January 17, 2015

The secret of a La Parisse baguette

How could I resist a personal invitation behind the scene to discover how baguette is made? Without having to get up at the crack of dawn, I might add?

Off I went to the 14th arrondissement, to meet a very friendly baker proud of managing his bakery with quality. Turns out his grandparents were Swiss and he grew up in the Jura, we hit it off from the word go. Given it was January 7th, he was most intrigued to learn about the Swiss Three Kings Bread I had made the day before with Expat girl.

HIS speciality is called la Parisse, a special French baguette made with natural leaven. La Parisse has a flavour of yesteryear, it takes 24 hours to forment and the longer it ferments the better the flavour. Baking continues all day long in order to meet demand which is roughly 200 pieces of Parisse/day in his shop.

Monsieur Lavry explained that from the 1.20 Euro his clients pay for a Parisse, he owes a trademark fee of 0.07 cents for the flour, the secret recipe and for applying his own special signature called "scarring". Bakers who wish to sell La Parisse are paying for the method rather than just ingredients, apparently.

In comparison, the traditional French baguette can be scarred anyway you wish. It's price is around 95 cents and only needs 4 hours to ferment. I can assure you the taste is NOT the same!

Walking through the back courtyard, I stepped into a tiny kitchen and after a few introductions I climbed down into a small cavern to watch a demonstration by the master baker of how a perfect baguette is made. Smells of fresh baked bread filled the air and my enthusiastic baker friend demonstrated how to roll, lay out and scar La Parisse before shoving it in the oven by the dozens. Did you know that vapour is injected into oven to guarantee the breads golden colour and make it crusty?

I learnt that by French law only yeast, sourdough, salt, water and flour are the ingredients allowed for bread by the traditional bakers. By 1993 legislation, the flour of La Tradition, for example, cannot be treated. This has allowed the thousands of boulangeries to survive in this world of discount supermarkets.

Paris alone counts 3000 bakers of which 340 compete every year for the best croissant in town! Another surprising fact is that sadly 84% of Parisian bakeries don't produce their croissants from scratch. So beware, next time you buy your morning croissants, look out for regularity or rather irregularity in the products to tell if they are authentic.

Little heaps of dough packed away for 24 hours in order to ferment

Shaping La Parisse is serious business

What it takes to be a real boulanger: passion, discipline and the right ingredients

I even scaled my own Parisse, always according to the rules

Creative scaling with regular baguettes

Once this is baked you can just break the portions off

Into the 240°C oven for a few minutes

Et voilà: La Parisse

Looks and tastes delicious

Three main types of flour used to bake bread: wheat, rye, chestnut flour
Somewhere hidden away is the roasted barley flour

Monsieur Lavry in his element

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