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.

Thursday, 31 May 2012


Simmered for 2 minutes on each side
Not enough room to simmer them all, so these were baked. Does this make them pirozhki?
The crumb of one of the pierogi. Need to make the dough thinner next time.
200g (1 mug) strong white flour
¼ tsp salt
125ml (1/3rd mug) lukewarm liquid including 1 tsp fresh yeast
2 tbs olive oil

Filling of mince (I use a meat-free mince), cabbage and onion. Flavoured with stock cube and a little curry powder

1.     Place the yeast in a measuring jug (or a mug) then measure up to 125ml (1/3rd mug) with lukewarm water and stir to dissolve.

2.     Whilst the yeast is working, place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. When the yeast is ready, add to the mix and then pour the olive oil into the liquid in the bowl. 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 to proceed, place the dough on to the worktop and divide into 8, 10, or 12 pieces, depending on how big you want your pirozhkis to be.

6.     Drain the filling to remove any liquid.

7.     Flatten out each piece of dough, place a spoonful of filling in the middle of it and make a small parcel by bring up the sides of dough to meet in the middle. Press the tines of a fork into the edges of each pierogi, to both stick the edges together and provide some decoration. Place them on a baking sheet, lined with baking parchment.

8.     Continue with the rest of the dough and the filling, cover with a dry teatowel and leave to prove until they have risen appreciably.

9.  Simmer for two minutes on each side and place on a cooling rack. Or:

9.     Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for around 10 minutes. The pirozhkis are done when they are browned underneath.

Pierogis are often fried - a couple of minutes each side - and served with fried onions

For a spicy version, include a chopped chili in the filling.

Mashed potato, cheese and onion filling

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


(19th May - making a white sourdough loaf. Scroll down to Latest attempt!).

My sourdough recipe. 
(The rest of this post comprises of sourdough ramblings - here's the complete recipe.)

600g wholemeal flour
6g salt
300g starter (comprising 200g water and 100g white flour)
300g water
50g extra virgin olive oil

(Including the flour and water from the starter this gives totals of 700g of flour to 500g of water, my usual mix)

24/36 hours before baking, pour 300g of starter into a mixing bowl. Refresh the starter with 200g of water and 100g white flour.

Add the flour, salt, water and olive oil and mix into a sticky dough.

This is now kneaded for about 20 seconds, several times at intervals of 10 minutes or more. To enable you to work the dough easily, pour oil over the top of the dough. Knead until the oil disappears. Wash your hands in a little flour before washing them in the sink.

Repeat this until the dough becomes easy to handle without adding oil.

Cover with the mixing bowl and leave until you're ready - overnight if need be.

When you are ready for the final phase, shape the dough into a loaf. First of all place it on the worktop smoothest side down. Lift the sides of the dough up and bring them to the middle. Wherever there is a corner poking out, lift it over to the middle and push down. By doing this you're smoothing the underneath of the dough. Now turn it over and place it on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.

Leave it on the worktop, covered with a tea towel, for between 1 and 4 hours. 

Because this is your first time, you won't know how long it takes to rise. Once you've made this several times you'll be able to time it much better.

When you judge it is ready to bake, turn the oven on to 220C and, with a serrated bread knife, make three shallow cuts in the top of the loaf.

When the oven is up to temperature, place the loaf in the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes turn the loaf around and leave for another 10-15 minutes.

The loaf is ready when there is a good colour across the bottom of the loaf.

Make notes of what you've just done so you can replicate it next time. 

Latest attempt! 19th May.
Preparing the ferment:
Around 6 this evening I took the starter from the fridge and added 200g water and 100g white flour, mixed it together and left it on the worktop.

Preparing the dough:
6 hours later it was bubbling nicely, so I poured 450g of starter into a bowl. This comprised of:

150g white flour
300g water

To this I added:
350g white flour
5g salt
50g water

I mixed it together roughly, covered it, and left it overnight.

The following morning I came down to this:

So far, so good
I tipped the - very wet and sticky - dough out onto the worktop:

Decided to shape it using oil - stretched it and folded it a few times, refreshing the oil once or twice
And a little flour. 

[More to come, including my conclusions!]

Previous ramblings:
(Not sure to which this refers!)

In the event I didn’t bake on Tuesday night – so on Wednesday morning I took the starter, poured it into a mixing bowl and added 200g Doves organic wholemeal and 200g water. I mixed this and left it, covered with a dry tea towel, all day.

About 7 in the evening, in the scale pan I mixed another 400g wholemeal, 60g of ground flax seeds and a teaspoon of salt which I mixed and added to the bowl. I made a well in the middle of the flour and added 5g of fresh yeast and 125-135g of lukewarm water. I paddled the yeast and water around for about 20 or so seconds, then added 50g of EVOO.

I mixed this together, turned it onto the worktop and gave it about 20 seconds quick kneading (using a dough scraper – this was quite a sticky dough), placed the bowl over the dough and left it for about 10 minutes.

I repeated the quick kneading and resting periods about 3 times, by which time the dough had lost its stickyness and was a handleable dough.

I left it for a further 2 hours, shaped it into 12 rolls, which I placed on a baking sheet and covered with a roasting tray. After an hour or so, the bread had risen and it was baked for about 35 minutes (first 20 minutes covered, the rest uncovered).

Saturday 12th  May.
Overnight I soaked a handful of sultanas in the discard. For breakfast I made about half of the discard into 8 pikelets, five of which I had for breakfast, with orange and ginger marmalade.

I've turned over a couple to show the colour underneath

The starter, bubbling up nicely. It'll go in the fridge from now on.
Friday 11th May.
Good head on top of the starter tonight, so we're off and running.

Removed 300g of starter and refreshed with 50g wholemeal flour and 100g of water.

I've always been a great advocate of using the discard - I hate throwing good food away! - so tomorrow I shall make some sourdough pikelets for breakfast.

Thursday 10th May.
Added 50g wholemeal flour plus 100g water.

Wednesday 9th May 2012.
Began my umpteenth go at sourdough tonight:

20g of organic spelt
80g Dove's organic wholemeal
200g water

Put all the ingredients in a Kilner jar, stirred together  and left on the worktop.

I'm going to try once again to make a sourdough wholemeal bread that tastes better than my current wholemeal. We'll see.

Sunday 10th July.
Here's my latest sourdough after spending a couple of days in the company of some real experts.

I began last Monday morning by putting 300g of starter (made up of 200g water and 100g white flour) into a jug along with 300g of flour and all the water I was using in the recipe:

The basic amounts of flour to water I use are 70g of water to 100g of flour (known in the jargon as 70% hydration) - so, wishing to make a loaf with 600g of flour I needed 420g of water. Subtracting the amounts used in the starter I still needed 500g of flour and 220g of water. Given that I'd added all the water and 300g of flour

[To be continued shortly]

Friday 1st April.
For general info on sourdough and how I began my latest foray into the subject, read on:

I say in my daily bread thread I'm not really a fan. It's too unpredictable in my experience - I like to know that when I've shaped some bread it'll be ready to go into the oven within the hour or so; and, since I already make bread that satisfies me flavourwise - using wholemeal, I'm not convinced there's much of an increase in taste.

However, there's one other way of using a sourdough starter I'd like to try out - one which is used by many European bakeries - adding some leaven to each batch of home-made bread.

This is exactly the procedure adopted by a large plant bakery I visited in Pecs, southern Hungary about ten years ago.

I was shown a large room, with big vats containing ferments lining the walls. Above each vat was a blackboard with details of when each vat was 'fed', which batches it was to be used for, how much was to be used, etc.

Every batch of bread that went out of that bakery, from huge rye and wheat flour loaves through fruit breads to doughnuts contained some of this ferment.

With S. John Ross' instructions for making sourdough (no longer available - boo hoo!) - which are about the simplest, clearest I've come across - to hand, on Sunday morning I began.

I took some Dove's malted grain flour, which contains some rye flour, and sieved out 100g (to remove the wheatberries, which would add nothing to this exercise, IMO). I placed this in a 500ml Kilner jar (which I'd scalded) and added 200ml (or grams - same thing) of water. I  mixed this thoroughly and left it to one side on the worktop. I left the lid open, but after scaring away a fruit-fly (I presume) in the afternoon I covered it with a damp dishcloth.

(I fixed on the ratio of 2:1 - 100g water to 50g flour - so that it's easy to subtract those amounts from the ingredients when I come to make a batch of bread. Won't be for several days, since there's plenty in the freezer ATM.)

I saw some faint stirrings on Monday evening - and on Tuesday morning, the fermentation was in full flow:

This took exactly 48 hours 
Later that day I weighed out exactly half - 150g - pouring it into a measuring  jug.

I then added 50g of white flour and another 100g of water to the starter, mixed it thoroughly, and placed it in the fridge. At this stage I removed the rubber seal and just let the glass lid sit on the container. I'm a bit wary about pressure building up in the Kilner jar. (I should say the smell from the starter at this stage is very mild and pleasant, not sour at all.)

I then mixed similar amounts of flour and water in with the discard, mixed it and left it in the fridge for pikelets for Wednesday's breakfast.

This morning I stirred in another dessertspoon of flour - to thicken the batter - and added a handful of sultanas.

This made a total of 16 pikelets:

One dessertspoon of batter for each pikelet
Half of these I had for breakfast, spread with homemade ginger marmalade. Made a very pleasant change from my usual fruit naan. The other half are in a plastic bag ready for tomorrow's breakfast.

If I continue refreshing my start every 2 days for a week, that'll be my breakfasts sorted for a while! Must remember to add sultanas to the discard - they plump up very nicely when soaked overnight!

Thursday, day 4.
Divided and refreshed again.

It's important to say that at this stage the starter separates into two components - all the flour sinks to the bottom, and there is a clear dark liquid on top - 'hooch'. Some say that this can be discarded, but if you do that the flour:liquid balance goes out of the window - which only matters if need to know exactly how much flour and water your starter contains. It's perfectly safe just to stir this in before using.

I added the same amount of flour and water to the discard, plus a dessertspoon of flour to thicken it to the right consistency for pikelets. Added 100g of sultanas (probably too many) and made 8 pikelets for Friday's breakfast (won't have time to cook in the morning).

Friday evening. Just looked at the batter for tomorrow's pikelets and it's almost solid! The fruit must have sucked up most of the water from the batter - so tomorrow I'll need to add a lot more water.

Won't refresh the starter again until Sunday evening, as I won't be needing any more pikelets until Monday. (Sunday breakfast is always porridge for me!)

Sunday, day 7.
Divided and refreshed the starter. To the discard I added 25g water and 50g flour ready to make pikelets on the Monday. I also put 50g sultanas to soak - keeping the fruit and batter separate, this time.

Tuesday, day 9.
Now I thought the starter was ready, so  made some bread with my sourdough tonight for the first time - having refreshed it 3 times.

To a dough made with 700g of flour, 60g of flaxseeds, etc, I added 150g of starter - then refreshed the rest and replaced it in the fridge.

I suppose if I'd have thought about it, yesterday I could have increased the size of the starter - say an extra 150g - then I could have added 300g of starter to the mix. Might do that next time if I remember.

My initial reaction is that the bread is very tasty - but whether the sourdough has made any difference it's difficult to say. I'd have to compare the two batches side by side, which is not easy since I've only got one roll left of the old batch - and I've had that out of the freezer and in the breadbin since last night.

Monday 28th Feb, day 15 in the life!
I intended baking on Tuesday evening, so, 24 hours before this, I took the starter from the fridge and poured it into a jug. I doubled it up, so that it was now 600g (400g water and 200g white flour). I poured half of this back into the Kilner jar (after giving it a good wash) and replaced it in the fridge.

So now I had 300g of starter to make by bread with – comprising 200g water and 100g white flour, which I left in the fridge overnight.

In the event I didn’t bake on Tuesday night – so on Wednesday morning I took the starter, poured it into a mixing bowl and added 200g Doves organic wholemeal and 200g water. I mixed this and left it, covered with a dry tea towel, all day.

After about 8 hours on my worktop this was how it looked.
About 7 in the evening, in the scale pan I mixed another 400g wholemeal, 60g of ground flax seeds and a teaspoon of salt which I mixed and added to the bowl. I made a well in the middle of the flour and added 5g of fresh yeast and 125-135g of lukewarm water. I paddled the yeast and water around for about 20 or so seconds, then added 50g of EVOO.

I mixed this together, turned it onto the worktop and gave it about 20 seconds quick kneading (using a dough scraper – this was quite a sticky dough), placed the bowl over the dough and left it for about 10 minutes.

I repeated the quick kneading and resting periods about 3 times, by which time the dough had lost its stickyness and was a handleable dough.

I left it for a further 2 hours, shaped it into 12 rolls, which I placed on a baking sheet and covered with a roasting tray. After an hour or so, the bread had risen and it was baked for about 35 minutes (first 20 minutes covered, the rest uncovered).

This time, you could taste the difference
Whether it's worth all the extra fiddling about...well, I found it fun, and I had the whole day around the house. Given that, I'd do it again, but only if I had the time.

Friday 1st April 2011.
I've had 450g of ferment in the fridge for the past week, and this morning I took it out of the fridge first thing.

Around 5 in the evening it looked quite active I poured it all into a jug and washed up the Kilner jar. I then poured 150g back in the Kilner jar and added 200g of water and 100g of white flour, leaving it out on the worktop for the moment.

To the 300g of ferment I added 200g of Doves organic wholemeal and 200g of water.

Around an hour later I noticed a few large bubbles had appeared;
By 7.40 the starter was expanding and was up to 750ml on the side of the jug;
By 8.05 it was up to 825ml;
At 8.40 it had risen to 875ml

Friday, 18 May 2012

Sedgemoor Manor Junior school

10 parents (all mothers) and their children have been on a Family Learning course for 3 weeks and I was asked to run a breadmaking session with them on Wednesday afternoon.

The plan was that the parents would come in at 2pm, we would make pizzas together, then the children would join us at 3 and we would make some pet pain au chocolat.

In the event, 7 mothers turned up and we made a batch of dough out of which we made sizzlers and pizzas:

Cheese and tomato pizzas and cheese and tomato or mushroom sizzlers.
So far, so good - but then at three o'clock, chaos ensued! 

I was busy in the school kitchen moving the pizzas about in the ovens - when I got back in the hall, all these extra people had arrived. 3 more parents and goodness knows how many children! I never got around to giving everyone a name label as is my usual wont - it was just too hectic.

I also like to get everyone around a group of tables, but the tables in the school hall were of a type new to me. They're circular, with stools attached to the table - 8 to each one - so it wasn't practicable to put them all together. 

This meant I was going from table to table - 4 of them all told - demonstrating shaping the chocolate rolls and the different shapes. The parents who'd made the pizzas found themselves teaching the other mothers and their children how to make a bread dough, which was a plus. But it was pretty hectic.

In between all this I still had to keep an eye on the ovens.

All in all it was a really enjoyable, satisfying, session - despite all the mayhem. All the families went home promising to carry out their homework - which was to go home and teach someone what they'd learned today.

I managed to take a few pics:

One of the youngsters, Hannh, who did get a label, bringing her bread to the kitchen
Two more batches. Just putting the finishing touches.

And one more

Some varieties of chocolate leak more than others. This is Sainsbury's Fairtrade milk chocolate

All the batches reflected the enthusiasm of the children - they loved it.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Family Breadmaking at Churchfield Primary School, Highbridge, Somerser

I was invited to run a breadmaking session as part of a Family Learning course at this school yesterday. 8 families, with their children from the reception class.

The first part of the session was parents only. We made a batch of dough out of which we made a small cheese and tomato pizza and a couple of sizzlers with tomatoes and mushrooms:

Some of the savoury breads. The other batch was too burned to show - but the family went home with my demonstration batch. The ovens are really fierce - you need to keep a close eye on them, and sometimes I get distracted! :(
The children joined us after about an hour and they were soon happily shaping the bread. From one batch of dough the children made 3 petit pain au chocolat, using the rest to make different shapes:

The initials on top of the rolls are there so that the families can be re-united with their bread!
A busy table!
The hardest part for the mothers (there were no fathers there, unfortunately)  - was letting the children do as much as they can for themselves. Inevitably, the children end up surprising their parents with their ability.

Everyone was pleased with what had been accomplished. We spoke about the health benefits of making your own bread, and also how cheap it is, compared with shop-bought stuff.

The parents were all impressed with how much their children can do on their own - and said they would carry on with this at home. They were all given the usual homework - which was to go home and teach someone what they had just learned.

All-in-all it was a fun session and I had terrific support from both Sue, who arranged the workshop, and  the reception class teacher, Anne.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Real Bread Campaign - Real Bread Maker's Week 7-13 May

This letter was sent out to all campaign members. I thought I should reprint it here:

As this week (7-13 May) is Real Bread Maker Week, we at the Real Bread Campaign have penned this open letter to all of Britain's doughmongers.

Whether making a loaf for yourself and family, baking as a professional, or sharing bread recipes and skills with other people now or later in the year, we have some questions that you might like to ponder:

Is there any need to use fast-acting / instant yeast?
Dried active yeast (usually sold in cylindrical tins) is much cheaper than sachets, widely available, just as convenient - even in bread machines if added with the water, will keep in the fridge for months, and, unlike most brands of the instant stuff, contains no artificial additives. Or you could get your mitts on the fresh stuff.

Do I really need to add sugar?
Flour contains more than enough food to keep yeast thriving. So unless you're making a sweet bread try leaving out the empty calories of sugar, honey, syrup or whatnot.

Does I really need to add oil or fat?
Delicious, moist Real Bread is not reliant on either, so unless you're making an enriched bread (such as a buttery milk loaf, or focaccia drizzled with olive oil) then these are just more unnecessary empty calories.

Could a no-knead recipe be what I need?
Homebakers: If you feel kneading is too much work, takes too much of your time or that you're just not up to it, then try a no-knead Real Bread recipe. These effortless doughs are given more water and more time (theirs, not yours) allowing you to just mix, leave and bake.
Professionals: not exactly no-knead, but you might like to experiment with an autolyse method…

Could I use less salt?
Homebakers: when baking Real Bread try using not much more than a teaspoon (6g) per 500g of flour.
Professionals: the Food Standards Agency's target is 1% or less by loaf weight.

If I'm using any artificial additives, do I know exactly why?
Homebakers: before throwing a pinch of ascorbic acid (or flour with it added already) into dough, please ask yourself why and find out how it works. You can only make great loaves of what we call Real Bread without it.
Professionals: if using artificial additives they are making you miss an opportunity to offer your customers what the Campaign calls Real Bread. Might ditching them open the doors to you increasing your skills as a baker even further?

Could I slow things down?
Homebakers: the more time dough has to `ripen' the more flavour it develops, but extra dough time is not your time, freeing you to go off and do something else. Rather than rushing dough by putting it somewhere warm to rise, using large amounts of yeast or adding sugar, make it fit in with your schedule by slowing things down instead. Using a recipe with less yeast and letting dough rise somewhere cooler can allow you to leave it unattended for hours – or even overnight in a fridge.
Professionals: try retarding your dough. Some bakeries find overnight proving even helps them change shift patterns to more sociable hours…

Could I use locally-milled stoneground flour?
Stoneground flour (wholemeal or sieved to make it lighter) not only tastes great but also contains more of wheat's natural goodness. And if you're lucky enough to have a locally-owned mill nearby, you'll be helping the local economy, too. Even better if it's locally-grown grain milled by an eco-friendly wind or water mill!

Is sourdough the way forward?
As well as boosting flavour, the `friendly bacteria' (sorry for using such a yuck marketing phrase) in genuine sourdough have a natural preservative effect – without unnecessary additives or extra salt. There is also a growing number of very interesting scientific studies reporting all sorts of health benefits of sourdough bread making – though the Campaign would like to see much, much more being invested into research.

You can find more information on these thoughts and more, as well as recipes, courses, events, competitions, discounts and other offers, places to buy Real Bread, and links to a whole world of bready matters at

Happy baking from The Real Bread Campaign!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Polish recipe translation

Update, 4/5/12:

I mentioned this on the BBC Food refugee board, and it was suggested that I send the recipe home to the mother for her to translate for her husband. (Don't know why I didn't think of it, but that's what I shall do next time.)

So, on the Thursday morning, I emailed the school, but, in the event, the school secretary forgot to pass the info on! :(

My fault, I should have posted my query earlier in the week.

The session went more or less as I hoped - I had the rough translation for the sweet breads, so we made those first, and Cezary and his dad, Krystian, coped very well. We followed it up with a loaf of bread and they made a pretty good bloomer.

So the dad went home happy, and his wife Karolina will be here next week - making pizzas and chocolate and banana bread.

I have a father and son attending my Family Learning session on Friday - and they speak no English.

We're making loaves, jam doughnuts and petit pains au chocolat.

Here's a worksheet I've translated for the sweet breads:

Jam pączki i petit ból au chocolat
(Sprawia  2 pączki i maksymalnie 10 czekoladowe rolki)

1 kubek mocny biała mąka
1. Cukier dessertspoons
1/3rd z kubku letniej wody
1 zaokrąglone łyżeczka świeżych drożdży

Wymieszać wszystko razem, ugniatać następnie podzielić na dwie części

Rzuć jeden kawałek w kółko i wyciąć 4 małe okręgi, jam miejsce na dwóch z nich i pokryć z innych okręgów. Ściśnij krawędzi razem.

Zbierz resztę ciasta razem i podzielić na 5. Wcisnąć kawałek czekolady do ciasta i wycisnąć ciasto wokół niego.

I've started one for the loaf of bread:

2 kubki silny mąki, wszystkie białe - albo mieszanka białego i razowego. Używam 400g do 100g wyrób pełnoziarnisty biały
1/2 łyżeczki soli
1 dessertspoon świeżych drożdży
315ml letniej wody
2 łyżki oleju z oliwek (opcjonalnie, ale poprawia utrzymanie jakości)