With this newsletter I wish to crow about two main news items.
First, a new PANARY website is very nearly up there in the ether. This improved site is newsworthy because it will enable the course booking process to be completed entirely online – payment and all in several easy steps.
It will also feature some videos of me demonstrating hand skills on the bench. This is a new venture involving work with a video maker in late May, early June.
With the machinery doing all that course booking work for me I can now spend more time enlivening the site with my posts about craft baking lore and general tips. My book writing research has thrown up some interesting topics that I could tell you about in posts, knowing that these topics will not make it into the final version of my book.
The other exciting news item concerns running courses abroad. I am calling it PANARY in Provence. I have teamed up with a former PANARY student, Wilson Thorburn, who escaped with his wife Anna from their hectic London life to a calmer routine in Provence by buying a property with a 13-hectare vineyard. The nearby village is Vinsobres, and Nyons the local market town. With the wine making they have a summer business renting the gites on the property to holiday makers. You can read about their vineyard and gites at www.domaine-lancienne-ecole.com
There will be two courses in 2015 to test the water, and we can hold more if they are popular. The spring course runs from April 27 to May 2, and the autumn course is October 12 – 17.
The cost is £900, for which you get: a four-day breadmaking course; 5 nights’ accommodation; all meals, except for a couple taken in restaurants when we are out on our excursions; a group pick up and drop off at a nearby train station or airport.
Like PANARY in Dorset the maximum class size is going to be 6 students. Accommodation is in twin and double rooms, so partners and spouses who would enjoy the trip but would not want to attend the baking sessions are also welcome, and if there are difficulties accommodating everybody we shall rent another gite in the village.
Domaine l’Ancienne Ecole has a large sheltered courtyard featuring a Panyol wood-fired oven. There will be electric ovens as well. One of the gite kitchens adjacent to the courtyard will be our dough and preparation room.
The course structure will be mainly French breads, using flour from a nearby flourmill. We shall make savoury and sweet, light and dark, and sourdoughs too. Requests will be taken on the first day, giving the opportunity for students to shape their own programme.
Potential local excursions are many in the Vinsobres and Nyons areas. We can tour vineyards and taste wines (starting in the Thorburns’ vineyard of course), attend local markets, see bakeries, olive oil mills and cheese makers. We have an arranged local tour in a small biscuit factory that uses local olives and almonds in its artisanal products. For sight-seeing further afield there are the Roman ruins at Orange.
Regarding travel the nearest TGV stations are Valence and Avignon; St.Pancras to Valence is about 6 hours. Nimes airport is the most convenient, Marseille and Lyon about two hours away. (The course mini-bus will undertake free tips to a particular named station and airport, journeys to other stations or airports will incur a fee).
I think we are offering very good value to be staging this 5-day event for £900. Please contact me to discuss your feelings about it and to make tentative bookings. Its description and booking format will be ready for the launching of the new website next month.
Recently I have added bread tins to my list of equipment for sale. They are robust tins made by a firm that supplies professional bakers. Made of a strong aluminium alloy they behave and feel like the solid tinned steel ones of the past. Students need guidance about curing brand new tins. First they need a good wash to remove dust, oil, and dirt from the factory. Dry them in a hot oven. Remove them from the oven and grease with lard (best) or oil them thoroughly while the metal is still piping hot, then replace them to the oven for a short cook – just a few minutes. It is important for the surface pores of the metal to be as open as possible to receive the fat / oil.
Do you recognise the picture that accompanies this newsletter? It is the way I teach students to finish a cob to make it neat and tight. The right hand (left side as you look at it) is thrusting forward, tightening the piece as the top is dragged down, and next the left hand has to skip forward to drag the piece back in an under-cutting action, also creating tension and tightness before the next forward thrust repeats the process. Soon you will be able to see this action on video.
Well, that’s it for now. Good baking,