Olala! Life in France – I. Bread

Bakery Salut mes amis, it´s been sometime since my last blog for Cilantro cooks!  Quite a few things have changed since then.  Recently I moved from Prague to Nice the said called ?Pearl of Azure Coast? in the South of France,...

Bakery
Bakery

Salut mes amis, it´s been sometime since my last blog for Cilantro cooks!  Quite a few things have changed since then.  Recently I moved from Prague to Nice the said called ?Pearl of Azure Coast? in the South of France, where I´m about to continue my studies and give you some reports about local life accompanied with recipes.  Arrived just a month ago but already feel like I´ve been living here for ages.  All the Azure Coast however, has a very special atmosphere during the summertime.  It´s simply Mediterranean!  A significant influence of Italian culture is visible in the architecture and cuisine, as the local atmosphere is closer to the Italian than that of Northern France.

Bakers
Bakers

This very first blog will be devoted to a very simple food ? bread.  French and bread have always made an inseparable combination and although this relation has been loosening recently, French bread is still one of the most famous in the world.

I am lucky enough to live right next to the bakery, which doesn?t actually make me an especially lucky person as the density of bakeries in France is really high!  So imagine my first days buying baguette, carrying them proudly under my armpit, feeling just so local.  I was actually told by my favourite baker that the traditional way of carrying baguette is without any wrapper (yes still under your armpit ? no need to describe why we do not stick to certain traditions).

History of baguettes...

The problem with the origin of such common things as baguette is that there is never just one version of story. The shape of the baguette goes back to two of the most famous characters of French history, Napoleon and Louis XIV. Actually there was a law at the beginning of 20th century forbidding people to work in bakeries from 10 pm till 4 am so the long and thin shape of the baguette proved to be more time saving when baking and fermenting, than big loafs of bread.

Anyway, in the 18th century 90% of the French population took in the majority of their daily calories in bread, which averaged  about 1 kg of bread equaling approximately 3 baguettes a day (at that time white bread was considered good for wealthy people).  Today your doctor would definitely object to this amount of white bread on a daily basis, and most likely would have to give you medication to cope with this intake but no fears about the future of French population.  Today they are said to eat just 150 g a day which makes about ½ of baguette.

French baguettes
French baguettes

But then, what would be the point of living in France if you don?t eat French bread?

Before coming to France ....

....I would describe my habit for eating bread as ?gentle? meaning, eating couple of slices a day.  I would buy a fresh baguette in the morning, cycle around with it the whole day, tearing just a piece as needed, and sometimes slicing a bit of creamy camembert to enjoy with the bread and walking away like a queen!

Encore du pain?... is the phrase you should definitely remember if you?re above to visit France.  It means..... «Would  you wish more bread? ».

Bread is very important for another function called «Saucer» which is simply finishing any meal by cleaning the plate with a piece of bread.  Have no idea from which part of the world you are reading this article but in Slovakia we would hardly ever take a piece of bread to clean up our bowl of pasta sauce.

« Le pain complet» or a wholemeal bread is not very popular here and I don´t mean to sound like those "YOLO people" but  I honestly don´t ever  feel like eating wholemeal bread in this country. So far, I´ve been sticking to simplicity, which by the way includes baguettes sprinkled with poppy or sesame seeds, olives or bacon.

LA Baguette

One plain baguette weights about 250-300 g , measures from 55-65 cm and consists just of flour, salt, yeast and water.

The origin as even mentioned in the Cambridge dictionary, tells you that baguette is : ?longthin stick of white bread, of a type that originally came from France.?

In spite of its shape, la baguette in French is feminine and the word is not only used to name a ?long bread?. You also have baguettes de tambour (drumsticks), baguette magique (magic wand) and you can basically use it to name any kind of stick.

When you have a good base there is no doubt about a good result, with a good quality baguette it is enough to add a piece of butter «la beurre salée»  or a salted butter is very popular in France especially the one from the coasts of Bretagne.   Nevertheless, I decided to share with you a breakfast idea using baguette from the other day.  Useful and delicious with many different variations!

Baguettes with heart

Baguette with heart
Baguette with heart

Ingredients for 5 pieces

  • ½ of Baguette (from the other day)
  • 5 eggs
  • 100 g of goat cheese
  • 50 g of bacon strips
  • Olive oil, salt, pepper
Directions
  1. Cut baguette in circles about 5 cm high.
    Cut baguette in circles about 5 cm high
    Cut baguette in circles about 5 cm high
  2. Take out the center bread, leaving the bread ring about 1 cm thick, put the bread piece aside as we are going to use it soon!
  3. Put the rings, bacon strips and the bread from the center of the circles in a pan drizzled with olive oil. When preheated enough start cracking eggs into the rings, one by one, always pressing the ring to the pan until the egg coagulates in the bottom.  Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Cover with a lid for 2-5 minutes, depending on how firm you want to have your ?heart?.
  5. Uncover and put a slice of goat cheese on every piece of baguette.  If you?re not a fan of goat cheese (of which there are actually quite a few)  use any other kind of creamy easy melting cheese like Camembert or Brie (often runnier than Camembert).
  6. Serve sprinkled with crumbled bacon strips and the crispy bread from the center of the rings which have now taken on the flavor of bacon, delicious!
Baguettes with heart
Baguettes with heart

Upgrade - spread some pesto on the inner part of baguette rings before adding eggs.

For any dish where you need to moisturise bread with eggs it is better to use one from the other day, otherwise your result could be a wet sticky mixture?. not pleasant at all!