When we first moved to Carcassonne we ate at least one baguette, sometimes two, fresh from the bakery every day. It just seemed the right thing to do. After all, we could be out in the neighborhood, morning, noon, or night and see someone carrying a baguette home, often with the end bitten off since it’s hard to resist that delicious crispy crust right out of the oven. So, how many calories are in a baguette? On average, 700. That’s a significant portion of the 2500 calories we’re supposed to eat every day but our dog Heather made sure that they didn’t stick around for long since she took us on some very long walks twice a day. Sadly she was only with us for the first two months we lived here, so we had to find a substitute for those extended outings. I got a treadmill and Bill got a bicycle and although we continued to travel by foot, we had to take more drastic measures: no more daily baguettes.
You’ll notice that I didn’t say “no baguettes” but merely a decrease in the number that we enjoyed every week. The telephone directory says that there are at least 25 boulangeries (bakeries) in town and we’ve tried most of them. While that was a fun research project we did finally settle on a first choice that happens to be located right beside the Saturday market making it convenient for one-stop shopping. But even bakers have to go on vacation and it was their most recent break that prompted Bill to revisit a hobby that he enjoyed for years back in the US: bread baking.
While it might seem a bit like “carrying coals to Newcastle” since there are so many other boulangeries to visit when our favorite is on holiday, it required new skills and of course new equipment which meant Bill could go shopping! Since we’re in a metric world here, the measuring cups and spoons that read “ounces and teaspoons” had to be traded in for “grams and milliliters”. Flour was now weighed instead of being scooped and the dough went into an oven reading degrees C rather than F. He even found rising baskets to make those fancy crosshatch marks on the finished product (link below).
Even the ingredients are different. We were used to seeing flour classified, for example, as whole wheat, all-purpose, and bread. The flour labels at our neighborhood supermarket here are by a “type” number starting at 55 for all-purpose going as high as 150 for whole wheat. Without getting scientific, the numbers have to do with how much flour was extracted from the grain; the higher the number the darker the flour. Yeast is sold in small cans that we would expect tomato paste to come in. Eggs and milk are right there on the open, unrefrigerated shelves beside the flour and sugar.
All of our neighbors assumed that Bill was using a machine to make the loaves that he took around for them to sample. Years ago we received a bread maker as a gift and it made tasty loaves (with a funny hole in the bottom) but we never got used to the 4 AM grinding noise it made as it stirred the ingredients to prepare for our breakfast a few hours later.
While we no longer enjoy a baguette every day, that doesn’t mean we don’t have access to fresh bread. One of those 25 bakeries listed in the telephone directory is at the end of our street and we walk by 3 others on our way to the main square. And of course there’s the oven right in our own kitchen. By the way, Bill bought a pizza stone last week. I’d better get back on the treadmill!
Rising baskets: http://www.brotformen24.de/index.php
Bread recipe: https://tasteofartisan.com/no-knead-bread/