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, 14 December 2016


Thursday 9th June 2016
Here's my latest seitan - made with leftover veg and potato stew + vital wheat gluten and flavourings:

Two ways to cook this - one half baked in the oven, the other half dry fried
All I do nowadays is to weigh off the leftover stew - today around 350g, then estimate how much wheat gluten I'll need - and I went for 150g.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016


7th December 2016
In an attempt to avoid BSE/CJD (Mad Cow's Disease), I became a vegetarian 15 years ago. I first of all gave up beef, then, after Christmas 2001, all other sources of meat. It was just easier that way.

It then took me around 2 years to transition to a completely plant-based (vegan) diet - impelled by increasing concerns about animal welfare. About 2-3 months after giving up all sources of dairy, I found that my nasal drip - a constant irritant - had completely dried up. 

My osteoarthritis, from which I'd suffered for the previous few years, stabilised - it was no longer getting worse each year, as it had been. Today it is no longer a concern - I no longer have osteoarthritis.

Now, of course, Climate Change has reared its ugly head and forswearing meat and meat products is even more of an imperative.

So, 3 reasons to adopt a whole food, plant-based diet: 
Animal Welfare; and, 
Global Warming.

Any one of these three reasons, IMO, should be sufficient on its own to persuade people to eat nothing but plants.

The evidence for the health effects of eating a plant-based diet is overwhelming. The case is made most effectively in the film, Forks Over Knives. (95 minutes) 

Here is a review.

The film Forks Over Knives, Extended Interviews is also available. In it the scientists who contributed to the film talk about their work.

Review here.

Friday, 9 December 2016


23rd January 2013.
Made this in the microwave, but, because other microwaved cakes of mine have over-flowed the silicon cake form I use, I reduced the amount by 20%:

Microwave version:

160g self raising flour (for a gluten free version, just substitute GF s/raising flour)
120g granulated sugar
20g cocoa powder
80g grated, cooked beetroot
100g water
60g apple juice 
40g vegetable oil

Using an 800W microwave, 7 minutes minutes on full power. Leave in the cake form for ten minutes to finish cooking.

[Pics to come]

Made this again, with oil this time and some apple juice instead of water. I also reduced the sugar by a quarter. I think this makes a nicer loaf.

Revised recipe:
200g self raising flour
150g granulated sugar
2 dessertspoons cocoa powder
100g grated, cooked beetroot
100g water
100g apple juice
50g vegetable oil

At work this morning, I was collared by the wife of one of my friends on the walk, who told me he hadn't stopped talking about the chocolate and beetroot loaf - and could she have the recipe, please!

Certainly looks the part

Risen quite well
I've been meaning to try this ever since I bought some of this bread at the 'Taste of Christmas' Show at the Excel Centre before Christmas last year. The bread was amazing. We were told it was vegan, and made with fruit juice - and whatever fruits they were making it with. There was an astonishing variety of cakes, all made to a basic formula.

Finally managed to track down the company - Global Fusion, of Stoke Newington, London, N16.

Since making vegan chocolate cake, which uses self raising flour, I've been wondering about the dividing line between that sort of cake and a soda bread. My thought was that the Creole breads come somewhere in the middle.

I'd also wanted to make a soda bread version of the chocolate and beetroot loaf I've made quite a few times.

So this is my attempt - and it's in the oven right this very minute. Another 25 minutes will tell me if I'm on the right track or not.

200g self raising flour
200g sugar
25g cocoa powder
100g cooked beetroot, grated
200g water

Measure the dry ingredients (sifting the cocoa powder) into a mixing bowl, add the grated beetroot then the water. Stir with a large spoon, then whisk for a few seconds then pour into a prepared loaftin.

Only when I was pouring it in the loaftin did I realise - too late - that I'd forgot to include any oil.

So, we'll see shortly, just what sort of a cock-up I've made!

60 minutes later. The bread's out of the oven, sliced and tasted. It tastes fine, but we'll see what my fellow walkers think of it tomorrow.

Well, it's different! It holds together well, but it's a little rubbery; it's slightly claggy in mouth feel; it's sweet - perhaps too sweet; but when I'd finished a taste, my mouth wanted to taste it again - so that's a positive.

I'll see what my mates think.

Next time I'll make one just as it was described to me by the stall holder - full of fruit juice. So I'll ditch the beetroot and make it just with apple juice - perhaps using 150g of sugar instead of 200g. Oh, and I'll definitely include some oil - perhaps 50g.

Wednesday 2nd May.
Beautiful day for a walk on the Quantocks with some good friends, and about an hour into the walk I brought out the bread - which went down very well! "Moist," "Delicious""Very nice!"

So even without any oil at all, it's still an excellent loaf!

Sunday, 27 November 2016


300g baked seitan - enough for two Sunday roasts
I needed some seitan for the coming week, so I thought I'd cook some up whilst the oven was on for a Sunday roast. (More seitan info.)

I used leftover spicy tomato sauce (from pizza-making yesterday), as a base.

200g vital wheat gluten
4 dessertspoons nutritional yeast (nooch)
2 teaspoons bouillon powder
2 dessertspoons curry powder (I like a lot of heat - add to taste)

200g homemade tomato sauce - made with a tin of tomatoes, blitzed, with mushroom sauce, soy sauce, vegan pesto (Marigold), Lingham's chilli sauce, mixed herbs.

Mix the dry ingredients, then add 150g of this to the tomato sauce. Stirring with a table knife, I found this was too wet, so I added another 25g of powder. It was still too wet, so another 25g of powder were added - then I kneaded this into a dough.

300g of this were pressed into a small, oiled, roasting dish and baked, with a lid, for 30 minutes - whilst the oven was on for the roast potatoes, etc.

Cut into two pieces, one half for tonight's dinner, and the other in the freezer.
For Sunday dinner I have one of these halves, sliced, with some of the tomato sauce instead of gravy. The half in the freezer could be next Sunday's dinner or, chopped into chunks, become part of a chilli non carne.

The other 150g I rolled out into a cutlet Notes:
This made 450g of seitan, the other 150g, pressed out into a circle about 10cm across and dry-fried for about 7-8 minutes each side, will make a seitan cutlet, which I will have for dinner tomorrow along with some curried potato wedges.

You get a more even thickness if you use a rolling pin - don't believe those other websites which tell you that this makes it tough - not true. 

I had about 40g of the flavoured vital wheat gluten left. I've found it's always better to make more than you need, it saves having to flavour another 25g, then perhaps another 25g. I put the leftover in an old spice tub which I keep in the bag of gluten flour, so it's there next time I want to make seitan.

Thursday, 24 November 2016


Thursday 24th November 2016
Still in the zone - every meal I have without something sweet afterwards makes it easier. I was in Lidl today, and, although I bought a box of Turkish Delight for Christmas, I left the other stuff well alone. This is a first for me! :)

Saturday 19th November 2016
Well, it's only been one week, now - and I'm astonished! 

In that time I've had 4 squares of dark chocolate and several pieces of a homemade fruit soda bread - eaten as part of dinner.

My mouth no longer tells me it wants something sweet after a meal - it just doesn't! My desire for sweet stuff is getting easier every day.

This afternoon I made this 'cake in a mug' for my grandson - and I wasn't tempted in the slightest. 

So does it take just 7 days to ween oneself off sugar? I'm only a study of one, of course, but it does look very hopeful.

Thinking about it, what I was doing previously was a bit like a cigarette smoker trying to give up by smoking less - it just doesn't work. Every time you have another cigarette, you're reinforcing the nicotine addiction. Every time you have a biscuit/sweet/etc, you're reinforcing the sugar addiction.


Saturday 12th November 2016
As regular readers may remember, for the past several months, I've been trying to give up - or severely cut down on - alcohol, sugar and snacking in the evening, using the 2:5 method.

I'm now down to 1 pint of stout and a small glass on wine on one day a week, and I only have a late night snack on Saturdays. But sugar has been a far harder nut to crack. I have cut out all snacking between meals, and only eating any treats after lunch or dinner. Once I start, however, despite all the tips I've learned over the past 4+ years, I'm not always able to stop.

The lead up to Xmas I find particularly difficult; Lidl have now introduced their Xmas fare, which includes several vegan treats including chocolate covered marzipan, chocolate liqueurs, marzipan fruits and Turkish delight. In previous years I've gone to town on these, reasoning that, since they're not available year-round, I should fill my boots, as it were. This year I've been more circumspect, but I still have all these goodies to hand, albeit in smaller quantities.

However, this still didn't square with my stated aim of giving up sugar.

Finally, last Saturday, I thought, right, time to take drastic(ish) action. I bundled up all my goodies in a plastic bag and threw them on top of a tall kitchen cupboard*. All I've had since then has been 2 squares of dark chocolate (I find it easy to stop after one square) - one on Sunday and one yesterday. Since I'm fasting, no chocolate for me today.

Although it's only been three days, I really feel that a corner has been turned.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016


Basically, men who consume meat have lower testosterone levels than their vegan counterparts, take more medications for diet-related conditions, suffer from diminished sexual performance, potency, and erectile dysfunction, are subject to smaller or deformed genitalia in utero, inclined to halitosis/body odor, have enlarged prostates which makes urinating difficult, and tend to be overweight/obese - which elevates oestrogen levels. As Dr. McDougall says, "Now isn't eating meat a manly thing to do!"

Monday, 24 October 2016

BREADMAKING SESSIONS with the Taunton Association for the Homeless (TAH)

Wednesday 19th October 2016
2 students today, Becky again and her friend (whose name I've temporarily forgotten) made pizzas:

Pizza no. 1 for Becky

And pizza number 2.
When making the dough she added too much water, so she had to add a fair amount of flour to make it into a manageable dough - enough for two pizzas!

Becky's friend's pizza - nibbled a little bit.

She also made this fruit loaf in a frying pan.
Becky didn't make a fruit loaf, saying she didn't like sultanas. However, when she tasted the fruit loaf her friend had made - she really enjoyed it. 

Saturday, 24 September 2016

2ND VEGAN BREADMAKING COURSE at The Planet Cafe, Taunton

Tuesday 20th September 2016
Arrived late tonight - traffic in Taunton was pretty well grid-locked, due to Station Road closing to allow a new bridge being placed in position. A couple of the students were also late - but with breadmaking being such an easy activity, we soon got back on track.

Focaccia and Chelseas tonight:

Not sure who loaf this belonged to - but it's a well-risen loaf

Another good loaf - and this time I can identify it to Sarah H
(Note: I ask the students to place an initial on top of each batch of bread - for two reasons; firstly, so the students can be re-united with their own bread - but also so that I can identify these breads when I'm putting these pics up on here.)

Tuesday, 13 September 2016


200g or 1 mug strong flour – either all white or a mix of white and wholemeal
¼ teaspoon salt
125ml or 1/3rd mug lukewarm water
1 tsp yeast, fresh or dried

1 Measure the water and stir in the yeast. Place the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and pour in the yeast liquid.

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 Divide the dough into 6 pieces with the side of your hand and give yourself plenty of room on your worktop. Take one of the pieces in each hand and flatten them down with the palms of your (flat) hand. Keeping them pressed down, gently move them round in a circle. After a couple of circles, start to ease the pressure off. Still moving in circles, let your hands form a hollow shape. Gradually cup your hands and relax the pressure, whilst still making the circular movement. Your little finger and thumb should make contact in turn with the side of the roll as it tightens up. Ease off the pressure altogether, and you should have a couple of bun shapes! Place the rolls either on greased bun trays or on oven trays lined with baking parchment.
5 Cover and leave to prove until the rolls have doubled in size, then bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for between 15-20 minutes.
Why not make some shapes - Fancy Dinner Rolls:
Roll each piece of dough out into a long thin rope, long enough to tie a knot in it – Lover’s Knot
Roll the dough out a bit longer and roll it up from one end – Whirl
Roll the dough up from both ends – Twirl
Roll the dough up on top from one end and underneath from the other – Swirl
Pick up the dough in the middle and twist one end around the other – Twist

And of course, you can invent your own shapes!

Thursday, 1 September 2016


For two:

30g flour
25g vegan spread
200g soya (or other vegan) milk
(I used 50g soy cream + 150g water)
1 dessertspoon nooch
1/2 teaspoon bouillon powder
2 heaped teaspoons wholegrain mustard
Black pepper + other spices to taste (I'm a great fan of cayenne pepper)

100g pasta of your choice (I used fusilli, since that's what we had in), cooked just how you like it.

Place all the ingredients except the pasta into a small saucepan over a low heat, and start stirring as soon as any bubbles form. Keep stirring as the sauce thickens, adding more water if it thickens too much. Taste and adjust seasoning as required.

Drain the pasta, add it to the sauce, stir and serve.

For some reason, I have to have fresh (well, defrosted) wholemeal bread with this. :)

(This is adapted from Jacqueline Meldrum's recipe.)

Wednesday, 31 August 2016


Had some leftover veg to use up, after our Sunday roast, so I thought I'd turn it into bubble and squeak.

I generally flavour it with nutritional yeast (nooch) and curry powder, but today I left out the nooch - and included a good dollop of hummus. It was superb! This is definitely the way to go.

Bubble and squeak with hummus and fried tomatoes - and fresh, wholemeal bread. Mmm...

One of those meals you just don't want to end!

Friday, 19 August 2016


This, just in from Jane:

This was obviously before her son, Tom, caught sight of them! I wonder how many are left now...

Wednesday 3rd August 2016
Another good session with once again, just the 5 students attending. The students made pikelets:

The students made a mix of plain and fruit pikelets
And sizzlers (cheese and tomato or mushroom wraps):

Hazel's sizzlers put to prove...
And baked!
Jane's sizzlers
And Brian's

Monday, 25 July 2016

BREADMAKING AT THE PLANET CAFE, (Taunton's newest vegan cafe)

Tuesday 26th July 2016 - 5th session
No pics this time - phone failure, I'm afraid.

Parathas and pasties and Swedish tea ring

Pasty filling:

Potatoes/onion/mushroom/red kidney bean


Red lentils, potatoes, onion

Hi folks,

Ingredients for the last session - 26th July.

We’re making a Swedish tea ring and paratha/pasties, so:
Flaked almonds
Icing sugar

You will need to prepare a pasty filling - my favourite is curried lentils and potato hash:

But these combinations are also good:
Potatoes/onion/mushroom/red kidney bean

(Basically, anything cooked ‘en croute’ enhances the filling every time.)

Plus the usual flour/yeast/olive oil/salt

Tuesday 19th July 2016 - 4th session
Croissants and choice of Rye bread or ciabatta.

Michele had been asking about rye bread - which I make very infrequently, if at all. Since rye on its own can be quite tricky, I thought it best if she were to make it with a mixture of rye flour and wholemeal. Janet made a similar loaf whilst the others went for ciabatta.

Here are some of the ciabattas:

Sunday, 22 May 2016

MY DAILY BREAD (from the BBC Food Messageboard Archive)

For several years until its demise in 2011, I posted regularly on the BBC Food Forum - which was supported by a lively community of foodies, who freely contributed advice and swapped recipes and was  a hive of activity*.

I've recently rediscovered the Messageboard archive, which is still there for anyone to access - and found a long-running thread I ran about my breadmaking activities which I thought would be of interest to the readers of this blog.

I began the thread in February 2007 and my last entry is in Nov 2010. I had a lot more teaching in those days - at times 25 hours a week - and I wrote about practically every bread made in my sessions. There were recipes from other posters, of course, and, all in all, I consider it to be a pretty good resource for anyone interested in breadmaking.

*There were two offshoot forums from the BBC Boards, created and administered by former BBC posters:

Wildfood, and The Food Board Refugee Centre

Both are well worth seeking out.

Amusing clay oven (The Dragon!)

Sunday 22nd May 2016.
Here's a reminder of the Dragon oven for my wood-burning mate @CannyFradock. We'll be firing it up again on 24th June for a team building day - you know you have an open invitation, Terry!

Friday 30th March 2012.
Hard to believe I haven't visited this oven - or this post - for 7 months!

However, I was asked by the Halcon Primary School head to run a session with some of her students and also some from a visiting school, instead of my usual Family Learning session.

As I'm always happy to do some outdoor pizza-making I didn't have to be asked twice!

The first thing to notice is that the missing tooth has been replaced:

Just lit the fire
And away it goes
1 beaker flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/3rd beaker of lukewarm water and 1 teaspoon of fresh yeast for each pizza 
Rolling out the pizzas
More rolling out
Topping the pizzas
Fire on one side, pizza on the other. This one is perhaps a little close - but nobody minded!
Some of the finished pizzas. The baking parchment is trimmed before it goes in the oven, otherwise it just burns up and curls over the pizza.
We made 11 pizzas, cooked in just over 40 minutes - not bad for the first firing of the year! We had 9 children, one of the teachers made a pizza, and I made one as a demo, which went to the support team.

It was a lovely session, enjoyed by everyone, and, all-in-all, a good start to the Dragon pizza-making year!

Wednesday 24th August.
Lovely summer morning - but not too hot for firing up an oven!

I'd been in touch with Crannyfradock (from the Wood & Pizza Oven Forum), who'd indicated he'd love to come and work the oven whilst I looked after the breadmaking. As luck would have it he had a spare day off and legged it down from Newport to Taunton for the day.

I hadn't seen Terry since the Besthesda Baking weekend, back at the beginning of July, so it was fantastic to see him again. And to work with him was a real pleasure.  (I also had a couple of hardworking support workers with me looking after the making and shaping of the breads.)

This time I thought I'd introduce a variation on a theme, so we offered chocolate and banana bread as well as cheese and tomato pizzas. These caused a bit of a problem in that the kids generally made them chunkier than was good for the oven - it was difficult to oversee the kids so that they rolled the bread out thinly enough - so that the outside of the loaf was sometimes cooked before the middle. However, we didn't receive any complaints!

I've got a couple of pics which I'll upload soon.

It's a bit sad that the summer's baking is all behind us! But I'm a lot wiser now than I was at the beginning!

On a brighter note, I was able to make sure that Terry didn't leave Taunton without a couple of gallons of scrumpy to remember us by!

Wednesday 17th August.
Weather not so good today - started out fine, but around 11 am the rain came down. I was sort of alright in that there is a bit of roof overhanging the oven, so I was dry whilst standing up - but when I bent down to tend the oven my backside got a bit wet!

Not that I had a lot of time to think about that as the pizzas came thick and fast. I'm getting much more accomplished tending the oven - to the extent that we broke a couple of records today!

Record number one:
A pizza cooked in 40 (forty) seconds!

Record number two:
Between 45 and 50 pizzas in 2 hours and 32 minutes!

Whereas previously I've been averaging a pizza every 4 minutes, I've brought the average down to one about every 3 minutes.

This is possible because of the increased heat I've been able to maintain in the oven. I am now much more pro-active about keeping the fire going in the oven - and the copper tube has proved very useful on the odd occasion when the flames had died down. And I was also able to put two pizzas in the oven at once after I'd cleared away the coals at the beginning.

Every now and again, because of the increased organisation of the pizza-making groups (6 at a time, first come first served, book your place when you register), there was a gap in the proceedings and I was able to concentrate on building up the fire again. After these pauses I just cleared the glowing embers away to each side and put the next pizza in the middle. It was after one of these occasions that I cooked the 40 second pizza - great fun.

A house pizza...

...and a tree pizza. Both on their sides, sorry!
I'm also a bit quicker in recognising when it's time to switch the fire from one side to the other - which only takes seconds.

Towards the end of the session I began snipping off the surplus paper from round the pizza:

A puffed up pizza, which took less than a minute in the middle of the oven

The pizza is identified by the letter K - not everyone followed the rules and put a number on their pizzas, that's why I'm not able to be specific about how many we made.
As long as there's some baking paper under the pizza it slips off the peel nicely. Once the bottom is crisp it's fairly easy to slide the peel underneath to bring it back out. (Although I still had to call in the tenon saw to reach a couple of pizzas that had slid out of reach of the peel.)

Halfway through the morning we realised we were going to be short of wood. A quick foray to the local Asda (only 400 metres away) resulted in a donation of several broken pallets. This gave us more than enough wood - and loads for next week as well.

Only one more Wednesday left with the pizza oven, and I want to try and set a new record. If I could get 60 pizzas through in under 3 hours, I'd think the summer well spent!

I'd like to thank Andy and Shane for the wood-chopping, Steve for the Asda trip and the backroom staff of two Jennies, Nan and Bob (not all at the same time!) Thanks, guys!

Wednesday 3rd August.
There was supposed to be less pressure on us this week, since the Family Centre was organising a coach to the seaside - Burnham on Sea, to be exact - but it didn't turn out like that.

Once again we made half a dozen pizzas for the staff - and then the youngsters piled in to make theirs. By the time we called a halt to any more budding bakers at around 1.00 the identifying number on top of the pizzas had reached 41 - so, with the six we'd made previously, we'd still made 47.

This time I had some help with the oven - my friend Andy kept me well supplied with wood to keep the oven at optimum temperature. I only let the embers die down once - and they were soon brought back to life with a few puffs from the copper tube, which worked very well indeed!

This week I've got something else on the Wednesday, so we're leaving it until next week before we fire up again.

When we do we're going to have quite a crush - with the youngsters who went on the trip joining the ones who didn't go. So we're going to have groups of up to six (we can take 8 if several come as a family) with the last group starting at 12.30. Hopefully we can then get everyone through to finish at around 1.30.

(Best laid plans, etc!)

Wednesday 27th July.
First Fun Day of the summer holidays and it was a bright, clear warm - not too hot - morning when I got there early to light the fire. But I was too late, one of the volunteers, David, had already fired up around 8.30, which was perfect since it meant we could start baking at around 10.30!

I figured that between 10.30 and 1.00 we could bake the 30 or so pizzas I anticipated we'd be making, no problem. I took along 4 bags of flour, 2 kgs of cheese and 5 tubes of tomato puree (to make the passata).

However, starting baking about 10.30, we'd reached the 30 pizza mark by about 12.30 and there were still loads of youngsters wanting to make a pizza. Eventually one of the staff had to dash off to the local S/M to replenish supplies - we'd run out of everything, including baking parchment!

It was fantastic! Kids of all ages from toddlers (with a bit of help from mum or dad) up to about 12-13, all got their hands stuck in and made some dough. The shapes - well they were all sorts of shapes, some of them even circular! But they all thoroughly enjoyed themselves!

In the end, counting the pizzas I'd made for the staff for lunch, we made about 60 pizzas. It was hard work and pretty hectic - especially for my support workers who were supervising the making of the pizzas - but terrific fun.

Loads of recipes disappeared, so hopefully a few of the families will follow through and make some at home.

The large 'S' denotes staff - got these ready before the hordes arrived. Just as well we did, otherwise there would have been simply no time!. 

Starting to build up nicely 
One of the youngsters' pizzas - that's the number 2 on there.

Left this one in a fraction too long- the oven was at its hottest then.
This was the last one out - at about 2.15. It took about 2 minutes, the same as the first one nearly 4 hours earlier!
Some reflections:
Although it was all very enjoyable it was only later that I realised that I hadn't had much to do with the actual making of the pizzas - which is what I'd rather be doing, really. I had two helpers supervising the dough making - both called Jenny, coincidentally - and they worked incredibly hard in a small, rather airless room for most of the day.

I, on the other hand, was out in the sunshine playing (literally!) with fire! I haven't got quite into the routine yet of keeping the fire going on one side, chopping wood, sticking the pizzas in, monitoring them, turning round them when one side started to cool off (that's what I should have taken as my cue to move the fire over to the other side of the oven) then taking them out. But by the end of the summer I should be a whizz!

(I could really do with someone to do the oven duty and allow me to take over the making of the pizzas, but not sure this is going to happen.)

I had a couple of hairy moments:
Twice I let the flames die down and the wood I put on wouldn't catch for what seemed ages. I was putting smaller and smaller bits of kindling on and eventually some baking parchment - and still it wouldn't catch! And a couple of times I lost a pizza in the back of the oven when I'd pushed it with the peel instead of slipping it underneath. I was saved by a rusty old tenon saw, which just caught underneath the edge of the pizza. It's pretty dark at the back of the oven at times - I could do with a torch so I can see what I'm doing. Also I need a longer, straight peel - the one Dominos gave us has a kink in it which means I can't get it to the back of the oven.

Wednesday 1st June.
Another Fun Day at Halcon. They have these every Wednesday of every school holiday now, and I'm always invited along to run a breadmaking session. Normally, this is held in the local church hall, but, now that children from the local school (Halcon Primary School, where I run a weekly Family Learning session) have built this wonderful clay oven, we were going to use it for the first time.

The guy who built it (Frank Blaker, who has built several of these - all different - over the last few months), couldn't get to us until about 10.15, so the oven wasn't lit until about 10.30.

First firing - with intent!
Which meant that we couldn't start baking our pizzas until around 12 when the oven should be at full temperature. With around 20 kids wanting to make them for lunch, this was a problem.

We decided to make mini pizzas - each youngster making 2 using half a mug of flour.

Proving - and waiting for the oven to heat up.

The first pizzas to come out of our new oven!

Coming thick and fast, now!

4 more - on a peel donated by the local branch of Domino's.
This was a real learning curve for me. We didn't rake out the embers, as I'd expected, but just pushed them to one side. We started off baking them on oven trays, but eventually just put them on the floor of the oven - on baking parchment. In the beginning the paper burned away in between the pizzas, and it was a delicate job getting the peel underneath the pizzas to get them out of the oven.

Frank had to leave at about 12.30, so I was on my own. He told me we could place some wood on each side of the oven, to burn, to keep the temperature up. But I didn't carry this part of the operation out properly, as the oven began to cool and each batch was taking longer and longer.

We eventually finished up around 1.30, much later than planned. We'd managed to get 22 small batches through in about an hour and a half - but I'm sure I can do better with practice!

As I said earlier, the Fun Days will be happening every Wednesday through the holidays so I should get plenty of practice through the summer!

Wednesday 20th April.
Here's an oven that's just been built at a local community centre:

I'm hoping to be involved when it's fired up for the first time!