How to spot a good baguette
The title of Paris's best baguette has, for the fifth time in six years, gone to one of the bakeries situated in the city's 18th arrondissement.
And while first-time visitors to Paris may delight in any which baguette from any which bakery, not all are created equal.
Here's primer on how to tell a good baguette from a mediocre one, with tips collected from popular Paris food bloggers David Lebovitz, an American expat and former professional baker, Paris by Mouth and Chocolate and Zucchini.
David Lebovitz, who previously worked as a baker at Chez Panisse in California with Alice Waters, offers a slew of tips on his blog on the differences between a good and ‘crummy' baguette. For example:
- If you see rows of Braille-like dots on the bottom of the loaf, it's been baked industrially - avoid at all costs
- A good baguette should be sturdy and hold its shape when you pick it up
- An inferior loaf will have a smooth appearance with regularly-spaced holes when sliced. It will taste ‘cottony' and bland and will dissolve in the mouth.
- A good baguette will have an ‘apricot-like' aroma
- A superior loaf will likewise have large, irregular holes inside and uneven coloration on the crust
- The innards should be pale-ivory in color and be chewy.
- Look for a sign that reads ‘Artisan Boulangerie' in the bakery, indicating that the bread is baked on the premises.
- Bakeries that have won the Grand Prix for making the best baguettes in Paris will also have signs affixed to their windows.
Clotilde Dusoulier, who writes Chocolate & Zucchini, says her favorite baguettes have the following characteristics:
- a hearty crust
- a developed flavor from slow fermentation.
Meanwhile, mediocre baguettes have a tougher, darker bottom crust and a softer interior texture and go stale faster.
Dusoulier makes repeated mention of her favorite neighborhood bakery, Coquelicot bakery on 24, rue des Abbesses in the 18th arrondissement, also home to this year's winner of the best baguette in Paris, Boulangerie Mauvieux.
Meanwhile, Paris by Mouth offers a round-up of the editors' favorite bakeries by arrondissement, as well as another post that ranks the top five baguette makers. The overall favorite? Eric Kayser, who has several outlets around the city.