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.

Friday, 1 November 2013


Alex with his fancy dinner rolls. As can be seen by the identification number  10 (top right), Alex was my 10th customer. His sister Holly also made a batch of rolls.
Sunday 27th October 2013
Just a quick note to say that the day went well - I was told the fair had been a resounding success and that mine had been the busiest stall of them all - out of about 15-20 stalls altogether.

I had a total of 25 customers: one was a real expert, one or two had made bread before and several had breadmaking machines - but mostly they were complete beginners. They were of all ages from 3 to over 80 and there was a 50-50 split between women and men.

I gave them a choice of a simple, quick soda bread, which would take about 15 minutes, or a batch of fancy dinner rolls or freeform shapes, which would be ready after about 30 minutes. Once again the choice was half and half.

The recipes we were following:
Soda bread
1 mug self raising flour (this contains the right amount of raising agent)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3rd mug water
(Cost around 5p)

Bread rolls

1 mug strong bread flour 
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3rd mug water
1 dessertspoon fresh yeast (this is a lot, I know, but it meant the bread rose quickly)
(Cost 9 or 10p)

My setup was that I had a corner of the hall, with two trestle tables at an angle across the corner, and behind me was another table on which I placed my two ovens. Each table took 3 people, so I could - and at times did - accommodate 6 bakers at once.

The day began slowly, so, to attract customers, I set to and made a batch of each, hoping that the smell of the baking bread would permeate the hall. Eventually, a couple of youngsters turned up at 10.50, and we began. At 11.15 I was approached by a woman - June - who told me that she'd been following my blog for a while (she was even up to date on the pics of Oscar my new grandson, elsewhere on this blog) and she told anyone who was in earshot how wonderful my blog was, which was very nice to hear!

Both June and her friend Charlotte decided to make soda bread - and I got them to pose with their bread, promising that the pics would be up on the blog very shortly. And here they are:
If you look carefully, you can make out the number 5 on June's loaf.

June and Charlotte - two satisfied breadmakers!
 By 11.30, breadmaking was in full swing with every seat (and mixing bowl!) occupied. To identify each batch of bread, I asked the students to make a large number from some of their dough, which was then placed on top of the bread. 

Once the first batches of bread go into the oven (straight away with the soda bread, after the rolls had risen - about 15 minutes in this case - giving the yeast a chance to work), that's when I'm really earning my corn. To supervise 6 beginners, making sure their dough is soft and squishy plus demonstrating the shaping of the dough; and keep an eye on several batches of bread in the ovens - all at the same time, puts me in mind of a one-armed paper hanger! What can happen is that the bread in the oven often gets over-looked, with the result that it can get over-baked, or even burnt. Fortunately, all I had were a couple of near misses! (Phew!) My two nightmares are - burning someone's bread, and two people claiming the same batch of bread! To prevent the first I try and use an oven timer - doesn't always work since I often forget to set it! 

More pics and stories:
This was the one batch of bread that I didn't insist include an identifying number. You need to use a bit of imagination, but the main bread is actually a tractor - and, since Halloween was coming up, that's a witches hat top left.
This was Ben's bread - and he had to leave it for his mother to collect. Ben (aged about 14? I'm guessing, here) had a Young Farmer's meeting to go to!

May's bread - with my hand-written sign. Check out the rabbit (bit of help from her mum there, I suspect)
 My penultimate student was May, aged 3, who has been making bread with her mother for quite a while - as was evidenced by her kneading technique. She had a terrific action that would have done credit to an adult!

I can't remember all who came to my taster session, but one who did stand out was Philip, who suffers from Parkinson's disease. He came, walking with a stick, to one of my breadmaking tables and his daughter (I presume) had to sign in for him. He needed a little help measuring out the ingredients - but, once he started mixing the dough he really came into his own. Apparently, he'd made all his own bread for many years, but had never made a soda bread - until yesterday, that is!

I thoroughly enjoyed the day - turning people onto breadmaking gives me a real high! I met some lovely people - both my students; and the people from Quantock Eco (QECO) - mainly Carole and David. They couldn't have been more helpful.

And yesterday I received this brilliant card from QECO:

The note inside read, "To Paul, 'True Master Baker' from QECO.
Not sure about the master baker bit - I'm a better teacher than I am a baker, I hope!

I've been invited to demonstrate breadmaking at this event at Nether Stowey on the 26th October. I've drawn up a rough session plan for the day, which I post below - and I'll update it as the day comes closer.

What I'd like to do is just teach breadmaking all day! As people come into the venue, and they come to me, they can make a soda bread loaf if they're not staying long - they can take a look at what else is going on. Then they can pick up the loaf as they leave - maximum time, half an hour, say.

Or, if they're staying longer, or they want to come back, they can make some yeast-risen bread - either fancy dinner rolls and shapes and/or a couple of cheese and tomato wraps. These might take an hour or so.

I'd be keen to work with families - with the youngsters making the bread and the parent(s) watching over their youngster's shoulders.

They'd also take home a recipe - and some homework! This would be for the participants to go home and teach someone what they'd learned on the day.

About ingredients: I'll bring sufficient yeast/flour to last all day, but I'll also have other ingredients to make a variety of breads. Won't matter if we run out of those, since I'll always have enough stuff for rolls, etc.

About cost of ingredients: What about if we just ask for a donation - whatever people think it's worth? I'll take my costs out of that and you can have what's left.

I assume the kitchen will be taken - but I can bring along 3 or 4 ovens (each of which can take a couple of batches of bread). If I can have a corner of the hall, with the ovens behind me (one to each electric socket), that would work rather well.

I'd need two trestle tables (3 would be better, if there's space), plus 8 or so chairs; access to warm water (both for the yeast liquid and the odd coffee! Emoji); some form of booking - to give people a rough idea of when they can expect to get a place.

Quantock Eco.

[More to come]


  1. Hi Paul

    What do you use in the way of portable electric ovens? The only ones I've seen are 'Baby Belling' style ones which strike me as too small for a loaf.

  2. Hi Mike

    Over the past few years I've accumulated 5 small ovens from Lidl - seen here in my YouTube Chelsea bun video:

    And here in my sizzler video:

    They pop up in Lidl every now and again - they were £20 each a few years ago, last time they were £30. You can get 3 small pizzas or trays of Chelseas in at one time, or 2 small focaccias. I don't think I've ever made a loaf in one - probably one 600g loaf would be about the limit.

    They're very useful for my purposes - they enable me to turn a classroom into a kitchen, for instance, and they've paid for themselves over and over.

    I've also got a Baby Belling which is a bit larger (and considerably heavier).

  3. Thanks, I'll have to look out for them. I also prefer your Chelsea Bun recipe to the one I tried the other day from Paul Hollywood. It looks a lot simpler.