• Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
kitwilliams

Where have all les boulangers gone?

10 posts in this topic

So here we are in Beaune, and loving it. Cooking to our heart's content (couldn't tear ourselves away from the Saturday market). But I am shocked at the lack of great breads and pastry! In four days, I've tried three different boulangeries/patisseries. The croissants - bleh. None of them would I describe as "buttery" (and I did order the "au beurre"). The breads, not one of four loaves would I write home about. Although one pain au chocolat looked promising, I lifted it and was blown away by how heavy it was...and it was not due to an excess of chocolat!

So my questions are:

1) Does anyone know a great boulangerie/patisserie in Beaune; and

2) Do all the talented bakers head straight to Paris?


kit

"I'm bringing pastry back"

Weebl

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm hardly an expert, but I noticed the same thing when I spent nearly a month in France about 5 years ago. Every one of the Paris bakeries I went to were incredible; the outside-of-Paris ones, merely good. And the croissants especially seemed to be sub-par.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Kit,

This is perhaps going to be the most useless post in all of eG history (apart from the spammers).

I don't think that is right about the Beaune bakers being mediocre, if only because I had some excellent freshly-baked croissants and pains au chcocolat in September last year, and they went down beautifully with a shot of espresso. That breakfast ritual before a hard day of work in the cellars was one of the events I really looked forward to each morning, and now remember with great nostalgia.

But do I know where they were from? No, because our kind host brought a bagful of them in every morning and never took us to the source. Perhaps he was guarding a secret...


Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Can't help you with bakers in Beaune - don't know that part of France.

But I do know and spend time in big chunks of France and although, of course, there are still great bakers in France, the sad fact is that probably 95% of French bread is mediocre or awful. I'm not talking about patisserie, but I know of excellent patisseries that produce awful bread.

Lucky me, I'm just going to Arcachon for a month - I shall take my own starter and for the most part will be baking my own bread. We've been going there for 30 years and so know the Basin d'Arcachon area and Bordeaux very well. I can only tell you of one baker (le Fournil des Boiens in Biganos) that I would bother to buy bread from.

For the most part boulangeries use frozen or chilled doughs or premixes - a few proudly announce that that their dough is mixed and baked on the premises as if we should be impressed by this.

I love France and its baking tradition but it has been living on its past reputation for too long.

Mick


Mick Hartley

The PArtisan Baker

bethesdabakers

"I can give you more pep than that store bought yeast" - Evolution Mama (don't you make a monkey out of me)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess that good bread is in the taste buds of the eater.

We have no difficulty finding excellent bread in our part of rural France. I seriously doubt that any of our better bakers could afford to buy the pre -prepared or frozen dough. What always amazes me is the variety of taste that the boulangers can get from simple ingredients.

A fond memory from when we first moved to France was too see the smoke rising from Jacques Vigidier's bread oven at 5:00 AM as he fired up his wood fired ovens. His bread was excellent. He's died now, but his daughter carries on the tradition. She apprenticed herself to her father for two years to learn his craft. She now has three bread shops in a much larger nearby town & does very well. She still transports bread every morning to her father's old shop so the villagers can get their bread & her mother can keep abreast of the local gossip.

I'm sorry that I can't help with Beaune, but I strongly suspect that there is at least one excellent baker in a town that size. The trick is in finding him or her. In general the French bakers don't waste much money on shop fronts or decor. In fact some of the best are very hard to spot; they're just holes in the wall.

So, good luck, don't give up. If desperate head our way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having a few spare minutes this morning while waiting for my sister-in-law to get ready to go out to lunch I Googled 'boulangeries Beaune'

Some interesting places came up complete with map locations.

Can't vouch for any of them, but you might want to start a bread quest just for fun.

Let us all know if you have any luck.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We had cocktails with our landlord last night and a neighbor of hers, a chef, confirmed that most boulangers are resorting to purchasing frozen product (I'm talking viennoiserie here), and even he could not heartily recommend anyone in town. That said, I've worked with frozen croissant and puff pastry in the US and, when proofed and properly baked, have more than passable results.

I'm with you, Dave...I printed out quite a list of local shops to try and am working my way through it as well as pounding the pavement in search of the most rustic looking boulangeries of which I have found a few (will head to a couple tomorrow morning now that we are back from Lyon!) Will revert.

Julian...not fair. Email him and post the location of his purchases!

Thanks for all your kind replies, opinions, and information.


kit

"I'm bringing pastry back"

Weebl

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We were successful in finding some more than decent goods. The macarons at Patisserie Bouche were divine...the passionfruit especially so! And their croissants were the best I tried. Patisserie Wagner was another good stop for a morning pick me up...their kouign amann, although not traditional, were very delicious. And their canelles were perfection: crisp exterior going into perfect chewiness and then creamy custardiness!

But the best, of couse, were in Paris. We only had a weekend there but I can't sing the praises enough for La Flute Gana on rue de Pyrenees in the 20th. Ganachaud's daughters have a rustically beautiful place there and everything we tried tasted as beautiful as it looked. Their kouign amann were, again, untraditional, but one of the best pieces of viennoisserie I have ever eaten. It absolutely glistened with sugary-butter...buttery-sugar.

Maybe my new boss will send me back to Paris for more research...


kit

"I'm bringing pastry back"

Weebl

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You might look for Ed Behr's long articles on bread in France in the Art of Eating archives. He spent a lot of time looking for good bread and talking to bakers -- the results were a bit depressing but he did find some who still made real bread. Here's a link: http://www.artofeating.com/breadcoll.htm

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We spent a few weeks in different parts of France recently, and while the bread was good (very good in a few cases), we found the bread in Wallonia/Belgian Ardennes to be much much better when we went there earlier in the year. The viennoiserie sections are consistently very impressive (at least in taste) but we never had bread that made us swoon, which most certainly happened in Belgium. No idea why that might be the case though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Similar Content

    • By weinoo
      Le Coucou is the new restaurant (opened for reals last week) collaboration between restaurateur Stephen Starr and Chef Daniel Rose of Spring, a fairly acclaimed restaurant located in Paris. That backstory need not be explained here; suffice to say that Significant Eater and I have had the pleasure of dining at both the tiny Spring 1 (once), and the more ambitious Spring 2 (a number of times), and it was always a fun and delicious time.
       
      Plenty of restaurants open in New York City; often they come with lots and lots of hype. Le Coucou is certainly one of them, as the PR bandwagon got rolling a while ago. And normally we like to give restaurants at least a little while to get their footing, but with this one we just couldn't wait, so off we were to Lafayette Street - on night two of service. I didn't even know if we'd get a table, since we were sans ressies, but we figured we could just grab a cocktail, even if we couldn't have dinner. But arriving early, we were offered a table by the charming Maître D' and lovely hostesses and hosts, though we did have a drink first, in their rather intimate lounge area.
       
      Now, I'd introduced myself and Sig Eater to Daniel at Spring years ago, as a friend of a friend. And again, when we were lucky enough to dine at the new Spring. But here, even before I was seated, Daniel (who had zero idea we were coming to have dinner) was by our side, greeting me by name and with hugs and cheek kisses - you know, that lovely French way. And even though he looked like he wanted nothing more than to pass out on the extremely comfortable banquette, he returned to our table any number of time during our meal, to make sure we were enjoying our dinner, to see if there was anything we'd like him to "whip up." Basically the consummate host.
       
      French has been seeing a serious revival in NYC over the past couple of years, and that makes us happy, as we love French cooking.  I mean, one need look no further than Rebelle, or Racines, or MIMI, or Chevalier, or...well, you get the picture. And here, with classic French technique executed fairly flawlessly, we were in heaven. One of our favorite dishes is a simple Poireaux, poached leeks served in a bracing vinaigrette. Here, chef adds a little something extra, topping the leeks with sweet, roasted hazelnuts. What about fried Delaware eel? Normally, my eel exposure is limited to sushi bars, where the earthy eel get a sweetish topping. At Le Coucou, the Anguilles frites au sarassin are as light as a feather, the eel's buckwheat batter playing well with curried vinaigrette and a subtle brunoise of citrus.
       
      Mimolette is a French cheese that as recently as a few years ago had its import halted by the food police, aka the FDA. It's back, and here it graces Asperges au vinaigre de bois. It's a simple lightly-roasted asparagus salad, made special by a smoked wood vinegar sourced somewhere in the wilds of Canada.

      Asparagus salad
      One of the dishes chef sent to our table was a knockout - a whole sea bream stuffed with lobster - and my guess is the menu is changing daily, because as I look while writing this, it's not on the online menu now. But here's a picture anyway.

      Lobster stuffed sea bream
       A classic of the French culinary canon is Quenelle de brochet. As Julia says in Mastering the Art I, "A quenelle, for those who are not familiar with this delicate triumph of French cooking, is pâte à choux with a purée of raw fish...formed into ovals or cylinders and poached in a seasoned liquid. Served hot in good sauce, quenelles make a distinguished first course. A good quenelle is light as a soufflé..."

      Quenelle de brochet, sauce américaine
      Yes it is. And indeed it was. Our main course, which we shared because we wanted to save room for cheeses, was Bourride, a Provencal fish stew that might be known in places like Nice as bouillabaisse. Here, the fabulous fish fumet is stocked with halibut, mussels, clams, and Santa Barbara spot prawns. Served alongside, toasted baguette slathered with aïoli. Suck the head of those prawns, dip the bread, and pretend you're somewhere other than Chinatown - it's easy enough, once inside, because this is a lovely space.
       
      Our 3-cheese selection (all American) was swoon-worthy to Significant Eater, and served alongside was an accompaniment of 3 different beverages, which I don't really know if everyone gets - or if Daniel was just being extra nice to us.
       
      Speaking of nice, the service staff is super. There was a horde of people working on both the floor and in the kitchen. The front of house people were professional, yet casual. There have a been a few notable restaurant openings this year, where service has been a bit "clumsy." Not here, where everyone is on the same page, and that enhances the experience greatly.
       
      What else can I write? Well, I am sad we didn't get to enjoy dessert - we just ate too damn much, but next time! And while we were unexpectedly treated like old friends, with 3 comped dishes from the kitchen and a couple of glasses of champagne when we sat down at our table, I looked around the restaurant any number of times, and everyone sure looked happy. The wine list is extensive - maybe that's part of the reason? There are tablecloths on the tables. There are comfortable chairs. Reservations are taken. All grown-up stuff. But most of all, once you taste this cooking, I think you're going to be happy as well.
       
      Le Coucou
       
    • By borgr
      I want to leave my sourdough (itself, not baked loaves of sourdough bread) for a while (going abroad) but I do not want it to die, can I leave it in the freezer? do you have other ideas?
    • By Droo
      I'm always finding that my glazes are incredibly thick when I downscale my recipes. I am not sure whether it is the ingredients I use, my technique or the recipe is problematic when scaled down. 
       
      Do I just add sugar syrup to thin it down to required viscosity?
       
    • By Dman104
      Not sure if this is the right place to be posting this. I'm looking for a restaurant that serves La Potence, had it a few times on holiday in the French Alps several years ago and want to introduce this to my girlfriend. Does anyone know of anywhere that serves this??? I live in the South East (Milton Keynes - an hour out of London) but enjoyed it so much last time that would be willing to travel a fair distance to have this meal again.
    • By frogprincess
      I made my first brioche this weekend and I am hooked! I followed the recipe here http://www.travelerslunchbox.com/journal/2...ct-brioche.html but I did not use brown butter. Although my first attempt did not yield perfect a loaf (under baked) I was happy with the results but the buns turned out great.
      I am already thinking about the next time I am going to be able to make this wonderful treat and the variations I want to try. The next time I make the attempt I am using to bake the buns in muffin tins rather than make loaves. I would also like to try adding some different flavors (cinnamon & raisin and orange)
      Please post your experiences, favorite recipe sources and variations as I’d love to learn more.
      Thanks!
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.