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, 21 October 2014

Open letter to Jay Rayner

Dear Jay

I've always had a soft spot for you - possibly because I loved your mother and everything she did.

And you've always struck me as a reasonable sort of bloke when I've seen you on TV, or read your articles in the Observer.

But to read your comment that 'everything is better with bacon' has lead me to feel a modicum of pity for you - which is not something I could have anticipated.

I'll grant you that the comment may have been made as a throw-away, slightly tongue in cheek line, guaranteed to get a response, but, really, even to entertain the thought for a second reveals a lack of imagination.

In fact, you have the argument on its head - the sentiment should read, 'everything is betterwithout bacon'. 

As a guy in my late 70s, I grew up with the 'Meat and 2 veg' mindset. Vegetables were an adjunct, an add-on to the main event - the meat. And I'm sure that mindset includes perhaps 95% of Britons - but should it include yourself, Jay? If the answer to that is 'yes', I would be very disappointed.

I consider myself a moderate cook - but when I became a vegan 12 years ago, now, I found I had to start thinking out of the box. 

If I, an average to moderate Emoji cook can produce, healthy, tasty - really flavoursome - dishes without meat, time after time, imagine what amazing things you could conjure up?

I love my food, and I eat very well - but there's an added bonus to 'everything is better without bacon' - it comes guilt-free!

Warmest regards, Paul


Often, when there's not a lot on the box and I have time to kill, I google the word 'Fasting' followed by a condition, or an activity or somesuch.

I saw my GP last week for something minor and I just happened to mention that my arthritis had been in abeyance for several years. It was just a throwaway remark along with all the other subjects we'd been discussing.

But later I began to think about this, and realised that my arthritis, which had steadily been getting ever so slightly (but significantly) worse - until I stopped eating meat and dairy foods and became a vegan. Since then, while there has been no real improvement in my condition (apart from the amelioration of pain I gained from acupuncture), it hasn't deteriorated in the slightest. In fact, apart from the swelling in most of the joints of my fingers, it would be difficult to tell I had arthritis at all!

So I googled 'Fasting and arthritis', and found this article which more or less explains why my arthritis has been stable for the past ten or so years. And why fasting, in conjunction with a plant-based diet is beneficial.

It seems to make perfect sense to me. Thoughts, anyone?

Monday, 13 October 2014


(I was motivated to write this on-line breadmaking course after I had to postpone a planned 2-day workshop(s) in  Castle Cary, in Sept/Oct 2014. The course has been re-scheduled for the last two Sundays in November 2014.

To fill the gap, and to partly make it up to the students I felt I had let down somewhat, I thought I would give the students the opportunity to begin breadmaking before the course.)

The first bread I planned to make in the first session was a plain soda bread loaf.

An all wholemeal loaf, cost; roughly 35p, ready in around 30 minutes. Method and pics below. 
These are two loaves made by the children in my Family Learning session at Halcon Primary School, Taunton back in May this year.
The first was made by Charlotte - and this one by Laura. The initials ensure that everyone can identify their own bread!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014


Vegan coffee cake

200g sugar
2 tablespoons instant coffee powder
165g self raising flour
80g vegetable oil
250g water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Measure the dry ingredients and mix them together using a spoon and a whisk.
Add the liquids and continue stirring and whisking.
When the – very wet – mixture is smooth, pour into a prepared 20cm (8") cake tin.

Bake at 175C for 30-35 minutes.

Or: Use a silicon cake form and place in the microwave (800w) for 6 minutes. In my experience, not only do you get a quicker cake, but the cake rises about 25% higher in the microwave.

(It's also possible to make a gluten-free version, using a gluten-free self-raising flour mix.)

Now, my daughter made this with a combination of coconut cream, icing sugar and coffee - and a sprinkle of crushed walnuts. She's left for home now, so I'll need to ask her tomorrow what proportions she used.

The icing is full of flavour - but it refused to set, so a rethink is needed on this. If you search online for vegan cake icing (or frosting, as our US friends call it) there are plenty of recipes.

VEGAN CHOCOLATE CAKE - How easy is this?

[12th November 2012. There's a doubled-up recipe + pics at the foot of this post.]

The recipe:

Vegan chocolate cake

200g sugar
25g cocoa powder
165g self raising flour
80g vegetable oil
250g water

Measure the sugar and the cocoa powder, and mix them together. The sharp edges of the granulated sugar breaks up the clumps of cocoa powder, so sieving is not necessary. Add the flour and mix, then add the oil and water. Stir, initially with a dessertspoon, and then with a whisk, and pour into a prepared 20cm (8") cake tin.

Bake at 175C for 30-35 minutes.

Or: Use a silicon cake form and place in the microwave (800w) for 6 minutes. In my experience, not only do you get a quicker cake, but the cake rises about 25% higher in the microwave.

(It's also possible to make an excellent gluten-free version of this cake.)

The story:

Anybody who's taken a look at some of the bread conversations I've had on here will know I'm not a cake maker - bread's my thing.

Whenever anyone asks me if I make cakes I always tell them there isn't time - there's always another bread I haven't made yet!

However, it was the birthday of both my daughter and my son-in-law this week, and there are bound to be plenty of cakes when we meet up tomorrow. And none of them will be vegan.

Apart, that is, from the one I've just made!

I followed this recipe here:

And tweaked it slightly.

It was a bit of a faff, since each step is on a separate page - unless you sign up, which I didn't want to do. And it's in cups, which I've weighed off into gms for the next time I make it - which I will.

166g s/raising flour
30g cocoa powder
198g sugar
1/2 tsp salt
80g sunolive oil
250g water
2 tsps vanilla extract

Stir the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients, mix together and pour into 2 18cm (7") lined cake tins. (I placed 354g of batter in each tin.)

Bake at 175C for 20 minutes.

Here's the cakes as they came out of the oven:

I shall sandwich the cake with the vegan chocolate spread I made yesterday:

And probably spread a bit on top - just to finish it off!

Update, Sunday 31st July:

As I said I would, I 'iced' the cake with a little chocolate spread.

And it went down very well, I must say - much better than I thought it would. My mother-in-law said loudly, "But it's actually very nice!". Everyone at the party who had a taste thought it was lovely and moist - and I had to answer several queries as to the recipe and how it was made.

This was undoubtedly a success - and it's now firmly in my repertoire. This from a guy who'd only ever made one cake in the last 20 years prior to this!  

I'm beginning to wonder if we've been conned all these years into thinking that cakes naturally have to contain eggs and butter (or marge)? Clearly, they don't!

I have asked all my friends on Wildfood for  their opinion. There's a variety of opinions on there with some agreeing with me.

I decided to forgo the salt and the vanilla:  I never use salt in my sweet bread recipes, and I see no place for it here; I couldn't detect any vanilla flavour, but others may.

3 days later. I ate the last remnants of the cake - and it was as moist and lush as when it had just been made. I did think of seeing if it would keep into a 4th day - but who keeps chocolate cake for four days?

(Well, my mother might - she used to extol the virtues of her madeira cake - "It'll keep for a fortnight!" she used to announce to all and sundry. And every time we went home and we were served cake, she felt she had to make good her claim. The damn cake was always well over a week old! In every other respect she was a decent cook. Well, I suppose we all have a chink in our armour!)

3rd November.
After telling my colleagues at my Thursday care home about my cake-making, I was prevailed upon to make one for the residents.

Since we needed a large cake, I doubled up the recipe:
330g s/raising flour
60g cocoa powder
400g sugar
160g sunflower oil
500g water

I left out the salt - decided it wasn't necessary - and the vanilla extract  - didn't have any, and didn't miss either of them! The cake, took about 35 minutes to cook.

I have to admit I was pretty bowled over by the size and appearance of the cake when it came out of the oven:

If you're going to make a cake - may as well make a big one!

That's Melissa's hand applying the chocolate icing
10th November.
The cake tin for last week's cake was borrowed from the care home next door - but this time it was decided we should make fairy cakes:

The doubled up recipe actually made 2 dozen of these. Thought at first we hadn't put enough batter in each one 

But when they came out of their cases and were iced - the size was just right! OK, the icing's not very neat - but that didn't affect the taste one iota!
Friday 16th December.
I've been making this cake weekly since I began - and today I made a chocolate log with it:

The cake was too thick so I knew it would split. But using the hints I picked up from Eric Lanlard last weekend (cut off the first 2 cm from the edge you're starting to roll from and place it on the edge if the cake and roll up around it) and those I received from Jemma the chef at Longrun (trim the side of the cake - this is where it gets crisp and prevents even rolling), we managed it.

Next time I'll divide the batter between two Swiss roll tins - and then it won't split! To keep it vegan it was spread with jam. I need a vegan filling for next time.

Monday 26th December.
Wanted to make a couple of Yule logs for the family - but I'm far away from my scales, so I did these with the original cup measurements in the link above.

I used a coffee mug to measure with and made enough to fill two Swiss roll tins and make three large cup cakes.

One was filled with sweet chestnut puree (the puree was mixed with some sugar and soya cream) and the other was consumed as it was - everyone thoroughly enjoyed it.

I'm planning to cover the cake with melted chocolate. I'll post a pic when I do.

Saturday, 20 September 2014


I've done away with the top 'mini-oven' - and I'm cooking my pizzas BBQ style!
As regular readers will know, I've been making pizzas, and tweaking my methods, ever since I bought my chiminea a few years ago.

Here are some previous posts on the subject.

April this year.

August 2010 when I first acquired my new toy.

And there's a few more in between, links in those posts.

So to today!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014


This was what I was left with: some GF carrot cake, couple of marzipan and apple tartlets, 2 Danish pastries, 2 Bialys  and some Pane al cioccolato
Every month or so, my friends and I hold a coffee morning - and this week it was my turn to play host.

I always do a bit of experimenting on these occasions, push the boat out a bit, and use the opportunity - I'll be honest - to show off a bit.

So the evening before, I set to and made a rich chocolate loaf,

following this recipe, followed by a gluten-free carrot cake.

I had intended to make a coconut cream topping on the following morning - but I ran out of time.

Although I did allow myself a couple of hours in which to do a bit of experimenting, making Danish pastries (using Pure soya spread), 

Bialys (bread shots) filled with marzipan and mincemeat or marzipan, dates and chocolate, and marzipan and apple tartlets.

The four Bialys on the left were filled with marzipan and mincemeat - the other four have marzipan, followed by chopped dates and topped with half a square of dark chocolate
All these were made from 400g white flour, plus 3 dessertspoons sugar, 15g of yeast and 240g water - in other words, a simple sweetened bread dough.

PANE AL CIOCCOLATO (Italian chocolate bread)

Tuesday 16th September 2014

And here's the pic
Monday 15th September 2014
Making one of these for my coffee morning tomorrow.

200g strong flour (1/3rd wholemeal)
15g cocoa powder (about a dessertspoon and a half)
2 dessertspoons sugar
50g dates - chopped into quarters
60g dark chocolate - chopped roughly
25g walnuts - chopped into quarters
25g flaked almonds
100g sultanas - soaked for 30 minutes in hot water - use the water for the yeast liquid, but make sure it has cooled sufficiently
100ml yeast liquid made with 20g fresh yeast and 80g of the soaking water
50g olive oil (I used Lidl's Extra Virgin, which is all we have - but any olive oil is fine)

Monday, 15 September 2014


Monday 15th September 2014
Made a gluten-free version of this tonight, for tomorrow's coffee morning. No walnuts so I replaced them with  flaked almonds.

This time I baked it in the microwave! 

2 reasons for this:
1. Six minutes in there as against 30+ mins in an oven at 180C - talk about saving the planet!
2. And it rises about 25% more in the microwave than it does in the oven.

Also, if you're in a hurry, the microwave wins hands down!

I shall attempt to make a coconut cream topping for it in the morning.

[Pics to come]
31st August 2012

165g s/r flour
200g sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground ginger
80g grated carrots
70g chopped walnuts
80g vegetable oil
220ml water


       Preheat the oven to 180C

       Measure the flour, sugar, spices,carrot and walnuts - stir to distribute 

       Add the oil and water to the mix and stir – initially with a large spoon or spatula, then with a whisk
       Pour in to an oiled and lined 20cm (8” inch) baking tin or cake tin
       Put in the oven and cook for between 35-40 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean
       Leave on a cooling rack in the tin for ten minutes
       Turn out on to the cooling tray

The only way I’ve found not to gorge on this cake is to, as soon as possible, cut it into, say, 50g pieces, then put them in the freezer. This way I can allow myself one piece per day.

Variation: For a gluten free version of this, simply use Dove’s gluten free flour in place of the flour

Friday, 12 September 2014


One of the reasons I first began intermittent fasting (IF) in February 2012 was evidence that fasting had some effect on cancer cells. It was the reference to prostate cancer cells being susceptible to fasting that provoked my initial interest!

The evidence suggested that, whilst fasting, the body’s cells go into repair mode – but invasive cells (cancers, tumours) are neglected and become easier to treat.

Since then evidence continues to accumulate that this is so – but in my experience, the research is disparate and scattered.

I wanted to bring any research that I have come across into one place; to which I can refer any friends and relatives who may know someone with cancer – unfortunately all too common an occurrence latterly, it seems to me.

These articles are all available by searching online, of course. However, the purpose of this post, apart from bringing much research all together, is also to link to forums which will give support to anyone deciding to fast, and will also advise on the different fasting regimes – of which there are several.

Intermittent Fasting
The best resource I am aware of concerning Intermittent Fasting – and one of the most supportive is this forum 

It has many members actively searching for the science behind Intermittent Fasting and posting the results here

There is a lot of science and research on the forum  - putting ‘Fasting and cancer’ in the search box brings up 250+ results.

Another supportive forum is on the Mumsnet website. The first thread was begun the day after the Horizon programme which brought Intermittent Fasting to the attention of the British public. The latest thread (12th September 2014) is Nr 57.

Also on the site is a research thread full of Tips and Links – well worth looking through.

Monday 21st April 2014
Dr Miriam Stoppard, in her health column in the Daily Mirror had this to say about Intermittent Fasting (I've tried to find this online, but it doesn't appear to be there yet):
"I'm keen on Intermittent Fasting. It's very efficient and doesn't only help you to lose weight, it also prolongs your life.
"It works by increasing your sensitivity to insulin - a very good thing - so it controls your appetite and gets rid of cravings.
"It protects you from heart disease and diabetes, too, and should you need chemo for a malignancy (heaven forbid) it makes your tumour more sensitive to the treatment programme. 
"All in all, a good thing."

(My italics)

 I shall add to this post as and when I come across other research on the subject.