Stand back, Martin The Harsh is on the loose.

We’re in a funk. The baguette ain’t what it used to be. The recipe has been fiddled with and the results really show. In the old days, say in the 60s to the 90s, the baguette was a slim, crusty stick that one needed muscle to rip into pieces. Inside was a glistening tangle of gelatinous fiber surrounding huge holes of varied shape. It was tough to tear and tough to eat, but it had flavor that gave the baguette it’s reputation and reason to be. This structure was the result of a long, slow rise before baking, not any other particular magic.

Today the baguette has the same general external appearance, but it has
lost it’s soul. The inside is all too similar to American white bread. The taste has gone, along with its fibrous network. It’s easier to eat, that’s for sure, and it’s plenty popular. It’s about the only bread sold. It’s baked 2-3 times daily so it stays fresh and crunchy. But the rise is fast so flavor and keeping quality is diminished. We know. A day old baguette is best served to the pigs.

We are hugely surprised to see the limited variety of breads sold in the typical boulangerie. Mostly baguettes and other white breads of various shapes, with nice sounding French names but all the same inside.

A typical Dijon boulangerie

A typical Dijon boulangerie

Up to this point in our travels we have had rather limited experiences, but things French are not stacking up so well compared with their neighbor, Germany. In fact, this is true in so many respects that Eva blurted out at one point, “I can’t wait to get out of France”. She’s never said anything like this before about any place, and she knows France and the language quite well from the past. It really is getting to us.

Regarding breads, keeping to the straight and narrow, Germany is the place to be to wallow in a sea of great baked goods. True, their Brötchen have lost a flavor edge over the years but this breakfast roll has not totally lost its way. The other breads, though, are fantastic and the choices are unbelievably broad. The other day we were in a run of the mill bakery in a small German village. We counted 45 varieties of rolls and nearly the same variety of loaves. This is pig heaven for bread lovers, such as we are.

Oh, about the croissant, there might be only one or two varieties in the boulangerie but they are so very good, flaky and buttery. Far better than their German counterpart.