Just back from a few days in Paris. North Wales would have been proud of the rainfall there last weekend.
Interesting question. We all (well I certainly did) grew up in awe of the great French boulangers. I can remember my little heart thumping the first time I walked up the rue du Cherche Midi to find Poilane’s unassuming shop – I still have my Poilane bread knife from that time. But over the years you notice the Paris cafes advertising sandwiches on Pain Poilane, Monoprix selling sliced Poilane, Pain Poilane on sale in Nice hundreds of miles from Paris and you start to wonder if the whole thing isn’t just a tiny bit out of proportion.
Are the Poilanes, the Eric Kaysers, Dominique Sabrions of this world significantly greater bakers that the rest of them (or us self-taught Brits for that matter) or just better and more ambitious businessmen with their chic Parisien coffee shops and branches in New York & Tokyo?
This trip we seemed to be following Jean-Luc Poujauron around – not all that surprising because he no longer sells to the public and concentrates on restaurant supply. The first night at Cerisaie we sniffed and chewed and tasted the crusty, off-white, flecked bread that arrived at the table. It was pretty good but all the flavour seemed to be in the crust and the crumb was surprisingly bland so we had already formed an opinion before we asked and were told that the baker was Poujauron. Next day at l’Ami Jean the flavours seemed more balanced between crust and crumb, and by the time we came to eat at le Reveil de Xeme the bread was easily recognisable. Very good but I wouldn’t be scared of putting my bread up against it.