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Le Chant 07-29-2007 03:40 AM

Bonjour de France!

First post from me after 'lurking' for a while. I'm Stu, and along with my wife, kids and mother-in-law relocated from the UK to France 2 years ago. We run a small campsite & 3 gites here in the Loire Valley, close to Saumur. The house we own is ancient, made of the local creamy white tuffeau stone and dates back more (we think) than 600 years. We've renovated the grenier of the farmhouse to provide 4 bedrooms and a bathroom for the family, as when we first moved there was only one ground-floor bedroom which was quickly taken up by the mum-in-law, who's elderly & disabled. Now that much of the building works are complete, I'm looking around for other projects! There used to be a bread oven built onto the rear of the farmhouse overlooking lands which used to belong to the farm. We're now an oasis of around two and a half acres in the middle of farmland and forest. The bread oven fell into disrepair and we're told by our neighbour that it was removed around 40 years ago. My aim is to bring back a bread oven to Le Chant d'Oiseau. With the help & guidance of the members here, and various other sources, I aim to build one in the next year or so.

Thanks for listening/reading, hope to post when I can.

Archena 07-29-2007 08:44 AM

Re: Bonjour de France!

Um, gites are rental cottages, aren't they? I couldn't find a definition (other than lodging) but a website advertising for them seemed to indicate it. (Yeah, I had to look up grenier, too. :o Three years of German somehow doesn't prepare you for French! ;) )

Anyway, how big of an oven are you thinking about? Are you gonna cover it with natural stone or something else? Nosy minds wanna know! ;) With a campground are you thinking pretty big - a real bread oven - or smaller (pizza)?

I'm in the planning stages of opening a campground of my own so I'm really interested in your project. Hope to here from you soon - but hey, we all have that life thing to deal with!

Anywho, nice ta meet ya!

Edit: Oooh, cool website!

nissanneill 07-29-2007 03:39 PM

Re: Bonjour de France!
Yeh, Hi Stu
and welcome to the forum.
I know what you mean when talking of renovating and rebuilding. I have finished the ground floor of our 30 year old house (not 600 years as yours). Still equires almost the same amount of work, especially when the fashions and your needs change as your family grows or you likes when you purchase a new venture.
Sounds good from a 4 wheel driver who camped a lot when at the height of my adventuers. Although we ofter cooked damper (traditional Aussie bread) in a camp oven, but that is not the same as these ovens. A venue with a wood fired over would be something else. Never experienced one in Australia yet!
Get your oven planned and underway whilst you are keen, then enjoy. The campers and visitors can come second but will also thoroughly enjoy it. Who knows, they might even stay longer.


Le Chant 07-30-2007 03:12 AM

Re: Bonjour de France!
Hi all! Thanks for the welcome.

Yes, Archena, a gite is a self-contained holiday rental. Ours are very old, very charming with all the old beams, stonework and log fires etc. Thanks for the kind words about my website too! It's a labour of love for me!

Because this area of France has a local bread called 'fouée', which we love (it's a little like pitta bread, stuffed with all sorts of goodies) we decided that we'd like a traditional bread oven on site to give our guests a taste of France Profonde! I aim to make the thing from reclaimed tonnettes, which are hand made terracotta tiles around 4" to 8" square. I've seen these used for the domes of many local ovens. Our near neighbour, Gérard has one like this and it's stunning. There are some pics on my blog, I think. The outside 'skin' is a cement render I believe. As I go 'round, I'll take some pics of the kind of thing I mean if anyone's interested, and get the build details too? Some of you may be interested in building a traditional French country oven too?

We originally thought that the oven was going to be just for family use, along with the huge stone BBQ I have, but more & more, I've been thinking bigger, so's we can have pizza nights here too, as well as the fouée. Still haven't decided what size yet, although it'll be bigger than a home-use one for sure!

Anyway, thanks again for the welcome, hope to post again soon!

Archena 07-30-2007 04:00 PM

Re: Bonjour de France!

Around here pics of ovens are always appreciated. I think I've seen one of a traditional French oven - total. I'd certainly love seeing more.


Le Chant 08-08-2007 02:09 AM

Re: Bonjour de France!
For Archena et al.
This is the ceiling detail of my near neighbour's bread oven. The tiles are 'tonnettes', a terracotta tile around 4 inches square.
This is a shot after the first fire. From start-up to temperature (around 300 degrees C) took approx half an hour!
These are the dough pieces ready to cook. They're a regional delicacy here in the Loire called 'Fouée'. We slice them open like a pitta bread and stuff them with things like rillettes (pork paté), fromage de chevre et confiture (goat's cheese and jam!), boudin noir (black pudding) and chocolat! Delicious!
Into the oven they go. 30 seconds per side. They rise so quickly, becoming almost balloon-like!

Le Chant 08-08-2007 02:10 AM

Re: Bonjour de France!
They're then turned over, and given another 30 seconds.
This is Gérard, our near neighbour, proudly displaying a freshly cooked batch of fouée. They bake a couple of hundred at a time!

Archena 08-08-2007 04:48 PM

Re: Bonjour de France!

That is one big oven! 4" square - all those tiles?! Wow!

Le Chant 08-09-2007 01:35 AM

Re: Bonjour de France!
That oven's pretty much a standard sort of size around these parts. They're usually tagged onto some part of the house (usually the gable end) and can form a whole other room where the baking for the family was traditionally carried out. Some of these things are hundreds of years old. My friend up the lane from me has one that we intend to renovate for him together. From there I'll be getting ideas on how they're constructed! I'll post a few exterior shots later if you're interested?

swripley 08-09-2007 06:16 AM

Re: Bonjour de France!
Le Chant,

What are the fouée baked on? It looks like a piece of sheet metal or is it a special pan? Would you be willing to share a recipe? They look delicious.


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