My son, nearly three, consumes a third of a plaited loaf in 15 minutes and insists on taking the rest to bed with him; my daughter, six, chooses a Scotch roll and makes me promise to show her how to make them, which I'll be able to do using the excellent course notes. "I made all this," I announce with pride as I display my creations to the children on the kitchen table as they emerge damp from the bath.The children are massively impressed. Next day we use them to make Scottish rolls, farmhouse tins and cottage loaves - some of them in the dramatic wood-burning oven (Paul is an expert in building these things). In the afternoon we tour the water-powered Cann Mills, which host the Panary, and provide all of its stoneground flour.At the share-out of the spoils I fill the largest cardboard box I can carry home on the train, shoehorning just a few more bridge rolls into the corners. Paul, an excellent teacher, ran his own artisan bakery in his native Australia for 10 years, before coming to England and deciding to concentrate on passing on his passion, knowledge and skills.In the late afternoon we make the "sponges" for the next day, slow, minimally yeasted doughs which will prove overnight, developing complex flavours.
We form the bridge rolls with delight and the plaited loaves with even more.Our confidence increases and so does our bantering. I soon appreciate why professional bread recipes operate in percentages: it makes it easy to scale up. We all try kneading in various ragged imitations of Paul's powerful and economical technique, which effortlessly turns the dough from a sticky shapeless mass into a coherent entity.Next come bridge rolls made with the whitest of white steel-ground flour and enriched with butter. We make rye/wheat mixtures and use the giant mixer to create a dough for cottage and farmhouse loaves. Under Paul's encouraging eye and through his clear remarks we learn about different types of flour, how to shape cobs and bloomers, and to roll up pan loaves tightly. But in ability we cover a more usual spectrum from complete novice to former cook in the Catering Corps.
I'm an intermittent baker looking to improve my technique and, in particular, in search of bread that will please my children - which means a high ratio of yielding crumb to crust The English baking tradition might help. Our strong white flour, high in gluten, results in bold, high loaves with lots of "oven-spring" (they rise fast when they hit the oven).Our first dough is a 3kg wholemeal, with 2 per cent salt, 2 per cent yeast and 70 per cent water. "It's going to be very hard to go to any other top-class restaurant after this." Sorry, Doreen, have we just ruined your life? "Well it makes me very keen to try the Fat Duck ..."El Bulli, Cala Montjoi, Roses, Spain (00 34 9 7215 0457) Food Ambience Service Menu €155 without wine. Ian Irvine uses his loaf at the Panary, Dorset Ian Irvine uses his loaf at the Panary, Dorset We're an untypical lot, Paul Merry tells the six of us on his two-day traditional English breadmaking course at the Panary in Dorset What he means is that we're all middle-aged men.