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.

Monday, 14 December 2015


[This is a work in progress - but I'd better hurry up, 'cos Xmas is coming fast! :(]

Vegans obviously have different requirements at Christmas, and, in my experience, have rather unconventional Christmases. The big difference, of course, is the content of the Christmas  roast dinner. Not for us the turkey, gravy, pigs in blankets, Yorkshire puddings, etc, so we look for alternatives for these things.

Being vegans, we’re well used to thinking outside of the box, and we can ring the changes ad infinitum on our Xmas dinner. The last couple of years I’ve made a vegan haggis Wellington – and this year I’m contemplating stuffed mushroom en croute, in a brioche crust. There are many other delicious alternatives, of course. Nut roast often figures – for those not keen on nuts, sunflower or other seeds can be substituted. Enrich the dish with mushrooms, sweet chestnuts, sun-dried tomatoes, etc. I’m not a fan of gravy, so instead I make a rich, spicy tomato sauce (using sun-dried tomato paste).

It’s possible – and, indeed, very easy - to make a vegan Xmas cake. But, in our house, even before I become vegan, this cake would still be hanging around until well into January – partly because everyone has had a surfeit of goodies over the festive period, and partly because it’s not very interesting, IMO.

However, this Christmas loaf, made with a bread dough, is not only delicious and easy to prepare, it’s festive to boot!

There’s also the issue of chocolates and sweets at Christmas time. We don’t want to miss out when these are handed around, so we hunt them out – and when we (I) find them, we (I) put them to one side (hoard them).

ATM, Lidl has several goodies on sale, but these will disappear after Xmas - so I'm busily hoarding these to have in the New Year.

Dark Chocolate Gingers
Chocolate Kegs (liqueurs, with brandy, not Advocaat, obviously)
Dark chocolate covered marzipan with pineapple
There are other goodies - spicy biscuits, etc, but these all contain palm oil, which I avoid where possible.
Year round they sell 100g bars of Fairtrade vegan dark chocolate - 70% cocoa content.

Another chocolate which is both vegan and Fairtrade is Co-op brand dark chocolate - £1.00 for 150g - but this is only 52% cocoa content.

The only sweet biscuit I've come across recently that is both vegan and doesn't contain palm oil (that isn't from a sustainable source), is Nairn's dark chocolate chip oat biscuits - which are not too sweet. They also make a very nice ginger biscuit.

Both of these lend themselves very well to be half coated in melted dark chocolate. As a treat, at Christmas, I love 'em!

Friday, 13 November 2015


This is where I shall post all about the workshop - my planning, the letter to the students, how the session went and any pics I (or the students) take.

After the letter went out I had a call from the centre telling me there was another student enquiring about the course. This student ran a pub and made all his own bread - not only that he was a trained chef! He was wondering if I had anything I could add to his repertoire.

After a short conversation on the phone, after I told him we could make several breads that weren't initially on the programme, he said he'd like to come along.

Here's the programme I've designed, just for him. (Now I'm really looking forward to the workshop!)

Dear student

Here’s my suggested alternative programme for you for Saturday – hope it meets with your approval!

1. Italian soda bread (soda bread focaccia)
2. As the rest of the group
3. Apfel kuchen (German apple cake) and Schiacciatta con l’uva (Italian fruit loaf) with a demo of hot cross buns
4. Ciabatta
5. Pane casereccio (stuffed rolled pizza)

As to the extra ingredients:
The focaccia needs olive oil and rosemary - dried is fine
The  apfel kuchen needs an apple – a decent sized eater will suffice – cinnamon and sugar
The  schiacciatta just needs a good handful of seedless grapes
The ciabatta just needs olive oil
The stuffed pizza needs 100g cubed Cheddar, chopped mushrooms and cherry tomatoes

Given your experience, as far as possible, I'll let you get on with it (with the recipes, of course!), while I look after the beginners in the class. IMO, you're going to be a real asset to the group - I'm sure you'll be a great inspiration.

If there’s a variety of bread you’d like to have a go at instead of the ones suggested, don’t hesitate to get back to me.

Regards, Paul

09/11/2015 Here's the letter that goes out to the students:

Breadmaking made easy workshop, Burnham, 14/11/15

Dear Student,

(This should be read in conjunction with the Course Information Sheet - you should already have a copy of this. The list of ingredients and equipment is a little different, so please have a look at that.)

This letter sets out what I intend will happen during the 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 to park all your stuff, get yourself a drink and a chair to sit on round the tables in the middle. There is some necessary paperwork to fill in (bring a pen if possible), but it won’t take long and I’ll guide you through it.

Before we start breadmaking I’d like to spend some time finding a little about each other, and what you expect to get out of the day’s session so that I can better meet all your expectations.

We’ll be eating lunch around 12.30-1.00, and everyone will make their own.

Here’s the programme for the workshop as it stands:

1.     Soda breads – choice of plain or spicy fruit loaf
2.     Fancy dinner rolls or shapes+bread wraps (lunch)
3.     Fruit dough for hot cross buns and Chelsea buns
4.     Focaccia
5.     Cheese and tomato pizza

If there is time we could also make some petit pain au chocolat – depends how everything goes on the day.

I have a blog, which I call “No bread is an island”, in which I write about – among other things – my teaching practice. On there I have started a post, “Breadmaking Workshop at Burnham”, which will contain all (most) of what you need to know about the course:

There’s not a lot on it, yet, but here’s a post about a breadmaking workshop at High Ham village hall, which will give you an idea about how the workshop will go:

I have several aims for this course, one of which is that everyone should enjoy her or himself! Another is that everyone will make good bread. I’ll bring along tea and coffee at 20p a mug. You may want to bring your own mug

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 contact 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 this Saturday!

Best regards,

Paul Youd (Course Tutor)

Shopping list:
(I’ve simplified this a bit from the list in the course information sheet.)
1 bag (1.5kg) strong white flour
50g fresh yeast if you can find it – I’ll have some with me if not
10g baking powder
100g granulated sugar
Sesame/poppy seeds
200g dried fruit
Mixed spice
250ml olive oil
100g cheese (for pizza and lunch)
2 tomatoes
2 mushrooms
Tomato topping for the pizza – tomato puree is the easiest to transport. Or make up your own topping
Dried herbs
Small bar of your favourite chocolate 

You will also 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.
Baking paper or parchment (stops the bread sticking to the oven trays)
Something to carry away the finished products (a large basket or cardboard box lined with tea towels would be ideal)
Mug for hot drinks

You can also bring the following items – but they’re not essential:
Kitchen timer (if you have one)
Set of measuring spoons
Any favourite cooking utensil – sharp knife/scissors are always useful

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Easy and cheap - Sausage rolls with wholegrain mustard

(makes 12  parcels)

400g (or 2 mugs) strong white flour
1/2 tsp salt
250ml (or 2/3rds mug) lukewarm water
1 rounded teaspoon fresh yeast
Splash of olive oil (optional)

6 vegan sausages (Linda Mac's or Fry's)
Wholegrain mustard

  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 if using. 
  1. 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. 
  1. 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!
  1. When you are ready to proceed, take the dough out of the mixing bowl and place it on your worktop. This time, don't 'knock the dough back'! Just divide the dough into 12 pieces. 
  1. Divide the dough into 12 pieces and each sausage in two. Flatten a piece of dough down with the heel of your hand into an oval shape. Turn it over to loosen it from the worktop and place a smear of mustard along the middle, then place the halved sausage over the mustard. Form a parcel by bringing the ends of the oval over each end of the sausage. Now bring the top and bottom of the oval over to meet each other. Pinch these two sides together and roll the parcel gently between the palms of your hands. Place on a lined oven tray with the join underneath. 
  1. Cover and leave to prove until they have grown appreciably in size. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7, for about 15 minutes.

Sunday, 8 November 2015


Sourdough May 2013

Sourdough Starter:
Mix 100g of warm water and 100g of flour* in a jar with a loose lid. Keep, covered, on your worktop.

*My grandchildren and I have proved to my satisfaction that a starter can be made from pretty much any flour. However, organic wholemeal is my preference - and the inclusion of rye flour is always good.

Feed the Starter (every 24 or 48 hours)
First feeding - simply add 100g each, flour and water and mix in. 
Second and subsequent feedings - remove half (known as the discard)* and then add another 100g of flour and water. Within three or four days (it can take longer, a week or more, and it can happen more quickly) you should start getting lots of bubbles throughout, and a pleasant sour or beery smell. The starter may start to puff up, too. This is good. Here's the gist: When your starter develops a bubbly froth, it is done. You have succeeded. If this sounds brain-dead simple, that's because it is. 

*What to do with the 'discard'.

Refrigerate the Starter:
Keep the starter in your fridge, with a lid on it. Allow a little breathing space in the lid. 

Once the starter is chilled, it needs to be fed only once a week. 

Hooch.  Aside from weekly feeding, the only other thing you need to worry about is hooch. Hooch is a layer of watery liquid (often dark) that contains alchohol. It smells a bit like beer, because it is a bit like beer - but don't drink it! Hooch builds up in your starter, especially in the fridge. Just stir it back in. It doesn't hurt anything. 

(The following has been contributed by my friend Dennis, who's really taken to the sourdough method. Thanks, Dennis!)

The sponge and loaf:
The following recipe I’ve tweaked from Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Every Day.  We want fresh bread at lunch time, so this is what I do most days.

1.  First thing in the morning refresh starter, leave on side.

2.  After a couple of hours - mix 100gs active starter, 250gs of bread flour (white, brown, whatever) and 275gs water.  Cover, leave on the side.

3. At some time in the evening, add about 1 tbs of oil, olive, rapeseed, whatever, stir in, add 300g bread flour and about 5g of fine salt and mix together.

4.  Turn the dough out onto an oiled surface, knead with oiled hands, form into a ball.  Place in a lightly oiled bowl ensuring dough has oil all over it.  If you cover with a plastic bag it shouldn’t stick, leave on the side overnight..

5.  First thing the following morning, knock back, fold and shape.  Prove in a proving basket or oiled loaf tin, cover, let it rise for 1.5 to 3 hours.  Mine usually takes about 2 hours.

6.  Heat oven to 250C if possible.  Preheat a baking tray if you have one, dust it with flour, place loaf on it - bake for 15 minutes, turn oven down to 200C for about 30 minutes but do check, some ovens run hotter.

‘Precision’ is not my middle name.  If, pouring the 100gms starter into the bowl, 120gms goes in, I just carry on, once it was 150.  I adopt the same approach to everything else.

At 4 above, you can tip dough onto oiled surface, tidy it into a mound and place an upturned bowl over it.  Leave for 30 to 60 minutes (depending what I’m watching) then knead as long as you can/want with oiled hands.

Also, at 5 above when I tip out, I do a baker’s fold - Paul will explain - cover with bowl upside down and leave for ten minutes, carry on with shaping etc.

We want bread for sandwiches so most of the time I make a tin loaf.  In that case the dough is shaped in an oiled and floured tin, which goes into the hot oven.  That makes it easy.

To shape in a basket, put the dough in with the fold on top in order to tip out onto a floured hot baking tray and into the oven.

You can change the timings to suit yourself; make the sponge one evening, in the morning turn into dough, cover, leave on the side all day, shape later and bake.

The process for sourdough is starter; sponge; dough; baked bread.  Once I refreshed a starter around 4pm, made sponge around 6pm and into a dough about 9pm and baked the following morning.  The experts wouldn’t approve but it made edible bread.

Unfortunately you can’t rush the final prove.

I use basic sunflower oil for lining bowl, tins and kneading. For the dough mix I tend to use a better olive oil.

A no knead method works - after the dough stage, roughly tidy it up to put in a tin and leave overnight, covered in the fridge.  Following morning, heat oven and when up to temperature put tin in the oven.

Recently I was away for three weeks and my fridge starter refreshed as normal.

Any bread left over is sliced and put in the freezer though sourdough keeps better than yeast breads, I think.

Above all, enjoy yourselves.  Dennis 

Here's one of my forays into sourdough.