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, 23 September 2012

Chiminea firings of 2012: Number 10 - 22/9/12

This was last year's tally!

I hope to do much better this year - now that I (more or less) know what I'm doing!

Saturday 22nd September.
I've had the chiminea fired up several times, making notes as I go - and then never got round to writing them up! To make up for that in some small way, I thought I'd write my notes directly into this thread - then I'd have no excuse.

Spent Saturday afternoon doing some chores, which took longer than I anticipated so I didn't begin until 4.30:

4.50 600g of pizza dough made and covered with the upturned bowl
4.54 Beer poured, fire lit and piled high with wood
5.15 1st load of charcoal in - off to shape pizzas
5.25 Pizzas rolled out
5.28 2nd load of charcoal in
5.39 Coals nicely reddening, so the 1st pizza went in - after 2 minutes the bottom was done - put small roasting tray with water in and put pizza back in top of that (to prevent the bottom burning)
5.53 2nd pizza in
5.59 2nd pizza changed round
6.08 3rd pizza ditto
6.13 4th pizza in
6.16 Pizza moved
6.30 Soda bread in
6.50 Fire dying down, soda bread finished

The recipe I followed was pretty much the same as in the OP.

Using the water-filled roasting tray pretty much solved the problem of the underneath of the pizzas burning - my wife says it's the best pizza I've made yet!

[Pics to come, shortly]

Saturday 30th June.
Not a bad day, with just the odd shower forecast. I intended to make half a dozen pizzas using about 150-160g of dough each - so I made about 1kg of dough altogether, straight after lunch.

I set out to chop the kindling at 3.28, and by 3.25 the fire was well alight. I gave it two loads of wood and at 3.53 I covered the fire with the first load of charcoal. 15 minutes later I once again banked up the fire with as much charcoal as I could get in there.

The first pizza went in at 4.23 and I used a piece of hardboard to protect the base for the first 2 minutes. After a further 3 minutes it was done and the second one went in. This was exactly an hour after I'd begun.

Vegan pizza at the top and my wife's potato pizza - she just doesn't like tomato in any form!

At 4.43 the third pizza went in - by now I was putting the pizzas in straight onto the oven floor initially, for a couple of minutes, then using the hardboard (soaked in water) to prevent the bottom burning.

2 more vegan pizzas

By 5.03 the last pizza had gone in, which took about 8 minutes. So, half a dozen pizzas in just over an hour and a half - i was well pleased.

And, finally, 2 cheese and tomato pizzas

Finally, since there was still a lot of heat in the fire, I knocked up a quick soda bread focaccia which took about 12 minutes. (with only 3 or 4 minutes to mix and shape the dough, the loaf was done in around 15 minutes!)
I meant to add some fresh rosemary from the garden - but completely forgot. No matter, it was a tasty loaf! 

I'll insert the links to these recipes  as soon as I can.

Saturday 12th May.
I made a batch of dough with 540g of white flour in preparation for a pizza-making session in the afternoon. In the event I decided to put this off for 24 hours - but my dough was too big for my food-storer and kept escaping:

This food-storer will happily contain a dough made with 700g of wholemeal flour - but not this amount of white.
I decided to make smaller pizzas - using 120g of dough. Not a good idea, I'm afraid - I rolled the dough out too thin and they weren't so good:

My wife's potato pizza - BBQ sauce, slices of cooked new potatoes, cheese and mushrooms

The top left pizza is covered with veg chilli. The rest were covered with a mix of vegan pesto,  mushroom pate  and tomato puree - along with mushrooms, tomatoes and nutritional yeast

The top one is a basic tomato and (vegan) cheese pizza, whilst the bottom one is topped with vegan polony.
I didn't fire up the chiminea hot enough - I only used one load of charcoal, when  I should have added a second one before beginning to cook. An oven thermometer would sort this problem out, I'm sure!

Friday 30th March.
Last fine day of a beautiful spell of unseasonal weather today, we're told, so I had to get the chiminea up and running again.

For various reasons I couldn't start until later afternoon,  finally managing to light up about 4.50. I wanted to push the boundaries a bit, so I'd previously made some 'No-knead, overnight bread' intending to make 3 small loaves after I'd done with the pizzas.

I made the same pizza dough as earlier, but divided it up into 6 pieces this time, rolling out the pizzas a little thinner.

In the event I made 5 pizzas, 1 calzone and only one loaf - when I ran out of charcoal, which means I've still got 2/3rds of the bread dough left which I need to bake:

Tomato sauce, vegan cheese, peppers and polony

1 potato pizza, 2 cheese and tomato and two vegan pizzas, plus one vegan calzone
Saturday 24th March.
On Friday night I made a batch of 'No-knead, overnight dough' (look for Method C) for today's pizzas, using 500g of white flour. I started shaping the pizzas around 4, and lit the fire around 4.30.

Before adding chopped sun-dried tomatoes to the dough I separated out 150g for my wife's pizza, and added half a dozen chopped SDTs to the remaining 500g, which made another 3 pizza bases

I completely cocked up the first pizza, which was a potato and cheese pizza for my wife. First I didn't check the potatoes were completely cooked - or rather, I thought they would finish cooking in the oven - they didn't!

So, after the pizza came out of the oven (fairly well burnt, I should add) I decided to completely reconstruct the topping. I picked off all the mushroom slices and set to one side, then I took the melted cheese off the top of the potatoes, which I discarded, then removed the slices of potato from the top of the pizza - which wasn't easy! I then microwaved the potatoes and put the back on the pizza - covered the potato with fresh grated cheese and replaced the mushrooms. At some stage I put the pizza under the grill to cook the cheese. My wife was none the wiser!

It looks a bit of a mess, but it was 'OK' apparently.

I covered the other three pizzas with a mix of mushroom pate, vegan pesto and tomato puree plus a liberal helping of cayenne pepper, then put roasted peppers on one, mushrooms on another and slices of tomatoes on the third:

Turning to the fire, after it was well alight, I turned the middle firebrick on its side to allow heat through to the roof of the 'mini-oven'.

I loaded up the fire-pit with wood, then, when space allowed, I covered the coals with a layer of charcoal. Around 50 minutes after the fire was lit I began cooking the first pizza - which took about 4 minutes. The second one took about the same time, but then I concentrated on the potato pizza for a while before coming back to cook the last two pizzas.

I was determined to use all the residual heat of the oven, so, while the last couple of pizzas were in the oven, I quickly knocked up a batch of wholemeal dough with ground flaxseeds, using 400g wholemeal and 100g white. This I divided in two and made two flattish cobs. Once they had risen and the oven was free, I put the first one in, which took about 15 minutes and got ever so slightly burnt. By now the heat was dying down, so I put the second on in and set the timer for 20 minutes. It was done underneath but not on top, and the oven had cooled down noticeably, so I turned the bread over and left it there. I came out about an hour later to find the bread done - but without much colour except where it had been over a gap in the oven bricks:

Quite a difference in these two loaves! I'd like to say they tasted just the same, but that's just not true! The burnt one had much more flavour. The pale one was adequate, it was good bread - but not a patch on the other.
It's been quite a while since I cooked bread in my oven, but after this I'm beginning to think I should cook all my bread in there. And not just as an afterthought when making pizzas, but all my daily bread, in a dedicated breadmaking session. I shall be talking to my friends on the UK WFO forum about this very shortly!

Wednesday 7th March.
I wanted to fire up yesterday, which was a gloriously sunny day with not a lot of wind - but it was one of my CR (calorie reduction) days, so there didn't seem much point.

And the weather today was pretty dreadful to begin with - but after lunch it brightened up and the sun began to shine, so I thought I'd go for it. The only problem was the wind, it was bitter!

I knocked up a batch of dough - with 500g of flour - around 3.00pm, and lit the fire about 4.30. I've been given loads of kindling, so I used a lot of that to begin with - then, once it got really going, I filled up the firebox with wood and piled a load of charcoal on top of that and went back inside to start shaping the pizzas.

I made 3: a potato pizza for my wife who dislikes tomato, and 2 vegan pizzas for myself - plus several vegan sizzlers.

The charcoal was well alight and ready for cooking by now, so I put the first of the pizzas in the chiminea (after  turning the middle firebrick horizontal again) around 5.15. I didn't put a timer on (when will I learn!), with the result that the bottom was burnt - it probably only took about 4 minutes and I didn't slip a piece of hardboard under the pizza to prevent it burning. The second and third went in, with hardboard, followed by the sizzlers - each batch taking a little longer than the last.

The pizzas could have been left a little longer to rise - but they rose in the oven alright.

It's difficult not to start hacking away at a pizza when it comes out of the oven!
Lessons for next time:
Use a timer!
Keep a close eye on the pizzas - especially the first one
Turn them 180 degrees halfway through cooking
Soak some pieces of hardboard
Use the hardboard from the beginning
Shape the pizzas before lighting the fire
Don't buy charcoal from a garden centre in the off-season - it cost me a bomb! Probably more than twice as much as it would buying it from a garage forecourt back in September!

Saturday 7th January.
A sunny, Saturday afternoon here in Somerset gave me all the incentive I needed to break out the chiminea and get cracking!

I made up a basic bread dough with 800g of flour and around 530g of water, and went out to start the fire.

The first thing I noticed was a distinct lack of charcoal! I'd meant to buy some after my last firing - and completely forgot! (Pause whilst I add this to my shopping list...)

However, I figured there'd be just about enough, so I lit the fire, added the 2nd lot of charcoal, with the middle floor brick on its side at 0055 and had my first pizza in at 0107. There clearly wasn't enough heat in the firepit, since this first pizza took about 12 minutes, as did the 2nd.

Two cheese, potato and mushroom pizzas and one vegan pizza with mushroom pate, pesto and mushrooms
After a pause whilst I tried to heat up the chamber by placing the middle brick on its side again for a little while, I put pizza nr. 3 in at 0142 and the 4th at 0155. The fire was beginning to die back at this stage, so I put the last of the charcoal in there and left it for a good 20 minutes or so. I managed the final pizza (forgot to keep records of timing at this stage) and then placed a sun-dried tomato focaccia in the oven.

More a flat loaf than a focaccia - and I have to come clean about the pizza: I flashed it under the grill just to finish the top 
I gave this about 20 minutes then turned it over  (the top hadn't even begun to colour) and promptly forgot it whilst we had our dinner. The bread was fine - not sure how long it was in there, but it must have been over an hour, all told. The loaf was 530g uncooked - and 430g when I brought it out!

Have to report that the chiminea is beginning to fall apart. One of the bolts holding the top oven door has sheered and the housing of the other one has fractured. I'll see if I can't get a close-up of this to show what I mean.

Thoroughly enjoyable session for the first one of the year. There's still a couple of pizzas left - and I'm munching on a slice of that loaf as I write. Very nice!

Saturday, 22 September 2012


200g (1 mug) strong white flour
1 dessertspoon sugar
125g (1/3 mug) lukewarm water
1 teaspoon yeast - fresh, dried active or instant, dissolved in the water
Tablespoon olive oil

50g dark chocolate - roughly chopped 
100g tart cherries

Brush with a glaze made with 1 teaspoon sugar and 2 teaspoons boiling water.

1. Place the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Measure the water and stir in the fresh yeast. Pour in the yeast liquid and add the olive oil.

2. Have a little extra 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. When it gets too stiff for the palette knife, use one hand to turn the bowl round, whilst the other hand begins 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 the dough remains soft. Don’t be afraid to add more water. 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 the dough and leave to prove for an hour or so, then, without disturbing the dough too much, tip it out onto the worktop and form into a flat circle. 

5. Then, using flour to stop the dough sticking, roll the dough out into a rectangle, roughly 30cm by 20cm. chocolate and cherries over the dough, leaving a border at the top and bottom.

6. Roll up the dough towards you, as if making a Swiss roll, bring it to rest on the seam and squeeze the dough gently around the filling. Then tuck the ends over to stop the filling leaking out. 

7. Place on a prepared baking sheet and leave to prove until they’ve risen appreciably. Bake at 200C, 400F or gas mark 6 for between 20-25 minutes. 

Sunday, 16 September 2012


Friday 14th Sept.

Finally broke away from my tagliatelle rut, last night, and made a lasagne with my homemade pasta.

I made it with all wholemeal and added half a teaspoon of bouillon powder, a heaped teaspoon of nooch, and the end of a spoon of curry powder. I forgot the EVOO, but it didn't seem to make any difference - probably won't bother with it from now on.

The lasagne was the best I've ever had, simply scrummy - and I've still got half of it left.

I have to say it was very satisfying, cutting the sheets to the required size for the pot - so that only one sheet was needed for each layer! 

Ravioli next!

Saturday 8th Sept.

Boy! Am I getting good at this!

Came home this evening to find my wife had made me a vegetable pasta sauce - so I set to and made some pasta - 100% wholemeal this time.

I put a pan of water on, found the scales, then the flour, the bouillon powder, the nutritional yeast and the cayenne pepper.

I measured 50g flour and added 3/4 of a teaspoon of stock powder, a heaped teaspoon of nooch and 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper. I mixed this together and added 30g of water and a glug of EVOO. This came together as a dough very quickly - which I kneaded a couple of times.

4 minutes after I began, I formed the dough into a bun-shape, dredged it with flour (s/raising this time, it's a quarter the price of the w/meal) and rolled it out thinly.

To try and encourage a square shape, I pick the dough up - left hand to the bottom left hand corner, right hand to the top left hand corner; then, turning the dough over, I bring my right hand over to the right hand bottom corner. Then I spread with flour again, roll out a couple of times and repeat the turning over procedure - only this time on the right hand side. Once I've got it to the correct thickness - which I check by folding the dough three times (giving me 8 layers) and measuring it - it should be about 1cm thick. Which makes the dough roughly 0.125cm thick.

[Does this make any sense, folks? It's the first time I've tried to write down what I actually do. Feedback welcome, please.]
It's a bit ragged - possibly because it's all wholemeal?
I then take the pizza wheel and cut it into roughly 1cm wide strips. Today I cut 23 strips, so the square of dough was approx. 23cm square.

The pan of water was now ready and in went the strips, one strip at a time. 3 minutes later - 16 minutes after I began - it was nearly ready. Only then did I realise I hadn't warmed up the sauce. That took a couple of minutes - but I finally sat down with my meal 20 minutes after I started!

It's more than I need for one meal (although I still cleared the plate. Next time I'll use 40g of flour and 25g water.
The wholemeal pasta was absolutely fine - I shall do it like this from now on. And adding flavourings to the pasta makes it a whole new ball game - one that I can play about with to my heart's content!

I'd just about given up on pasta I was so bored with it - but now I embrace it willingly. Must try lasagne and ravioli very soon!

Tuesday 28th August.
Two of our grandchildren are staying with us for a few days - and as soon as Olivia (9) heard about my pasta-making and saw the pics, she wanted to make some herself. Not tomorrow, not later today - but now! So we're having pasta for lunch!

Once the pasta was cooked, it was mixed with chopped tomatoes and served with grated cheese.

Tuesday 21/8/12.
I've done it again!

I came home from the cricket to find my wife had made me a vegetable pasta sauce - which smelt wonderful!

So I set to to make some more pasta. This time I thought I'd make it with 50% wholemeal - using half Dove's organic wholemeal and half a basic strong white flour.

I made too much for one meal last time, so I divided the ingredients in half:
50g wholemeal and white flour
3g bouillon powder
30g water

Mix together, knead for a few seconds then roll out into a large circle. With the confidence gathered from the last time I made pasta, I rolled the circle out as big as last time - but, obviously, a lot thinner. I folded it into 8 to check the thickness - it was roughly 1 cm thick. So the dough was about 1.25mm thick.

This amount of dough, 90g approx, made a rough oval 11" by 12"

This bit's the most fun - cutting it into  strips

Once again, using a pizza cutter, I divided into long strips - about 1cm wide, or less.

Lifting it up with a dough cutter is easy
Boiled some water in the kettle, poured it into the pan, and, when it was boiling I tipped in the pasta. Three minutes later (as the video said! :) ) it was done.

A bit more than I would normally have in one portion; still, I ate it all!
I don't know if it was my wife's lovely sauce, or my homemade pasta - but it was a thoroughly gorgeous meal!

It probably took me about 15-18 minutes. I reckon I can get it under ten - which is quicker than cooking dried pasta. Just have to remember to put the water on to boil before I start making the pasta!

One last comment. I dropped a strand of pasta in the pasta sauce - and it cooked perfectly well - again in three minutes! Now, I'm thinking, could I cook it all in there? Hmm!

Wow! I've finally made my own pasta - who knew it was so easy?

I did a bit of googling, of course, and came up with this video, which gives a recipe and also demonstrates a small variety of shapes.

These were the ingredients I used:
100g Doves white strong bread flour
61g water
10g extra virgin olive oil (not strictly necessary, but I just love adding olive oil!)

Mixed into a fairly stiff dough - adding more flour until it was the right consistency (not as soft and squishy as my bread dough) and left for 10 minutes whilst I tickled up my wife's vegetable pasta sauce. She makes a fairly basic sauce to which I add a good dessertspoon of vegan pesto (Meridian is my preference), some dried basil and a fair dollop of WI pepper sauce.

I rolled out the dough using plenty of flour, turning and refreshing the flour and rolling out again:

The dough was about 2.5mm thick. I measured it by folding a corner into four, then measuring the combined thickness - 1cm.

Then, using a pizza cutter, I cut half of the dough into strips, to make tagliatelle, flouring it first:

I draped the strips for a few minutes over a cooling rack - which you can just see in the following pic.

I then started playing about with the remaining dough - cutting it into small shapes as per the link above:
I rolled some of these into small cylinders (cavatelli) - made some into bows  and tried and failed to make the ridged cavatelli using a fork 
I was pleased with the farfalle, top left. My attempts at the ridged cavatelli are top right.

The tagliatelli cooking - about 6 minutes rather than the 3 specified in the link

And the finished dish! 
I doubt I'll ever buy pasta again! 

This is a cheap and simple dish - the total dough weighed 191g (120g flour, 61g water, 10g oil). And, leaving out the oil, it's very low on calories. I used half of the dough, so, 60g of flour = 200 calories. Add the calories from  the vegetable sauce - very few - and the total comes to very little!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012


200g strong white flour
2 dessertspoons sugar
125ml lukewarm water
1 rounded teaspoon fresh yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil

Icing sugar 

1. Measure the water and stir in the fresh yeast. Place the flour and sugar into a mixing bowl and pour in the yeast liquid followed by 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). Holding the bowl with one hand begin to mix by stirring the ingredients together with your fingers. Check how the dough feels as you mix – it should stay soft and squidgy – and add more flour or water as needed. 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 it for an hour or so, covered with a tea towel. (Or go straight to step 5.)

5. When you're ready to proceed, divide the dough into 8 pieces. Form each one into a bun shape and then roll each one into a sausage shape. Place on a prepared baking tray about 5mm apart, so that they grow to touch each other.

6. Cover and leave to prove until they have grown appreciably in size. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7, for about 10-12 minutes.

7. Whilst the buns are baking, make up the icing sugar as per the instructions on the box. When the buns have cooled, spread the icing sugar evenly over each bun.

This is just a basic bread recipe with some sugar added. Wrap them in a tea towel while they cool, to keep them soft.

I made some in a playgroup this morning with 14 children. The first comment from the kids was, 'Yummy!". Mind you, they'd sprinkled the icing with sugar strands, chocolate flavour strands and hundreds and thousands!

Friday, 7 September 2012

'No-knead' overnight bread

[More pics at the foot of this post]
No knead and undercover*
600g Dove's strong wholemeal flour
100g strong white flour
7g salt
500ml water
5g fresh yeast or 3g of dried active yeast
50g olive oil (optional)

Place the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, make a well in the top and add the yeast. Pour roughly 100g of water over the yeast and gently stir (saves having to wash the jug) to dissolve the yeast - then add the rest of the water plus the olive oil if using.

Mix the dough roughly - using either your hand or a table knife - just until it's mixed together. If you've done this in a food storer, just clip the lid on and leave it on your worktop until you're ready to go to the next step. Leave it either overnight or for at least 8 hours. 

When you're ready to proceed, tip it out onto the worktop, stretch and fold it several times.  You might find it easier to work with a scattering of flour - or, if you don't want to add more flour to the dough, pour a little vegetable oil over the dough to make it easier to handle. If it's too wet for your liking, make a note to yourself to add less liquid next time.

The rolls in the pic above - I  divided the dough into 12 pieces and formed them into rolls, each weighing about 100g.

I huddled these together on some baking parchment, covered them with a roasting tray and left them to rise.

I then baked them at 220C (gas 7) for about 10 minutes undercover*, then removed the roasting dish and left them for a further 15-20 minutes. 

This bakes as a loaf, but is easily broken into rolls destined for the freezer when they've cooled.

Leaving yeast and flour together to mature for this length of time greatly enhances the flavour - and this 'no-knead' method is one of the easiest I employ.

14 smaller rolls

Which rose really well
*The 'undercover' or 'cloche' method of proving and baking bread is explained in some detail here.