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, 24 February 2016


Making your own bread is one of the easiest and most satisfying things you can do when money is short. And, if you have your children to help you, it’s also a great deal of fun!

The cheapest bread you can make is a soda bread - just s/raising flour, salt and water. But there are many things that can be made with just those cheap ingredients.

On to yeast-risen bread. Contrary to what you may have heard, making your own bread is actually one of the easiest things you can do in your kitchen! It's also healthy, cheap, and a great deal of fun!

With own brand white bread flour at between 75p-£1.10 for a 1.5kg bag, three large (800g) loaves can be made for less than £1, depending on how your oven is heated:

"If you are considering buying a new cooker, remember that a gas main oven costs around 5p an hour to run, compared to an electric main oven, which costs about 17p per hour."   

Here are three ways of making your own loaves – one method takes an hour, hour and a half, or so; one will take you several hours; and the other, left to mature overnight, will take about ten minutes in the evening and the same in the morning – dead easy!

But it’s not just that you’ll save making your own loaves:
A decent-sized cheese and tomato pizza can be made for less than 80p!
A batch of hot cross buns for less than 30p! (Once you've made these buns, here you'll find the recipes for half a dozen or so varieties of fruit breads you can make - all delicious, and cheap!)

You’re a family of four with one banana – but you’d like a pudding. With a little chocolate spread, make a chocolate and banana loaf! It’ll cost you pennies. Check out the Banoffee bread variation, using a Mars bar – it really does taste like banoffee pie!

Anything made with pastry can be made using bread dough – containing no expensive fats, it’s both cheaper and healthier!

Got a jar of jam in your fridge? Then make some jam tarts, large or small – or make some healthy jam doughnuts. Perhaps you’ve some leftover mincemeat to use up – mincemeat doughnuts are wonderful!

Make a small bar of chocolate last all day by making a batch of pain au chocolat – chocolate rolls.

What about these apple and marzipan tartlets? Mouthwateringly good - and so simple to make! You only need an apple and some ground cinnamon and a little marzipan

While you’re making your pizza, double up the amount of dough and make four cheese and tomato/mushroom sizzlers (small bread wraps) as well – these are great for lunch boxes! (As is a slice of pizza – keeps fresher than a sandwich!)

There's more - much more - but I wanted to get this up and posted. Have a look around the blog and see what takes your fancy. Remember, you'll save money everytime you make something at home, rather than buying the finished product!

Have fun!

Yeast - fresh yeast (the best sort, IMO) can be obtained from any small baker (who bakes on the premises) or from a couple of supermarkets at the bakery counter:
Asda give it away 
Sainsbury's will charge I think it's 19p for 50g/60 for 200g
Morrison's will tell you it's in the chiller counters (it never is!), and,
Tesco's generally don't want to know!

However, all these supermarkets sell 125g of dried active yeast - Allinson's, in a yellow tin - for 64p, currently. For small batches of dough, use the same amount of dried as fresh - for larger amounts, use half the amount of dried to fresh.

Sachets of fast-action yeast can come in handy sometimes, but be aware it isn't 100% yeast, there are additives in there. Plus it's about 3 times the cost of the dried active. If you do need to buy some, get the own-brand version.

Flour. You'll get better results from strong, or bread flour, than you will from plain, although half and half works fine. I use own-brand white bread flour but I go for Doves organic wholemeal bread flour at £1.99 a bag. It's a very tasty flour.

Olive oil, if you can afford it, helps to improve the quality and keeping property of your bread. Lidl and Aldi basic brands score highly in tests and a 750g bottle will only set you back £2.20 or so and it lasts for ages.

I use basic ingredients - dried fruits, jam, cheapo grated cheese (I've never understood why this is cheaper than blocks of cheese - but it is!) and get fantastic results. Bread seems to bring out the best in other ingredients, somehow.

Maybe I'm biased! :)

(If you'd prefer, here's a 'Breadmaking for beginners' post to start you off.)

Tuesday, 23 February 2016


22nd February 2016
Bingeing - we've all done it!

You know the feeling you get when you've had a biscuit, or a piece of chocolate - your taste buds tell you, "That was nice, I'd like some more, please." Then before you know it, you're halfway down the packet of biscuits, or the bar of chocolate has gone!

As a vegan, I have a sure-fire way to halt a binge in its tracks - a teaspoon of 'nooch'.

That's nutritional yeast to the uninitiated - made by Marigold Engevita, it's £2.99 in my local HFS. (I use the version fortified with B12.)

It has many other uses, it's full of flavour and is low on calories - a heaped dessertspoon is only 17 cals. I use it on a bolognaise sauce instead of parmesan - I sprinkle it on pizzas instead of cheese. It's very versatile.

Back to bingeing on sweet stuff - if you've had one chocolate or the whole bar, one biscuit or half a packet, a teaspoon of nooch will reset your tastebuds instantly

I don't always, but I have in the past, taken one biscuit out of the packet, put the tub of nooch close to hand, had the biscuit, then straightaway had a teaspoon of nooch.

I'm posting about this today since this morning my daughter confirmed everything I've said about its binge-halting properties.

BTW, to halt a binge on savoury stuff, I've found half a square of dark chocolate does the trick - but I have no independent confirmation of this! grin

9th January 2016

I've said elsewhere on these threads that fasting has made me pretty zen when it comes to food - and I proved it again today.

It was the monthly meeting of Taunton Humanists - 2nd Saturday in the month at 12.00 midday - in the Winchester Arms, Taunton. We hadn't been here for a while, and the pub was under new ownership.

I would have liked something to eat, but, despite having 5 choices of soup, none of them were vegan! They all had either cream, or, bizarrely, honey, in them. My goto meal in the average British pub is generally chips, mushrooms and beans, but the pub didn't have any of these! They had sweet potato chips, but I decided eating could wait until I got home.

For a late lunch I fried up a field mushroom and made an omelette from gram flour, spread with hummus and with the mushrooms. Simple, quick and absolutely gorgeous!

Dinner was homemade pizza (dough made with hot paprika) spread with Pateole mushroom spread and either pesto or hummus - plus sliced m/rooms, tomatoes, roasted red peppers and sun dried tomatoes. I had this with curried potato wedges.

While the oven was on I made a fruit loaf a la Swedish tea ring, but instead of spreading the rolled out dough with oil and sugar, I mixed some apple puree with leftover mincemeat and spread that over the dough. Rather than roll it round into a ring, I left it in a log shape, just tucking the ends in.

7th January 2016

I began IFing almost 4 years ago - after losing 24lbs in weight practicing 5:2 (eating normally for 5 days and fasting on the other 2).  I've now been maintaining my weight by using 6:1 - and on the day I fast I generally don't eat for 24 hours.

Today was a fast day (FD) - I ate last yesterday at 6pm and I've just had black coffee and water today. We're going out to dinner with some friends very shortly, so I won't eat until the starter arrives, which will be around 7.30 or so.

From the beginning I've considered myself very lucky in that I don't get hungry on these fasts - not at all. In fact I have in the past fasted for 48 hours and still didn't feel any pangs of hunger. Of course I drink a fair amount of water to keep myself hydrated.

I've had a great day - I always have so much energy generally, and even more so on FDs. I teach breadmaking, and this morning I had a Family Learning class with 11 families, in a lovely school in Bridgwater -Hamp Primary School.  12 children made pain au chocolat, mincemeat doughnuts and fancy dinner rolls. Then, this afternoon, I had a couple of students making de luxe Chelsea buns - de luxe in that, when the dough is rolled out, it was spread with mincemeat instead of oil and sugar, before being rolled up and cut into buns.

I then followed this session with a visit to my garage, then I did some food shopping for the weekend, returning home about 5pm.

After only 6 hours sleep last night, I was now knackered - and, since I wasn't going to be eating for another 2 hours or so - I did what any sensible person would do, and had a short nap.

To the pub about 6.30, and I ended my fast, and quenched my thirst with a pint of real ale - Barnsey, made in Bath.

Had a couple of pints+1/3rd of a bottle of Merlot with my risotto - which was OK.

On return home I treated myself to a couple of Crepe Suzette with a dash of Tia Maria.

I reported this on the latest Mumsnet 5:2 thread and received this advice:

Alcohol during / right after a fast removes health benefits

...which I wasn't aware of! :(

I'll know better next time.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016


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.

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. 

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 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! :? :-D

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...........

Wednesday, 10 February 2016


Wednesday 10th Feb 2016

Wholemeal flatbread

I'd run out of wholemeal - but, rather than make a loaf as I usually do I thought I'd make a batch of rolls. I wanted some to give to a friend of mine who was always searching out vegan things for me to eat. At the same time, I thought I'd use the sandwich grill idea to make some yeast-risen bread for my lunch.

So I made the dough, kneaded it, and weighed off 200g. This I rolled out to the size of the grill and placed it on there with the heat on - just for a minute to help with the rising. I didn't put the lid down at this stage. I left it for about 30 minutes before putting the grill on to warm up. After a couple of minutes I put the bread in for 4 minutes - and the above pic is the result, half of which I had for lunch. Very acceptable.

The rest of the dough I made into a dozen rolls, placed them on a baking sheet and covered them with an upturned roasting tin. These were to be baked using the undercover, or 'cloche' method.

18th January 2016

Fruit soda bread
I'd been meaning to try this out for a while - so when my wife wanted something to eat with her afternoon coffee, I swung into action:

Switch on the grill.

Measure ingredients:
50g s/r flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 tsp mixed spice
50g sultanas
30+g water

Mix into a dough, turn out on worktop, knead for about 5 seconds, flatten out into a disc about 15cm across, place in grill.

This took about 3-4 minutes. Put timer on for 3 minutes.

After 3 minutes turn over for one further minute.


This method would also work for other flatbreads. I could imagine knocking out 4 naan breads in about 20 minutes, for instance.

Flour - 1.5p
Sugar - 1p?
Spice - 1p?
Sultanas - 8p

Total - say 12p