shaped the rolls together, and placed them on the baking tray. I gave Alfie a demo of applying the crosses on top and he did the rest.

400g (or 2 mugs) strong white flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tsps each mixed spice, cinnamon and nutmeg
150g (1 mug) chopped dried apricots (unsulphured), 100g (half mug) sultanas (soaked overnight), plus 50g (handful) chopped dates 
25g mixed peel
1 dessertspoon fresh yeast 
250ml (or 2/3rds mug) soaking water
2 tablespoons olive oil 

For the method and shaping advice and variations, click here.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012


Sunday 8th April.
Gave a taste to my son this morning, who reported that it was similar to brickdust! It's true it's a little gritty - next time I'll use bought ground almonds.

Wednesday 4th April.
Just had another go at making some vegan cheese - this time from scratch.

I took a look at some of the recipes on line, made a list of ingredients common to several of them, and 'winged' it a bit. I ground some flaked almonds and just began adding things:

25g ground almonds
25g gram flour
1 tsp smoked paprika
10g nutritional yeast ('nooch')
1 tsp 'Free and easy' cheese sauce powder

25g tahini

1 teaspoon lemon juice


I mixed the dried ingredients, then added the wet ones and kept stirring with a table knife. It came together very easily, then I pressed it into the bottom of a small dish. After a couple of hours in the fridge I brought it out and took a couple of slices off it.

Doesn't look a whole lot different to the first lot I did - but it has a much deeper level of flavour

I'm quite impressed - both with the ease of assembly and the flavour and 'feel' of it. I put some on a pizza I was making, and it absolutely added to the overall flavour.

 My daughter thought it was “Fine”, which is all I was after, really.

The central components here, I feel, are the almonds, gram flour and tahini - and perhaps the EVOO. The rest is just flavouring and can be altered at whim.

I'm happier with these ingredients as a base for experimentation - I try not to use much soya, and I generally steer clear of marg - but this I can play around with for a bit.

21st March.
Following a recipe posted by Tezza on Wildfood, I made my first vegan cheese this morning:

50g marg (Pure in this case)
50g soya flour
8g yeast extract (Morrison's own - it's cheaper and just as good. Looks a little darker if anything)

Melt the marg and yeast extract together, then add the flour. Mix with a dessertspoon at first, but then get your hands in and bring it together like a stiff bread dough. This makes a small block which will keep in the fridge for quite along time, I feel. There's the basis here for lots of playing about - with olive oil, nooch - and all sorts of other flavourings. Chilli cheese - now there's a thought! :)

Cheap and cheerful

And slices nicely!

I'd never thought of making my own cheese until I saw Tezza's thread, but there's quite a few recipes on the net when you look around. 

I shall be experimenting with this over the coming months, I'm sure!