How to recognize a handcrafted baguette from an industrial?

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How to recognize a handcrafted baguette from an industrial?




How to distinguish know-how from thawed cardboard?


© Getty Images
How to distinguish know-how from thawed cardboard?


Row between the Eiffel Tower and the beret, the baguette figure in the foreground of the tricolor postcard. Last year, the National Confederation of French Bakery and Pastry (CNPBF) campaigned to register it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to legend, it owes its slender shape to Napoleon’s soldiers whose pockets could not contain a round loaf. Today, even if bread unites 98% of French people around the table (1), he questions certain consumers – the younger generation in particular – on its nutritional qualities, the origin of its ingredients and behind the scenes of its preparation. And the traditional baguette does not escape their radar, suspected of having been prepared in the factory, before being frozen and then baked at the last minute. Franck Thomasse, president of Greater Paris Bakers Union and owner of the Thomasse bakery in Meudon (92), gives us his advice to distinguish the know-how of the cardboard paste.

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Confusing names

Before even crossing the threshold of the bakery, a first glance at the name of the sign is highly recommended. Law n ° 98-405 of the Consumer Code attributes the designation “bakery” and “baker” to the professional who himself ensures “the kneading of the dough, its fermentation and its shaping as well as the baking of the bread at the point of sale”. In the event of a frozen product and therefore an infringement, the latter risk imprisonment for up to two years and a fine of 300,000 euros. Be careful not to dramatize the situation, tempers Franck Thomasse. “Few bakers do not produce their bread, explains the president of the Boulangers du Grand Paris union. However, it may happen that some have recourse to dough pieces. (pieces of bread dough, Editor’s note) frozen exceptionally in the event of health concerns of the baker or of personnel problems. ”

The big chains like Paul, La Brioche Dorée or La Mie Câline do not benefit from the name “bakery” but as baking terminals, they can sell thawed baguettes to provide their customers with hot bread all day long. like some supermarkets. Less frequent but just as confusing, “certain hot spots use terms like” bakehouse “or” mill “, without having the name bakery”, adds Franck Thomasse.

So that they are recognizable from near and far, bakeries have adopted signage for around forty years. Like the tobacconist’s carrot or the pharmacist’s cross, the baker has a yellow “B”, formed using two ends of chopsticks and accompanied by the slogan “Boulanger, c’est un profession” . Since 2010, it has replaced the famous blue and white pictogram of the baker putting his bread in the oven.

Out of the canons of beauty



Traditional baguette


© Getty Images
Traditional baguette


“Baguettes are not top models, assures Franck Thomasse. From one day to the next, artisan bread will not be the same”. In practice, we therefore avoid baskets filled with thin and straight regiments like “i”. Yes a decree of 1993 limits the ingredients of the recipe, based on a mixture of bread-making wheat flour, drinking water, cooking salt, bread-making yeast and sourdough, out of the oven the formats differ between 55 and 70 centimeters length.

The coloring changes less. “Wheat flour contains a small percentage of sugar, which will give the rind this special golden color “, details the jury member of the Grand Prix de la baguette de tradition française. Unlike the industrial version whose color tends more towards white.” If the dough piece is frozen, the cold burns the sugars and prevents any coloring during cooking “, notes Franck Thomasse.

And as for a masterpiece, the artist always signs his work. “Five to six regular blows from one end of the baguette to the other to release the carbon dioxide so that it swells better and gives it a good appearance,” reports the baker. In the factory, this “grid” is rarely used. done or if so, leave very fine lines.

A crisp baguette with an airy and fragrant crumb

Very cooked, not too much or almost? According to everyone’s tastes, the Baker bakes the dough pieces between 21 and 22 minutes. “The more you bake a bread, the better it will be, because baking brings out its sourdough aromas”, emphasizes Franck Thomasse. When it is time to break it, the nose, but also the hearing and the palate, must be on the alert. “The industrial baguette crisp, but does not crack under the tooth like the artisanal”, indicates the president of the union of the Bakers of Greater Paris.

Inside, the crumb should be pleasant in the mouth. If it sticks to the palate, like an undercooked dough, it’s proof that you have an industrial baguette on your plate, according to Franck Thomasse. “This machine production does not allow the bread to grow enough and stops fermentation too quickly. The result is a tight crumb with small holes”, analyzes the owner of the Thomasse bakery. On the contrary, the beautiful alveoli of the traditional baguette guarantee a chew that is neither too elastic nor too tender.

A quality charter for more transparency

To dispel the doubt once and for all, the National Confederation of French bakery and pastry-making launched on January 11, at the Europain trade fair, at Paris-Porte de Versailles, a quality charter, in the hope of finally standing out from manufacturers. The member bakers will benefit from a “Boulanger de France” logo and will be checked every two years. To strengthen this approach, the Confédération de la Boulangerie is planning a national communication campaign for March / April. “We want to reassure customers and show them that we work with our product with love every morning”, concludes the craftsman.

(1) Figure taken from the Crédoc study “Eating behavior and consumption of bread”, commissioned by the Pain Observatory and published in 2017.

* Originally published on November 6, 2019, this article has been updated.

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