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Feeling Crusty Over Baguettes

baguettes-in-parisI’m not a boulanger, and I don’t play one on TV. But I do know what makes a baguette good, whether its de tradition or ordinaire: firmness, freshness and a crispy crust surrounding a soft inside. Still warm from the oven puts it completely over the top, and it’s quite common to see a Parisian digging into their fresh baguette as soon as they’ve hit the sidewalk.

I know that there is nothing that can match a baguette made in France, so when I’m in the U.S., I make a concerted effort not to make comparisons. I also try not to be one of those people who utters the phrase, “Well, in France …” I may think it, but I’m fairly certain I’d annoy even myself if I actually said it out loud.

This weekend, I said it out loud. I had no choice and have no regrets.

Having decided to host a pre-dinner wine and cheese gathering at my Miami apartment, I found myself at The Fresh Market in search of the ingredients. It turned into a Mission: Impossible. For some reason, every single baguette had been placed into one of those airless plastic sleeves and twisted tightly shut. But a proper baguette—even those not made in France—need air to maintain their crispy crust. These baguettes? They were limp and lifeless. I was pissed.

The store manager—who had been lurking in the area—saw my frustration and came over to see why I kept squeezing every single loaf in the basket.

“Is there something wrong,” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied. “Somebody in your bakery murdered the bread.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You can’t put bread that’s supposed to have a crispy crust in a plastic bag,” I explained to him. “And baguettes are supposed to have a crispy crust. Any baker in France will tell you that.”

“But we have to keep our breads wrapped for freshness,” he said, and I nearly hit him over the head with a loaf. The only thing that stopped me was the knowledge that it was too soft to do any damage.

“Normally, your bakery department knows better and puts the baguettes into open paper sleeves,” I replied. “So is this a new store policy?”

His response? A blank stare. My response? I placed the still-empty basket back in the stand and walked out the door.

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5 Responses to “Feeling Crusty Over Baguettes”

  1. Amazingly, I have found the very best baguette in this country at…are you ready…Panera! Yes indeed. They are not wrapped in plastic, they are crusty and fresh daily: in fact. they are just about perfect! All my French friends here agree. Am hoping you have Panera in Miami???

  2. Linda Donahue says:

    There are a few Paneras in Miami and, of course, I never even thought to go to one on Saturday. There are also two almost-as-good-as-Paris French bakeries … but they slipped my mind, too. (They’re a bit out of the way.)

  3. Lindsey says:

    I would have paid to see this conversation on video. Good for you, you’re really becoming a Parisian!

  4. Virginia says:

    Linda,
    I’ve played that scenario a few times myself. We have a few bakeries that have nailed the baguette but forget it on the macarons. Last summer in Paris I ran up the street to a nearby patisserie for a baguette. It was warm and I almost tore into it BEFORE I left the s tore! I came home and told my daughter NOW I knew why Parisians were always chomping on their baguettes on the street. Heaven.

  5. Linda Donahue says:

    There are a few really good French bakeries in Miami. But because they’re not found at every corner, there’s little chance of grabbing a fresh, hot baguette by the time I DRIVE to one. C’est triste.

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