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, 31 July 2013

BREADMAKING at St Mark's Primary School, Basingstoke (4)

Today I received a folio of thank you notes from the children. Too many to include here, so I'll just quote a few:

"Thank you for show me how to make bread. Now my family is inspired to make bread with me! Thank you for getting them inspired. Thank you for the really fun task! It's fun to make shapes. I have been using my imagination and making fantasy animals.
Best wishes, Bianca"

"Thank you so much for teaching us how simple breadmaking actually is. I was so excited when we got to work on our bread. Thank you for teaching us some shapes and designs that could mould out bread into. The bread tasted so lovely. From Abigail"

"Thank you for helping me to make bread. Now me and my freinds can make bread on are own (sic). I like bread. But I love baking. My desire is to be like britains best cooks paul hollywood and mary berry. From Georgina"

"Thank you for spending your morning teaching us how to make bread. When the bread was cooked it tasted divine. From Michael."

Once again, towards the end of the summer term, it's time for my annual visit to my daughter's school where she teaches a year 5 class, for a morning's breadmaking.

This is the fourth year I've done this. The first year we began I taught 45 children - about 2/3rds of the year group - the second we had 77, which was all the year group and last year, the third, we managed 79 children.

(The recipe we followed plus many more pics can be found in the link to last year's breadmaking.)

This year we increased that to 82, which is my new record. It could have been as many as 88, but several children had blotted their copybook and were denied the breadmaking which was seen as something of a privilege.   :(

We pretty well repeated last year's timing spot on, commencing at 8.50 with the first group of 30 children - and the last batch of bread came out of the oven at 12.50. It was hectic, but great fun was had by all.

I could not have done this without the excellent support I received from my daughter Emma and 2 learning assistants, Karen and Amanda, who assisted the students with their mixing, kneading, shaping the rolls; washed up between groups, baked the risen dough - and generally assisted me in every way possible. So a huge thanks to you guys!

I was warned beforehand that not all of the students behaviour would be of the highest and that there may be some disruption at some point - but I saw none of this. IMO the students that I saw behaved impeccably, and we all worked co-operatively towards a common goal. A thoroughly enjoyable morning from my point of view.

And from the students themselves - they were all keenly appreciative, and I heard from one of the other year 5 teachers just how happy all the youngsters were when they turned up for their next lesson.

As is my wont in these sessions, I give the children some homework as the session ends. This is to go home and find someone who doesn't know how to make bread, and teach them what they have learned this morning. When I mention homework, inevitably a few faces fall, but when I tell them what it is, their faces brighten up as they begin to think of who they can teach breadmaking to!

In busy sessions such as these, I often forget to take pictures, and it wasn't until all the children had finished and I took over the oven duty that I remembered - and managed to take 4 pics:

Wednesday, 24 July 2013


We have my mother in law staying with us at the moment, and, given that she's very fond of my Chelsea buns, I thought I'd make her some tonight. 

I knocked up the dough, and, while we were talking about the merits of Chelseas versus other fruit breads - hot cross buns, bara brith, etc, she suddenly decided she'd rather have a fruit loaf.

No problem - as my blog title suggests, every bread is connected to other breads - after several hours proving, I shaped two loaves and put them to prove before baking. I had just over 1000g of dough, so I made one large (600g) and one small (400g):
Shaped and put to prove

Hour and a half later, ready to bake
Baked for about 40 minutes at 175C
Won't be cutting into them tonight, since I'm liquid fasting today - and if I sliced into one, it might be too much for my iron resolve.

Here's the crumb - and you're probably saying, where's the fruit? Well I can assure you there is a lot of fruit in there - 200g sultanas which were soaked for about 36 hours. The soaking removed all the colour from the fruit, so it blends in with the spiced bread.

I intended  to post a  recipe, as well, but it's probably not necessary, given the link above. Instead, here are the ingredients I used on this occasion:

400g strong white bread flour
2 dessertspoons Billingtons Natural molasses sugar (very dark)
2 teaspoons mixed spice
2 teaspoons cinnamon
200g sultanas (soaked in water for over 36 hours)
200ml lukewarm water (the soaking water, of course)
20g fresh yeast

Normally, I would use 250g of water, but the sultanas were very wet indeed, so I didn't need so much.

I have to say how impressed I am with the moistness of these loaves - and the keeping qualities. I'm having to revise my choice of favourite fruit bread - which used to be Chelseas!

Monday, 22 July 2013

VEGANISM ON THE BBC (The Food Programme)

Veganism becoming mainstream?

Well, not quite yet, but a whole BBC Food Programme devoted to the subject is a definite marker on the way. 

Sunday, 21 July 2013


Stop Press: The last I heard is that there are still two places left. Get in touch if this appeals.

21st July 2013

Here's the letter I sent this morning for the organiser to distribute to the students:

Breadmaking made easy workshops, 10.00am - 4.00pm

27th July and 3rd August at Hadspen Village Hall

Dear Student,

This letter sets out what I intend will happen on the first day and includes a list of items which you will need in the session. If you are new to breadmaking, let me reassure you that it is much easier than you may have been led to believe. It is indeed, ‘easy peasy’! Oh, and it’s also a lot of fun, as you’ll find out!

The session will begin in a relaxed fashion – the first thing you need to do is to find somewhere at the side of the hall to park all your stuff, get yourself a drink and a chair to sit on round the tables in the middle.

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 hope to meet all your requirements.

Lunch. We’ll be eating around 12.30-1.00, and everyone will make their own. All you need to bring is a little cheese – say 50g – and a tomato or a mushroom.

Here’s the programme for the first workshop as it stands:
Soda bread – with variations
Sizzlers (wraps) for lunch + fancy dinner rolls
Loaf – wholemeal or white plus seeds
Chelsea buns, spicy fruit buns
Focaccia and pizza

Sourdough: Sometime on the first workshop, you’ll be creating a sourdough starter to take home. For this you’ll need a jar of some kind – an ordinary jam jar would be fine - a 1ltr Kilner jar would be perfect! On the following Sunday we’ll use this to make a sourdough loaf.

If you don’t see the bread you’ve always wanted to make on this list, get in touch and we’ll see how we could fit it in to the programme.     

I have a blog, which I call “No bread is an island”, in which I write about – among other things – my teaching practice. On here I’ve started a post, “Hadspen breadmaking”, which contains all (most) of what you need to know about the course, including all my planning:

Keep an eye on this, if you can – and check out the many recipes on the blog, including those for the breads I’ve already mentioned.

I have several aims for this course, one of which is that everyone should enjoy themselves! Another is that everyone will make good bread. At any time during the day the kettle can go on for a mug of tea or coffee. Cost 20p.

I'm sorry if this all sounds a bit daunting. Please let me assure you that it will all fall into place quite easily. If you have any suggestions, (or concerns) at all, please don't hesitate to ring me, I'm always very happy to talk to my students about bread.

Finally, can I 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 ‘Companions’ are people who make bread together! Which is what we shall be doing over these two Saturdays!

Best regards,

Paul Youd (Course Tutor)

You will need to bring:
Several tea towels, both to cover your dough whilst it's proving and to wrap any warm bread in to take home.
Something to carry away the finished products (a large basket or cardboard box lined with tea towels would be ideal)
Mug for hot drinks
Jar for the sourdough starter

You can also bring the following items – but they’re not essential:
Set of measuring spoons
Any favourite cooking utensil – sharp knife/scissors are always useful
Your favourite baking tray
Your favourite weighscales

Overall programme:
Soda breads
Fancy dinner rolls and freeform loaves
Small filled savoury breads – from sizzlers through stuffed parathas to pierogis and baozi (Chinese buns)
Larger filled savoury breads – from pasties to calzones to pane casereccio
Hot cross buns, through Chelseas to apfel kuchen (German apple cake) or schiacciata con l’uva
Flatbreads – from naan through pitta to trenchers and focaccia to pizzas
Sweetened breads – from iced buns through Devonshire splits to pain au chocolat and jam doughnuts
No-knead overnight bread
Yeast-risen batters – pikelets and socca

1st July 2013

Following the successful Breadmaking Made Easy course at Hornblotton in May, I've been asked by a student on the course to run a similar course at Hadspen Village Hall in South Somerset, on July 27th and August 3rd.

Here's the programme so far:
Soda bread – with variations
Sizzlers (wraps) for lunch + fancy dinner rolls
Loaf – wholemeal or white plus seeds
Chelsea buns, spicy fruit buns
Focaccia and pizza

This is just the suggested programme – for those with some experience of breadmaking I can offer these variations – apfel kuchen instead of Chelseas, fougasse instead of focaccia, calzone instead of pizza.

On the second Saturday students will decide themselves which breads we make - possibly sweet calzone; cheese, broccoli and potato pasties; sweet and savoury canapés. But we'll definitely include sourdough.

Friday, 12 July 2013


...starts, ironically, with a cake.

Staying over at my daughter's in Basingstoke last Monday night, I fancied a bit of cake. Normally, I'd make a 'cake in a mug' in a microwave, but my daughter doesn't have such a thing. So, I made this vegan chocolate cake. My daughter also doesn't have a whisk, which I think is essential for mixing the ingredients properly - hence the lumps of flour in the pic.

Nevertheless, it went down well with everyone and was tasty enough. Every oven, in my experience, stamps its own character on cakes and bread, and this one gave the cake a firm crust! I wasn't at all keen on this - for a start it made it very difficult to cut - but my son-in-law especially loved the crust. 

I was in Basingstoke specifically to make some bread with my daughter's year group at St Marks PS. So the following morning, Tuesday, that's just what we did, creating a new personal best as we did so. In the space of 4 hours I taught 82 children how to make bread - last year it was 79 in exactly the same time - between 08.50 and 12.50.

No breadmaking on Wednesday, but on the Thursday I paid my usual visit to Longrun Care Home, Taunton, where we made petit pain au chocolat with the residents - and the obligatory curried snake bread, courtesy of Matt.

Matt's 'snakes' are getting shorter and shorter!
Then on Friday morning, we made pane casereccio and jam doughnuts in my Family Learning session at Halcon PS (no pics, I'm afraid). 

Following this session, I stay behind and run a session with 4 or 5 Key Stage 2 youngsters (my FL session is with year one kids). On the Thursday, I'd received an email from my support worker in that session, Sue, telling me that the school garden had produced a load of shallots - and could I use them? I did have a shallot and rosemary focaccia recipe, as it happens, so that's what we did:

Dimpling the dough

Topped with fresh rosemary - also from the school garden - shallots (sauted for a few minutes), then drizzled with olive oil

Washing up never gets a mention on these pages - but, rest assured, the youngsters have to do their bit!

These will be shared out with all the class members at the end of the school day.

Straight after this session, I drove across Taunton to another school, Wellsprings PS, where I was to run yet another Family Learning session. 

10 families turned up for the session - and I have to say the youngsters produced some of the most creative shapes I've seen for a while.

That evening I made 2 spicy fruited naan breads, my breakfasts for the next two weeks.

The lovely weather we've been having recently tempted me to bring the chiminea into action, for the fifth time this year.

3 pizzas resulted - one potato, mushroom and bratwurst pizza and two vegan pizzas with mushroom and pesto toppings:

This for my wife, who doesn't like tomatoes in any form

Pesto, tomato puree and mushroom pate, mixed and spread over the base. This gives me the same flavour hit as I used to get with cheese and tomato

These two for me, since I'm vegan

Finally this week, on the Saturday I began a sourdough loaf by refreshing the starter. I did intend to bake it on the Sunday, but events conspired against me and I ended up baking it on the Monday. All I say for now is that I'm more than happy to share my successes with you - so I should share my failures as well! More in next week's thread.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013


10 families, only one of which had made bread before, gathered round the tables and made the usual fancy dinner rolls

After a demo from me, all the children made a simple bread dough made from 1 mug of flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/3rd mug lukewarm water and 1 teaspoon yeast.

Once the dough was made, and I'd demonstrated a few shapes, the children set to work. I have to say that this was one of the most creative groups of children I'd worked with. Here are the results:

Tuesday, 9 July 2013


6 for me and 6 for my wife
This pudding ticks all the boxes: we all know that a couple of squares a day of dark chocolate is good for us; it provides one of your five a day; and, with around a dozen small/medium strawberries it comes in at roughly 145 calories.

(If it serves 2, as it did today, that's less than 75 calories each!)

Combine this with a 250 calorie vegetable curry and 100g baked potato or similar, and you are well under 500 calories.

2 squares (20g) good quality dark chocolate
100g strawberries

Melt the chocolate - I find 1 minute in the microwave does the job.
Poke a skewer or the end of a teaspoon halfway through each strawberry
Dip it into the chocolate
Place the spoon and chocolate on a plate or similar
And repeat.

Try and wait until they're all done before sampling!


Monday 8th July 2013
Made another batch of sourdough tonight - this didn't work so well!

Here's the story as I posted on The Fresh Loaf, looking for advice:

"I've made several loaves from my 2 month old starter, and followed the same procedure this time:
Evening of Saturday 6th July - Refreshed the starter (1:1) 

Sunday afternoon - Sponge: 300g starter, 300g wholemeal flour, 300g water 

(I did intend to bake on Sunday evening - but events conspired against me!)

Sunday evening I added the rest of the flour - 250g wholemeal, 9g salt, 50g olive oil

Monday - shaping the dough:
On opening up the food-storer in which I'd kept the dough, I was confronted with a sticky mess - totally unlike any sourdough I'd worked with in the past. There was no cohesion to it - trying to stretch it, it just broke. There was no way to knead it at this stage - even using oil to stop it sticking.

So I added more flour to get a workable dough. In the end I added a further 150g, which threw my planned 65% hydration right out of the window. It ended up more like 53% - and it was still a very soft dough.

I put it to prove (shaped into rolls) around 1.00pm - and checked it every hour for the next nine hours. There was not a great deal of movement - some, but not a lot. Eventually, at 10pm I switched the oven on and began giving the bread (covered with a stainless steel roasting tray) occasional short bursts of heat over the next 45-60 minutes. By this time the rolls had at least joined together, so there was something happening - I put the bread in the oven hoping for some oven spring, but not really expecting any - and I wasn't disappointed!

The rolls turned out a lot smaller than I'm used to - the crumb is very tight, with the occasional large(er) hole. I've just had a taste, and the sourness is very pronounced, in contrast to previous loaves from this starter, the sourdough flavour of which was very mild.

Some pics:
Shaped and put to prove
After several hours
After nine hours
The crumb
In conclusion, they're OK - not the best sourdough I've ever made (probably the worst!) - but they're edible enough. And certainly better than any bread I can find in the supermarket. 

I just don't want to make them again! :(
As luck would have it, I'm off to a coffee morning with a sourdough-making friend of mine - so I'll inflict a taste of these rolls on the gathering and wait for the feedback!
There is a lot of info on The Fresh Loaf thread for me to read through, but one opinion is that it might be better to begin with a new starter. I'll see what my mate says - I can always get some starter from him, since it was me who started him off. In fact, 
I gave him his starter 12 months or so ago!

Wednesday 29th May 2013
My daughter is off home tomorrow - and I want her to take a loaf with her, so I needed to make another loaf. Since she'll be going in the morning, I need to make the loaf today.

10.30am - refreshed starter with 100g each white flour and water

1.30pm - sponge, 300g starter + 300g wholemeal flour and 300g water.
(My usual bread is made up of 550g wholemeal and 150g white - so adding 300g of starter means that all the white flour has been added and I only need to add more wholemeal.)

7.30pm - the sponge is very active and I added the remaining 250g of wholemeal, plus 8g of salt, 50g of toasted sesame and sunflower seeds.

9.30pm - the dough has risen sufficiently, I think:

And 40 minutes later the bread is done:

Tried to make the cuts a little deeper - and I still don't think I left it to prove long enough. 
The crumb was very similar to the first loaf I made, below, and the bread was very tasty. So much so that my 11 year old granddaughter chose to have this for her lunch (today, Friday) rather than the commercial white sliced she usually opted for. Result!

Still don't think I've got the loaf exactly as I want it, for it does feel a little heavy - but, practice makes perfect and all that!

Monday 27th May 2013

The finished loaf and the crumb - with a background of our (my 3 grandchildren and I) sourdough starter experiment
One of the reasons I haven't persevered with sourdough in the past is that, using a flavoursome wholemeal (Doves Organic), I haven't had the increase in flavour that comes with making sourdough using white flour. However, I thought I'd have another go, now that I'm more confident with this new starter of mine.

I need some bread for lunch tomorrow - so, later than I wished, at 9.30 tonight, I refreshed the starter with 100g each white flour and water, and left it out on the worktop.

My sourdough-loving friend, Dennis, recommends Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's method for making sourdough - and I also consulted Andrew Whitley ('Bread Matters'), and Dan Lepard (The Hand-made Loaf) on the subject.

All agreed on refreshing the starter, and on making a 'sponge' (sort of a half-way house between the starter and the dough) the day before baking the loaf. However, I decided to do my own thing after discarding HFW's method for producing a loaf with a hydration of 56% (when I aim for about 70%) and also AW's and DL's instructions for being too unbelievably complex!

I'm looking to make a loaf using 700g of flour - with 70% hydration, that requires 490g water. Since the above bakers all include all the remaining liquid in their sponges, I thought I'd follow suit - except that I decided to hold back 40g of water since I wasn't sure just exactly how wet my sourdough would be.

Sponge ingredients:

200g starter (100g white flour and 100g water)
300g flour (50g white and 250g wholemeal)
350g water

This was mixed in my food storer and left, with a lid on, on the worktop. Time 0.40am on Tuesday.

At half past nine in the morning, with two willing grandchildren to help me, I added the remaining 300g of flour and mixed into a dough. I only added a teaspoon - 5g - of water just to bring the crumbs of flour together in the bowl. 

The consistency of the dough was pretty much just as I wanted - soft and squishy, but not too sticky. We all had a good knead - out of pleasure as much as anything, then I shaped the dough into a boule, covered it and left it. I was hoping to have bread for lunch, but, as I've just realised, I'm fasting today, I'm not too bothered for myself. However, my daughter would appreciate some for her lunch!

Final calculation:

700g flour to 455g water = 65% hydration.

My granddaughter took loads of pics, so I'll post them when I get a chance. 

Full recipe:
Sponge ingredients:
200g starter (100g flour and 100g water)
300g flour (50g white and 250g wholemeal)
350g water

To which was added:

300g wholemeal
8g salt
5g water

Unfortunately, when my grandchildren  were making their lunch, the rising loaf took a knock and I decided to abort that attempt. Since I had to go out, I simply put the dough back into the food storer to keep until I could get around to it.

In the evening, after dinner, I shaped the loaf again, and placed it in a large, round stainless steel dish. 

I'd noticed on the earlier attempt that the loaf was spreading out a fair way, so I thought this would keep it under control.

 2 hours later, when I thought it was ready, I slashed the loaf and put it in the oven - for 45 minutes at 220C.

Couldn't decide which  
...was the best photo... I included all three!
The loaf feels a little heavy - and the crumb has a very close texture, so I'm thinking I could have left it to prove for another half hour or so. However, I'm not a fan of large holes in my bread, so I'm very happy with this.
Despite the fact that I'm fasting, I did eat that slice of bread - 46g and 100 calories. I'm delighted to report that, although there is very little sourdough smell to the loaf, the flavour is distinctly - pleasingly - sour!

I think I may - finally - have cracked it!