Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Baguette Tell

One of the great symbols of French gastronomy is under siege. Renowned for its distinctive shape and crusty exterior, the baguette risks becoming known for something else, too: being undercooked and doughy.
Rémi Héluin, the founder of Painrisien, a blog about Parisian bakeries, estimates that 80% of the 230 shops he has reviewed underbake most of their baguettes.
"They've got to keep the customer satisfied," he says.Patrons have plenty of reasons for their preference—and they're not necessarily half-baked. For Camille Oger, a 30-year-old freelance reporter, eating a well-baked baguette can be a painful experience. "It's hard to munch," she says, "and it hurts your gums and palate." Less-baked loaves "won't break your teeth," she adds.
Actually there is a law, as David Marcelis lets on, and it's how France got to this point;
The baguette as we know it dates to the 1920s and was a byproduct of a protective labor law that prevented French bakers from working between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. That made it impossible to prepare traditional round loaves by breakfast time. Bakers had to turn to a new kind of bread, whose thin shape made it faster to prepare and bake. The baguette—French for "little stick"—quickly became a breakfast essential throughout France.
But maman et papa had to contend with supermarkets that can make and sell baguettes at a third the price of a corner bakers. Which didn't stop French lawmakers from trying to control things;
In a bid to protect the industry, French law dictates what ingredients can be used to make these baguettes (essentially, wheat flour, water, salt and yeast) and limits the use of the name boulangerie—or bakery—to shops where bread is made and baked on the premises.
But the law doesn't weigh in on one key diktat: how long the baguette should stay in the oven. 
And that turns out to be, how long the customers prefer. As usual.

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