When our favourite boulangerie burnt down a few months ago,
we had to try many other bakeries before we were satisfied with a loaf of the quality and flavour we wanted. But it’s not just the quality of baking and the flavour of your local loaf that can be so different from one outlet to another in france, there are also a bewildering variety of different types of bread to choose from.
The ‘baguette’, a long thin crusty loaf, is an icon of French life. The standard 250gram baguette – it means rod or wand – is indeed the most popular type of bread in France, and when you go into your local boulangerie you’ll probably find it in a number of different forms. Among the variations are:-
? the ordinary baguette, with a crisp golden-brown crust
? the “moulded baguette”(baguette moulée) – a baguette baked in an industrial bread-oven. It usually has a thinner crust and a fine lattice pattern on the underside.
? the floured baguette baguette farinée – paler in colour as the crust is covered with flour before baking.
There are other variations, but these are the most common
Casting your eye over the shelves at the boulangerie, you’ll notice that plain white French bread comes in several other shapes and sizes. There’s the gros pain (double the weight of a baguette), the couronne or pain percé (bread in the shape of a ring), the bâtard (the same weight as baguette but shorter and thicker) and the ficelle, a thin loaf of half the weight of a baguette. Ficelles must be eaten very fresh, as they are so thin that the inside dries out rather fast. French white bread contains no fat, which is why it doesn’t keep and you need to buy it fresh every day.
Apart from baguettes, France has a wonderful range of delicious breads to offer. Here are some you might want to try:
? Pain de campagne (country bread) – white bread made with a mixture of farine de blé (wheat) and farine de seigle (rye). It has a thick crust which helps the bread to keep longer. You can usually buy this in boule (round) or baguette style.
? Pain complet (wholemeal) – made from wholemeal farine de ble and farine de seigle
? Pain au son – contains bran (pain de son contains at least 70% bran)
? Pain de seigle – normally about 70% rye flour mixed with white flour
? Pain au seigle – contains at least 10% rye flour
? Pain noir – made from a mixture of buckwheat flour and rye flour
? Viennois – made from very finely ground flour with a little milk.
? Pain de mie – similar to a British white sliced loaf, available in supermarkets.
Bread in France has always varied in taste from place to place, and quality from one shop to another, even sometimes from day to day, but in recent years a number of branded bakery chains have developed their own standard formulae so that their loaves taste the same wherever they are baked. Banette and Ronde des Pains are two of these branded chains whose excellent breads, made locally using their own flours and strictly controlled traditional recipes, are really worth trying and can be thoroughly recommended for taste, variety and quality. You can often buy good, tasty bread from the bakery counter of French supermarkets, but generally speaking they use factory-made dough which has been deep-frozen before being baked on the premises.
The good news this month from our local boulangerie is that they have partially re-opened the fire-damaged premises and are selling their wonderful bread again. Refurbishment of the rest of the old shop should be completed soon so that they can show off all their delicious cakes, tarts and pastries, as well as the bread, in a fittingly high-class boulangerie setting.