France’s best baguettes

Baguettes at “Le Capitole” bakery in Nice, France, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

The baguette is the most popular loaf of French bread. There are 32,000 bakers and cake-makers (boulangers-pâtissiers) in France. Like so many things that the French take seriously, the profession is regulated. What this means is that you can’t make it up. Cela ne s’invente pas. There are rules and regulations around the fabrication of the humble baguette de pain and a professional association that sets the standards and governs the making and baking of our daily bread.

Every year, the Confédération Nationale de la Boulangerie-Pâtisserie Française holds a contest to crown the baker who makes the best ‘baguette de tradition’. Now, the traditional French stick is not to be confused with its lesser cousin, ‘la baguette industrielle’. The industrial or ordinary type of baguette can be found in every French supermarket or ‘point chaud’ and while some centimes cheaper is far inferior in terms of quality.

Traditional baguette is made by an artisan baker at a relatively small scale and according to a strict set of rules. The flour must be of a specific type (55), with nothing added other than yeast and salt, then kneaded for a minimal amount of time, weighed, divided and allowed to rise. It is then shaped by hand into the iconic long ‘baguette’ shape before being baked in an oven with a stone floor.

The criteria for the ‘best’ baguette are the following (20 points for each):

  • Aspect – the look or appearance of the loaf
  • Croûte (couleur/croustillant) – the colour and crustiness of the crust
  • Arôme – its flavour or taste
  • Mie (couleur / alvéolage) – the colour and cellular structure of the white, doughy part of the bread (which must not be overly dense)
  • Mâche – its chewiness or mouth feel
The word ‘alvéole’ comes from the cells of a bee-hive but its holes should be irregular.

The best baguette is somewhat irregular looking, with a nicely browned, crusty exterior and a soft, airy interior. It has a bit of character in terms of taste but is essentially a perfect backdrop for other flavours: cheese, sauces, pâtés…

This year’s top prizes at the national level were handed out in Paris on May 15th. The three top bakers are in Franche-Comté, Brittany and Ardèche: https://www.boulangerie.org/blog/concours-national-de-la-meilleure-baguette-de-tradition-francaise-les-resultats-2/

In April, the winners of the 25th annual competition in Paris were announced. The baguettes of this year’s winning baker, Fabrice Leroy, can be found at the Leroy-Monti bakery in Paris’s 12th arrondissement and also grace the president’s table at the Elysée Palace (if you are lucky enough to be invited). https://www.sortiraparis.com/news/in-paris/articles/190183-paris-best-baguette-winner-is-leroy-monti-bakery-in-the-12th-arrondissement/lang/en

How do you like your bread? Dense and doughy or light and fluffy?

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

vib-awardThe king of hugs and one of my favorite fellow bloggers, Lord David Prosser, nominated me for this award. I have no award-free principles, so I am delighted to accept the honor.

As with many awards this one has a few “rules”. As a rule, I dislike rules and try to break them wherever possible. However, I also believe you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth (whatever that means!). So, here goes…

First, the rules:

  • Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
  • List the rules and display the award.
  • Share seven facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 other blogs you enjoy, then comment on their posts to let them know that you have nominated them.

Let me begin by thanking David, who keeps us all in merriment on Sunday mornings with his weekly epistles of daily life on The Barsetshire Diaries, along with those of a rather fishy cast of characters including his pal, Mike, and Big Al, the leader of the tank. (Apologies to Mike, I couldn’t resist!)

Now, 7 fascinating facts about moi:

1) Although I live in France, I hate to travel and never bothered to learn any foreign languages before meeting my husband. Who, you guessed it, is French!

2) I eat breakfast in bed. Every. Single. Day. (Except when we’re traveling, which is probably why I hate it!)

3) We have two grown children, who shall remain nameless on this blog, and two substitute children: our Frenchies, Higgins and Humphrey. Oh, and two vile lodgers who think they own the joint: the cats, Bianca and Leo.

4) I am a professional writer. Shh! Don’t tell my clients, they pay me to do what I do for free here.

5) In another life, I used to sing.

6) Unrelated fact: I am deaf in one ear.

7) I curse like a sailor and spit like a man. In two languages!

So, now to the real business. Here are 15 blogs that I follow with pleasure and can recommend you do the same.

A Crooked Mile: Another blogger who shares sometimes mixed feelings about France.

Au Pair Gal: I am very much enjoying this new blog chronicling life as an Au Pair.

As Told by Dana: Great stories from the trenches of life in France.

A Year in Perigord: A Francophile with a very British sense of humor.

Food, Photography and France: A food photographer who can make anything look magical.

Multifarious Meanderings: A funny take on just about anything.

Osyth: A funny and inspired writer who lives in the remote region of Cantal

Suzanne and Pierre in Paris: A bilingual photo blog documenting this couple’s travels (unfortunately ending soon!)

Forty c’est Fantastique: Souvenirs of past and future trips to France.

Long View Hill: One woman’s challenges in living a balanced life.

Big Body Beautiful: An inspirational blog about finding beauty in all body sizes.

Cogito Ergo Mom: Thoughts on parenting, emphasis on the thoughts.

Colin Bissett: Travel, architecture and more from an adopted Aussie.

The Cheergerm and the Silly Yak: I enjoy reading this blog almost as much as drooling over the gluten-free recipes!

Wandering Cows: Bits and bobs from the travels of wandering Aussies.

Happy reading and bonne semaine!