Follow up to Let's Go Bake in France
This is a follow up to my message of last month asking if anyone wanted to go to southwest France and learn more about wood-oven baking via Pilgrims au Pain. Pardon the long message.
I attended the Pilgrims au Pain session from May 23 to 31, 2017, and what a trip!
Pilgrims au Pain is a joint effort of Ann Lokey (incredible hostess) and Pat Hains (master baker), and it's located in Saint Cirq Lapopie, France's “Most Beautiful Village”.
I highly recommend the experience.
The baking lessons were everything I hoped for: mixing, shaping, baking baguettes, batards, bagels, brioche, focaccia, pizza and flavored breads that were then baked in the ancient wood oven at Ann's house.
Pat is a knowledgeable and patient instructor, and she taught me a number of new baker's skills and provided some wonderful recipes. In addition to baking in Saint Cirq, we also visited a local farmstead and participated in baking various loaves in a very rustic wood oven. The Lot region abounds with wood ovens, from ancient to new, and wood-fired oven baking is a well-practiced part of the French baking culture.
The non-baking aspect of the trip was unexpected, and delightful. I was graciously welcomed into Ann's home and into the fascinating community of ex-pats and native Francois in Saint Cirq. I felt instantly accepted into a very friendly group, who attend local village markets together, enjoy aperitifs together, and generally enjoy the French style of “living every day”. Several neighbors joined us on pizza day, to try their hand.
Ann's centuries-old stone house is near a medieval gate, looking up at the village and down on the Lot river. What is it about centuries-old houses that feels so calm and serene?
Each day started with Pat cooking breakfast, a skill she honed during years of B&B hosting, followed by well-organized baking lessons. Doughs prepared the day before were readied for baking, and new doughs mixed for the following day. There were two students in this class, and room for more. There were frequent day-trips to local village markets. Other excursions are available, from boating to bicycling, hiking, etc.
When the class ended and goodbyes were said to my new friends, I spent another week exploring the Lot and Dordogne and Catalan regions of France. There is much to see in those beautiful areas, from Sarlat, Conques, Figeac and down to Collioure on the Med. I sampled the amazing breads at every market I visited, and I've returned to the U.S. with a renewed joy of baking.