Pain perdu

In France, you are not allowed to call yourself a boulangerie unless you make your bread from scratch on the premises. France went through a bad (industrial) bread phase, but eventually the politicians stepped in and legislated. Marie-Antoinette has a lot to answer for.

The baguette de tradition française is a standard defined by French law (the Décret Balladur of 1993, named after the then prime minister). Any bread sold as ‘de tradition française’ has to be made from scratch at the place where it is finally sold. It should not have been frozen at any stage, should contain no chemical additives and should be composed exclusively of wheat flour, water, salt and natural yeasts (saccharomyces cerevisiae).

It is hard to imagine our unenlightened British politicians stepping in to protect small independent bakers from competition from big industrial concerns, even if their bread is better for us. And I’ll return to that subject in my next post.

Our supermarket ‘fresh bread’ counters sell baked-off loaves delivered half-made from factories, which we buy thinking they are fresher and healthier than the sliced bread in the plastic bags on the adjoining shelf that probably came from the same factory.

If you have a local baker, treasure him. They are closing everywhere, so he may not be there much longer. It’s partly because people have bread machines (although apparently over 7 million Britons have a bread machine that they never use).  It is also partly because of price – how can a local baker compete with a 30 pence supermarket ‘value’ loaf? Joanna Blythman’s Bad Food Britain has the depressing answer: most Britons only care about price; they aren’t interested in what they eat and – ironically but profitably for Sainsbury – they can no longer ‘taste the difference’.

My village lost its baker over ten years ago. The butcher and the Co-Op corner shop sell baked-off products that arrive on refrigerated lorries. This is why I’m going to try to make my own.

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~ by jobes on January 27, 2008.

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