“I SNIFF THE BREAD’S IVORY INSIDES. MELON.”
sweet potato and dried apricot. And some spice. Bravo!”
I take a nibble. It tastes like, well, bread. But it’s not the dull, stodgy flavour of factory bread. I keep chewing. My taste buds detect hints of fruit and spice. I can’t name them as precisely as the professor does. My mouth waters for more. But I can’t tuck in, I have a question for Saibron, “What’s your secret?”
“I make my flour to order,” he says. “I go to look at the wheat in the fields with my miller. We make assemblages of different varieties and then I bake test batches so I can choose the best.”
Since harvests vary, he makes a new selection of grains every year. They’re stored in silos with natural ventilation and no pesticide.
“It’s all about flavour. To make bread that tastes great you need really good flour made from really good wheat. The flour I use is 100 percent wheat with no additives.”
Saibron leans forward confidingly. “To make good bread you need to respect time.” Five-and-a-half hours, he says, for kneading, two separate fermentations, shaping and baking. By French law, a baguette that is labelled “de tradition” cannot contain chemical additives or be frozen at any stage.
I follow him, on tiles slippery with flour, into the back kitchens. Here, a pink-cheeked apprentice baker, Axel, removes dough from the metal basin of the kneading machine, weighs and shapes it, then lays out baguettes on metal trays, between linen sheets, at a precise distance apart.
Saibron lifts the lid of a white plastic crate filled with a gooey substance the colour of dark honey.
“This is my own leaven. It’s made with honey and cinnamon, ginger, aniseed, vanilla, nutmeg.”
A little yeast and salt also go into the baguette mixture but much less than many other bakers use. Saibron relies instead on longer periods of fermentation to bring out flavour and the salt is a gourmet marine variety sourced from the Guérande in northwest France.
We move into the front kitchen where 16-year-old apprentice Théo, his eyelashes dusted with flour, delicately razor-cuts a tray of unbaked baguettes. He puts them into a multitiered oven for baking and then unloads a higher tray of oven-hot, fragrant baguettes into a wicker basket.
“Why is bread so important?” I ask.
The answer seems so obvious to Saibron that he just shrugs. “You can’t have a meal