Thank you…

…for a wonderful first season of baking bread!  Running this little business baking and delivering bread to you all has been an awesome experience. I had so much fun, I learned a ton, made some mistakes and learned some more. But the best part is that Pannier gave me the confidence to start another business, this time on a little farm in the beautiful mountains of Virginia.

I am deeply grateful to the very many folks who have supported me in this adventure. Matt, Heidrun, Anna, and the rest of incredible staff at Dufferin Grove Park, thank you for who welcoming me as a volunteer, training me, inspiring me, and then creating room for Pannier.  You continue to embody everything that is wonderful about that particular park.  My dear Pannier members, it was such a treat to bake bread for you!  Your enthusiasm and feedback was fuel for my creative fire, encouraging me to continue to take risks on recipes, which meant that I learned more than I hoped to about bread.  Mark, Sara, Sarah, Debbie, Anne, Peter, and John, thank you for your cheerful company and able assistance in the bakery.  Laurie, Colin, Bradley, and the couriers at Red Riding Goods, thank you for collaborating with me to make bicycle delivery possible!

Mimi, Simon, Bennett, Jesse, and Calantha, you welcomed me unquestioningly as a baker and demonstrated the generosity of that profession by sharing freely of your knowledge and resources.  I will do my best to continue that tradition.  Debbie and Peter, thank you for creating the perfect logo and web design, and for building my gorgeous custom oven peel. I am grateful for your friendship, and for the time, skill, and aesthetic you contributed to my project.  Jane, thank you for your delightful enthusiasm, and for Sky Pilot, your delicious and indefatigable sourdough starter. Cheryl, Janna and Dean, Justin and Danielle, Rebekka, and Christina, your business advice and encouragement was invaluable!  And thank you, my beloved friends and family, for believing in and supporting me, and what felt to me like an outrageously outlandish idea. This little seed would not have burst into life if it weren’t for you.

Some spring changes

Spring is finally here! Just about everyone’s leaves are fully expanded, and at least the promise of warmth is in the air, even if I am still wearing my woolies now and then.

Spring means change here at Pannier too.  In the last week or two I’ve been sorting out an oven schedule that will work with the summer programming at the park.  If you’ve never hung out at Dufferin Grove in the summer, there is much fun to be had: campfire parties, pizza oven parties, Friday night suppers, and the Thursday market of course.  The ovens get used four or five times a week, which is wonderful, but that heavy use means I have to change my bake day.

Starting the first week of June, I will be moving my bake and delivery day to Mondays, so the schedule for the next four weeks is:

  • Wednesday May 22
  • Wednesday May 29
  • Monday June 3
  • Monday June 10

One sad consequence of this change is that Laurie will no longer be able to deliver bread to you.  It has been amazing working with her, and I so feel lucky to have gained a friend as well as a collaborator. I am in the process of working out the details of Monday delivery, so I will keep you posted. My goal is to make the transition to Mondays as smooth as possible!

Pannier week 7: Mimi’s ramp sourdough

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Those of you who know me know that I can’t stay away from West Virginia.  I am in love with the music and dance of course, and the ancient mountains and valleys. But last summer I also fell in love with the people.  I spent a month on a small market farm near Elkins, WV, which is where I met Mimi and Alain.

Mimi was the first baker to welcome me, a complete novice, into her bakery.  And what an inspiration!  Mimi bakes twice a week out of her–dare I say gorgeous–garage, supporting herself and her artist husband Alain.  With the generosity that seems to go with the trade, she fielded all of my questions and freely shared her knowledge.  Much of what I have put into Pannier can be directly traced to that warm August afternoon!

And what did we tackle that day?  Oh just croissants.  Three different recipes, no less!  Yes, there was a tasting, in the garden of course, with coffee served on a tray. There is nothing I would have changed about that day!

Once a year Mimi makes a ramp sourdough for the customers of LaFontaine Bakery.  Ramps are wild leeks, that show up for a week or two in early spring.  They are nearly always foraged; I am getting mine this week from the good folks at Forbes Wild Foods at the Sorauren Farmer’s Market.  Mimi has generously shared her recipe with me, which I have modified to work with my mixing method and schedule.

Here’s to you Mimi!  Thanks for everything.

Week 6B: Carrot-cedar-sunflower sourdough

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I really really want this to work: plump spring-harvested carrot and parsnip (grown by Melvin Yoder and Vernon Stoll–such great names!) in a whole wheat sourdough flavoured with cedar leaves and sunflower seeds.  It could be great!  But it could also taste too much like tree, in which case I will default to something a little safer, like rosemary or dill.  I came up with this recipe nursing my fever last week, and am testing it right now.  Mostly carrot with a little parsnip for added sweetness, and cedar leaves infused in sunflower oil to liberate their flavour.  Young cedar leaves are just loaded with Vitamin C–also good for me to munch on as I beat back this cold.

I decided to use a 70% whole wheat sourdough as my basis, but (of course) I’m experimenting with yet another new flour.  This one is called gold finch, and its a local soft wheat flour from K2 Milling.  Normally, I associate soft wheat with pastries and cakes, but I learned from Calantha Elsby, who makes beautiful breads at the Elora Bread Trading Company, that one does not always want high protein content (read gluten content) for sourdoughs.  This came as a complete surprise, so of course I had to check it out.  Mark at K2 sent me the protein breakdowns for his whole wheats:

Gold finch ~ 9.0%
Osprey ~11.5%
Red tail ~13.0%

To put that in context, the all-purpose flour you buy in the store is probably between 10.5-11.5%, while anything labeled bread flour usually has more, up to 15%. So for my bread experiment this week I’m comparing a 50:50 mix of osprey and gold finch–so, a kind of all-purpose flour–with 100% osprey, which is more like straight-up bread flour.

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The great thing about not being a practicing scientist anymore is I can do experiments where I don’t control for all of the changes I make. I mean, I really don’t think the gold finch flour will make the bread taste more or less like tree. The other great thing is I only have to convince myself, which saves repeating the darn thing 29 times.  And that is *so* great.

Week 6: Survey results, and some changes

This week I’ll be making a change or two at Pannier.

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First, I am delighted to have been hired to help teach Intensive Academic English at the University of Toronto for two weeks in May.  I love everything about this job except that it means I will not be able to bake for you on May 1 and May 8.  I really appreciate your support of this decision!  I will be sure to credit or, if you wish, refund your accounts for these two weeks.
This is a great opportunity to check out some of the other amazing bakers in the city.  Take Simon Blackwell, for example, who creates gorgeous breads in a gorgeous space in the back of Soma chocolate shop.  Simon has been something of a mentor for me, so I’m delighted to bake with him at the park this coming Wednesday. Here are some of his beautiful breads at Sanagan’s Meat Locker in Kensington Market.
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The second thing that’s changing is that I am transitioning my packaging away from paper wrapping to re-usable cotton bags starting this week.  There are lots of reasons for this, but it is mostly an issue of time.  There is a lot that I love about the paper, and if I had four sets of hands, I would totally keep it up, but as it is, I barely make my delivery schedule each week, which leaves no room for me to grow.
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I first spotted my future bags at the Guelph Organic Conference this winter and fell in love with them. Thanks to your support, I can now afford to order 70 new bags from Nadine at Envirothreads, who makes them by hand in Lindsay, Ontario out of organic cotton.  I’m in the process of updating my website to explain how the bags will work, but the short version is that every member will get two bags.  I will ask you to pay a $10 refundable deposit for the bags while you are a Pannier member, but you can also opt to keep them once your share expires. I will charge the deposit only when you renew your share, which means that I’m trusting you to hang onto them in the meantime!
The last thing that’s changing is that, because I am phasing out the paper, I can now deliver earlier to the University and to LGA.  This is in response to several of you who have requested earlier delivery. I’m going to aim for between 3-4 pm!
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Thank you to the 45% of my members who responded to my survey last week!  Here are the average results:

  1. You like my bread! 4.6 out of 5
  2. Your delivery or pickup option is working out! 4 out of 5
  3. I am communicating well! 4.9 out of 5
  4. You think my prices are right on! 2.7 out of 5
  5. You have had a marvellous overall experience! 4.6 out of 5

Thank you all, this is really great to hear!

Your favourite breads have been (out of 14 responders):

  • Little seedy buns (8)
  • Fougasse (7)
  • Mini-baguettes (6)
  • Multigrain and demi-baguettes (5)
  • Miche (4)
  • 100% spelt sour (3)

It is so interesting to see what people end up liking! For example, I thought the miche and the multigrain were totally awesome, while the fougasse and mini-baguettes were a little disappointing.  Shows you what I know!  Actually, it justifies my goal of baking all different kinds of breads, because everyone likes different things.

Infant seedy buns

Infant seedy buns

Your least favourite breads have been:

  • 100% spelt sour (3)
  • Little seedy buns and mini-baguettes (1)

Even Stephen on the spelt sour!  This is another one that I think I can do better, but I wasn’t sure whether I should try it again.  I’m encouraged that some people liked it well enough to mention it (and even request it), so I’ll definitely try it again.  One complaint about the little breads was that they were too hard–its true, the little breads don’t last as long as the larger ones, so its probably best to eat them first or freeze them right away.

A third of you like the idea of seeing favourite breads show up in rotation (with the fougasse and spelt getting special mention), while the rest are fine either way.

I love that you are all so supportive of me trying out new breads!  This was a big question in my mind when I started up Pannier, whether my members would embrace the experimentation, but you have!  And its awesome.

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Three people mentioned they would like to see more breads with additions, with rosemary being a clear favourite, and one person requested a rye or other dark bread.

Duly noted!  As the land wakes up and starts to produce delicious things, I will be incorporating that produce into my breads, like the rosemary in last week’s corn sourdough. As for a rye, I’m working on that too.  This was my first attempt and it was positively delicious, but to make it I have to organize small pans. And I have to get you all to promise not to slice it until the next day!  Breads like this take time for the crumb to set and for the taste to mature.  Totally different from most breads we are familiar with!