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, 30 January 2017

Letter to a vegetarian

Dear Fiona

I was very glad to read your article in Saturday’s Mirror exposing the cruelty involved in the meat industry. 

However, it has to be said, all the cruelties you describe in your article apply equally - if not more so - to the dairy industry. Every cow or calf in that industry finishes up in a slaughterhouse, enduring the same appalling conditions. Indeed, I would argue that dairy cows suffer much more than animals raised for beef, since they endure forced pregnancies, separation from calf at birth, and constant over-milk production for the few - 4 or 5 - years they are allowed to live. Then they are killed - 15 or so years before their natural life span. Their male offspring are either dispatched immediately or they are kept a few short months for veal. The dairy industry underpins the beef industry!

So, if I am to believe your horror and disgust at the cruelty you describe so graphically, logically you should go a step further and advocate a vegan lifestyle.

Anything else, Fiona, I’m afraid, is hypocrisy!

BTW, I didn’t join the dots immediately, it took me 2 years to transition from vegetarian to vegan - but it’s the only moral choice.

(This is to leave aside the benefits of becoming vegan, both to your own health and the health of the planet.)

Yours sincerely, Paul

Sunday, 29 January 2017


This is a simple, quick, cheap, low(ish) calorie cake that can be ready  to eat in as little as 5 minutes (well, 6 minutes and 56 seconds). Mix in one mug - or jug - then pour into a prepared mug to bake. Easy to make with your youngster.

[[Here's the full, 8"/20cm version of the cake - which will set you back all of 70p!]]

Sunday 29th January 2017
Came across this chocolate cake recipe which doesn't use any oil, using apple sauce instead. I thought I'd use this method in this recipe:

4 dessertspoons self raising flour (approx. 40g)
4* dessertspoons sugar (approx. 50g)
1 heaped teaspoon cocoa powder (5g)
3 heaped teaspoons apple sauce (30g)

6 dessertspoons water (60g)

And it worked a treat! So, no more oil for me. This, of course, reduces the cal count - by about 150cals. So the cake comes in at around 375 cals.

*I thought it was a little sweet, so next time I'll use 3 dsps of sugar.

Thursday 9th May 2013
I've been tinkering with this recipe a little, to try and make it a little more user-friendly! For instance, I now cook it in a cereal dish lined with baking parchment - it was just too tricky trying to get it out of the mug in one piece. Mind you, if there's no-one else sharing this, then eating it straight out of the mug is the way to go!

I've also started mixing it in a (high-sided) cereal bowl with a rounded bottom - it makes it much easier to ensure you don't leave any caked dry mix in the bottom corners, as can happen when mixing it in a mug.

The third change I've made is to mix the sugar and cocoa powder first, before adding the flour. The sharp edges of the granulated sugar break up the clots of cocoa powder, so a sieve becomes unnecessary.

My record to date is 6 minutes 56 seconds from thinking about cake to hearing the microwave's ping as it finishes the two minute cooking time.

I just laid the baking parchment over the top of the bowl - the weight of the mixture sank the paper into the bowl

And here it is turned out onto a plate.
The time the cake weighed 190g (I used a larger dessertspoon), so, although the calorie count further down doesn't really apply, I guess 50g of this would still come in at around 175 calories.

If you're making the cereal bowl version of this, cut the baking parchment halfway across - then one bit folds under the other as the cake mix is poured in. 

Sunday 17th February 2013 (My first attempt at this)
Place a small disc of baking parchment in the bottom of a mug, then spray the inside of the mug with One-cal Fry-lite, or similar. Assemble the ingredients in a separate mug or a jug.
Not a great pic, I'll be the first to admit. But the cake was quick and tasty.
4 dessertspoons self raising flour (approx. 40g)
dessertspoons sugar (approx. 50g)
1 heaped teaspoon cocoa powder (5g)
dessertspoons vegetable oil (approx. 28g)
dessertspoons water (60g)

Mix the dry ingredients together (I'll admit to sieving the cocoa, since it clumps easily, but the flour should be fine).

Add the oil and water and mix together first with a spoon, then a fork. Make sure you scrape up all the dry ingredients.

Pour the mixture into your prepared mug and microwave for 2 to 2 and a half minutes on full power (800W in my case). Check with a skewer to see if it is done.

Calorie count:
This works out at 525 calories - for approximately 150g of cake = 175 calories for each portion of 50g.

Children should be able to make this from start to finish - since the mug handle should remain cool, the child can place the mug in and out of the microwave quite safely.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Breadmaking Workshop in Wellington 23rd April 2016

Breadmaking Made Easy Workshop, 10.00am - 4.30pm 
23rd April 2016 Community Centre, Corams Lane, Wellington TA21 8LL
Dear Student,

This letter sets out what I intend will happen on the day and includes a list of ingredients and utensils which you will need to bring. If you are new to breadmaking, let me reassure you that it is much easier than you have been led to believe.

The session will begin in a relaxed fashion – the first thing you need to do is to find somewhere to park all the stuff that I ask you to bring, get yourself a drink and somewhere to sit down. Then there is a little paperwork we need to complete – I’ll guide you through that, if you can bring a pen that would be handy.

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 hopefully meet all your requirements. My aim is to turn you into a competent home baker (if you’re not already!) able to bake any bread you fancy.

The breads you will be making: Choice of 2 types of soda bread; fancy dinner rolls; cheese bread wraps (lunch); fruit dough to make hot cross buns and Chelsea buns; focaccia; and pizza.

The kettle is always on for a mug of tea or coffee (cost 20p). For lunch we’ll have a couple of the cheesey wraps.

I want to reassure all those students new to breadmaking that my first aim for this workshop is for everyone to enjoy their learning – I always delight in these sessions, and it’s my job to see that everyone else does. Breadmaking is an easy, everyday craft – as you’ll come to realise!

If you have a particular variety of bread you'd like to make instead of one of the breads on offer, I'd be very happy for you to do that. Get in touch if this idea appeals to you and we will see how we could fit it in to the programme. Or if you have any questions, doubts, suggestions at all, please don’t hesitate to ring or email me.

I have a blog - part breadmaking, part vegan cookery - in which I detail all my breadmaking activities. Here’s the post I’ve started about the workshop:

Finally, I’d like to 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 the word ‘Companion’ can be taken to mean, ‘Someone who makes bread with his or her friends’. Which is exactly what we shall be doing!

I look forward to meeting you and welcoming you on the course.

Regards, Paul 

Flour. Don't forget to specify strong flour, as this is sold especially for breadmaking. Own-brand flours are fine.
Yeast. The most convenient for our purposes is fresh baker’s yeast – if you can’t get hold of any, I’ll have enough for everyone.
Olive oil. This is much cheaper these days, and it does improve the bread. Once again, buy the cheapest you can - £2.19 (I think!) for 750ml at Lidl!

Shopping list:
2 bags strong flour – one white and one wholemeal, or 2 white
Baking powder
250ml olive oil
100g sugar
50g fresh yeast if you can get some – or I'll have some for 10p
Sesame/poppy seeds*
200g sultanas or any dried fruit 
Mixed spice/cinnamon/nutmeg
150g grated Cheddar
Tomato sauce of your choice for the pizza
Dried oregano if you have it*
Rosemary – fresh or dried*
Black pepper*
Some tomatoes/mushrooms/onions/peppers for the wraps and pizza


You will also need to bring:
An apron
A couple of tea towels, both to cover your dough whilst it's proving and to wrap any warm bread in to take home.
Baking parchment or paper (this is unlike greaseproof paper as it contains silicon)
Something to carry away the finished products (a large basket or cardboard box lined with tea towels would be ideal)
Sharp knife

Mug for hot drink

Sunday, 8 January 2017

STUFFED MUSHROOM PARCELS (mushrooms en croute)

Sunday 8th January 2017.
Made this today for my roast dinner, each mushroom stuffed with Pateole mushroom spread and Meridian pesto, with cayenne pepper:

Decided to go with three, since they weren't all that big

With the two ends brought over the middle

One side brought up - with the surplus dough removed
Similar wth the other side

Dough squished and pressed into shape around the mushrooms and turned over - the weight keeps it together, and it looks a lot neater. The scraps have been rolled into savoury breadsticks (grissini)

The finished article, ready to serve (caught the top of the dough in our small top oven)
I served up half, initially, the came back for another quarter. It was gorgeous!

Sunday 15th April 2012.
Made this again today. (Full recipe further down the post)

The dough:
1 mug flour
1 tsp bouillon powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3 large chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/3rd mug yeast liquid containing 10g fresh yeast
Large glug of oil from the SDTs

2 large Portobello mushrooms and 2 large button mushrooms
Stuffed with mushroom pate and vegan pesto

The dough was mixed and kneaded until smooth and divided into three pieces. These were rolled out and the mushrooms were placed in the middle:

The stalk was sliced and placed over the stuffing

The dough was gathered together over the mushroom, and the excess snipped off
The two button mushroom were stuffed, pressed together with the split stalks between them, then wrapped in the bread dough.

 They were left to prove for around an hour then baked - 20 minutes at 220C.

 The stuffing - just oozing out!

Tonight I had one with roast potatoes, etc, and a spicy tomato sauce instead of gravy.

The mushroom pate and pesto make a wonderful sauce which soaks into the bread base, so the effect is like an enclosed trencher - with trencher and topping cooked together. Simply gorgeous.

26th April 2011.
Stuffed field mushroom en croute - using a bread dough 

(Makes around 3)

200g (1 mug) strong white flour                                        
1/4 tsp salt                                                                  
125ml (1/3 mug) lukewarm water                                                               
1 rounded dessertspoon fresh yeast
Splash of olive oil (optional)

3 large field mushrooms
Mushroom pate
Vegan pesto

1. Measure the water and stir in the fresh yeast. Place the flour and salt in a mixing bowl, pour in the yeast liquid, then add the olive oil if using.

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. 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 stretching the dough out, folding it over, stretching it out and so on and so forth. Do this until it is smooth – or until you get fed up!

4. Leave to prove for about an hour on your worktop, covered with a dry tea towel. Or place in an oiled plastic bag until you are ready for step 5.

5. When you are ready, divide the dough into 3 pieces. Form each piece into a ball and roll out into circles big enough to form a parcel with the mushrooms.

6. Prepare the stuffed mushrooms by removing the stalk, then spread the pate over the mushroom and cover with the pesto. Divide the mushroom stalk into two and place it in the middle of the circle.

7. Place the mushroom, filling down, over the mushroom stalk and bring up the edges of dough in 3 or 4 places to meet over the top of the mushroom. Squeeze the edges of dough together so they stick to one another and place smooth side up on a baking sheet. Repeat with the other mushrooms.

8. Leave to prove until the dough is risen and puffy then bake at 220C, 425F or gas 7 for about fifteen minutes. There should be some colour under the parcels to show that they are cooked right through.

Sunday, 1 January 2017


Update - 13th Feb 2012.
Made 2 x 200g soda breads today (one, an Italian focaccia-type loaf), including a good glug of olive oil - they were gorgeous  with a lovely soft crust:

(Also: Fruit soda bread and Curried soda bread)

(This is a very adaptable bread – you can put anything in it that takes your fancy!)

1 mug or 200g self raising flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/3rd mug or 125ml water

1. Heat the oven to 220C, 425F, gas mark 7 and prepare your baking tray.

2. Place the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. When the oven is hot, add the water and begin mixing with a table knife or similar.

3. Mix together into a soft dough, stirring and cutting through the dough as it forms, adding more flour or water as needed. Turn it out onto a floured worktop, firmly mould it into a round flat loaf, about 3cm thick and place it on your prepared baking sheet. (With practice you can get the mixing and shaping done in less than two minutes.) To allow the heat of the oven to reach the centre of the dough more easily, cut a deep cross into the top of the loaf with the knife.

4. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 20 minutes, but check after 15.

5. The loaf is ready when it has a good colour underneath and a skewer comes out clean – or it ‘breaks’ cleanly. You may need to put it back in, upside down, for a few more minutes. Place to cool on a wire rack and – for a softer crust – wrap the bread in a tea cloth.

Fruit soda bread:
At step two, instead of the salt, add 1 dessertspoon of sugar, half a mug (100g) of dried fruit and a teaspoon of mixed spice.

Curried soda bread:
At step two, along with the salt, add a teaspoon of curry powder.

Italian soda bread (see pics, above)
At step two, after the water is added, pour in a good glug of olive oil (2-3 tablespoons?) then proceed as per the recipe;
Then, if you wish to make it into a focaccia, at step four, after the dough is mixed, give the dough 3 or 4 flatten and folding actions, then roll out into a circle about 1.5-2cm thick. Press holes in it with your fingers, then fill the holes with olive oil. Make sure you use a tray with a lip to contain any oil that spills over.
Bake as above - the olive oil disappears just as the loaf is baked! I always get a kick out of that!

These amounts make a small loaf – for a larger loaf, just double up the ingredients and bake for 25-30 minutes.
If you only have plain flour, you’ll need to add baking powder  - 1 teaspoon for each 100g of flour, or 2 teaspoons for a mug full.
You can also make these breads with wholemeal or spelt flour.

In a frying pan:
Roll or squash the loaf into a flat round and bake it in a dry frying pan with lid (use a baking sheet if you don’t have a lid) for about 6-7 minutes on each side on medium heat.

Here's how I made this frying pan bread in only 13 minutes!

And, my new record, bread made in a sandwich toaster in only 8 minutes!