Friday, February 09, 2007


When we returned to the US, the thing we missed perhaps most was our local boulangerie. The French are known for their breads and pastries, and despite all of the advances in commercial baking in the states in the past 15 years, we still couldn't find a baguette that compared to our local bakery in Paris. We tried loaves from every source we could find, and were always disappointed. Too heavy, too smooshy, too tasteless--none of them came close to the crispy, light and wheaty loaves we could pick up for a euro on our way home to our tiny pied à terre.

Then I read about a new bakery in town, and had to try it. After teaching French at a local middle school yesterday, I swung by Madeleine's Patisserie, at the corner of the Speedway and Mineral Point Road, before picking up Dr. B for my OB appointment and then my prenatal yoga class. I walked into the bakery, and was immediately greeted by a wonderful smell--baking butter. A good sign. I perused the case, noting the delectable cakes layered with buttercream and fresh fruit, rich chocolates, tiny cookies, quiches, pizzas and even an Italian onion, mushroom and ham tart. It didn't look exactly like a french bakery, but fairly close, so I made my way to the ordering station and asked about the empty madeleine tray. She said they'd be out of the oven in about 3 minutes, so I chose a baguette, 2 pain au chocolat (to save for breakfast), and ordered a quarter pound of madeleines. After she rang me up, she offered the box of mini-madeleines to me with the note, "they taste so much better when they're still warm." I popped one in my mouth, and she was right. Delicious. Light, buttery, not sconey at all. Mmmmm...

I got to the car, and cracked off the end of the baguette. The crust shattered in my hands (and all over my coat and the front seat of my car.) It was crunchy but not too hard, a good start. The scent was wheaty and yeasty. The mie (the squooshy inside part of the bread) was not as good as some of our favorites in France, but it was OK. The flavor was good, though it was a bit dry (though what isn't this time of year in WI) and not quite how I like it. But, it was very similar to bread one would find in Paris, just not the best stuff from my favorite bakeries. (I prefer the mie with the big, irregular holes, more chew, and almost an "eggy" texture to it--I don't know if that describes it how I mean it, but Dr. B agreed with that term, so I hope it makes sense to you! Of course, a multi-grain baguette [baguette aux céréales] is my absolute favorite.) This is the best baguette in Madison (much better than the ones at the world-renowned Café Soleil/Harvest/L'Étoile, and light years away from the horrid not-even-glorified hot dog buns at La Brioche. Blech!)

When I arrived home, Lucy greeted me at the door with lots of kisses, happy to see me and eager to be put out back and run around her little yard, since she'd been alone for about 6 and a half hours. I was busy setting down my handbag, bakery bags, yoga mat, yoga bag, etc., and told her she'd have to wait a minute. She sniffed the Madeleine's bag with interest. I set the crinkly paper baguette bag on the stair railing, and of course, it fell off, with a smattering of crumbs ending up on the floor. I pointed them out to Lucy and said she could eat them (she usually won't touch it unless we tell her it's OK for her to have), and she happily licked them up.

Then she looked at me.

With the crazed Crack-eyed look of a dog whose Bag-Dar has begun beeping wildly. BLEEP! BLEEP! BLEEP!

She began to nose the baguette bag, dancing around and wagging her tail. I told her she still needed to go outside, which now had become something she really didn't care about at all. She came in a few minutes later, and I set her filled food bowl next to her water dish. She looked at the baguette bag, then at me. I pulled out the baguette, and she began to dance again, even hopping up on her hind legs a little to get a bit closer to the bread. (Note, she never does this. She is usually strangely well-behaved.) I laughed, and broke off a hunk for my snack, since Dr. B was going to be late for supper. The crumbs and shards that broke off I brushed into my hand and dumped over her bowl of kibble.

She wolfed it down in about 20 seconds flat. (Very unusual--she makes a grand production out of eating, including waiting until we're done eating our own meal, bringing out a certain number of kernels and carrying it from room to room, eating one kernel at a time and crunching loudly, asking to be petted between bites, putting some in her bed, etc. For her to just eat is very rare.)

I went to check my email, munching on the buttered bread. She followed me, nosing me with her snout, a wild look in her eye. I offered her a chunk, and she nearly swallowed it whole.

After I was done eating and she had licked every morsel of a crumb off my hand, lap and the floor by my feet, she went back to the foyer and spent a good ten minutes hunting on the floor for a stray crumb or two she may have missed.

Bag-dar (baguette radar): not gone, just hibernating.


PutYourFlareOn said...

Ha. That's so funny! She used to do the jedi mind trick for the croissants I'd get when I'd walk her.

I can imagine her following you around the house licking up the crumbs as they fell on the floor.

So, what's Jeff's verdict on the baguette?

Oh, and the eggy thing about the mie of Parisian baguettes is right on, I know exact what you are talking about.

Anonymous said...

How were the madelines...great hmm. You're right shouldn't taste scone-like.....more cake-like. I love the recipe I sent for the ones I made at good. Too bad you don't have a Breadsmith.....wonderful breads...baked every good. Also we have somewonderful dining establishments downtown Fargo now that have excellent baquettes, along with food. If you make it back this way you'll have to try them. Fargo has come a long way in that dept....take care B

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