Today marked the 18th “Grand Prix de la Baguette de Tradition Française de la Ville de Paris”, the annual competition to select the best baguette in Paris. Every year a panel of judges—mostly bakers and a few food celebrities—gather on the Ile Saint Louis to deliberate over who makes the best baguette in Paris, not an easy feat considering there are roughly 1,200 boulangeries in Paris. Last year I had the honour of being a judge (you can read about it here) and with my fellow judges we tasted 141 baguettes, an awful lot of bread to eat in one sitting.
The baguettes being judged are not just any baguettes, but baguettes de tradition, bread which according to a French law enacted in 1993 must be mixed, kneaded, leavened and baked on premises, without ever being frozen. They must be additive-free and can contain only four precious ingredients–wheat flour, water, salt and yeast. So, if you are going to buy a baguette, make sure it’s a baguette de tradition.
Unfortunately, asking for a “une tradition” doesn’t guarantee you’ll get good bread. It may seem hard to believe, but a lot of mediocre bread can be found in France. Walk into your average corner bakery and if you don’t know what to look for, or to ask for, you risk walking away with a very average, and at times inedible, baguette.That said, every neighborhood has a great boulangerie, you just need to know where to go and to be willing to walk a few blocks out of your way to find one.
So, how do you judge a great baguette? A true baguette is thin, measures between 50 and 70 centimeters and weighs between 240-300 grams. According to Steven Kaplan, an American Professor considered to be the world’s authority on bread, there are several things to look for: appearance, aroma, a dense yet aerated cream-colored crumb, and of course the taste.
One thing I learned from being a judge in last year’s competition is that any of the top ten winners, or previous winners for that matter, make a very good baguette.
So without further ado, this year’s winners for the best baguette in Paris goes to:
1st Place: Pascal Barillon, Au Levain d’Antan” 6, rue des Abbesses, Paris 18th
And the runners up are:
2-Gaétan ROMP, 14 rue de la Michodière Paris 2nd
3-Pascal JAMIN « les saveurs du 20eme, 120 rue de Bagnolet Paris 20th
4-Gontran CHERRIER 22 rue Caulaincourt, Paris 18th
5-Le Fournil du village, M.RISSER 12 place J.B Clément Paris 18th
6-Les Gourmandises d’Eiffel, Gilles LEVASLOT, 187 rue de Grenelle Paris 7th
7-Jean-Noël JULIEN, 75 rue Saint-Honoré Paris 1st
8-Philippe MARACHE, 92 av de la République Paris 11th
9-Philippe BOGNER, 204 rue des Pyrénées Paris 20th
10-Le Grenier à pain Saint-Amand 33 bis rue Saint-Amand Paris 15th
And to help you on your search for the best baguette in Paris, here is a map of the most recent winners: Winners of the Best Baguette in Paris Map
The Best Baguette in Paris 2010 My account as a judge in 2010
Watch Kaplan’s hysterical, yet informative, appearance on Conan O’Brien, instructing what to look out for (http://www.noob.us/humor/conan-obrien-and-the-bread-professor)
Et la Meilleure baguette de Paris est…(From the Mairie de Paris)