Author: Ujwala Samant
Let’s start over: wine, bread, cheese, fruit, ze accent Français?
Looking for a flat in France, I learned begins (for my husband) with locating a trustworthy baker. Our neighbourhood bakers have been known to hold keys, come to meet the newborn, and provide bottles of bubbly. The staff of French life the holy baguette (you may genuflect), that life revolves around is carb exempt -special dispensation. Our house was selected not just for its general alrightness, BUT, there’s a Breton baker 3 minutes away.
First lesson of living in France: get to know your baker. Through him, you will become friends with the mechanic, the oyster vendor, you get the picture. He will also provide you with recipes, dirt on local restaurants, what wine is overrated, and ask you to pick up fish from the marche if there’s a good deal on.
Jean-Luc, from Cancale started off in Brittany, went to the US and did his BA in Oenologie at University of California – Davis. Then worked in the wine business, in hotel management, and after Texas (!?) returned to Paris and took a year’s sabbatical and Eureka, a baker was born. Six years ago, he opened his boulangerie in Talence. And we’re thankful. Terrible memories of whitewashed, under-crusted Bordelaise baguettes have been erased thanks to Jean-Luc’s crusty brown bread. Yea yea, he does take care of those wanting afraid-of-the-sun bread.
Now about the bread. Jean-Luc makes 500 baguettes (300 gms) daily. Proves my point about the special carb dispensation. Some are sold to a local supermarket and some to smaller sandwicheries and shops. Then there’s the 4-eared Sarmentine. It has 4 extended tips instead of the usual shape. Why? Well to stop the fights for the croutons. Smart idea. It’s also for people who like a lighter crust.
The one I like is called a Ceraine made with normal flour plus grains and takes 48 hours of fermentation. The inside is off white, speckled with small crunchy grains. It also comes with a sesame seed topping. Campagrain is a miracle loaf because it converted my husband, a die-hard lover of baguettes and boules into eating this on a regular basis. It has a blend of flours including buckwheat. The way to a Breton’s heart is a teaspoon of buckwheat.
The Grand Siecle is the perfect dunking loaf. Jean-Luc explained that it is entirely hand-made and so it is delicate but has a denser “mie” making it ideal for soaking in chicken curry or chili. We tested it, just to be sure. No exaggeration.
Each baker places his/her signature on each loaf. So, you’ll find a different pattern on each of his breads. Jean-Luc has a professional patissier for all his viennoiseries and patisseries. He mentioned that the Bordelais seem to have a sweeter tooth than the Bretons; but his pasteis de Nata (Portuguese custard tarts) are a real temptation. I have yet to try his “Jesuit” just for the name.
Jean-Luc has excellent sandwiches at lunch time, beginning at 3.35 for a ham and cheese with salad. My fave is the spiced roast chicken and salad. And I walk away from those pasteis de Nata. Wait for the weekend when Jean-Luc makes olive fougasse. He makes about 70 per weekend, and they disappear too darn fast. Crusty and studded with an assortment of whole and chunked olives and seasoned with herbes de Provence. Pick up a dozen oysters from Vincent the oyster man outside, and hurry home for a nice aperitif. And sometimes, with a bottle of bubbly from Jean-Luc.
The reason one moves to France – the baker!