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.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

EAT, FAST, AND LIVE LONGER - How I began Intermittent Fasting

[14th August 2013 - discharged from the Lung Clinic.][Notes from a talk I gave to Taunton Humanists in March about Intermittent Fasting - including all I've learned over the past year.][Walking is no longer enough - my extra energy levels since fasting][Intermittent Fasting and the Hunger Switch] - why we feel more hunger on non-fasting days.]How it all started, for me:I began this eating programme (it's not a diet, it's a way of living - WOL) on the 27th Feb 2012. The story begins at the foot of the post if you want to read about my journey in chronological order. The links to the various research documents I've come across are posted as I found them.In early August 2012, Dr Michael Mosley presented a BBC Horizon programme on the subject of fasting, including Calorie Restriction (CR) and Intermittent Fasting (IF). This backed up everything I'd discovered  about the health benefits of fasting - and I switched from 50% of calories on two days a week to the full-blown 25% of calories (600 calories or less).

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.)

WHY EATING NOTHING BUT PLANTS IS NOT ONLY GOOD FOR US - BUT ESSENTIAL FOR OPTIMUM HEALTH

I became a vegetarian in 2001for the good of my health - I was trying to avoid BSE (Mad Cow's Disease). It took me around 2 years to transition to a plant-based (vegan) diet - impelled by increasing concerns about animal welfare. When I did become vegan I found out my nasal drip - a constant bloody nuisance, to be honest - dried up. Took about 2-3 months. Eventually I realised that my osteoarthritis had stabilised - it was no longer getting worse each year, as it had been.

Now, of course, Climate Change has reared its ugly head and it's even more important to go vegan.

So, 3 reasons to go vegan, any one of which would be sufficient.

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 long) 

Here is a shortened version - 16 minutes - video of 
Forks Over Knives

And here there are extended interviews of the scientists who contributed to the film.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

FANCY DINNER ROLLS AND SHAPES


Ingredients:
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

Method:
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

VEGAN 'MACARONI' CHEESE

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)

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

Method:
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

BUBBLE AND SQUEAK - WITH HUMMUS!

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

BREADMAKING VILLAGE

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
Nicola's
And Brian's

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

A BASIC LOAF OF BREAD - 3 different methods


 There are several methods I use to make a loaf of bread, depending on how much time I have available.

Method A uses the traditional flour to water ratio of 1lb of flour to 1/2 pint of water (500g flour to 315ml). I used this for many years, both at home and it was also used in the bakery where I worked for a while. The dough is mixed, kneaded for a short time, shaped and put to prove.

However, over the past couple of years I’ve become aware of the benefits of adding more water to a mix – the dough rises better and the bread also keeps longer.

There are two methods I use to get more water in a mix, these are detailed in Methods B and C.

Method B is a bit more ‘hands on’ – involving several short kneadings over a 30-45 minute period starting with a fairly sticky dough. Each time the bread is kneaded, the dough gets less sticky. Then the dough is left for an hour or so to rest before shaping and baking.

Method C is what I call the ‘Overnight, no-knead loaf’ and is the easiest method of the three. The dough for this is simply mixed together, left to prove overnight and results in a loaf that’s full of flavour. For this I find a food storer with a snap-top lid is invaluable. I use one which holds 2.8ltrs.


Method A. If I want to make one in a hurry – say in my sessions or I want to make one for a visitor to take away with them, I make this loaf:

Ingredients:
500g (3 mugs) strong flour, all white – or a mix of white and wholemeal. I use 400g wholemeal to 100g of white
1/2 tsp salt
1 dessertspoon fresh yeast or teaspoon of dried active 
315ml (1 mug) lukewarm water
2 tablespoons olive oil (optional, but improves keeping qualities)

Method:
1. Measure the water and stir in the yeast until it has dissolved. 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 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. Oil a large loaf tin and have it ready, shape the dough by pressing it out into a rough rectangle and rolling it up tightly. Put the dough into the tin with the seam underneath.

5. Or: For a freeform loaf, shape the loaf by pulling up the dough at the sides with your fingertips and pushing it down in the middle; do that all round the dough. This will have the effect of smoothing the underneath of the dough. Then turn it over and shape it into a round. Place it on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.

6. Cover with a dry tea towel and leave to prove on your worktop until it has grown appreciably in size. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for about 25-30 minutes.

7. The loaf is ready when it has browned on the sides and bottom. You may need to put it back in upside down, for a few more minutes. It is better overbaked than underbaked.


Method B. If I have more time, but I still want to make it in a morning, or an afternoon, I’ll use the ‘Several short kneadings over 30-40 minutes’ method:

Same amount of flour, salt and yeast, but 350ml of water.

This mixes into a fairly sticky dough.

Once it’s mixed together, pour a little oil on your worktop and place your dough on top of it.
Pour some oil over your dough and begin to knead – but only for a short time – say 10-20 seconds.
Now place your bowl over the dough and scrape off all the dough from your hands.
Leave the dough for 10-15 minutes and repeat the short kneading action, using oil to make it easier to handle. Once again invert the bowl over your dough and leave it for 10-15 minutes.
Repeat the above once more and your dough should by now be manageable without the oil.

Leave it to prove for an hour or two on your worktop. This period of rest gives the bread a better rise.

Form it into your preferred shape and go to Step 4 or 5:

4. Oil a large loaf tin and have it ready, shape the dough by pressing it out into a rough rectangle and rolling it up tightly. Put the dough into the tin with the seam underneath.

5. Or: For a freeform loaf, shape the loaf by pulling up the dough at the sides with your fingertips and pushing it down in the middle; do that all round the dough. This will have the effect of smoothing the underneath of the dough. Then turn it over and shape it into a round. Place it on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.

6. Cover with a dry tea towel and leave to prove on your worktop until it has grown appreciably in size. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for about 25-30 minutes.

7. The loaf is ready when it has browned on the sides and bottom. You may need to put it back in upside down, for a few more minutes. It is better overbaked than underbaked.

Method C. But the best and easiest method is the ‘Overnight, no-knead loaf’. This is left to prove overnight and produces by far the most flavoursome loaf. For this I find a food storer with a snap-top lid is invaluable. I use one which holds 2.8ltrs.

Once again, 500g flour to 350ml water, but use half the yeast.

Mix the dough together (I mix it in my food storer, so there’s less washing up) but don’t bother to knead.

Just put the lid on and leave it on your worktop. Generally I make it the following morning, but I have left it for over 48 hours in the past and it’s been fine.

When you’re ready to bake it, place it on your worktop and fold it over several times. It should be quite manageable. If it’s too wet, you may want to knead in more flour – say 25g at a time.)

Then continue from Step 4 or 5:

4. Oil a large loaf tin and have it ready, shape the dough by pressing it out into a rough rectangle and rolling it up tightly. Put the dough into the tin with the seam underneath.

5. Or: For a freeform loaf, shape the loaf by pulling up the dough at the sides with your fingertips and pushing it down in the middle; do that all round the dough. This will have the effect of smoothing the underneath of the dough. Then turn it over and shape it into a round. Place it on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.

6. Cover with a dry tea towel and leave to prove on your worktop until it has grown appreciably in size. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for about 25-30 minutes.

7. The loaf is ready when it has browned on the sides and bottom. You may need to put it back in upside down, for a few more minutes. It is better overbaked than underbaked.

Note: There’s no doubt that more flavour develops the longer flour and yeast have to mature together. However, in my experience it takes at least 4 hours for the difference in taste to become apparent. That’s why I haven’t included an initial proving time in loaf A.

I find an all wholemeal loaf too heavy for my taste, so I always include some white flour in the mix just to give it a bit of a lift.

A word about yeast. Mostly I use fresh yeast it’s just the easiest to use and the most convenient; occasionally I’ll use active dried yeast; and rarely the fast action yeast.

If you can’t get fresh yeast, use dried active yeast (Allinson’s, in a yellow tin, currently 65p; kept near the flour shelves) – half the amount.



Notes:
Use every loaf that you make as a marker for the next one.
Dough too wet? Reduce the water by 25g.
Too dry? Add another 25g of water next time.
If you do make changes to the recipe, make a note of what you’ve done.
Try and get into a regular bread making routine: Practice makes perfect, etc, and every loaf you make will improve. 

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Portfolio for students

This post is intended as a resource for my students, giving them an idea of what breads can be made on my courses. The pics have been gathered from over the past couple of years.

It's by no means an exhaustive list, if there is a bread that a student would like to make that isn't here, then we'll have a go at making it.

To begin with, here's a comparison between the three types of yeast, with a half and half white and wholemeal flour mix.

Dried active yeast (100% pure yeast) Sainsbury's 'fast action' dried yeast (93% yeast plus additives) and fresh yeast

After an hour's proving, the dried yeast and the fresh yeast doughs were slightly better risen. The fast action yeast dough would catch up, given time
I've divided the breads into three categories:
Plain
Savoury
Sweet

Plain breads - tinned loaves, freeform loaves, focaccia, ciabatta, etc,


Ciabatta
Focaccia with rosemary
Grissini with chopped sun-dried tomatoes. The slight kink enables you to turn them over easily to cook the bottoms if they're not done enough.
I think this was two thirds wholemeal and one third white - 800g of dough just comes up to about 2/3rds of the way up the tin
Fully risen and ready to bake. I should have put it in the oven earlier and allowed the loaf to rise in the oven - oven spring as it is known. 
Think I may have added sesame seeds to the mix - I made this last December, and I can't remember. Looks like it!
A batch of white rolls, huddled together to form a loaf

They were proved and baked for the first 10 minutes under a metal toasting dish - hence the flat top

Well risen, but it's not easy to see the crumb as my camera isn't that great!

More rolls - wholemeal this time.
Fancy dinner rolls

I made 70 altogether for a friends birthday party

Savoury - pizzas, sizzlers, pane casereccio,

Garlic batons. Dough rolled out flat, covered with mashed garlic and olive oil, then rolled up like a Swiss roll
This method infuses the whole loaf with garlic

Pane casereccio. Dough rolled out flat, covered with a filling, rolled up and the ends tucked in
The finished article. The filling leaked a bit - bursting with good ingredients, I say!

From memory, the filling was mushrooms, peppers and onions poached in a little sauce. Traditionally a PC would contain Gruyere and Italian sausage, but, in truth you can put anything in there!
Haggis en croute - plus some spare breadsticks

Yeast-Rise canap├ęs - mushroom pate, pesto and mushrooms


Field mushrooms, stuffed with pesto and mushroom pate, and covered with a tasty bread dough
(dough flavoured with bouillon powder and curry powder)

Vegan pizza with mushroom pate (Pateole) and pesto, peppers and tomatoes




Sweet - spicy fruit buns, Chelsea buns, petit pain au chocolat, jam doughnuts
Swedish Tea Ring. Fruited dough rolled out as if for Chelsea buns, but covered with oil, sugar and flaked almonds. Rolled up, formed into a circle and cut half way across at intervals. Dredged with icing sugar.

Chocolate and banana bread. One circle covered with chocolate spread and banana, the other placed over the top and tucked in all round

Then given a sugar glaze when it is baked

The gooey, soft, middle. I never seem to put enough filling in - the bread always rises too much!
Christmas loaf (or Celebration bread). The slices will show up yellow, red and green - very festive! It's a variation of a stollen - and the dough can be as rich or as plain as you wish

My grandchildren call this 'Traffic light bread'!

A sugar glaze just finishes it off
Belgian buns made with soaked cranberries. The method is very similar to Chelsea buns - the difference being the dough is rolled up along the short side making for a thicker roll - the slices are cut thinner, making for flatter buns.
Huddled together - I should have put the smallest ones in the middle

Decorating isn't my strongest suit. I'm always happy to see my students bread made neater than mine - not too difficult!
Large jam tarts, made with a sweetened dough
Iced buns and croissants

Italian chocolate bread




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

Potatoes/broccoli/onion/peas/celery/carrot

Red lentils, potatoes, onion

Hi folks,

Ingredients for the last session - 26th July.

We’re making a Swedish tea ring and paratha/pasties, so:
Sultanas
Sugar
Cinnamon
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
Potatoes/broccoli/onion/peas/celery/carrot

(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: