Friday, October 7, 2011

Loads Of Loaves...

For the past month, Katie and Daniel have been staying on a farm in Normandy, gleaning all they could about tradition French pastries and farming practices.  There experience in the north was not quiet what they had anticipated, and when they arrived in Bordeaux last week, they were still on the search for the perfect loaf.  
My experiences with bread here thus far have been rather disappointing.  Grown accustomed to the quality of Companion Bakery and Tartine, my bread standards are very high.  Katie, Daniel and I however, have been diligent in our quest this week.  After loaves and loaves of bread from everywhere to the farmer's market, Carrefour, and SimplyMarket, we finally found, by word of mouth, one good Bordalais bakery.  
It took us three tries to finally find the store we were told about- no one seemed to know the name of this place.  When we finally came across a non-descript sign stating simply, Boulangerie, it came as no surprise that people were unable to recall the exterior details. 
The inside, however, is unforgettable.  Piles and piles of rustic gascon loafs rest like baby Jesuses in a giant manger.  Apple slippers, savory quiches and traditional Bordalais canelles are piled in baskets or on cake stands all about the store front.  Straight back, past the bakers wife selling loaves and a kitchen space with a full dining set, is the star of the Bordeaux bread scene.
 At first glance, the 250 year old wood fire oven looks like a trompe l'œil.  Every day this oven bakes anywhere from two to three hundred loaves of traditional gascon bread using the same techniques bakers have been using for centuries.  (For reference, this oven was built during the reign of Louis the XV and Marie Antoinette.)

The Baker's wife was happy to show us around the shop and opened the oven for us to peek inside.  The kitchen was cozy and warm with the heat from the wood fire, the kind of place where I could easily spend the entire winter curled up with books and bread.  We asked her all about the baking process, the history, the clientele, and what time of day the loafs come out hot.  They have two times for fresh bread each morning.  The first is around 6:30am and the next one is 9am.
What is done in the hot oven during the rest of the day?  There is a little sign underneath a poster of "the baker's wife".  Chers Clients, it reads. Le four étant chaud toute la journée nous vous proposons de faire cuire vos viandes et volailles c'est avec "grand joie" que le boulanger vous surveillera la cuisson. (Dear Clients, the oven is hot all day long and you can cook your meats and poultry here.  The baker will watch your meal with "great joy".)
This is very exciting news! According to the bakers wife, people don't often take them up the offer.  I've never cooked in a wood oven before, and I love wood fired bread and pizzas and oysters and everything else under the stars. With an open invitation to use the baker's oven anytime I'd like, I'll be cooking here all the time!  The only catch is finding a suitable pot to use in the wood oven...A Le Creuset perhaps?  It's a bit out of my price  range, but maybe if I were to look at it as a lifetime investment...

72, cours de la Martinique
Bordeaux 33000