AWSI: Shift from Crusty May Be Temporary…

In the “A-HED” position of Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal there was a somewhat shocking story about how Parisians are preferring “the whitest, least-baked baguette on display.”  That translates to shift in demand away from the classic “crusty” baguette.  One baker who sells 1,500 baguettes every day said that 90% of the loaves are taken out of the oven before they are done.


Safeway Artisan French Bread

The times are changing, for sure, but still…  this move away from tradition is shocking.  Never thought we’d see the day that someone would prefer the spongy bread found in super markets.

Bakers who are appalled at this shift in demand note the importance of sticking to the proper baking time which allows for an exchange of flavor between the crumb (the inside of the bread) and the crust, and results in the creation the perfect balance that makes the baguette so special: a crisp, caramelized crust enveloping a soft, airy crumb.

The reference to crust and crumb got us thinking… What would Brother Juniper (Annie’s been calling him Brother Jupiter for some reason – perhaps Jetson’s related) say?  Peter Reinhart (AKA Brother Juniper) wrote a book called Crust & Crumb which is like the Bible of bread making.


We tracked him down via the Pizza Quest blog where he’s been authoring posts and posed the question.

Here’s what he had to say:

I guess all I can say is that it’s ironic, just as Americans are learning to appreciate darker crusted French bread (that is, “properly” baked) in our growing number of artisan bakeries, it seems the French are emulating the American palate of a generation ago. These things are cyclical, though, and it won’t be long before there will be outrage in Paris and beyond about how French bread is becoming Americanized and, once again, we’ll get all the blame. Let’s face, it’s hard to win but, in the meantime, more people should enjoy the world class breads now being made here, and we should support those artisans who make it.

He makes great points.

We have two field trips on our agenda.  The Cheese Board Collective in Berkeley, California and the Wild Flour Bread in Freestone (near Sebastopol), California.  Both of these places create innovative artisan breads that make the trip worthwhile.

Sampling of Cheese Board offerings.

Sampling of Cheese Board offerings.

Wild Flower baker.

A happy Wild Flour baker.


The Journal article closed with the notion that the baker has to do his part to coax his clientele towards the more traditional bronzed baguette.

Per Franck Debieu, who runs a bakery in Sceaux, a small town south of Paris, “The customer doesn’t know what’s best…It’s the baker’s job to educate him.”

Humm…  That sounds familiar.

“People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Of course, the above was said by Steve Jobs, who obviously had quite a good track record during his lifetime.


Example of really nice crust & crumb…


So if you are curious, here’s a link to Peter Reinhart’s Recipe for Classic French Bread.  And the video below is from a TED Talk given by Peter Reinhart on “The art of baking bread.”


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