One of the things about being a baker visiting in Paris is a feeling of kinship.... You don't have to look very far to feel right at home. Bread and baking are essential parts of French life. Folks line up at neighborhood boulangeries/patisseries every night to pick up fresh bread (and perhaps a fancy dessert). The price of the basic baguette is set by law....and although some breads are more expensive, a crackly crust baguette can be had for less than $2.
We were lucky enough to have toured two renown bakeries and thanks to our good friend MC (and fellow bread enthusiast/blogger) who's French, learned a lot. First off, we learned that although we think our bakery tiny...it's exceptionally generous by French standards.
Boulanger Monsieur Jean-Noel Julien has three bakeries -- one in the 1st, one in the 4th and one in the 6th arrondissements. We visited the one in the 1st on Rue St. Honore. (His 6th arr bakery is three blocks from our apartment and a place we regularly go for bread)
Sébastien Palcy enthusiastically greeted us in the small "factory" and talked about how flour, water, salt and yeast are combined to produce 2000 prize-winning baguettes five days a week. Larry and MC listen....
After the mixed dough has risen (we say proofed), it's divided, then placed in an intermediate proofer (left) to rest another half hour. Then it is tossed into a moulder (right) that elongates the piece of dough into the familiar baguette shaped. It proofs another 45 minutes (in a warm space)......
And then it's put on a loader where it's slashed....before being put into the oven.
Baker Cissé Moussa does an amazing dance...rotating baguettes, removing baked baguettes, and loading another batch. This is no place for a lazy baker!
In the oven... and then ready for delivery to a neighboring restaurant.
Perfect crumb (with holes of all sizes)...and perfect crust.... Best of all, it tasted great!
Boulanger/patissier Adrien Fage may be "second in command" but he runs the shop...particularly when M. Julien (below) is away from the store attending to other business. (The day before our visit he'd returned from a trip to the US where he said he was warmly welcomed...that was nice to hear!)
Lovely to look at --- and wonderful to eat --- Julien tarts
Bakers at Julien --- and other French shops --- use Type 65 flour for baguettes...the flour has a higher ash content that gives loaves a golden rich color. We'll be trying this for our Bayview baguettes this year.
Across town (a RER train ride away) we visited the shop of Monsieur Jean-Pierre Cohier on rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. We received another warm welcome...and enjoyed the chance we had to talk with Mm Cohier about baking in this amazing city.
The T-shirt worn by baker Dominique proudly proclaims his profession.
Although Boulanger Cohier is nearing retirement, his son will continue in his footsteps.
Baguettes proofing and being slashed for the oven.
Because of space limitations, many French ovens (including this one) are very narrow, although they are deep. The TTB oven is a bit wider....but only half as deep.
Bread, croissants, and pain au chocolat --- everyday french staples.
M. Cohier's traditional baguette won first place in 2006 in a citywide competition for best baguette. Then premiere Jacques Chirac reportedly preferred his bread with a dark crust --- something not all his countrymen would agree on. Patissier Jean-Philippe works in a small space producing some wonderful pastries..
Beautiful individual pastries and tarts.
By the way....we're proud to report a team of three American bakers --- all members of the Bread Bakers Guild of America (a group which we support and to which we belong) won 2nd place (silver) in the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie international baking competition at the Europain Exposition we attended. Harry Peemoeller, Mike Zakowski, and Jeremy Gaduous (living in Bellevue) did an amazing job in a grueling eight-hour competition where they produced bread, viennoiserie and a spectacular piece of art made entirely of bread dough. Congratulations Team USA!