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31st January 2004
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I've made my own bread for years. I used to make a foul concoction of bran, yeast, bran, flour, bran, nuts, bran, numerous kinds of strongly-tasting seeds and spices, bran.... you get the picture. When my son suggested I look at his new bread-maker with an open mind, I had just produced a particularly disgusting loaf, so I was highly receptive to the idea of change.

I duly bought a bread-maker and, sorry for the cliche, I wouldn't be without it.

The following recipe is scarcely bread; it is more like a loaf that is a built-in sandwich. I love it and so do some of my friends. It's a wonderful picnic bread and it's also excellent with hearty winter soup.

STAGE 1 - Ingredients

200g strong white flour
200g strong malted flour
200g strong wholemeal flour
3/4 tablespoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon of freeze-dried yeast
1 tablespoon of sun-dried tomato oil
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
350ml blood-temperature water
+ milk mixture (half and half)

Put all these ingredients in the bread-maker and switch on. I find the quickbake setting gives the best results but you might need to experiment with different bread-makers. This setting only gives one period of rising instead of two.

STAGE 2 - Ingredients

15 olives, de-stoned and cut in half
100g sun-dried tomatoes, drained of their
oil and cut roughly into 1cm bits
100g feta cheese, drained and cut into 1cm
1 medium cooking apple, peeled and cut
roughly into 1cm cubes
50g mixed nuts (I cut the brazils into 2)
50g sunflower seeds
50g pumpkin seeds

Listen to the bleep that most bread-makers give 5 minutes before the start of the main rising period. This is the time that you may be advised to add nuts and seeds. It just gives 5 minutes more kneading and the idea is to mix the seeds in but not pulverise them. HOWEVER, DON'T ADD THE STAGE 2 INGREDIENTS YET. WAIT UNTIL THE KNEADING STOPS AND THEN PROCEED: Take the bread tin out of the machine and close the lid to keep the heat in. DON'T SWITCH OFF THE MACHINE!

Tip the dough into a bowl. It may need a little encouragement but should eventually fall out in a piece.

Add all the stage 2 ingredients and handfold them in. It may seem impossible but eventually you will get most of it folded into the dough. Tip everything back into the bread tin. Gently firm the top surface so that loose nuts etc are pushed into the dough. Lift the lid of the bread-maker and put the tin back into position. Close the lid for the final rising and cooking period.

What you should get is a loaf that is fairly heavy, moist, quite gooey and exceedingly tasty. The individual flavours are distinct because they are still present as whole pieces.

Happy baking! Judith Rodgers