The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Trip across the channel

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overnight baker's picture
overnight baker

Trip across the channel

I intended to start a blog and leave a post every week with updates of a new loaf or new idea as a way to help me keep on experimenting and learning. So far, alas I have fallen at the first hurdle, after an impromptu trip to Paris I failed to update my blog the first week and haven't done so since.

It's not all bad though as Paris has been a real eye opener. I got into making bread seriously because of a lack of good local bakeries. When I moved to a new flat in a new area last year I discovered my high street had 2 greengrocers, a really good butchers and a plethora of small local independent stores, but alas no bakery! Even a trip to the nearby city centre left me empty handed but for a handful of instore supermarket bakeries and the omnipresent Greggs (a UK bakery chain that provides cheap, cheerful but ultimately soul destroying baked products). A short ferry/train trip across the channel however and it's a completely different story. Around every corner of every street in every arrondissemont the fresh smell of bread could be smelled wafting from a small boulangerie. The whole country must be teeming with bakers to be able to fill all those stores with such a variety of doughy delights. Don't get me wrong it's not as if the UK has worse bread, when you find it some of the stuff is delicious. It's just that good bread is comparitively so hard to find. And it's not as if we don't desire good bread, I recentely read Britons make far more bread at home than our french counterparts (and it's not hard to imagine why). Maybe the lack of good bakeries is a blessing, how else would I have discovered the joys of seeing the first bubbles arrive in a mixture of rye, water and nothing else (still amazes me), would I have ever even come across the words miche, banneton, lame etc. if I had not had to turn to home baking. Somehow however I still think I would prefer it if I had a friendly local bakery to buy at least the occasional loaf from.A small bakery on every street

As this blog has such a geographically diverse readership I wonder what others have to say about the provision of good bakeries in their area, and why some countries seemed to be able to have enough demand to keep a bakery in business on every street whereas others can have a whole town centre with nothing.

Comments

ehanner's picture
ehanner

We have read similar accounts here from others, complaining of mediocre baked goods in one part of Europe or another. And for that matter many reports of the over all quality of the bread in Paris coming from the factory bakery's is not good.


You could view this as depressing, or you could see it as opportunity.


We have the same situation here in the US. My daughter recently moved into an apartment near an old name Italian Bakery. I was happy to run in and try all of their breads at the first chance. It was very disappointing I'm sad to say. They looked good but were tasteless and awful. So rejoice in the knowledge that with your keen senses you know the difference between good and bad bread. If need be, you can easily make your own.


Eric

overnight baker's picture
overnight baker

Yes I suspect your right about the Paris bakeries, even though there were many of them they might not all have been high quality I was just amazed by how many.

kneady's picture
kneady

Hi, I'm new to this site.  I now live in Canada but was born and lived in U.K. for many years.  In U.K. I lived near a mill with a bakery attached.  I never needed to make bread.  I couldn't have made it better than what came out of the bakery.  I don't think I have ever had a really good bought loaf in all the years I've lived here.  I have had some wonderful bread when staying in inns, B&B's etc. where the bread has been made on the premises but never from a store.  The two local bakeries are mediocre.


 I have been making my own bread for some years. I was recently given Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice".  I tried his light wholewheat bread.  I found it a little doughy and it was not good toasted.  I'm sure it was not supposed to be like that. What might I have done wrong?


 

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi kneady. If you don't mind, as a UK home baker I'd be interested to know which watermill? I know Little Salkeld best but further mills have been restored over the last couple of decades. You can see a lot of them via this guild page http://www.tcmg.org.uk/


Regards Daisy_A

EvaB's picture
EvaB

that the mediocher breads from bakeries is because of the use of commercial products for baking. All bakeries have to be liscened and so forth so to use any product that isn't on a list is probably a miserable experience to get it there. They all buy form the same wholesalers, and so forth,the flour is made by one or two mills, to government standards (which means they have to include all sorts of things according to the government) and so forth.


The best thing is to find a small company producing organic milled flour, or whatever you can find along that lines, and buy your own flour and make your own bread. You just can't get good bread or baked goods unless its from your own kitchen. Almost all flour is enriched, and bakery flour is much more so, with this and that and bromate and UGH!!!!! you get the picture.


We used to have a bakery on the main street, and while the baked goods were better than the bakeries in the grocery stores, the Safeway is now the only local bakery so that tells you what goes with the costs and the frustrations of running a local bakery.

rhomp2002's picture
rhomp2002

My dad baked all kinds of artisan loaves in his bakery when I was a kid back in the 50's and 60's and we had customers all the time.   No problem selling the product.  He retired and my brother sold the bakery and that ended the good bread.  I now live in NYC but I understand that someone else has now moved in and started an artisan bakery and is doing very well - he had to expand his operations twice now in 5 years.  Sorta like The Field of Dreams - if you build it they will come.  The problem  has been that there are so few people who have learned how to bake these good breads.  The problem is not the lack of market but the lack of people learning how to do it.  Once that issue is addressed, then maybe we will see the good stuff again.  After all, it seems as if those who bring bread to the farmer's markets are not having a problem selling their product.  

kneady's picture
kneady

Amazing co-incidence, Daisy_A, Salkeld was the mill I was referring to. I lived there many years as my husband's ancestors came from the area but I never knew about the mill then as I don't think it was restored until after we emigrated.  However, about 20 years ago, after we came to Canada, we went back to U.K. looking for a holiday cottage and bought a place in Langwathby.  We enjoyed spending a few months there every year and always went to the mill for our bread. Sadly we sold the cottage a few years ago but, whenever we go back to England, I always try to make at least one visit to Salkeld, buy some bread and have a cuppa in their tearoom.

overnight baker's picture
overnight baker
Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Dear kneady,


That's great to know! Your cottage must have been in a very beautiful place and so handy for the bakery!


I was at school when the Watermill was restored but I remember what a visionary project it was at the time - so good to see it still flourishing and developing. I haven't been to Cumbria for a while, sadly, as we no longer have family there but would definitely put the bakery and tearoom on my list of good things to do if we were to go. Glad to hear you've enjoyed a few cuppas there.


Wishing you happy baking over in Canada.  Kind regards,  Daisy_A