25 November 2007

The perfect baguette?

It's interesting that people know what a good baguette "should taste like." We obviously carry around an abstraction in our head and tastebuds, because every baker's baguette is different. And in reality, people don't agree at all about what constitutes a good baguette.

Today's bread — I got it from the boulangerie Robert
in Noyers-sur-Cher.
The shorter one is a baguette
de tradition
and the longer one is called
a flûte (200 g), but I'd just call it a baguette.
In fact I just asked for a baguette and that's what I got.

We like the baguettes that come from the bakery in our village and that Roselyne delivers to our door five times a week. Our neighbors across the street, however, find that bread trop sec — too dry. They often buy bread at the Champion supermarket, which, I agree, has a pretty good bakery. But the Champion bread doesn't compare to our village baker's version, IMO.

Robert's flûte, showing the mie, or crumb.
I just ate some with butter and confiture. The crust is light
and crunchy, and the white part is tender and tasty.

Most people seem to think the bread made at the boulangerie-in-the-vineyard is very good, but at least one person I know thinks the crust on those baguettes is too hard. The last one we got had a very elastic mie (the crumb, or the white part). It was a little too elastic for me, in fact.

Did I mention the difference between a baguette moulée (l.)
and a baguette ordinaire (r.)? You can see it in the picture.

Moulée means the baguette is cooked on a metal
plaque or tray. Ordinaire or non-moulée means it is
cooked directly on the stone floor of the oven.

One of our best bakeries for pastries, everybody seems to agree, is Robert in Noyers-sur-Cher. I like the bread M. Robert makes too, but more than once I've heard local people say it's not worth going to Robert's for bread. They don't like it.

The flûte, ready to be made into a tartine

Each boulangerie's baguette is distinctively different from the others'. I guess that's what's good and interesting about French bread. Unlike industrial fast food, where uniformity is the rule, baguettes differ from one another just enough that you can take pleasure in trying to find the best one, hoping that one day you will taste perfection.


  1. Once there were many bakeries in Paris, not as many as "cafés", but almost. Now they are disappearing. In a quarter of a mile radius in my neighborhood in Paris, three of them are gone forever. In the month of August you have to walk quite a while to find an open boulangerie.
    I think people are not eating as much bread as they used to. It is not a main staple any more.
    I don't know why there are such discrepancies in the taste of bread from different bakers. Is it because of the oven they use or the flour or the starter? Or just the way they make it, I have no idea.

  2. We find ourselves a little disappointed by most baguettes here, although we have found a few places where we like them. The big deal in our area is pain de campagne, which seems to be of a higher quality.

    We also can hardly find any ficelle, which I really loved buying in Touraine.

  3. I so like baguettes. Pain de campagne and all that fancy stuff doesn't appeal to me at all. I like the crusty part best. Good baguettes will even keep a while. Not too long, but till the next morning.
    Where I used to live in the area of Gare du Nord, there was no baguette digne de ce nom.
    Where I live now, there are at least five bakeries that have wonderful baguettes. Now, like chm, I have no idea what makes a baguette good.

  4. I like baguettes too. I think I like the baguette (flûte) from Robert better than the baguette de tradition. It's something about the light crispy crust and the light chewy, but not rubbery, mie or white. Every time I get a baguette de pain de campagne from Roselyne (which is not often), I'm not happy. I'd rather have the plain baguette. Maybe it really is regional.

  5. I like those baguettes with grain and a few nuts, de cereal maybe is their name. They make great tartines.

    The first time I remember knowing about France was from my Dad who arrived in France not long after the armistice of WW I. He told me that had good bread, so the bakeries must have managed to keep going in war time.

  6. I agree, Evelyn, the pain de céréales and also the pain aux noix can be really good. I don't know if our village baker makes any of those. I'll have to ask Roselyne.


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