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, 29 September 2010

Letter of introduction to the evening breadmaking course

Dear Student,
Breadmaking at Court Fields Community School, 7-9pm on 29th September

I’m delighted to hear that the course is going ahead, albeit with low numbers. If you have a friend who’d like to come with you, it’s not too late (they would be very welcome!).

This letter sets out what I intend will happen in the first session 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 a stool to sit on. There is some necessary administration to complete, but it’s best if we go through this together. If you need any help with the forms I will be there to give you a hand, so there’s no need to worry. Bring a pen if you can remember, although I will have a couple to spare.

Before we start I’d like to spend some time finding out if you’ve had any experience in breadmaking, and what you expect to get out of the course, so that I can hopefully meet all your requirements.

The breads we will be making on the first evening are: Plain or fruit soda bread, and fancy dinner rolls or a loaf (traditional English loaf or a focaccia).

Each week you will make 2 varieties of bread – most of them chosen by you and the other students. Also there are various techniques I want to cover, such as ‘No-knead, overnight bread’, using the cloche method, etc. You will be given the recipes for all the breads we make, plus general breadmaking hints and tips. My aim is for you to become a competent home baker (if you’re not already!), able to bake any bread you fancy.

Bring a large cardboard box or basket to carry all your equipment and ingredients, and the finished products to take home with you!  Coffee or tea is available at 20p per mug – the kettle is always on. (Or bring your own, of course.)

I want to reassure all those students new to breadmaking that my first aim for this course 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 haven’t already)!

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. It’s always nice to make contact with my students before the course begins.

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 friends’. Which is what we shall be doing on these Wednesday evenings!

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

Paul (Course tutor)

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Evening breadmaking course in Wellington

Planning for this course...(Including letter of introduction)

We're making 2 sorts of soda bread (choice of) and a yeast-risen dough out of which can be made a loaf or a batch of rolls. 

In my demo for the soda bread, I shall show the students how I make a loaf of soda bread without measuring anything - just to show them how easy it is.

Then I'll demonstrate how I make a sticky dough - which I'll then knead several times, ending up with a manageable dough.

Out of this, students will be able to make a batch of bread rolls or a loaf.

The students will get recipes for these, plus a handout telling them why they should make bread, and giving them a mass of info including some relevant websites.

(I'm hoping the students will all have access to the web. If they haven't I'll need to do some photocopying!)

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Breadmaking courses - update

Here's the info on the courses I was hoping to run this Autumn.

The Wellington course is going ahead from next Wednesday - but only with 4 students, hoping to pick up more as the course goes on - so if there's anyone interested within range, give Somerset Skills and Learning a ring on 01823 663000.

There's also room on the Bridgwater one, starting in November.

The Bishops Hull Family Learning course (now only 5 weeks) has begun with 9 families attending (10 from next week!)

I'm also running an after school club (Bishops Hull Bread Heads - or BH squared) which has 5 youngsters attending (maybe 7 next week).

The 'Breadmaking for all' village project was a bit disappointing - I only had 8 for the  first session and 2 for the second. Both were extremely good fun, students included 3 children (3, 5 and 8) a grandmother and a father.

However, the TAH course hasn't happened yet since there aren't enough takers.

I'm offering a free taster course shortly, hoping to attract  a few more students.

The Albemarle course went extremely well, attracting up to 12 students  (many old friends amongst them!) - with plenty of support they were very successful.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

First loaf in the chiminea

Made my first loaf the other day in my chiminea – and also the first pizza (actually a calzone) that I actually finished off in there!

I’m gradually building up the amount of charcoal I’m using, and getting the timing better.

I made a flat loaf – a focaccia – and a calzone, which meant that I could turn them both over if necessary.

And, of course, it was necessary!

Risen - just about to go into the oven
The loaf was a simple focaccia with olive oil:

I gave it about 20 minutes, and then turned it over, since the bottom was well done by now. The oil had just about disappeared - absorbed by the bread - I do love this loaf!

Here's how it turned out after ten minutes upside down:

Not a great-looking loaf - but it was jolly tasty!
Here's the calzone: The base was made with  an Oxo cube, curry powder and dried mixed herbs; I spread the dough with a mixture of yeast pate, vegan pesto and tomato puree; then I added mushrooms and vegan sausage, finishing with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast.

Here it is before I folded it:

Before folding
And here it is, baked and cut in half:

At last - a pizza I'd started and finished in the chiminea!
Here's a link (with a bit more detail about the chiminea) on the Wood-Fired Oven forum.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Two more wood-fired pizzas

It was a beautiful morning, earlier today, "A great day for firing up the chiminea I thought! And a chance to practice my cooking skills on it!" (More chiminea tales here.)

We had visitors during the middle of the day, so I didn't get to start the process until 4.00pm by which time the sky was overcast and not very inviting at all!

However, the forecast was for a brilliantly sunny evening, so I began...As I usually do, making the dough for the pizza.

I stuck to the same pizza base recipe I've been using for the past few weeks - 200g flour, teaspoon Marigold stock, teaspoon herbs and a teaspoon of curry powder - except that I added 25g of tomato puree to the liquid. When the dough was made I divided it into 2 - one half was to be a pizza, and the other a sort of rolled up, slit and shaped into an S shape pizza (haven't really got a name for it!)

Once the dough was made I went out and started the fire. Hadn't really got it going when it began to rain - but it wasn't much, so I carried on. I'd just about added the heavier chunks of wood when it began to rain in earnest.

So, back to the pizzas. I rang the changes a bit with my pizza topping - first of all a mixture of mushroom pate, vegan pesto and tomato puree spread over the top, then I added roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and Kalamata olives.

Before rolling out
The other half of the dough I rolled out into a long rectangle and covered it with chopped polony, bottled mushrooms and grated Sheese (a vegan cheese). I then rolled it up, cut a slit in the top and pushed it into an S shape. (I only realised when it came out of the oven that I'd forgotten to include some fresh basil!)

And after shaping

When this was done, the downpour had stopped and I was able to cover the fire with charcoal.

After the charcoal had taken hold I put another layer of charcoal on top. When this layer was well alight I put the pizza in the oven.

Conscious that heat escapes through the door I propped up an oven tray against the hole.

Note the welder's gloves and a small kneeling mat - essential to keep my knees from developing deep grooves from the decking!

I still haven't got enough charcoal in there since it took about thirty minutes for the pizza to cook - almost! I still had to flash it in the oven in the kitchen for about 4 minutes to cook the top. Then I put the other pizza in the chiminea. Once again, after thirty minutes I had to take it out and put it in the domestic oven to finish it off.
The S-shaped filled pizza and all that's left of the other one!
I'm getting there. If I can just be a bit more patient and add perhaps twice the wood initially, then twice the charcoal, I think I may have it. (If only I wasn't so tight!)

Saturday, 4 September 2010

First pizzas in wood-fired chiminea

Well, first pizza(s) tonight in my new chiminea! (Click here for the first part of the story and here for more recent updates.)

Here’s how it happened:
(I started at 5.41 in the evening – but I’m going to call that 0000. The notes are not as accurate as they could be, as I’m not sure I noted everything down – but they give you a rough idea.)

Colne Valley Yorkshire Bitter (bit slow with the camera - the head had subsided somewhat!)
0000 Poured myself a pint of home-made real ale (thanks, Leo!):
0002 Started the pizza dough – 200g white flour, 1 tsp Marigold stock powder, 1 teaspoon curry powder, 4 large pieces of grilled peppers, chopped small, plus 10g yeast dissolved in 125g lukewarm water and a good glug of sun-dried tomato oil.
0015 Dough finished and proving
0025 Ashes cleared from grate, and kindling placed in position
0026 Lit the fire
0033 Fire well alight, pizzas rolled out
0039 Added a layer of charcoal to the fire – manoeuvred oven shelf into position with my new welder’s gloves
0045 Placed the frying pan on (in the kitchen) with some oven chips

0055 Topping placed on the pizzas – a mixture of vegan pesto, mushroom pate and tomato puree plus slices of tomato and mushrooms
0103 2nd layer of charcoal – spread out
0105 One pizza in bottom oven and one in the top. I used an oven tray to try and block the opening of the bottom oven – but there was still a large gap at the top.
0118 Pizza in bottom oven burned on the bottom, not cooked on top – swapped them over, but the top wouldn't cook
???? Turned the oven on in the kitchen – just the top element. Once it had reached 200C I put one of the pizzas in for four minutes to cook the top. The other I’ve left out – it can go in the freezer and then be cooked for 5 or so minutes.
0152 Sat down to dinner with large glass of home-made red!

Done underneath, but top not quite finished
The chips were well over done, but the pizza was delicious. Even though the bottom was a bit charred it made no matter.

1. I need to light the fire on the shelf, rather than the floor of the oven, and just cook in the top oven. Once I’m happy with that, then I can start experimenting with two shelf cooking.
2. I need to give the charcoal quite a bit longer before I put the stuff in to cook
3. Just need to tweak a few timings - but we're on our way, folks!

I'd like to fire it every day - but there's only so many pizzas you can eat, and I've a freezer full of bread!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Pane frattau

This is an adaptation of a traditional Sardinian peasants' dish.

It is a very loose version of a lasagne, in that it uses bread soaked in broth instead of pasta. (I've used grated vegan cheese instead of a cheese sauce.)

1 bowl of vegetable stock
3 or 4 cartas di musica
1 batch of rich tomato sauce
Vegan cheese (grated) for sprinkling

Split the carta di musica in two and soak each half in the vegetable broth.
In an oven-proof dish place a serving spoon of tomato sauce and cover it with a layer of the soaked bread then sprinkle with the vegan cheese.
Continue layering up the dish until you run out of either sauce or bread,  finishing with the cheese.

Bake at 200C for about 20 minutes when it should be a golden brown.