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, 26 December 2012


For Christmas dinner this year I quite fancied homemade vegan haggis  - en croute. Reading about the en croute method in general I discovered that a brioche dough is quite traditional when making a beef Wellington, so this was what I wanted.

As a vegan, brioche made with butter and eggs has been out of the question up until now. But I'd recently come across this post on The Fresh Loaf forum, so I knew a vegan brioche was quite doable. However, this was to be a savoury wrap, which I wanted to make it as tasty as I possibly could - I just used the recipe as a base.

For the last couple of years I've added chopped sun dried tomatoes whenever I've made pizza dough - and I've always included a good glug of the oil from the jar. This makes a wonderfully crisp, crumbly crust - almost like shortcrust pastry. So I decided to use the same oil - which was mostly sunflower oil, with a little olive oil - for the brioche dough.

The procedure for any brioche is to make the dough first, then, once the gluten has formed, knead in whatever fat you are using. 

Here's the dough I made:
160g white bread flour
1 stock cube, crumbled
1 rounded teaspoon of curry powder
1/2 teaspoon mixed herbs
4 s-d-tomatoes chopped small

Yeast liquid made with:
10g fresh yeast
20g tomato puree
70g lukewarm water

1 dessertspoon vegan pesto
25g extra virgin olive oil (I probably didn't need this!)

Mixed into a dough and kneaded until smooth.

Then 80g of the oil from the jar of s-d-tomatoes was poured into the bowl and incorporated into the dough - with difficulty, I have to say. After a couple of minutes squeezing and turning repeatedly, it was pretty ragged and I began to think I'd used too much oil. But I persevered and suddenly it became like a ciabatta dough - neither a batter or a dough, but somewhere in between. At this stage I added a further 25g of flour and, after a bit more kneading and squishing (to use the technical term! :) ), I brought it onto the worktop and I was able to begin rolling it out. It was a very wet dough and after a couple of attempts I realised I'd be better rolling it out on some baking parchment, which was what I did. Flouring it liberally, I managed to get it to the size I required, covered the dough with thinly sliced mushrooms

and gently folded the dough over the haggis. 

First two folds, using the baking parchment to lift the dough over the haggis

All is safely gathered in!
Normally I would hack away with a pair of scissors at this stage, to get the least amount of dough to haggis ratio I could. Not this time. I was just happy I had the haggis enclosed!

And here it is, after 20 minutes at 200C

Divided in two, half for dinner tomorrow, the rest went in the freezer

This is what I wrote at the time (1.30 on Christmas morning) on one of the food forums I use:

"My haggis en croute has just come out of the oven and I've had a taste of the crust - it is absolutely gorgeous! No, glorious is a better word!"

The next morning I nibbled the crust constantly - I found it irresistible!

I'm happy to report that my Christmas dinner was absolutely lovely - with a spicy tomato sauce and all the traditional roast veggies, I was very happy indeed!

And I've got the other half of this bread in the freezer - perhaps for New Year's dinner?

Monday, 24 December 2012


First of all, let me pay tribute to The wicked, good vegan whose recipe I followed - albeit with a few tweaks!

Sunday 23rd December
Had another go at GF scones today (pics to come) - but didn't have all the ingredients. So I tweaked the September recipe:

50ml soya cream + 50ml water (to approximate dairy-free milk)
1/2 tsp red wine vinegar*
180g gluten free flour (I used Wessex Gluten Free bread flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon bicarb of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
40g sunflower oil
50g sugar

*Not sure about adding vinegar to soya to curdle it - it had no discernible effect on this occasion.

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl, add oil and milk mixture, mix into a dough, adding a little more flour or liquid if desired.

The rest is as per the recipe below.

Except that, using an unfamiliar oven, these were done (well done) after only ten minutes. They tasted fine, though, and the GF recipient was well pleased.

Next time I'll leave out the vinegar - and the salt; I see no need for either of these ingredients. I'll also just up the baking powder slightly and leave out the bicarb.

Tuesday 18th September Tip - before assembling your dry ingredients, make some vegan buttermilk by mixing the milk and vinegar in a bowl to curdle it. Doesn't take long.

200ml dairy free milk
5ml white wine vinegar
360g gluten free flour (I used Wessex Gluten Free bread flour)
2 teaspoons GF baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarb of soda
1 teaspoon salt
80g vegetable shortening (I used Pure)
100g sugar

Measure the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and rub the vegetable fat into the flour with your fingertips.

Add the 'buttermilk' and stir into a dough, adding a little more flour or liquid if desired.

Form the dough into a round and press it out into a circle about 2cm thick.

 Use a 5cm cutter to cut out the rounds and place them on your prepared baking tray, using up all the scraps.

Brush with soya milk (which I forgot to do) and place in the oven at 220C for about 20 minutes.

Place on a cooling rack.

I used half the ingredients - the recipe above will make 11 or 12 scones.
Slice them in half, horizontally,

And admire the crumb!

I had no cream, but I cut one of the pieces in half - covered one with Flora and jam for my wife, and spread Pure and jam on the other half. My wife thought they were delicious (and she's a harsh critic, at times!) and asked for the other half of the scone.


I, too, thought they were gorgeous!

When they've cooled I shall freeze them (GF products should be kept in the freezer, IME). 15-20 seconds in the microwave will bring them back to life - these are always best eaten warm.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

My daily bread (6)

This is the 6th post with this title. The first, begun in February 2011, was fairly long - and the second, begun in May, was even longer. The third and fourth were more restrained, lasting around 5 weeks each. The fifth was another long one - and, since I haven't posted for 3 weeks or more, I thought I'd start number 6.

In these posts I chronicle my daily breadmaking 'adventures'. In truth they mainly detail the various breads I make in a working week - and those I make at home. But occasionally,  as in the wood-fired oven pizza events I run occasionally, or the Occupy Bristol workshop I held before Christmas, it truly is an adventure - in that I'm never sure how these things are going to pan out.

My intention is always to link to breads mentioned in this post - but I don't always manage this. However, 99% of the time, if you put the name of the bread in the 'Search this blog' box, you'll be directed to the recipe.

(To keep this post on the top of the page, I shall date it a week or so in advance).

Monday 24th December

This morning, with the help of my grandchildren, we baked (all with bread dough):

Mincemeat tarts and Reindeer droppings

Marzipan sandwiches - cut out the dough in a bell shape, say, roll out the marzipan and cut out the same shape, then another dough shaped bell on top
Mincemeat tarts in the process of being filled, with marzipan 'sandwiches' and shapes
Unfamiliar ovens are a pain! These only took 10 minutes - on 195C.

Christmas loaf
Christmas tear and share loaf [link to come]

Gluten free 'sizzlers' - bread wraps.

This evening I made 5 rolls from the rest of the GF dough which I'd had proving all day, plus a sunflower oil brioche with which to wrap my homemade haggis for Christmas dinner tomorrow.

The haggis en croute has just come out of the oven and I've had a taste of the crust - it is absolutely gorgeous! No, glorious is a better word!

While I'm writing this down I'll give the ingredients - otherwise I might forget.

160g mix of strong and plain flour (I'd run out of bread flour!)
1 stock cube
1 rounded teaspoon of curry powder
1/2 teaspoon mixed herbs
4 s-d-tomatoes chopped small
10g fresh yeast
70g lukewarm water
20g tomato puree
1 dessertspoon vegan pesto
25g EVOO

Mixed into a dough.

Then 80g of the oil from the s-d-ts was poured into the bowl and incorporated into the dough - with difficulty. After a couple of minutes squeezing and turning repeatedly it was pretty ragged and I thought I'd used too much oil. But I persevered and suddenly it became like a ciabatta dough - neither a batter or a dough, but somewhere in between. At this stage I added a further 25g of flour and, after a bit more kneading and squishing (to use the technical term! :)). I was able to begin rolling it out. It was a very wet dough and after a couple of attempts I realised I'd be better rolling it out on some baking parchment, which was what I did. Flouring it liberally, I got it to the size I required, covered the dough with thinly sliced mushrooms and gently folded the dough over the haggis. Normally I would hack away with a pair of scissors to get the least amount of dough to haggis ratio I could. Not this time. I was just happy I'd enclosed it.

I'll continue this story tomorrow - I have a load of pics I'll post on my blog and I'll give all the references I need to (including Tartine's olive oil brioche recipe, which I followed loosely).

Goodnight, and a Merry Christmas to all the bakers out there!  :D  :D  :D
Thursday 13th December
More Christmas loaves this week  - even Matt made one instead of his usual snake bread. 

Here's Guy going mad with the cherries!
First three proving...
...and baked.
Two more
And a view of the inside. Soft, squidgy and sweet - a taste of Christmas
Saturday 8th December
Made a large focaccia without a topping, this evening. It produces a flattish loaf with a low dome. I cut it into chunks, freeze them, then take them out when I need them:

500g Doves wholemeal, 50g Sonnenblumen-Kernbrot, 150g white flour plus 30g each sunflower and sesame seeds, toasted. 7g each fresh yeast and salt, plus 50g olive oil
I've made several of these, lately, but this is the first one I've proved and baked (for the first 10 minutes) under a roasting tray. It has given it a little more lift.
This was one I made a couple of weeks ago, without using the cloche method - and here it is cut into chunks ready to go in the freezer. As you can see it was a little singed, but I never mind that!

Friday 7th December
Family Learning at Halcon Primary, with two families - and two year one children whose parents are unable to make the session also joined us with a Teaching Assistant, Di, who's always welcome. We made Pizzas and Christmas loaves.

Hit a bit of a snag with the loaves, since neither of the mothers were keen on marzipan - however, the kids liked it well enough, after being given a taste. So, while one just had cherries along the middle of the loaf, the other had marzipan halfway along!

The other two youngsters were very happy to include the marzipan. 

That's it for this year, since Christmas and nativity plays take over for the rest of term.

(New Year resolution - must remember to take pics in this session next year!)

Thursday 6th December
Took along some olives and s-d-tomatoes to Longrun today and made several focaccias, two 'snake' breads, and a batch of Chelseas:

The focaccias were nowhere near flat enough and Matt's snake breads nowhere near long enough - but, hey, they were very tasty

An olive with pimento for an eye!

The one on the left had olives rolled into the dough - the one on the right, Guy just took his olives and studded them all over the top of his loaf

Wednesday 5th December
3 families with 4 children - plus a volunteer who joined in - this evening, who all made a pane casereccio (rolled, stuffed pizza). One of the children was dairy-free, so I'd brought along my vegan filling - Pateole (mushroom pate), vegan pesto plus a Linda McCartney sausage and some chopped mushroom. 

Tuesday 4th December
Two great sessions this afternoon and evening - however, the first started off on a pretty low note. 

After school club at NortonManor camp - once again, no-one turned up! Or so I thought - after waiting about 25 minutes in the galley I was just about to give up and go home, when a lone parent came in and said, "Oh, there you are!" Apparently the session had been switched to the Family Centre, where there were three families waiting for me.

So we made a delayed start, but still managed to make some Farthing buns with 5 children - and then three focaccias (with olives, but no olive oil - I'd left it at home! :( ).

The farthing buns were pronounced a success when they came out of the oven and the kids started munching away! The focaccias, because time was against us, went home for the mothers to bake. I'd just started my evening session when I got a text from one of the mothers, "Wow the focaccia bread was amazing it's almost all finished. Thank you soooo much! Carla"

I'd already been emailed by two students to say they couldn't make the evening community breadmaking, so we just had 4 students. Everyone made croissants and Danish pastries, then one made a Wheatsheaf [link to come], whilst the others made lardy cake

I completely forgot to take pics in the afternoon session, but made up for it in the evening one - here's a couple to be going on with, there'll be more in the specific post.

Croissants and Danish pastries - Katie's, I think

And Katie's wheatsheaf - with harvest mouse!

Sunday 2nd December
Made a couple of soda bread calzones today. I made one initially for my daughter to take on the train home - but it smelt and looked so gorgeous I came home from seeing her off at the station and immediately made another one for myself:

My daughter's - made with white flour; contains hummus but no mushrooms (my son-in-law isn't keen!)

Mine, made with wholemeal bread flour (plus two teaspoons baking powder); no hummus, but it does contain mushrooms

Tuesday 13th November
Once again, no-one turned up to my under-5s session at Norton Manor this morning! We're going to make an appearance at a family session tomorrow, so we'll see what comes of that.

Better luck with both my afternoon, after school session, and my evening baking courseFound another venue (just round the corner from one of my students, so he's a happy bunny!) and we finally got underway, making bread rolls and soda breads. This is a switched on group and I've a feeling they'll be challenging my breadmaking skills before very long!
[More to come]

Wednesday 7th November.

Had a strange teaching day today. No-one came to the first session at Norton Manor - for the under-5s! So I was home early. The second session, the after school club, was great - 3 mothers and 7 children, so that was gratifying. And then, this evening, when I went round to the Community Centre, it was full of bingo-players!! Been playing bingo every Tuesday night for 14 years!

So I had to stand outside intercepting the students as they turned up then sent them away again. One came all the way from Cullompton! Not great!

Monday 15th October.
Been busy with other things recently, so I've neglected this thread, somewhat.

Here are some of the breads I/we've made in the meantime:

Thursday 20th September.
I came across a recipe on The Fresh Loaf for chocolate and cherry bread which looked absolutely gorgeous! Since I had some morello cherries in the freezer, and some dark chocolate in the cupboard, I thought I'd have a go with my groups at Longrun.

(And I've posted my own, much simpler, version here.)

I spent a good half hour last night defrosting and de-stoning the cherries, and chopping the chocolate - but it was definitely worth it.

The method of incorporating the ingredients into the bread in the recipe was to spread the dough out, cover it with the cherries and chocolate, and then fold and stretch the dough over the top. Well, we tried this with the first loaf we made - and found it very messy indeed - although the loaf turned out quite well:

Thursday 13th September.
Spaghetti bolognaise was on the menu for lunch at the Longrun care home today, so I was asked to make some garlic bread with my groups to accompany it.

So we had some fun with garlic and pesto: Chelsea buns; a baton; a loaf; and a Swedish tea ring. Plus we also made a banoffee calzone, a date and marzipan loaf - and Matt made his usual snake bread:

Thursday 6th September.
Marmite crackers and yum yums at Longrun today:

Yum yums before baking...

...and after baking and icing
The crackers have a definite cheesy flavour - quite delicious!
Thursday 30th August.
Petit pain au chocolat, sizzlers, mincemeat slices and Matt's curried snake bread:

Thursday 23rd August.
Fun with mincemeat today: mincemeat doughnuts, mincemeat Swedish tea rings, mincemeat apfel kuchen (German apple cake), large mincemeat tart, mincemeat Chelsea buns, mincemeat Bialys.

Mincemeat everywhere - a large tart at the back, 4 Bialys and a German apple cake

Doughnuts and Chelsea buns

Mincemeat Swedish tea ring and more doughnuts
There are several ways to approach using mincemeat in apfel kuchens, Chelsea buns and Swedish tea rings: they can be made with dried fruit in the mix as per normal, then spread with mincemeat before being rolled up; they can have the mincemeat incorporated in the mix instead of dried fruit; or, as happened here, they were made with a plain sweetened dough which was then spread with the mincemeat.

I sampled the German apple cake and one of the Chelsea buns - and they were simply gorgeous - we certainly don't make enough of mincemeat away from the Christmas season.

Each of these batches of bread is made using 160g of flour to 100g of water - so they're not very big. Just goes to show that in breadmaking, a little goes a long way!

Thursday 16th August.
Fun with fruit bread dough at Longrun today. Seven students each made a different variety of bread from the same basic dough - flour, sugar, mixed spice, mixed fruit and peel and yeast liquid.

Matt was persuaded to include mixed spice instead of curry powder - but he still wanted to make 'snake bread'. So, together, we made this 'dragon loaf' instead:

The dough was rolled out into a rectangle, then rolled up as for  Chelsea buns , formed into an 'S' shape, and cut as for a Swedish tea ring   
We also made:

And finally, a fruit loaf (bloomer):

No recipe as yet for this loaf - but, basically it's the same dough just shaped into a bloomer . After proving it takes about 20-25 minutes at 200C
(Also see, Now you've made hot cross buns.)

Thursday 9th August.
Bread with seeds in it for the first part of the session, followed by banoffee breads, both large and small:

Friday 3rd August.
Wow! I can't believe I've just made my own pasta! 

And I've just up-dated my vegan parkin post to include the method of baking it in a microwave - my preferred method from now on! 

Thursday 2nd August.
Bialys - both savoury and sweet - plus 18 pizzas! 

Thursday 26th July.
Apple and marzipan tartlets plus jam and banana calzones.

Small circle of sweetened dough, topped with a disc of marziipan, two slices of eating apple and a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar
Circle of dough, half of it spread with jam which is then covered with slices of banana. the other half of the dough is brought over  the top and tucked in all the way round. Brushed with a sugar glaze

Thursday 19th July.
Sweet calzones, loaves and a red-eyed snake loaf!

Monday 16th July.
Ten days after making a sourdough chocolate and beetroot ciabatta, I finally finished the loaf! And only on the tenth day did I feel the need to toast the bread. I couldn't believe just how well this loaf kept. Here's a pic of the crumb I took on round about the 8th day:

Still soft and tender on the 8th day!
More about this loaf on the Baking Weekend post. I haven't yet posted the recipes for the breads I made that weekend - but I will.

Friday 13th July.
Every Family Learning student receives a certificate on completion of the five week course. This one is for Barry, one of the dads who attended:
(Just corrected 3 errors in those two sentences! :()

Family Learning is over for this term - so we're 'mopping up' some of the youngsters who either have never made bread before, or hadn't made it for a while. So I had two groups of six year 6 students - who all made a batch of iced buns - which, before you ask, they iced themselves!

Thursday 12th July.
Made bread canapes (called Bialys by my friends at The Fresh Loaf) with the crowd out at Longrun this morning. Simple small rounds of a tasty bread dough topped with pesto and either grilled peppers or sun-dried tomatoes.

Canapes and a pesto and pepper calzone

Canapes and a sun-dried tomato focaccia

Friday 6th to Sunday 8th July - Baking weekend at Trefriw, Nth Wales.
This took place in the local rugby club - taken over for the entire weekend by an ad hoc group of baking enthusiasts - amateurs and professionals alike!

Over the weekend I made a cherry and chocolate fougasse, a chocolate and beetroot ciabatta (which turned out to be a very special loaf - more about this later!), pierogis, parathas, a semi-wholemeal loaf (for the B&B owner!), pizzas, sizzlers and a large white loaf. All, except the loaf for the B&B, made with sourdough.

All the details can be found on in the link above - however, here's a pic of some of the breads made that weekend:

The cherry fougasse on the bottom shelf is mine - the rest were created by my fellow bakers

Thursday 5th July.
A morning at Longrun Care Home with some of the residents produced these fine looking loaves:

Fruit loaves with a difference - including several tropical fougasses. The home had run out of dried fruit, but, after promising the students we'd make some sweet bread, we found a couple of tins of grapefruit and some glace cherries. The snake on the right (curried, of course) was Matt's - and the one on the left was made by Gwyn.

Monday 2nd July.
Made some parkin yesterday, and took a pic of 3 chunks of it to show it wasn't as crumbly as had been feared:

This was all that was left after I went to the cricket with some to share with my mates
It really is a tasty cake!