A Baking Summit in the Loire Valley

A recent New York Times article described an impressive get-together of nine Europe-based bakers — a kind of summit of baking innovators gathering in a picturesque location, the Loire Valley in France.

They were celebrating the publication of a new book, New European Baking, by Berlin-based American baker Laurel Kratochvila and the conclusion of her promotional tour.… Continue reading

The Noble French Baguette Achieves UNESCO Heritage Status

I am here
Warm, light, magical
Under your arm or in your basket
Let me give the rhythm
To your day of idleness or work

– Cécile Piot, French baker and poet, describing the baguette

The iconic French baguette, the elongated loaf of crusty bread, was named last Wednesday to UNESCO’s “intangible cultural heritage” list. The website says the baguette is recognized as part of “the country’s heritage and its importance in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of increasing globalization.”… Continue reading

A Pinch of Salt, A Pinch of Life

In February, I purchased four 10 kg bags of “fine grey sea salt” for Happy Monk bread production. That’s eighty-eight pounds of beautiful salt harvested off the west coast of France.

Don’t worry. Your Happy Monk loaves aren’t going to get saltier. They’ll taste the same as ever. I’ve been using this brand, Maison Orphée, for nearly three years; I got a reasonable price on this batch, and it will last well into next year.… Continue reading

Is The Baguette On the Verge of a Renaissance?

Might the humble French baguette be on the verge of a renaissance?

In November 2019, I lamented in a blog post that the venerable baguette might be in decline. Scores of rural French boulangeries were closing. They were unable to compete with megastores like Carrefour and Super-U, which sell TVs and liquor alongside peanut butter and pork sirloin.… Continue reading

The French Factor

The boulangerie-patisserie in La Roche Vineuse: “The best in all of France!” (picture courtesy of Google Street View).

Several years ago, Jennifer and I rented an old farmhouse in the Burgundy region of France. La Roche Vineuse was a small village near Mâcon, a little more than an hour north of Lyon. In the month we were there, we grew into the rhythms and life of the rural farming community.… Continue reading