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.

Saturday, 20 May 2017


Saturday 15th January 2011
This coming Saturday morning I want to conduct an experiment. I want to see if we can get a group of people all making bread at the same time. Beginners and families especially welcome.

I thought 'petit pain au chocolat' because, a) they’re fun to make, and, b) because they’re one of the easiest, most satisfying things you can make. (And because they come with a free French lesson!)

Starting at 10am, I’ll be measuring and mixing the dough, shaping the rolls and putting them to prove. I’ll log each step on here, and put pics on my blog.

This recipe will make 8-10 chocolate rolls.

Here’s the recipe I’ll be following:
200g strong white flour (although you can use plain flour if that’s all you’ve got)
1 dessertspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon yeast (either fresh or dried active yeast)
125ml lukewarm water

8-16 pieces of eating chocolate – any sort you like - depending on how much chocolate you intend to use in each roll
1 teaspoon sugar for a glaze

I’ll endeavour to include every piece of information about the ingredients and the process I can think of, including variations, calorie content, etc, and answer any questions you may have.

When you’ve been making bread for a while, some of the process becomes automatic, so I really have to think about every step of the way from a beginner’s perspective. Don’t hesitate to ask about anything I haven’t fully explained.

For this sort of bread I generally use all white flour. However, you can use 50:50 wholemeal and white (you can use all wholemeal, but this makes for a heavy bread not really suited (IMO) for a pain au chocolat.) Own-brand is fine - the last time I checked Lidl's was cheapest at 75p and Sainsbury's at 95p.

Granulated is absolutely fine. There’s no advantage to be gained by using caster sugar. You could use other types, but I doubt you’d tell the difference.

I generally use fresh - currently 20p for 50g at Sainsbury's (or available from small bakeries - where they make bread on the premises), but I always have a tin of dried active yeast in the fridge (keeps better in there) in case I run out. Available from small bakeries or the bakery counter in large supermarkets, often. Dried active yeast is made by Allinson's and comes in a yellow tin by the flour shelves in supermarkets - currently 64p. It literally keeps for years - in the fridge once opened.

As a general rule, use half as much dried yeast as you would fresh. However, for small amounts such as we’re using, a teaspoon of either will suffice.

Dried active yeast (almost a teaspoon)
Fresh yeast (purchased on 9/12/10 - kept in the fridge in a plastic bag)
Yeast (like bacteria!) needs warmth, moisture, food – and time. Given these four things, it will thrive.

Needs to be approximately blood heat (hand hot, or lukewarm). One third boiling water to two-thirds cold water will give you the right temperature for yeast every time. But always dip your fingers in the water to check.

Good quality eating chocolate is better for this bread – although you can use cooking chocolate if you have some you want to use up.

Shopping list:
1 bag strong bread flour (white) 
Yeast - fresh if you can find it, but pop a tin of dried active yeast in your basket, anyway. Then you always have it in.
Chocolate. Your favourite sort. 
Granulated sugar.

Scales, measuring jug, baking tray, baking parchment (a roll of this lasts for years, since each piece is reusable until it falls apart), cooling rack, pastry brush.

I think that's it for now. I'm sure someone will remind me if I've forgotten anything.

If anyone would like to forgo all this and just make them now - the full recipe is to be found here.

See you Saturday!

It’s up to you how much chocolate you use – a small piece or two pieces joined together. The pieces at the top are from a 100g 70% chocolate bar with only 10 pieces, one of them divided in two.
For a video of the method and techniques we're using - up to dividing the dough, have a look at this 'Sizzler' recipe on YouTube. (However, don't forget, in this recipe we're using sugar and not salt.)

Once the dough is made, it is divided into 8 pieces:

Divided into two...

...and eventually into 8. The larger piece is a quarter of the dough (or 2 eighths) to show you how big the rolls will grow when they've doubled in size. As you can see, I've put various amounts of chocolate on top of the lumps of dough.
Top left I've got 1 whole piece of a large square of chocolate, divided in two and placed one on top of the other.  The one at the bottom is half of one of those pieces as is the one to its right. the rest are either 1 or 2 pieces of an ordinary bar of dark chocolate.
Here I am squidging and pinching the dough together round the chocolate.
Carefully seal any gap, pinching the dough together quite tightly.
Turn the dough over and, using your cupped hand, gently roll it round to smooth it into a pleasing shape. 
When turned over with the seam underneath, the weight of the dough helps keep the seam intact

As you can see, I'm not all that bothered about them all being the same size. The three with the little knobs on are filled with dairy-free chocolate (mine, in other words!). I've put them on used baking parchment to rise (prove), to show that this paper will go in an out of the oven many times before it falls apart. Leave them on your worktop, covered with a tea towel to keep out any draughts. Check them every 15-20 minutes to see if they've risen.
Now they have begun to show a definite rise - the gap between the rolls is a lot less and the dough has smoothed out - it's time to put the oven on. Don't worry about a time limit - this is the time for patience; the bread will rise on your worktop.

Fresh from the oven - and chocolate has escaped from just the one!
Brushed with sugar glaze - this just finishes them off.
Place them on a cooling rack. These rolls are at their best as soon as  they're cool enough to eat. Cut in half they cool quicker. Use either a pair of scissors or a good bread knife  - but don't press down too hard on new bread; let the knife do the work!

Now is the time to sit back, enjoy your pain au chocolat and plan what bread you're going to make next!

Saturday morning - I posted these messages on both the BBC Food board, and the Wildfood board:

At 1004 I posted this:

Okey, dokey, here we go!

Weighed 200g flour and added a dessertspoon of sugar.

Measured 125ml (or grams) of lukewarm water

Stirred in a teaspoon of dried active yeast.

But if you've got fresh yeast, use that instead.

Added to mixing bowl.

Begun to mix together.

At 1020 I posted this:

As I was mixing I had to take a phone call. Picked the phone up with my hand in a plastic bag.

Back to work...

Mix was a bit dry, so I added a bit more water - you're looking for a soft, squishy dough.

Always good to have a little water to hand when mixing.

Kneaded the dough - just flattening and folding - for about 20 kneading actions, by which time the dough had become smooth and all the little bits had disappeared (that's all you're looking for).

Now about to divide the dough into 8, and break the chocolate up into squares.

And at 1037 I posted this on both threads:

All done, now. 

The rolls are proving on the worktop, covered with a tea towel

It was a bit fiddly, since I made the dough a little too sticky.

I found myself using a table knife to lift up each piece of dough off the worktop.

And I forgot to distinguish the two rolls I'd filled with chilli chocolate! 

Anybody out there?

Any questions, any time.

So far I've had one response - from Suffolk, who's taking notes ATM.

At 11.19 I posted:

Bread showing definite signs of rising - just put the oven on at 220C

At 11.36 I posted:

The oven's now up to temperature, but, looking at the rolls I decided they hadn't risen enough.

Once the oven is on I feel an obligation to get them in there as soon as I can.

So, to give them a lift, I decided to give them a blast of heat.

I put them in the oven for 1 minute only, then took them out again.

I'll check them again in 5 minutes, by which time they may well be ready to bake.

At 11.46 I posted:

That's done the trick - in the oven and the timer set for 8 minutes.

They'll need turning round at that time, and need probably another 4 minutes baking.

At 11.52 I posted:

Now's the time to put the kettle on for a cup of tea or coffee with your fresh pain au chocolat - and to make the sugar glaze.

Warm the jug, place one teaspoon of sugar and 2 teaspoons of boiling water in there - whisk for a minute or two, then you're ready.

Leave the rolls on the baking parchment while you glaze them - it's easier to wipe the paper than it is to wipe the cooling rack later on!

At 12.30 (by which time they'd been out about 20 minutes) I posted:

Well, they're out, glazed - and one of them has mysteriously disappeared!

I'll put a pic up of the remaining 7 shortly.

They're not as brown as I'd like - and that's because, using the small top oven, the shelf was down the bottom.

When I checked after 8 minutes, the tops were still very pale. I put the shelf as high as it would go and turned off the bottom element.

After another 5 minutes, the rolls were done, but still not very brown on top, as you'll see.

(I should have said I distinguished what I thought was the chilli chocolate ones with a snip from a pair of scissors.)

Just heard from my wife that I failed miserably in identifying the chilli ones - she's just had one and she hates chilli!

Not as good looking as the last lot - but not bad for all that!
At around 12.15, Sara posted this message on the BBC food board:
Hi Paul. Just taken mine out of the oven and glazed them - they look delish! About to tuck in - Sara and Phil

And a little while later, she posted again:
They were really yummy - we demolished the whole lot!

Which was rather nice!

On the Sunday I heard from LeCreusetFiend:
Just to say I made these this afternoon, and very well they went down too with a nice cup of tea!

Tatihou offered this on Saturday:
I started later than I planned but they are now lurking under a tea-towel, proofing peacefully. The kitchen's a bit cold this afternoon so might take a bit longer than yours.

And came back on Monday to say:
Those I made on Saturday rose well, looked lovely when they were glazed... and didn't last long.

However, one poster didn't fare so well:
To my shame and embarrassment they were an absolute disaster - took hours to rise even a teensy bit and ended up rock hard little stones that smelt like a brewery. I am going to blame the yeast, which was the right sort but had been in the back of a cupboard for several months, and get a new tin and try again next Sunday morning...........