VI - Maison Kayser Bread Report : Part I – Boule ‘something something’ Rustique
So, here’s the first report on the bread my daughter bought for me at Maison Kayser in Paris. As I wrote about the little episode here, she went to one of their branches to buy some bread for lunch, thought it was good, so bought Pain Rustique for me….and went back there later to get ‘Boule something something Rustique’ (French is not my daughter’s forte. Never…) after reading an article about the bread her friend found in her guide book…or on internet…or whatever. And today’s blog is about this second ‘something’ she bought. (Pain Rustique went into the freezer as soon as it got home…for this weekend’s lunch…after I sliced a thin piece for immediate tasting. The report will follow later.)
(Er......sorry.... I only realised I should've taken some photos after I ate a few slices for breakfast... Still trying to get used to a new blogging life...)
The first impression : It’s smaller than I thought.:p But that’s OK because I did ask her not to buy a big one for my freezer didn’t have much spare space….but it’s only a size of very small side plate…...
The crust has lost its crispness (assuming it was crisp at the beginning), unfortunately, because my daughter wrapped it in a paper bag from the boulangerie, twice, and wrapped it, twice again, in plastic carrier bags to ‘retain’ the aroma. Her intention commendable, but maybe not the method…..Oh, well….
Closer inspection : The first thing I noticed was the aroma. (Thank you, my dear daughter). I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s a different sort of aroma from any other bread I’d experienced before. It’s wheaty with naturally sweet aroma which was a bit like warmed caramel but much more delicate and gentler, and a whiff of rye-sour. Really difficult to convey how it smelled on a page, but it had quite strong (strong enough to make my daughter think she should wrap it up four folds to prevent whole Eurostar carriage start smelling like the bread) but very rounded and warm aroma. Maybe a bit like a bale of hay which has been sitting in the warm sun for many days. Very warm, quite wheaty, but not in the ways that would stimulate the appetite of horses. You can tell it’s definitely for the human consumption. Thank God. Actually, this was the first time I really felt the naming of ‘rustique’ was truly fitting. It wasn’t how it looked. This really made to be ‘rustique.’
(Kayser's 'something something' Rustique sitting on a piece of my Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough)
Taste : Everything I felt from the aroma was in the crumb in a very concentrated form. Well, if you think of it, it’s the other way round. Because the crumb has those qualities, the bread smells like them. Silly me… But anyway, it is very ‘rustique’ bread, in its true sense.
And when you bite into it, all the flavours you expected from the aroma really fill your mouth, but each element is more vivid than they were in the aroma, of course, and also the distant whiff of rye sour (or may be just rye flour. Not sure…) in the crust was much more predominant here, but not as sharp as many other rye heavy bread. Just a gentle hint of acidity. And the most interesting thing was some sort of spicy-ness in the taste. It was a bit like you taste when you bite into seeds in a seeded bread. I first thought it contained some seeds in it, but couldn't see any. Not sure where it comes from....
I really don't know how it's made, what's in the bread (I mean, what flours and what sort/sorts of levain they used), especially since this 'something something' part is mystery, but if I'm asked to describe about this bread in just one word, I'd immediately say 'the warmth.' That's what I felt most both from the aroma and also from the flavour...and the whole balance of them. It’s a quite gusty bread, but everything is so rounded and balanced and matured, what you feel when chewing its crumb and crust is its warmth. Not literally of course, but the whole concept of this bread. Every element of flavours and aromas is strong and distinctive, but in harmony. No sharp edges, anywhere. I think it's a sign of very carefully crafted loaf of bread.
It is exactly the sort of bread that would make me extremely happy if I can eat it with a large bowl of hearty soup with lots of vegetables and beans on a harvest day in autumn, preferably on a golden wheat field (or golden rye field can be optional) , sitting on a large stack of freshly cut hay, of course…..not that I often go out to country side to harvest wheat or rye…..and I've got hay fever......What am I talking about?
My daughter bought this at about a mid-day on Wednesday and today is Friday, so what I tasted was probably 2- 3 days old, at least, which is almost in the reach of ‘Best End’ date or just past it, even for the standard of levain-based bread. So what I was tasting wasn’t at its best. It was actually beginning to taste quite stale and the crumb was loosing its moisture (Mental Note : Got to teach her to buy fresh food just before the departure) , and possibly some elements of flavour, especially acidity, has intensified over the days. But, still, by trying to imagine how it could have been like when it was fresher, I can tell why so many people speak highly of M. Eric Kayser’s achievement in insisting the high standard in spite of increasing number of his branches and making it possible for many people to access good quality bread relatively easily. I’m still a bit worried how long he (and Maison Kayser) will be able to maintain the standard with the present, quite alarming speed of expansion of his entity. But if he really can, it’ll surely be a wonderful example to other artisan bakeries who are on the mission of spreading high quality breads to wider public. ::fingers crossed::
(M. Kayser sourdough and my sourdough sitting together)