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Friday, July 8, 2011

Advice: Le Pain (bread)

Summer time in Lyon, it's almost like a beautiful... magical.. swealtering hot time in which we can abandon all worries and take a weekend off to have a summer picnic.

Everyone has their own preference as to what makes a *perfect picnic*, but I have my own special picnic that I find.. well frankly amazing.  A few months back I talked about my favorite food shops, so you'll need to know the addresses for these in order to make up a Sasha Picnic.  The Sunday post I do will be on my own special picnic- but first thing's first; the bread.

It starts with a baguette.

Baguettes are the staple food in France, every French person has a baguette on their table during a meal, pieces torn off and put directly on the table (not on a plate).

Little know the history of bread in France, and I'm not about to give a detailed account... just a basic summary.

Every few steps in Lyon, one can find a Boulangerie- not every boulangerie holds a high quality baguette, but every boulangerie definitely has a baguette.  Sold unwrapped and set about the shop, the baguette is an experience in it's own.  Nothing compares to a French baguette in the states; from the crisp of the crust, to the dense bubbly interior- ready as a staple to sauce your plate, or simply to cut open and smother with a thick camembert cheese.

Bread has been a staple in the French meal since the middle ages, but has taken changes over time.  Upon introduction of white flour in the 16th century by the Italian nobility the Medicis, and the idea of using bread as a leavening agent, bread began to take on the whiter hue we see in modern day Baguettes.  Crisis in the 19th century turned Bonaparte to create laws to protect the prices of bread, and as always, bread has remained an essential.  The one stereotype that rings true, most French people to have a baguette in their hand when returning home.

Made an average of three times a day, a majority of boulangeries in France make it fresh from the start- from this flour is considered a state commodity and the government actually provides subsidies so flour retains a moderately low price in market.  One can buy 1 kilo of farine for only 2€, that's about 1€ a pound!

But- there are more than baguettes.  Allow me to explain (source: observatoire du pain):

Le Pain Tradition Français

A bread created from bread flour, water, salt and a rising ingredient.  Due to simplicity it is a very 'bubbly' bread, meaning there are many holes in the dough.  Great for picnics as it retains wells, and works great with creamy cheeses.

Under this category:

  • La Banette (more triangular shaped than a baguette, tends to be fluffier, specialty recipe)
  • La Baguette (typical slim round baguette)
  • Pain au Levain (Sour Dough bread)

Le Pain Complet

Complet, meaning whole wheat.  This bread tends to be a much toothier bread , whole grain.  I usually eat sliced with melted butter/honey for breakfast.  Tends to over ride the flavor of dishes and doesn't mesh well with cheeses.  Better as a breakfast item.

Other 'complet'
  • Pain au Siegle (rye bread)
  • Pain aux 5 céréales
  • Pain aux Noix (nut bread, very delicious)

Le Pain de Compagne

Campagne, the countryside, this bread is even more toothy than the pain complet. It's fabulous a little on the dry side served in the winter with a nice potage de boeuf or a soup.

Pain de Mie

Pain de Mie, is the sliced bread we are used to in the states.  I have rarely eaten this in France; but it is used for French Toast (which is a dessert; not breakfast in France).  Even sadnwiches are not made with it; usually we use baguettes sliced open.  The French love their crusts.

Le Pain Brioché

Pain Brioché, or just simply Brioche, is a dense, fluffy and rich sweet bread that is often served toasted for breakfast.  Tends to be full of butter, so be aware!  Definitely not for a dinner bread, but fabulous for breakfast with some butter and jam.

So.  In the states we think *bread*, we think sliced white packaged from last week.  In France, bread is an art and a sustenance for the daily meal.

Now, you gotta try all the types of bread and find your favorite- personally I'm a Banette type of gal.

P.S.  My favorite boulangerie:  Les Garçons Boulangers.  Miam.


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