Dear PANARIANS all,
The 2012 programme is now on PANARY’s website for all to see. I wish to draw to your attention some of its features and changes.
The main news item is the price reduction of all two-day courses. As an aftermath of the recession, and now during this current and prolonged austerity period, the two-day courses have slumped in popularity while the one-dayers have gained. As a committed teacher, and a person who has the good fortune of loving his work, the decline in the two-dayers has been a sadness for me. It is on the two-day course that a student can really get his or her teeth into whatever baking it is that is the theme of the course. With the price reduction (£60, meaning they now cost £310)) I am hoping to draw people back to them.
Two-day sourdough is now entirely off the programme while more one-day sourdough dates are coming on. Its steady gain in popularity reflects the emerging interest in sourdough bread that is occurring throughout Britain. At the turn of the century it seemed that only London was ready for it. Now, it appears nearly everywhere. I have devised a good programme that can pack most aspects of sourdough into the one-day format. Students wishing to go more deeply into it would now be better served by attending a three day course (where they announce they want to study sourdough in particular).
The so-called “advanced” course Sponges & Pre-ferments has been resurrected after a brief showing in 2009. Don’t be put off by my description “advanced”. Take heart that at every PANARY event there is a group of people of very mixed ability. I am entirely used to looking after an empty vessel among a group of more experienced, and in the PANARY classroom there is scope for people to adopt different learning speeds. However, having said that, bakers with a little more experience can get a real boost from this sponges course.
The website itself will come in for a little polishing. There will be a new entry accompanying each course description – the entire hour-by-hour programme of each course. People who have never been before can now see what happens, they can assess whether they think it looks like good value; meanwhile old hands can study programmes to see what they may wish to tackle next. Further, some work will be done on website photos now that I have been having photo sessions with professional all-rounder Nick Atkins, much of whose work is aimed at my book. At this point everybody asks for the likely publication date of my bread book, to which I usually declare “next year”.
Moving away from the courses news, and wanting to comment on the wider scene of commercial baking in Britain, it seems that at last the pendulum has swung over the last few years towards more genuine craft baking. The trend is to be applauded, even though we must keep our feet on the ground when the statistics indicate that the real craft sector might only amount to barely 5% of the whole of British bakery. This interest in craft, and the number of people out there who are toying with making a commitment to it, is shown by the consistent popularity of my three-day courses, one of which is aptly named “Going Professional”.
In my opinion the swing of the pendulum has been given its main push by the increasing number of Britons who want wholesome and chemical-free foods, while secondary pushes have come from the popularity of farmers’ markets as selling opportunities for a baker aspiring to professionalism , as well as the tireless work of the Real Bread Campaign. Inspired by the success of CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale that led to both survival and revival of naturally fermented British ales) the new boy on the block, our Campaign for Real Bread, has gained support from small independent crafters and is now in its turn nurturing many new small bakeries. It also uses many of its resources to give a big wake up call to the public to pay attention to the spurious list of ingredients in common factory-made bread.
On the ovens front I have been selling big ones mostly, always exciting to be involved with professionals’ projects. Two of these big ovens will sit side by side in a new business in Brixton called “Bread Bread”, and the other has been built for River Cottage’s new restaurant venture in Plymouth.
On the equipment and baker’s hardware front I must say I am really pleased to be importing the superb French linen. Dough barely sticks to it, making it such a marvellous cloth to have around the bakery. Panarians have been buying it at a pleasing rate and metres of it get sent across to my basket maker who produces beautiful bannetons , also snapped up by Panarians.
I shall finish by reminding you that Gift Vouchers are available at PANARY all year round, but this is of course the time of year when they can be most welcome.
With best wishes for all baking pursuits, Paul