Baking in Rwanda

I guess it was inevitable that we would come across a bakery at some point on our Rwandan/Congo trip where both our sons were working this summer. One son returned with us to go back to university and the other stayed to continue his solar panel work. We walked together part of the Congo Nile Trail and came across a small hidden guesthouse run by a Ugandan priest and his brother. They had come after the genocide to help rebuild the country and to restore people’s shaken faith in Catholicism. They run a few projects – one is to keep bees and collect honey. Another is a preschool class for children left at home when their parents go out to work (and there is a shortage of grandparents ) and another is the bakery. Hidden away in the hills of Bumba, above Lake Kivu, near Kibuye, on the Western border of Rwanda, but widely known, people collect their bread at 6am before work. Baking starts at midday and a few hundred soft sweet rolls and dough dunked in oil are baked. Some are sold that evening and the rest the following morning.



Bread Note 31.8.2017

Bread Text.   Today’s is the plain white. I am writing the note as Michael is in Munich visiting his brother but I will not know all the technical details…so will write as much as I know. The starter was done by Lesley with a bit of help from Michael as a spelt bag of flour had torn and needed rebagging. The mix was done by Janis, and later Claire. Some confusion over rye versus strong white flour means we have 10 extra delicious rye loaves for the lucky few that arrived first to get bread. The plain white is delicious too as I sampled at lunchtime. Bakers were Debbie, Linda and Claire. Extra flour was collected from Walk Mill and there should be sufficient for the two weeks Michael and I are away in Rwanda and Congo visiting our sons and tracking gorillas (maybe). There are mixers and bakers still needed for week of Oct 10th and also we’re planning a deep clean on Oct 13 and 16th if any bread circle members want to help? Please let the bread doctor know. And do remember to let bread doctor know by email of any cancellations. Telling Ellie or shop keeper may not work. Enjoy your loaf! Greetings from the bakery team. Julia

Chutney Recipe

This recipe is from Nigella Lawson, she calls it Christmas Chutney, I think because it has cranberries in it. We think it goes very well with cheese, particularly manchego.

700g Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored

250g dried cranberries

1 onion finely chopped

350ml apple cider vinegar

200g sugar

1tsp ground ginger

1tsp turmeric

1tsp ground cumin

1tsp ground coriander

2tsp salt


1. Slice the apples into halves. Slice the halves lengthways into smaller pieces, roughly 0.5cm width

2. Place the apple pieces and finely chopped onion into a saucepan with all the other ingredients. Heat the mixture until it is simmering quickly. Cook the mixture for 45 minutes, or until the chutney has thickened slightly and the fruit has become soft.

3. Spoon the mixture into sterilised jars and screw the lids on tightly. Allow to cool then store in a cool, dark place. Leave for at least 2 weeks before eating.


Olwen’s chocolate cake

I had sampled this cake at Olwen’s a few years ago and have used the recipe many times since. Many people asked for the recipes so I’m putting it up here.

i) 185g SR flour

ii) 2 tbs liquer

iii) 30g cocoa

iv) 250g unsalted butter

v) 95g caster sugar

vi) 95g muscvado sugar

vii) 250g dark chocolate

viii) 185ml black coffee

ix) 2 beaten eggs

x) 250g raspberries

gas mark 4 180 degrees


a) Sift flour and cocoa

b) Stir butter, sugar,choc, coffee, over low heat

c) Stir b) into a) Beat well

d) Beat in eggs. Dont add more flour

e) Pour half into tin, then add raspberries, then add rest of mix

f) Bake 40-45 mins. Dont test

Put on rack and leave in tin for 15 mins




A sad bakers lunch today to say goodbye to two people:

Dave (Cornforth) who was one of the founders of the bread circle, together with Elli and Michael,  but is not able to keep coming because both he and his wife have been ill. AND:

Wibke who is leaving both the bread circle and the UK to go back to Germany, in large part because of Brexit and leaving feeling the only way to state her opinion on the referendum that she had no entitlement to vote in. She is going with her daughter Rosie and husband Graham to Nürnberg (or nearby). Wibke has been a long standing member of the bread circle but also a key person in Xmas biscuit baking each year for the last 4(?) with members of the bread circle. What will we do without her to guide us and make sure we produce 12 different varieties of biscuits??? Bread circle visit to Germany maybe?

We had other visitors today – Anya, our daughter, called in from Bristol to borrow our car! & Christine and Jeremy, friends from New Zealand, also joined us for lunch and a bit of baking. So we had delicious food and cakes – recipes of both cakes to follow.



WW1 Illegal to eat fresh bread


Did you know it was illegal to eat fresh bread near the end of WW!. People were punished for it, for aiding and abetting the baker if they did!

Voluntary rationing was introduced in 1917. There were food shortages because German submarines were being used to stop food imports to Britain. King George said everyone had to cut their bread consumption by a quarter and that he would be doing that himself. Every householder got a badge saying ‘eat less bread’ and a certificate saying they were committed to the cause. People, especially the poor!, were advised to eat slowly and only when they were really hungry

In May 1917 the Ministry of Food made further attempts to influence bread consumption, as well as production, by introducing the Bread Order. The Food Controller ordered that the sale of newly baked bread should be banned and that bread should be at least 12 hours old when it was sold. It was believed that if bread was a bit stale, it was more difficult to cut thinly and tasted less appetising, so people would eat less of it.

Think yourselves lucky!



Gluten Free Sour Dough Loaves

For some years now I have been making and supplying low gluten sourdough bread to Moyo for his restaurant, Nova in Heswall ( In turn we get some of our flour at cheap wholesale prices, and he is a very good baker who is always happy to discuss technical issues.
Karen has been helping me to make this last batch and it was really much more fun than
doing it on my own because gluten free bread according to the recipe that I developed is fiddly and takes several days to make. I just thought it would be important to know that this is part of the bakery system, essential as it were because otherwise the cost of our bread would be higher.
I have not yet come up with a way of making this work for us – I have. variously had free evenings with Julia at the restaurant, or we got flour for free – what is important is that it is acknowledged.
So if there are any other people with gluten sensitivity who may need to bake such bread and might like something inspired by our seeded sourdough bread then let me know. It would need to be someone who likes such bread, does not mind a drawn-out complex production process and does not mind if it is a bit fiddly.
PS Here is a recipe simplified if anyone wants to try. But it is not as tasty as the more complex fiddly one Karen and I did for the above bread:

The History of the Beigel

Beigels or bagels

As there is a lot of beigel baking happening at present, both in Birkenhead and also in North Wales by Michael who is sharing his knowledge far and wide, I thought it would be good to say something of its history, in our family and in the wider world.

The key to a beigel is that it is both boiled and baked (as all at bread circle discovered last week) and sweetened with malt or honey. The result is a crunchy shiny shell with a chewy interior.

They originate from Poland, in the 17th century, in Jewish communities and are traditionally topped with poppy, sesame or sunflower seeds and eaten with smoked salmon and cream cheese or pastrami. Its name derives from the Yiddish word beygal from the German dialect word beugel, meaning “ring” or “bracelet”.In the Brick Lane district and surrounding area of London, bagels (or, as locally spelled, “beigels”) have been sold since the middle of the 19th century. They were often displayed in the windows of bakeries on vertical wooden dowels, up to a metre in length, on racks.Bagels with  cream cheese and lox and  are considered a traditional part of American Jewish cuisine  (colloquially known as “lox and a schmear“).Bagels were brought to the United States  by immigrant Polish Jews, with a thriving business developing in New York that was controlled for decades by Bagel bakers local 338. They had contracts with nearly all bagel bakeries in and around the city for its workers, who prepared all their bagels by hand.

There is a myth that the origin of the hole in the beigel is when a Jewish community in Russia tried to avoid the tough taxes imposed on them by a particularly cruel Tsar. Apparently, he demanded a tenth of all the bread they baked, and that it should come from the middle of each loaf, so ruining it. The wise men of Chelm came upon the idea of baking small, round loaves of bread, with a hole in the middle. The hole was exactly one tenth the size of the rest of the loaf. When the Tsar’s soldiers came to collect the royal tithe, the wise men of Chelm presented them with the holes, pointing out that this was the middle portion of the loaf, just as the Tsar had instructed. The soldiers couldn’t argue with this and went away empty-handed.

This is not widely accepted as a true account!

In our family, beigel baking by Michael originated when we had monthly yoga workshops lasting a day in the Jewish youth centre in Liverpool run by a teacher, AnneMarie Zulkahari from London. We had to ensure we ate appropriate food and home made beigels by Michael with smoked salmon and cream cheese fitted the bill and were much appreciated by many many people. We occasionally got beigels from the Jewish deli in Liverpool but these had not been freshly baked that day and were not as good. The idea of beigels fits with my jewish heritage but also with living in the east /end of London before moving up to Liverpool. Michael stopped making beigels when our workshops stopped and when he concentrated more on his sourdough bread – linking to his – and my German heritages.

A new start, encouraged by Rhonda and her helpful approach to bagelling, has meant that beigels are again being baked and taste even better than they did before.