Just back from a visit to France, and I obviously take keen interest in the state of French bread.
And much like the UK it seems to be a mixed picture. There was some truly outstanding bread but also a number of disappointing baguettes from supermarkets and bakers.
The standard supermarket baguette seems to be on par with UK supermarket baguettes. Obvious use of additives to give a very even open crumb but a bland taste and pappy texture. And these kind of baguettes also seemed to be on sale for some bakers and market stalls. I found these loaves really disappointing and in some cases pretty inedible.
But there were three breads that were outstandingly memorable.
From the local supermarket a fresh natural leaven loaf. Very much like a sourdough loaf but with a sweeter, less sharp taste, this was an outstanding loaf of bread and I was really impressed to find it on the supermarket shelf in a small provincial town. The texture and taste were superb.
Fresh brioche. Again from the supermarket but made with local and natural ingredients. The fabulous butter taste in this loaf was a revelation and it also had a great texture – springy and soft but with a bit of bite too. I’ve already tried to copy this one at home and 250g of butter to 500g of flour was no where near buttery enough!
And finally the handmade, natural sourdough loaf cooked in wood fired oven in the medieval village at Puy Du Fou. (Puy Du Fou is a historical theme park that is France’s fourth largest attraction – and well worth a visit). This bread was very close to sourdough perfection. A wonderful open and irregular, soft moist crumb with a strong rich sourdough taste and a crunchy crispy crust with the faint taste of wood smoke. There was some real skill and love going into making these outstanding loaves, but unfortunately we got there too late to see a demo or talk to the baker. Amazingly this bread was being given away as demonstration samples and wasn’t for sale.