Du pain

by jemma margaret

There used to be un Musée du Pain in Paris. Hélas, no more!

Thankfully  there are still many purveyors of pain, or rather, boulangeries. More apt to call them baguetteries here since the boule shape is less prominent among les Parisiens. My preferred shape tends to be the pavé–but pavérie sounds a bit too misérable, non?

To be perfectly frank, if baguettes aren’t your bag(uette), then Paris offers a less than spectacular array. There is a good historic reason for the predominance of airy white bread over its dark dense alternative and like all historical reasons it can be traced back to World War II (which can be traced to WWI which can be traced to the Franco-Prussian war which can be traced to the difference between culture and civilisation). As a case in point, there are very serious awards for best baguette every year in Paris. But no prizes are distributed for best vaguely healthy looking bread perhaps with seeds or dried fruit, which is what I tend to buy. Though I haven’t experimented on a very large subset, I have been disappointed with purchases of somewhat-whole-wheat boules that do not live up to the sourdough miracle of the Bay Area’s Tartine or Preston. Every other week I buy a quarter miche of Poîlane, which is just so-so fresh, pretty delicious toasted (with salted butter, mind you), and amazing as croutons.

Someday soon I will venture to the 17th or 19th to try the wares of Veronique Mauclerc, who is not only one of the few female bread bakers in Paris (the world?) but also uses one of the few wood fired ovens in Paris and no yeast, only natural levain. If only they would legalize gay marriage here…

On another note, I found fresh yeast at my organic grocery store. It’s nearly impossible to obtain in the states, and I recall making some very tasty Dinkelbrot with it while in Germany. But at the cost of 1 euro per cube, this yeast would need to be destined for something very un-French like pizza, bagels, or pizza-bagels.