It’s almost impossible to find a sub-standard bakery these days anywhere in France. The quality of French bread is remarkably good and tradition plays a great part in that but there have been a a number of modern tweaks since my first taste of an authentic French baguette.
Over the last 15 years it has become easier to find bread made from something other than white wheat flour. And individuals claiming gluten intolerance has also become more common – as it has in many parts of the world – presumably due to the type of wheat being used (GMO’s)?, the favoring of wheat varieties with higher gluten content?, the use of pesticides and preservatives?, the shorter rising time for the dough with questionable leavening agents …? Fortunately for me I can still enjoy a baguette now and then…’everything in moderation’ after all – at least that’s what my mum has always said.
Just an aside comment: all restaurants in France automatically serve a complementary jug of water and a basket of fresh bread to customers before the meal is served … which is a nice ‘French touch’.
Just recently I saw that some creative bakeries had found a way to satisfy people’s craving for the crusty end of the baguette (which often goes ‘missing’ between the bakery and home):
…….and that is baguettes ‘a 4 pattes’ (baguettes with four ‘feet’ or ends) and even 6 ‘feet’!
And then I have seen some baguette vending machines in front of bakeries to help solve that pesky problem of bakeries (and all shops for that matter) closing between 12:30-14:00….just when you want them.
And what to eat with the baguettes? Salted butter of course! (with whole salt crystals that scrape on the knife as it is spread on to the crustiness). Especially in this region where high-quality natural salt is produced.
But right now French folk are eating Galette des Rois: It is a kind of cake made of puff pastry which most often filled with frangipane cream plus a ‘feve’ (a bean or porcelain figurine) which is hidden in the cake. The one who finds the feve is given a paper crown and is the king (roi) or queen for the day. The tradition celebrates the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem on the 6th January (the Ephiphany)…but one can buy the galettes from bakeries and patisserie shops during a month-long period.
After eating numerous festive meals, I didn’t actually manage even a mouthful of Galette des Rois. Indeed, for over a week we ate and drank far too much (every single day) with family and friends , which included time with an old friend – Frank – with whom we spent the New Year’s Eve in a beautiful village called Saint Emilion in the heart of the Bordeaux wine region.
Christmas time would have to be the most difficult time of the year to not be with close family and childhood friends – I tend to feel home-sick and slightly pressured into following traditions that are not my own….added to that is the knowledge that it is summer-time in Australia!
But it is a new year now and the days are slowly getting longer again. Bonne Annee everyone.