The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Gosselin's Boulangeries in Paris: A Detailed "Pain a l'Ancienne" Photo Report

Obsessive Ingredient Weigher's picture
Obsessive Ingre...

Gosselin's Boulangeries in Paris: A Detailed "Pain a l'Ancienne" Photo Report

Below are some detailed crust and crumb photos of Gosselin's "baguette tradition"/"baguette ancienne" from Paris + a report on the experience! I managed to get to all 3 of his shops...

On my first day in the city, I went to the 125 Rue Saint Honore location by the Louvre. Nice shop. Moderate size. Lots of pastries. I was the only one in there at 10AM as the staff was milling around. The cashier was very pleasant. As I left the shop, I broke off a piece of the "baguette ancienne" (btw - this is the only one of the three locations that calls it "ancienne" instead of "tradition") and was sorely disappointed. Much like many of the lower quality baguettes in Paris, it tasted overwhelmingly of hard water and/or raw flour. Fortunately, I purchased two baguettes, so I later tore into the other one...but only to find the same thing...horrible flavor. Somehow I was not discouraged, and I knew I had two more shops to go...

The next morning I visited the 28 Rue Caumartin location. It's on a sleepy street. Relatively small shop. Again, I was the only person in the boulangerie, but the cashier was hurried and not entirely pleasant with me. And, yes, I speak French, so she wasn't just being surly to the "American tourist". Upon leaving the shop, I dug into the baguette and was hit with the same disgusting flavor from the baguettes the day before. I now had major doubts about the quality of Gosselin's famous baguettes. How could they be so beloved and yet be so bad? But I still hadn't been to the flagship store, so I decided to give Gosselin one last try...

Saturday morning I wandered down the Boulevard Saint Germain. Gorgeous street. And despite my underwhelming experiences from the days before, I was excited. The numbers on the building counted down until there I was at 258 Boulevard Saint Germain...

With a shop this pretty, the baguette had to be good, right? I scooted around to the other side of the building and snapped a cliched shot of an old Parisian man shuffling out, baguette in-hand...

I walked inside, ready to give Gosselin his last chance...

There it was, above the register on the right, the "baguette tradition"...

I walked down the Boulevard and took a shot of the virgin loaf. The crust was dark and very well-caramelized. The scent was not too pronounced: very slightly sweet with a hint of nuttiness. This was surprising to me, as my "pain a l'ancienne" loaves have a very distinct pistachio scent...

I sat on a bench, ripped off a piece and gave a taste. Delicious! I don't know who makes the bread at the other two shops, as all three are supposed to have the same source, but this was a world apart...

I walked along thoroughly enjoying my baguette until I reached the banks of the Seine, where I had to take a few more photos. In the few minutes between my first bite and the river, I was blown away. The top crust tasted subtly but clearly of roasted marshmallows. The bottom crust was more blunt, although delicious. And, odd as it may seem, the closest thing I can compare it to are the crispy, slightly charred edges and nooks of a Thomas' English Muffin. Not the most sophisticated flavor in the world, but there it was. The crumb, as you can see, was cream-colored and tasted just like it looked, creamy and smooth...

Just look at that grigne and the gorgeous colors...

The baguettes definitely have an irregular shape, nothing neat and perfectly uniform about them...

I was so happy with my experience on Saturday, that I went back to the shop on Monday morning, got another baguette and sat in the Tuileries Gardens by the Louvre to snap a few more shots on a park bench.

The baguettes have a beautiful oven spring...

Admittedly, this second loaf wasn't quite the religious experience that the one from Saturday morning had been. It definitely hadn't spent as much time in the oven, so there wasn't a tremendous amount of character to the flavor. Visually, excellent crust and excellent crumb, but I'd only go so far as to describe the flavor as "solid".

Clearly, the key is to get a "baguette tradition" only from the Saint Germain flagship store, and make sure it has a deep amber crust. It's guaranteed to knock your socks off.

I sampled many other baguettes while in Paris. Most ranged from terrible to boring. One from the Le Moulin de la Vierge was adequate and certainly worth going for if you're near the Eiffel Tower and need a baguette fix. And I have to say I was quite impressed with the one I had at Gerard Mulot. While it didn't soar to the heights of my Saturday Gosselin experience, it was excellent and absolutely one to check out.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, whether you've experienced Gosselin's work first-hand or love making these loaves yourself. I thought having some close-up photos would be a great thing to share, as I know how many of us love to work on Gosselin's/Reinhart's "pain a l'ancienne" and how much detailed imagery can help us out with our experiments. Bon appetit!


dmsnyder's picture

Okay. Now that I have my envy under control .... Thank you for your review and wonderful photos. The crumb shots show what "creamy" means. It looks like ... well ... cream.

I wonder if the Gosselin shops at which you got the inferior baguettes are consistently inferior.

Did you get to Anis Bouabsa's boulangerie?


Obsessive Ingredient Weigher's picture
Obsessive Ingre...

Hi, David. Sadly, no, I didn't get to visit Anis Bouabsa. There were many boulangeries I would have loved to check out, but I'll have to save them for my next visit. I was doing triple gastronomic duty, attempting to enjoy as many famous baguettes, pastries, and chocolates as the human body would allow. And with goodies like the ones from Gerard Mulot (not to mention Pierre Herme, Jean Paul Hevin, Laduree, Patrick Roger, Sadaharu Aoki, and more) below, I only had so much room...

Gerard Mulot Pastries

davidg618's picture

...reporting at its finest. You had me walking, and nibbling, beside you all the way.


David G.

Janedo's picture

I admit an extreme distaste to the brand of flour Baguépi and am VERY surprised, even shocked he uses that flour when he has access to better ones like Moulin Bourgeois. The baguette looks good...but...


Paddyscake's picture

That is interesting that the type of flour used is the main "logo" signature on the wrapper. I just thought that was the name of the shape, so to speak. Or am I misunderstanding?


EDIT : Jane, never mind, I have since read your post on French flours. Thank you.

SylviaH's picture

Wonderful photo's!  I enjoyed reading your experiences and thank you for taking the time to post!  The baguette looks lovely so do the pastries...however, when I taste some artistic, perfect looking french pastry, sometimes, I think much more has gone into the appearance rather than the flavor of the pastry.


Obsessive Ingredient Weigher's picture
Obsessive Ingre...

I know exactly what you mean about the flavor vs. the appearance of pastries!  I have long said the same thing to people.  It never made sense that something so pretty could taste so boring.  I've been consistently disappointed for decades.

But on this trip I had a lot of pastries from a lot of famous patisseries, and I didn't have that issue even once.  I have to give a big recommendation to Gerard Mulot and Sadaharu Aoki - the true standouts to me in flavor and perfectionistic construction. Aoki in particular just made the most beautiful pieces; they were like art and tasted every bit as good as they looked.

ehanner's picture

This is an unexpected treat. Being able to see the creamy crumb authentically. It is curious the other two shops were such a disappointment. What makes you think the water was the source of the foul taste?


Obsessive Ingredient Weigher's picture
Obsessive Ingre...

Hi, Eric. It just had the taste/scent of heavily treated water. I suppose it could have been the flour, too. It was just strange to bite in and have that "something" overwhelming any sense of the bread itself. Next time I'm there, I might have to do the same experiment and see if the flavor is still off at those two locations.

Of the other, non-Gosselin, baguettes I had while in Paris, a couple others had the same issue. Very strange.

ehanner's picture

I would be curious about the images from the other Gosselin shops you didn't care for. You must have a few from those shops you could show us. Some times it is as important to know how NOT to do it.


Obsessive Ingredient Weigher's picture
Obsessive Ingre...

I don't really have any good photos from the other shops. But, really, those bad Gosselin baguettes basically looked just the same as the good ones. It was just the flavor that was totally different. Still, I'll see if I can rustle up some snapshots of the bad ones and post them, too.

md_massimino's picture

Totally jealous, even if the experiences were up and down.  I guess the sad reailty is that with more quantity comes less quality.  I'm a little bummed that the shop that is so lovingly detailed in the BBA produced a baguette of such poor quality.  Still, I'd rather eat a bad baguette in Paris than a wonderful baguette in a New Jersey strip mall.