Saturday 11 September 2010

Our Daily Bread and the definitive Pain Paillasse

A couple of years ago the rather lacklustre village boulangerie acquired new owners Nico and Anaïs and the bread is no longer a relative of cotton wool in brown paper. La Pétrie, which seems to be a franchise, supply decent flour along with the branding. Their Pétrisane is a tasty basic loaf of substance at a baguette price that keeps well, or at least longer than a baguette.

While Lou Pan Aspiranais is a solid village baker, the finest for some distance is at Canet 5.5 Km away. Their star loaf is the Paillasse, also known as Pain de Lodève. Paillasse is named after a large straw basket where the dough was left to rise in one large mass after kneading. It is only cut and formed into a twisted loaf immediately before going into the oven. Like sourdough, it's made from a starter rather than using yeast and the dough is particularly wet. All this results in some large holes forming and the need to sell the baked loaf by weight - about 1.30 to 2.40 €. Another secret is the wood burning oven that helps impart a delicious nutty toasted character to the crust - I always ask for "bien cuit".

So serious is this operation that they open at 4 a.m. Expect the Pailasses to be sold out by lunchtime.

There seems to be some controversy in the bread world over Paillasse. Pain de Lodève had been made since the middle ages but a Swiss baker, claiming to have developed the recipe independently, patented "Pain Paillasse" in the 1990s and has made a fortune out of selling it in hundreds of bakers. Everyone seems to agree it's basically Pain de Lodève.

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