Gluten has been getting a bad rap for a while now. It’s really not fair, as all gluten is not created equally. And some people who think they might have an aversion to gluten are often having issues with the highly processed variety, are perhaps having too much of it, or even have an issue with yeast, not gluten. Now I am not talking about Celiac, I know people with this and it’s a serious issue. And I’m not here to convince anyone about anything in particular. I just want to talk about bread. Excellent bread.
As many of you know, the baguette is as much part of French daily life as cheese, wine and small dogs. But not all baguettes are good. I have looked high and low, done my research, tried hundreds of versions from different boulangeries. And I have concluded I don’t like most of them. That’s correct, you heard me right. Over the years my taste for fluffy white bread has diminished. My family was never eaters of Wonderbread or anything like that. We always had some nourishing rye hanging around and to this day, I still prefer it. So here I’ve had to search out chewy, toothsome bread and it’s not been easy.
The French still love their classic baguette. It’s always so shocking to see them leaving with five or six at a time. I wonder who on earth could eat that much? But they love it. It’s got a nice crust, not too hard and a soft centre. It’s fine, but it’s not my cup of tea. After many failed attempts I finally have a few go-to places that make some of the best bread and baguette I have ever had. Unfortunately, none are close, so I don’t get to enjoy it on a regular basis.
My absolute favourite is La Main à la Pâte in Crestet. These guys are the real deal. Their bread is hearty, creative and delicious. Everything has a tooth. Their baguette is my absolute favourite; chewy with a perfect crust, not so hard you scrape the roof of your mouth. They make an amazing variety of boules from standard to petit épeautre to ones with nuts and seeds. They also make gros pain, a really large loaf which you can purchase a piece of. It’s an excellent way to buy bread. Sometimes you just want a little bit and a whole loaf is too much. The French have you covered.
The other honourable mentions go to the best walnut bread made by the monks at the monastery in Le Barroux. This little shop has a brilliant selection of food items made by monasteries around France from olive oil to paté to beer. And they bake their own bread. A word of caution, their hours of operation are a bit random, they work around their church services. And they don’t make all types of bread each day. They used to make walnut bread on Wednesday, but I can’t guarantee it anymore. If you are lucky, you’ll be able to try some. If not, all their bread is quite delicious.
And a final mention to Jouvaud in Carpentras. This is one of the prettiest pâtisseries around. A perfect spot to stop and have a coffee and a treat. They make the most beautiful tarts, both savoury and sweet. I finally tried a savoury one and it was spectacular. They have all the sweet items you can dream of, and for years their baguette was the best in the area. It’s still very good, but my tastes have shifted to less white flour and more wholesome grain. But their fougasse aux olives? Don’t even get me started on how in love with it I am. Gluten, you’re still pretty darn great in my books.