Working with French Flour
I have been working with Mary and Nigel for about 18 months now, providing Consultancy services to help them get their cherished bakery project off the ground.
I first met these dedicated Francophiles when they attended the Breadmatters Masterclass in early Summer 2007. We discussed their project to establish a genuine local bakery in their adopted village of Wye in Kent. The High Street has a load of potential, and, eventually they came back to me to say they had bought premises and the project was moving. Alison, my wife, and I went to Kent over the Bank Holiday of 2008, giving me some time to experiment with Mary and Nigel using the specialist type 65 flour they had sourced from one of their many trips made to France. We made some fantastic Pain de Campagne.
I should add that Mary had worked in Brussels, whilst Nigel had been involved in Aid and Development work in Africa, having lived in New York for sometime, based at the UN. I put this blog together, because there are some excellent discussions to be found on the site at the moment in relation to flour combinations which people like to use. A lot seem to centre on creating a flour mix which equates to the French ash content, aiming for somewhere near to Type 65, or, maybe 80.
On my second visit, Mary and Nigel had done the ground work and were preparing to start production in their lovely new bakery. It had been far from plain sailing, as the project was based in the relatively modern extension built on the back of a High Street building which was an integral part of the village conservation area. They had a new spiral mixer, and an upright mixer which was wired to continental standards, and gave me a scary electric shock early on. They also had a sparkly new 3 deck oven and some big peels!
As you may imagine, creating a top baguette was a high priority. The same with croissant. Mary and Nigel had just returned from a week long intensive craft baking course with the French Baking Institute. They were itching to turn their knowledge, and new skills to creating perfect specimens. Well, I think we did well, and I know Mary and Nigel were very happy with the progress we made that Bank Holiday weekend. Perfect baguettes and croissants, no! But so much progress. Lots of photos attached for you all to see.
These good people opened for trade very soon after. They are now working flat out, and doing really well. I heard about queues reaching out onto the High Street. Committed to the cause of real bread, and dedicated to the entrenched passion and tradition of French baking, I am sure they will succeed and prosper.
Best wishes to all, especially those friends in Kent!
ps. I originally had it in mind to try and show what was so different about dough made with real French flour. I don't know how successful I have been. I'm not that dedicated to the French cause, myself, and like to make a whole range of different breads from different flours, but I thought these photos do give a reasonable indication of what French flour gives, in terms of both dough, and finished product. There were some really special qualities to what we achieved in such a small amount of time.