Baking lesson with Paul Merry at Cann Mills in Dorset

A few weeks ago, a group of Bread Angels went for a day of baking with Paul Merry who is the master baker at Panary located on the site of Cann Mills in Dorset who mill Stoate’s Flour.  They had an amazing time and this is what Liz Wilson had to report.

Paul Merry at Panary

Paul Merry at Panary

“Last snowy, Saturday, with about a dozen other Bread Angels, I made my way to Cann Mills , in Shaftesbury , Dorset. For over 170 years, this working watermill has been producing a range of stone ground flours . It is also home to The Panary which is a small bakery and teaching kitchen run by Master Baker Paul Merry. Paul is a tall, wiry, laconic Australian with a very relaxed teaching style and an endless bread knowledge.

Paul came to bread in his twenties, ‘annoying other bakers until they taught him’ and eventually set up a bakery in his home town of Melbourne. He moved to the UK about 25 years ago where he started teaching and also developing wood fired ovens. Paul has enormous, effortless, engaging skill. He still uses traditional weights and scales and is happier to hand knead than use a machine. He is generous with his knowledge and no question is left unanswered.

Lovely weights and measures

Lovely weights and measures

Paul taught us three breads. The hybrid stick which is a combination of both sourdough and factory-made yeast. The yeast will do the leavening and the sourdough imparts character and backbone. These were made up into baguettes, couched, slashed, onto a semolina’d peel and into a very hot oven. Nutty and chewy in flavour. The second bread was a Devonshire Split. This is a small bun, made with a patent flour (Italian 00) and is enriched with milk and cream and completed with a dusting of icing sugar. They are completely delicious, such a soft, light but rich crumb made even better with a slather of clotted cream and Gaye’s home made jam!

Shaping dough

Shaping dough

Finally we made Vienna Bread. Paul talked about the legacy that Vienna has made to modern baking today including; steam injected ovens, the uses of sponges and ferments and added malt use. Fascinating. The bread we made, with an emphasis on the crust for both texture and colour had a slightly chewy quality with a light crumb. Paul weighed out dough pieces and literally threw them at us, so we could practice our shaping and plaiting skills. We also had a go at Paul’s kneading technique, the 1/2 French. This involves a soft throw onto the table followed by a fold. Surprisingly, it’s quite relaxing!

Kneading dough

Kneading dough

While the bread was baking, Michael Stoate gave us a tour of the mill. He is passionate about producing quality flours from local grains. He pointed out the stones that are still used for grinding and the watermill that still powers about 25% of the process. Bags of their delicious flours were purchased afterwards.

We drove home in a car full of the aroma of freshly baked breads, eating the occasional Devonshire split on the way.

Would thoroughly recommend a visit to The Panary, for anyone serious about learning how to make quality bread under the tutelage of a generous Master Baker and to pick up some wonderful flour. Great Bread Angels Day out.”

Bread Angels – baking amazing bread in your community.  And it just got even better!

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