“I SNIFF THE BREAD’S IVORY IN­SIDES. MELON.”

Reader's Digest (India) - - Mednews -

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

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