Springtime in Paris: Rise and Shine!
By Theadora Brack
Calling all Guys and Dolls: Get ready to step out, and I don’t mean maybe. Start packing! Springtime has arrived, making it easy, breezy to tour, explore, and adore. This season we’ll not only brave New York’s concrete canyons to take a bite out of the Big Apple’s vitrines, but we’ll also waltz back in time to the Eternal City of Rome with one of my favorite photographers.
And that’s not all. In the weeks ahead we’ve also lined up a rendezvous at a centuries-old Parisian fashion house. So there’s no need to pack your ball gown yet. I’ve got you covered, Cendrillon! O, sigh do sew! Pinch yourself. That’s how we roll.
Today, though, let’s rise to the occasion at Le Grenier à Pain in Montmartre. Hook, line, and teeth sinker! Here is where I buy most of my baguettes and jambon-fromage sandwiches. Consistency, attentive service, and a wild house selection of cakes, breads, and tarts are just a few of the Grenier boulangerie’s captivating qualities.
Add award-winning to the mix, too. Back in 2010, Boulanger Djibril Bodian won the 2010 “Grand Prix de la Baguette de Tradition Française de la Ville de Paris” which not only earned him a medal and cash but also earned him the honor of baking bread for the Palais de l’Elysées for one year! America’s own White House pales in comparison!
The annual award is based on aroma, honeycomb-like interior, and crust (which can never be too thin or too crisp). What makes Bodian’s bread so special? No shortcuts, long fermentation, and a dash of hazelnut.
As a self-acclaimed bread fanatic, I wanted to learn more about the process. So I arranged to pop by Le Grenier à Pain for a lesson, hoping to learn all about the fine art of making a baguette.
Dance with me
Full steam ahead: It was a baking affair to remember. With the grace and focus of a gravity-defying Cirque du Soleil performer, my instructor skillfully juggled the fast moving balls of dough, the flour, and a wooden paddle. He was equal parts dancer, conductor, and piano player.
Speed thrills, indeed. At times it was difficult to keep up with his lightning fast kneading, folding, flipping, flattening, pressing, and patting, along with the dramatic signature slashing, just before baking.
“Let the dough rise. Then work the fingers!” he said.
Or, as Julia Child famously put it, “It must be formed in a special way, with various turns, and twists, and folds, to develop enough surface tension on the outside of the dough to hold it in shape. It is as though there were a thin web of rubber on its outside that you were stretching with every move until it holds firm, like a girdle over a buttock!”
Awe for one! I was in heaven. I was exhausted. At the end of my shift, I was also head-to-toe covered in flour, but I couldn’t have been sappier. See, I got to take home a few of my very own baguette creations, and as I skipped along the cobblestones, I gently ripped off a piece at the very top and popped it in my mouth.
Needless to say, tears were shed.
Nipping from John Keats: “There’s a sigh for yes, and a sigh for no, and a sigh for I can’t bear it! / O what can be done, shall we stay or run? O cut the sweet apple and share it!”
Or as Julia Child once wisely said, “Life itself is a perfect binge.”
I couldn’t agree more. After all, it was the yeast I could do! Carpe diem!