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Why are baguettes in the US so bad?

The baguettes in France are light, airy and have a thin crust. I could eat a whole baguette easily. The baguettes in the US are terrible by comparison. Some are just white bread shaped into a tube. All are extremely dense and heavy and chewy. Most have a thick crust that cuts into the roof of my mouth. I have tried nearly every bakery in NYC often recommended as having acceptable baguettes. None come close, IMO.

Are there any bakers on this board that can explain why American bakers can't make a decent baguette? From my limited knowledge, the biggest difference appears to be that the flour used in France is not available in the US. I didn't think this mattered until I made a brioche with French flour. The result was magnificent. But surely there's some way to import it? King Arthur claims to make a comparable flour for baking breads. What else explains this bad bread?

Thanks.

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  1. I don't know, but I've had no luck trying to make them at home, either. I tried yet another "foolproof" baguette recipe and can only conclude that I'm the fool these recipes are proof against. LOL!

    I've not had really good bread since I left Puerto Rico. I came across a bakery in town owned by a "French" baker, where they (allegedly) take orders for baguettes, but when I went there and tried to order one, he huffily refused. Talking to a friend later, it appears the guy thinks he's the bread-baking equivalent of the "soup Nazi" and he'll just arbitrarily refuse to take orders for no apparent reason.

    Which may go a long way towards explaining why the shop was empty.

    45 Replies
    1. re: ZenSojourner

      I'm getting so discouraged about bread baking, I actually went and looked for available baking classes around here.

      This is what I found (slightly shortened):

      "Learn everything about the essential elements of great French bread including Lionel’s signature kneading technique, shaping the dough, and to how to pull the breads out of our European steam-injected oven."

      LOL! I don't think learning "how to pull the breads out of our European steam-injected oven" is going to help me bake baguettes at home!

      1. re: ZenSojourner

        You can't make good baguettes at home. You need a higher temperature and a steam injected oven. If you got your home oven hot enough, you'd burn your home down.

        On the bright side, there are *loads* of breads you can make at home that are lovely. My fave these days is no-knead bread - the long ferment makes for a crazy good flavour: http://indirectheat.blogspot.com/2010...

        1. re: Indirect Heat

          OTHER people make baguettes at home! I know they're not QUITE the same thing as the ones you can get in France (or Puerto Rico in my case) but they're still better than the grocery store stuff.

          I don't have to have a perfect loaf. Heck, at this point I'd settle for edible, LOL!

          1. re: ZenSojourner

            You can make *mediocre* baguettes at home. But you simply can't create a good baguette crust in the temperature and humidity of a home oven. You can make *great* bread at home. Just not great baguettes.

            1. re: Indirect Heat

              Fine. I'll settle for mediocre baguettes. They'll still beat the crappy grocery store baguettes.

              At least OTHER people's "mediocre" baguettes beat the crappy grocery store baguettes. I aspire to one day turn out a merely "mediocre" baguette, as opposed to the total failure I ended up with last night, LOL!

              1. re: Indirect Heat

                what temperature do you need to use for great baguettes?

                1. re: thew

                  I'd like to know this too. Most of the baguette recipes I've come across call for a 475°F oven. This includes the recipes from French bread guru Raymond Calvel.

                  1. re: SnackHappy

                    The last one I tried (total failure, but that's just me I'm sure, not the recipe) called for a 500 oven then reduce to 450.

                    1. re: SnackHappy

                      The reason home recipes call for 475-500 degrees is that that is the highest a home oven can go without burning your house down. Bakery ovens can go to 700+ (a good pizza oven can go to 900). The other part is the venting of the steam. Baguettes start with superheated steam sprayed into the oven to slow down formation of a crust. The last few minutes they vent the steam, giving a dry heat that caramelizes into a super-thin crust. There are ways to mimic this at home (like throwing a few ice cubes into the oven), but you'll never get that superfine control giving you a beautiful baguette crust.

                      1. re: Indirect Heat

                        The recipes I got the temps from are not for home bakers. They are from Le Goût du Pain by Raymond Calvel - a guide for professional bakers. The temps suggested all go from 200°C (390°F) to 240°C(465°F) depending on the type of bread you're baking. I don't know where you get your bread cooked at 700+ degrees, but in French baking 500°F is considered a very hot oven.

                        According to this report, Anis Bouabsa who won the Meilleur ouvrier de France in 2004 and best baguette in Paris in 2008 bakes his baguettes at 250°C (480°F).

                        http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/8066...

                        I agree that it's almost impossible to get the same type of steam injection at home that a professional oven provides, but that doesn't mean one cannot make a good baguette at home.

                          1. re: thew

                            Have you tried making baguettes in it?

                            I'm ready to throw in the towel on making baguettes as home for the reasons Indirect Heat has said. I've made decent ones, far better than I'd get at grocery stores but no where near the quality of what I get can from certain bakeries (and it is only certain bakeries). I think the technique is okay but I can't get that crust, no matter what method I try in my oven.

                            1. re: chowser

                              haven't tried, but i'm not much of a bread baker. slowly getting onto it - starting with pizza doughs and no knead doughs

                              1. re: thew

                                No knead bread works great in a regular oven but you could probably do much better pizza at that temperature.

                              2. re: chowser

                                Yep, the crust is impossible at home (and really, the crust is what distinguishes a good baguette from a long, thin loaf of white bread). What we need is enough demand for high-temp, steam-injected home ovens. *sigh*

                                1. re: Indirect Heat

                                  Oh come on. Steam injected ovens have existed for a very short time in the history of bread baking. I'm sure a baguette baked in a steam injected oven has some wonderful quality that people love, but I don't think it's anywhere near a necessity for wonderful bread, or even wonderful baguettes.

                                  I know for darn sure there were no steam-injected ovens in those corner bakeries in Puerto Rico. And the bread was heavenly.

                                  If you like it that's great, hope you find what you're looking for in a baguette. But the lack of a steam injected oven doesn't make all other baguettes worthless hunks of dough, LOL!

                                  I'll take that "long, thin loaf of white bread" - if I can at least approach the flavor I found in Puerto Rican bread.

                                  1. re: ZenSojourner

                                    Zen, have you tried the cookbook Clarita's Cocina? It's a really good mix of Spanish and Cuban food as prepared in Florida.

                                    Sorry, I don't have a P.R. recipe...so I'm trying just to recommend something that might at least point you the right direction.

                                    Another book "The Columbia Restaurant Cookbook" by Adela Gonzmart with Ferdie Pacheco (a book from a beloved restaurant in Tampa) says that their Cuban bread has seven ingredients -- A blend of three types of flour - high gluten, spring wheat, and hotel and restaurant flour [yes, yes, I know...that's 3 ingredients, but it's listed as one in the book, so don't yell at me, okay?]

                                    2 - Shortening -- half beef fat (suet?) and half vegetable [I wonder if this is the flavor difference you're looking for?]

                                    3- Salt
                                    4- Granulated sugar
                                    5- Yeast
                                    6 - Water
                                    "7. Yeast food (an additive that speeds up the process)" -- not sure what this refers to -- malt powder? a commercial dough enhancer?

                                    It does also say that the bread is baked at 415F for 35 minutes.

                                    Sorry, there are no proportions there -- but the beef suet might just be what you're looking for to give you the flavor.

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      Shortening? Well there's a thought - none of the recipes I've tried so far are anything but water, yeast, sugar, and flour.

                                      1. re: ZenSojourner

                                        that's kind of what I thought...I have seen shortening in sweeter bread recipes, and pizza dough takes a shot of olive oil...but not for "regular bread" -- and I've never seen suet in a bread recipe (I assume you render it and mix it in with the dough)

                                        It may be similar to the difference in making a pie crust with shortening, butter, or lard.

                                    2. re: ZenSojourner

                                      Sure baguettes were baked before steam injected high temperature ovens but not in a regular modern household oven which most of us have. Mine goes up to 550. I've tried different methods of adding steam, from adding ice to adding boiled water to spritzing and can't get the same crust; baked on stone/tiles/cookie sheet (knew that one wasn't the way to go but King Arthur recommended it). It's still a decent loaf of bread and people rave about it--what's not to like about fresh bread? But, I can't get the same results as my favorite bakeries.

                                      1. re: ZenSojourner

                                        In the pre-steam injected oven days, when the wood embers were swept from the stone baking surface the baker threw a measure of water in the oven to create a humid/steam then he/she put in the bread to be baked and sealed the loading door of the oven

                                        1. re: ZenSojourner

                                          It's true. Steam-injected ovens have not been with us very long (historically speaking). Only since the mid-1800s. That said, the baguette in its current form traces to the early 1900s. Go figure.

                                      2. re: chowser

                                        Have you tried brushing with an egg white mixed with 1 tablespoon of water?

                                        1. re: observor

                                          No, baguettes don't seem to lend themselves to glazes, at least, not the ones I've really enjoyed. I like them on softer breads, like challah or brioche, though.

                                          1. re: chowser

                                            It's what makes the shattery crust.

                                            1. re: observor

                                              The French do NOT put egg on their baguettes.

                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                Sure they do, only that it's called the french toast.
                                                Just kidding!

                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                  Lucky I'm not French then, so I'm not bound by arbitrary rules like that. LOL!

                                                  I hope to be trying another batch of baguettes this week. My pizza crust experiment worked out very well yesterday, so armed with a bit of renewed self-confidence, I shall march forth to the oven again!

                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                    What's the point? We're not talking about a French baguette, we're talking about a baguette that's like in France, and an egg white with water gives a shattering brown crust. for the home baker

                                                    1. re: observor

                                                      All I want is some good bread. Whether or not it meets some arbitrary definition of "french bread" isn't of any concern to me.

                                        2. re: Indirect Heat

                                          Well, I've never been to France to feast on baguettes, but the best method I've found for getting a great crust is a VERY hot oven, and then put the baguettes in the oven, then at four minutes, open the door and quickly spritz with a spray bottle of ice water, repeat at eight minutes and twelve minutes, then leave it alone. I use convection. The convection stops when I open the oven door to spritz. I have been told that you can get a fair simulation by putting a roasting pan in the oven with just enough water to steam during the first part of baking but then go dry for the rest. I prefer spritzing, but hey, whatever works!

                                          And I'm also struck with this quirky mental picture drawn up by my quirky mind of some poor American schmuck who LOVES thick crusty "French" bread, and who finally accumulates enough money for a trip to the home of his most favorite bread in the world only to find the famous French baguettes do NOT have thick chewy crusts. Poor baby...!!! '-)

                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                            It's not just the chew in the crust but there's a nice crispness to a good crust and I can't get it. I've: spritzed with water, both before and during, added water to a hot pan inside, thrown ice and water into the bottom of the oven (am very thankful that it didn't break the oven and will never do that again). Enough water spritzed on can make it chewy but I've also had too chewy crust that challenges my jaws. Maybe the heat makes the water evaporate quickly so it doesn't remain on the dough to make it too chewy. Anyway, as long as I think of it as loaf bread and not try to replicate "baguettes" it's fine. But, when I do get a great baguette, I start thinking, "I wish I could do this at home!"

                                            1. re: chowser

                                              Have you thought about investing in a commercial oven? '-)

                                              Actually, I think there is some sort of magic mystical secret to it all. I'm sure that the flour in France is different than the flour in the U.S. And for that matter, the yeast is probably different too. But there is also something magic and mystical to bread making that does not always follow logic or ingredients. In another thread I shared the tale of a teenage bride of "seriously limited savoir faire," who was a real clunker at most things, but bless her heart, she had absolutely magic fingers when it came to baking powder biscuits. She would whip them up, mold them with her hands, bake them and they came out like fluffy white domes of the most wonderful and smooth bread you can imagine. I can't even get yeast rolls to come out that gorgeous. Nothing else she cooked had much magic to it, but her baking powder biscuits were absolutely phenomenal! I watched her make them, helped her make them, took copious notes but could never get close. Some things are just out of reach. That's why God created bakeries. '-)

                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                I'd love a commercial oven! I actually haven't had baguettes from France in far too many years but I'm just trying to replicate my favorite in my area. Really, I can't complain because fresh bread is just wonderful, no matter what. I just got on that Holy Grail for baguettes as some point.

                                                I think there are definitely people w/ "magic" fingers who can't explain their success but just do it. Lucky them!

                            2. re: ZenSojourner

                              BAKERY-STYLE FRENCH BAGUETTES
                              This recipe was developed after months of intensive testing and will produce baguettes with a thin, shattering crust that is the deepest golden brown, an open, airy texture, a very light, moist crumb, and will have fully developed flavor.

                              Makes two 15- by 3-inch baguettes.

                              You will need an instant-read thermometer, a scale, a lame or a single edge razor blade, a rectangular pizza stone, and a spray bottle filled with water. SAF instant or Perfect Rise yeast is preferred, but other instant dry yeasts work. The ideal ambient temperature for the sponge is 75 degrees; if it is cooler, fermentation will take longer. This recipe will yield baguettes in time for breakfast. Begin the recipe the day before you intend to serve the bread; the baguettes will emerge from the oven 20 to 24 hours after you begin the recipe. Do not add flour while kneading or shaping the dough. The baguettes are best served within 2 hours after baking.

                              Ingredients

                              For the Sponge:

                              1/8 teaspoon instant yeast or 1/4 teaspoon regular dry yeast
                              6 ounces bottled water (by weight) or spring water, 110 to 115 degrees
                              6 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour , preferably King Arthur

                              For the Dough:

                              1/2 teaspoon instant yeast or 3/4 teaspoon regular dry yeast
                              4 ounces bottled water (by weight), plus additional two teaspoons if necessary, (or spring water), 75 degrees
                              10 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour , preferably King Arthur
                              1 teaspoon table salt

                              For the Glaze:

                              1 large egg white , beaten with 1 tablespoon water

                              1. For the Sponge: Combine yeast, water, and flour in medium bowl and stir together with wooden spoon to form thick batter. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and punch a couple of holes in plastic wrap with paring knife; let stand at room temperature. After 4 or 5 hours, sponge should be almost doubled in size and pitted with tiny bubbles. Let stand at room temperature until surface shows slight depression in center, indicating the "drop", 2 to 3 hours longer. The sponge now is ready to use.

                              2. For the Dough: To sponge, add yeast and all but 2 tablespoons water. Stir briskly with wooden spoon until water is incorporated, about 30 seconds. Stir in flour and continue mixing with wooden spoon until a scrappy ball forms. Turn dough onto countertop and knead by hand, adding drops of water if necessary, until dry bits are absorbed into dough, about 2 minutes. Dough will feel dry and tough. Stretch dough into rough 8- by 6-inch rectangle, make indentations in dough with fingertips, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon remaining water, fold edges of dough up toward center to encase water, and pinch edges to seal. Knead dough lightly, about 30 seconds (dough will feel slippery as some water escapes but will become increasingly pliant as the water is absorbed). Begin "crashing" by flinging the dough vigorously against the countertop and kneading dough alternately until soft and supple and surface is almost powdery smooth, about 7 minutes. Stretch dough again into rough 8- by 6-inch rectangle and make indentations with fingertips; sprinkle dough with salt and remaining tablespoon water. Repeat folding and sealing edges and crashing and kneading until dough is once again soft and supple and surface is almost powdery smooth, about 7 minutes. If dough still feels tough and nonpliant, knead in 2 additional teaspoons water.

                              3. Test dough to determine if adequately kneaded by performing windowpane test (well-kneaded dough can be stretched into a nearly translucent membrane). If dough tears before stretching thin, knead 5 minutes longer and test again. Gather dough into ball, place in large bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand 30 minutes, then remove dough from bowl and knead gently to deflate, about 10 seconds; gather into ball, return to bowl, and replace plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 ½ hours.

                              4. Decompress dough by gently pushing a fist in center of dough toward bottom of bowl; turn dough onto work surface. With dough scraper, divide dough into two 12-ounce pieces. Working one at a time, with second piece covered with plastic wrap on work surface, cup hands stiffly around dough and drag in short half-circular motions toward edge of counter until dough forms rough torpedo shape with taut rounded surface, about 6 ½ inches long. (As you drag the dough, its tackiness will pull on the work surface, causing the top to scroll down and to the back to create a smooth, taut surface.) Repeat with second piece of dough. Drape plastic wrap over dough on work surface; let rest to relax dough, 15 to 20 minutes.

                              5. Meanwhile, line an inverted rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Working one at a time, with second piece covered with plastic wrap, roll torpedo seam-side up and press indentation along length of dough with side of outstretched hand. Working along length of dough, press thumb of one hand against dough while folding and rolling upper edge of dough down with other hand to enclose thumb. Repeat folding and rolling 4 or 5 times until upper edge meets lower edge and creates seam; press seam to seal. Dough will have formed cylinder about 12 inches long. Roll dough cylinder seam-side down; gently and evenly roll and stretch dough until it measures 15 inches long by 2 ½ inches wide. Place seam-side down on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with second dough piece. Space shaped dough pieces about 6 inches apart on baking sheet. Drape clean dry kitchen towel over dough and slide baking sheet into large clean garbage bag; seal to close. Refrigerate until dough has risen moderately, at least 12 but no longer than 16 hours.

                              6. To Bake: Remove one oven rack from oven; adjust second oven rack to lowest position. Place pizza stone on rack in oven and heavy rimmed baking sheet on oven floor. Heat oven to 500 degrees. Remove baking sheet with baguettes from refrigerator and let baguettes stand covered at room temperature 45 minutes; remove plastic bag and towel to let surface of dough dry, then let stand 15 minutes longer. The dough should have risen to almost double in bulk and feel springy to the touch. Meanwhile, bring 1 cup water to simmer in small saucepan on stovetop.

                              7. With a lame or single-edge razor blade, make five ¼-inch deep diagonal slashes on each baguette . Brush baguette with egg white and mist with water. Working quickly, slide parchment sheet with baguettes off baking sheet and onto hot pizza stone. Pour simmering water onto baking sheet on oven floor and quickly close oven door. Bake, rotating loaves front to back and side to side after 10 minutes, until deep golden brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center of bread through bottom crust registers 205 to 210 degrees, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer to wire rack; cool 30 minutes.

                              Timeline:

                              Begin: 8 AM to 12 Noon

                              Sponge: Rise at room temperature 6 to 7 hours

                              Dough: Rise at room temperature 30 minutes; deflate, then rise 1 1/2 hours longer.

                              Shaped Dough: Rise in refrigerator 12 to 16 hours; let stand 1 hour at room temperature before baking.

                              Bake: The morning after you begin.

                              1. re: observor

                                WOW! OK, gonna try it.

                                Before I begin - any hints or warnings?

                                1. re: ZenSojourner

                                  If the shaping part is confusing, there are lots of baguette shaping videos online. Report back if you actually attempt it. (note timeline at bottom).

                                  1. re: observor

                                    I haven't gotten around to this yet, but I will. I get worn out and have to take breaks, LOL!

                                    However I'm now the proud, if somewhat bemused, owner of 50 lbs of bread flour. Apparently Costco closes at 6 on weekends. At 6:10 they told us so. So as we rushed down the aisles, with me pointing wildly at things I had intended to get, my son heard me say All Purpose Flour (grab) then Bread flour (grab).

                                    Imagine my surprise when we got out to the car. 75 lbs total of flour - I foresee much much pizza in our future.

                                    However at $12 for 50 lbs of flour, I could throw most of it away and still be ahead of paying $4 for a 5 lb bag at the grocery store.

                                    Too bad we were so rushed - I really need some 1 gallon ziploc freezer bags to package all that flour up.

                                    1. re: ZenSojourner

                                      You can keep flour in the freezer to preserve it, I think.

                                      1. re: observor

                                        Yes, I tried to hint that to my son. There are many things we could freeze and keep on hand cheaply. Sent him a link to an $85 chest freezer on craigslist.

                                        Sadly, he's ignored it.

                                          1. re: thew

                                            I would guess that if he's anything like my son, "telling" generally doesn't help - he needs to figure things out himself. Usually the hard way.

                                            1. re: Krislady

                                              of course, but hinting isnt working any better......

                                              1. re: thew

                                                Well honestly, a hint from me is kind of like a smack in the head from anyone else. LOL!

                                                Besides it's really up to him. He'd just be stuck with it once things get back to normal and I'm on my own again.

                            3. Regular supermarket baguettes are very bad.

                              As you are in NYC, I suggest you try the Whole Foods (in chelsea). I really like their bread. Like it significantly better than Amy's Bread (too thick crust). Whole Foods tastes close enough to what I had in Paris.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: dach

                                Funny, I just injured myself on Amy's Bread for lunch today, which spawned this discussion. I'll try WF in Chelsea, but if it's bad I'm coming back here to complain. ;-)

                              2. You are making some very broad statements here. The wife and I enjoy locally baked baguettes (Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia) and have visited France many times. Divorce yourself from the romance of France for a moment and your locally baked baguette (from a reputable source) will be surprisingly good I assure you.

                                1. American flour is softer than European flour - that probably makes a huge difference. I think in general American breads are not as good as those found in Europe ( I am not saying all but in general) and don't get me started on American sliced bread which is too sweet and sticky for me and other expat Brits.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: smartie

                                    Most industrial-scale bread doughs in the U.S. have more in common with cake batter than with bread dough, hence their soft-sweet-stickiness-that-dissolves-in-the-mouth-without-chewing.

                                    1. re: smartie

                                      "American flour is softer than European flour - that probably makes a huge difference."

                                      It's actually the other way 'round. French flour is softer than North-American flour. The protein content of French T55 flour, the one used for baguettes, is lower (10-12%) than that of your average NA bread flour (12-15%).

                                      1. re: SnackHappy

                                        So adding gluten would make the baguette WORSE instead of better? (I THINK adding gluten adds protein - doesn't it? Bread baking newby here, still trying . . . .)

                                        1. re: ZenSojourner

                                          I don't know all the ins and outs of gluten and how it affects the texture of bread. I'm far from being an expert on the subject. I was just citing sources. But from what I can tell, you'll get a softer fluffier baguette with a lighter crust with flour that contains less gluten. I've seen some N. American recipes sometimes call for unbleached all-purpose flour instead of harder bread flour. That would seem make sense if you were trying to get the similar results as with French T55.

                                          The other, perhaps more important, factors are hydration, kneading, shaping, scoring and the use of steam in baking.

                                    2. Obviously the flour is a factor. So's the water. So's the oven. Steam control plays a big role in the classic French bread-baking process, I'm told. Not so much in the US.

                                      More fundamentally, traditional French baguettes are intended to be eaten no more than a couple of hours after they come out of the oven. If you buy one in the morning, it's stale by dinnertime. An American bakery that operated on that basis would go out of business. The whole process, even at an artisanal level, assumes a shelf life of more than 2 hours. The dense texture and thick crust you complain about are features, not bugs, from this perspective.

                                      37 Replies
                                      1. re: benbenberi

                                        I'd say the market has more to do with it. French consumers know good bread, and won't buy crappy bread. It's the same reason you can't get good fish in middle America. While they *could* get good fish there, they don't, because largely, consumers don't demand it. Same with bread. Ask your co-workers if they've ever had bread from a bakery (i.e. not from a supermarket).

                                        1. re: Indirect Heat

                                          I read recently about a French baker in Washington DC who tried to sell authentic French baguettes. His customers complained, business soured and he was forced to make American baguettes. So I think I agree with you.

                                          1. re: plasticman

                                            There are a few serious places to buy baguettes and other European breads in the DC area. They look beautiful, are definitely European in character, but they tend to fall into the 'too fancy' category of having a thick crust.

                                          2. re: Indirect Heat

                                            So what does this mean? Americans are generally more crazy about buying Mercedez but not as picky when it comes to buying bread..which is a staple in our diet. To my view, this is kind of sad...especially because there is nothing like good piece of bread with good butter.

                                            1. re: Monica

                                              it means nothing,a s it is a vague comment with little actual relation to reality, and instead relies on stereotypes and generalizations.

                                              no one is chicago eats good fish? no one in america buys bread from bakeries? nonsense.

                                              what is true is that there are different standards and expectations for what bread should be in different places, and bread serves a different place in the hierarchy of food in those places.

                                              1. re: Monica

                                                Sad? There's nothing like driving a Mercedes, either.

                                                1. re: tommy

                                                  Why are Americans so hung up on Mercedes? Its like owning a Ford in Europe!

                                                  1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                    So I've learned that America has horrible baguettes and Americans are hung up on Mercedes. This is a great thread.

                                                    1. re: tommy

                                                      OK, MANY Americans are hung up on Mercedes. Which doesn't answer the question of why. Off topic anyway, LOL!

                                                      Personally I doubt France has a lock on good bread. I've never had FRENCH French bread, but the baguettes I used to buy at the corner bakery in Puerto Rico appear to have ruined me for life! They didn't have steam injected ovens there, and I doubt that they had steam injected ovens back in the day in France, when baguettes first started being baked. I don't think steam-injected ovens are required for good bread. They may be required for whatever characteristic it is that people are looking for in bread that has been baked in steam-injected ovens.

                                                      Since I can't get something I really like from a commercial bakery, I'll continue on my quest to learn to bake baguettes at home. They don't have to be just like a French baguette in Paris, as long as it tastes good to me that's all I'm looking for. Not trying to recreate the mythical taste of a type of bread I've never had (and am never likely to have).

                                                      1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                        having had bread in Puerto Rico, and baguettes in Paris -- they're in the same family, but they're not the same creature. Puerto Rican baguettes are much closer to Cuban bread in texture and taste.

                                                        And that's fine...they're all good...but saying you want a French baguette when you're really trying to get to Puerto Rican bread is going to take you on a long, weird detour that may never actually get to where you're going.

                                                        And the reason you doubt that France has a lock on good bread is because you've never had FRENCH French bread.

                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          No, the reason I doubt that France has a lock on good bread is because people are people. There are equally talented bakers all over the world. You may have a PREFERENCE for French bread made in France in a certain way and that's fine. Taste is always relative.

                                                          Probably the confusing factor here is the use of the term "French bread" to apply to bread that LOOKS a certain way, ie baguettes. Which, btw, is a French word for the shape of some bread.

                                                          What I got in PR were baguette-shaped loaves of bread. We ugly Americans call that "French bread" regardless of where it was baked.

                                                          Whether or not it tastes like (some) baguettes baked in France, it was delicious. I imagine I'll be happy with anything that comes out of my oven both baguette-shaped and edible. Someday. Other people manage it. I shall too!

                                                          THIS I SWEAR! I SHALL MASTER THE BAGUETTE-SHAPED LOAF OF BREAD, AND IT SHALL BE DELISH!

                                                          1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                            I'm really, really trying to be helpful, despite how my post apparently read. I swear, I wasn't trying to pick a fight or ridicule you...really, I wasn't.

                                                            I totally root for you in baking your own bread...it's an awesome talent to have, and it's fun. (When I was baking my own regularly, my husband knew better than to talk to me if I was making bread on a weeknight. Kneading dough is a fabulous way to take out your frustrations on something that benefits from a good pounding!)

                                                            I'm even agreeing with you that bread in Puerto Rico is awesome, especially when it's still warm! (somehow, I always manage to appreciate good bread, regardless of where it's made!)

                                                            But I'm trying, albeit unsuccessfully, to point you *toward* recipes and techniques created on Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands, because the great bread I had in PR is truly great bread...but it's NOT the same creature as a French baguette as made in France...and it's much closer to the fantastic Cuban bread that's made in Tampa and Miami.

                                                            I don't know where you are geographically, but if you're somewhere it's warm and humid more often than not, the recipes and techniques for Puerto Rican and Cuban breads are also developed in warm, humid climates, and so are more likely to be successful in a warm, humid climate...not a climate where you have to scrape frost off of your windshield (or shovel snow...) to go GET your bread!
                                                            I

                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                              man, i gotta try this PR bread..whatever it is.

                                                              1. re: Monica

                                                                seriously, anyone here wanna rave about other unrelated breads? I sometimes like rye bread.

                                                              2. re: sunshine842

                                                                No worries! I didn't think you were even accidentally offensive.

                                                                If you've got a recipe though you could always share it . . . >:D

                                                              3. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                "There are equally talented bakers all over the world."

                                                                Do you mean that the average bakery in France is the same quality as the average bakery in the US?

                                                                1. re: Steve

                                                                  I'm not even going to make a guess at that. For one thing there are not nearly as many bakeries here as there - it may well be that, statistically speaking, the average baker here is MORE talented than the average baker in France.

                                                                  Who knows?

                                                                  Do I care for American style breads? Not really. Does that mean the people baking them don't know how to bake? Absolutely not. They're baking to satisfy local tastes. Much to my chagrin, I happen not to share the local taste in bread.

                                                                  That makes me sad, but it doesn't make bakers here incompetent at their job. In fact I can think of some pie shops I've patronized in the past (unfortunately few of these around anymore) that I would cheerfully put up against their French equivalents any day of the week.

                                                                  1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                    The standards of bakeries in the US are extremely low compared to France.

                                                                    1. re: Steve

                                                                      I have to agree with Steve. American style breads are plain bad...wonder bread anyone???
                                                                      I think most americans are not passionate enough to care what kind of bread they are eating for that night. Look at the French now...people going against the gov't for the pension system. Americans will never do anything like that against gov't. I guess good bread is part of French culture.

                                                                      1. re: Monica

                                                                        judging all american bread by wonder bread would be like judging all american meat by mcdonalds

                                                                        1. re: thew

                                                                          I am sorry but I think a lot of foreigners do relate american food culture with McDonald. It's just a sad truth.

                                                                          1. re: Monica

                                                                            And they say Americans are ignorant. Who knew?

                                                                            1. re: tommy

                                                                              Tell me about it. I grew up half in Europe and half in the US. Have lived in each my adult life. Manage to be dumbstruck by the generalisations on each side-- although frankly, find that the comments about the US are more often, and by far, the most ignorant of the bunch...

                                                                              1. re: tommy

                                                                                Well, culture is culture. You can get good baking in the U.S., but you have to work for it. A city the size of Houston (~ 2,000,000 people) has half a dozen good bakeries. The town I grew up in in Canada (<10,000 people) has 4 good bakeries.

                                                                                American communities simply don't have good bakeries at any reasonable frequency. It's not valued here. You can find it if you're in a large community, but you have to work for it. In many other countries, it's simply expected.

                                                                              2. re: Monica

                                                                                what they relate it to, and what it is, are two different things.

                                                                      2. re: Steve

                                                                        that is not the same thing at all. i'm not sure how you get to one from the other.

                                                                    2. re: sunshine842

                                                                      a Puerto Rican baguette is not like Cuban bread at all. They are similar to a Vietnamese baguette imo.

                                                                      1. re: annapurna7

                                                                        One way or another - they were excellent.

                                                                2. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                  having lived for 16 years in Germany, the UK and France, I'll say that good baguettes are not easy to find outside of France. and as others note, there is even a lot of substandard bread bought and eaten by french people in france... and in none of those three countries do any of the natives think that mercedes and fords are anywhere near equal. there are a lot more old mercedes around to be bought more cheaply than in the US, but not that many people can afford newer models. the exception being germany where taxis are often mercedes.

                                                                  1. re: abgilliam

                                                                    I mean they're as ubiquitous as Ford's, not that they're the same quality. I apologize for the lack of clarity.

                                                                    "Good" is a matter of taste, as in all things food related. The baguettes I've had in PR were absolutely wonderful. I'm told by someone who has tasted both that they're not like the French baguettes (or rather SOME French baguettes).

                                                                    Whether that particular style of French baguettes are "better" than some other kind is wholly relative and purely a matter of taste. I submit to you that if everyone agreed with your personal taste, you WOULD be able to get the particular type of baguette you prefer in Germany and the UK.

                                                                    Not saying they're bad. Just saying that those of us who like something else aren't deluded fools.

                                                                    One man's ambrosia is another man's poison . . . .

                                                              4. re: Monica

                                                                i tend to be more picky when i'm spending $50,000 than when i'm spending $2 myself

                                                                1. re: Monica

                                                                  Plenty of good bread can be occasionally found at serious bakeries in the US. But even otherwise good bakeries don't get the baguette right.

                                                                2. re: Indirect Heat

                                                                  Not true. There are some absolutely *abysmal* breads sold at large grocery stores in France. But they're cheap, and they're where everyone is buying their groceries, so the standards get lowered. Bleh.

                                                                  But yes, they go stale within hours.

                                                                3. re: benbenberi

                                                                  That's a good point, about the time factor. I just think the French care a lot more about tradition and artistry than in the US, but I am certain there are people in the US who care enough to prepare baguettes like in France.

                                                                  EDIT: Just read on wikipedia that preservatives are banned from bread in France...that tells you about the difference right there in markets

                                                                  1. re: observor

                                                                    i'd agree about tradition, less so about artistry.

                                                                    but then i don't use "traditional" as a necessarily positive adjective

                                                                    1. re: observor

                                                                      I agree that people in the US might not care as much, in general, about getting a great baguette. They're French "tradition." At the same time, I don't think a parker house roll, or sourdough is less artistry than baguettes, but you probably can't get as good parker house rolls or sourdough in France. One isn't superior to the other, just different. In the US, there still is artistry and tradition.

                                                                  2. I lived in Puerto Rico and we had some of the most amazing baguettes there. I also lived in the south of France for a couple of years where my Aunt would leave early every single morning to get the bread for the family. Amazing bread.

                                                                    Making a proper baguette takes days and a lot of work. In France the fresh bread sells out in a few hours. Here it goes stale because it's just not part of the daily culture so it's just not worth the trouble. However, I am sure someone somewhere is making them.

                                                                    My Mother is off the boat from France and our search for a good baguette continues after 25 years here.

                                                                    1. I've had some very good baguettes at Vietnamese sandwich shops--probably learned that when France occupied Vietnam.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: raytamsgv

                                                                        I'm gonna have to agree with this. The Bánh mì sandwiches I get from the local Vietnamese whole in the wall are great in comparison to what I normally find from most places. I've never been to France so maybe my standards are sub-par :)

                                                                      2. It's true that baguettes here, even those from otherwise excellent bakers, are just not the same. They tend to be mass-produced bready or artisanal hard.

                                                                        Croissants, on the other hand, are sometimes great in North America. The best I've had anywhere are at Chez Temporel in Quebec City.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: Steve

                                                                          Morning Glory Bakery, Bar Harbor, Me. My colleague was a (Jack) Morm0n missionary for a year and he can't get enough of them. Me too.

                                                                        2. For all the generalizations about US baguettes, I can only add that it is impossible to find a baguette as good as the ones in France ANYWHERE outside of France.

                                                                          I found a "French bakery" in Berlin, got really excited.... and disappointed. Whether it's the flour, water, air, technique - nothing quite tastes like those crispy & fluffy French flutes.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                                            I must agree with this. After years of not going to France, I thought American baguettes had caught up, or almost, but then we rented an apartment in Paris in 2009 for a week and I realized I was wrong. The crusts were thin and crisp, not hard and painful, the bread was fluffy, and best of all, they were salty. Salt is one thing American bakeries seem to fear.

                                                                            1. re: Isolda

                                                                              "Salt is one thing American bakeries seem to fear."

                                                                              Italian bakers too.

                                                                          2. For those with access to Central Market (TX only), you might try them I've never had one of their full baguettes, but the mini-baguettes are superb after placing in a 350 (f) oven for about 5 minutes to crisp the exterior. Excellent soft, airy inside with tender but crispy-thin exterior.

                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                            1. re: CocoaNut

                                                                              These sound just like the ones Trader Joe's sell frozen. Made in France.

                                                                              1. re: Cathy

                                                                                We don't have Trader Joe's in TX, but I assure you, the mini-loave from CM are scratch-made on premises.

                                                                                What is the brand that you're talking about. My aunt talks about (what she calls) a frozen French bread that's made in France. She loves it. Wonder if it's the same that you refer to. She's on the MS coast.

                                                                                1. re: blynk

                                                                                  Just tossed the packaging (trash day) but might be under own label. I'll be going there "to just get milk" in a few days and will report back.

                                                                                  They are mini baguettes, frozen and ready to eat if thawed, but if you put in toaster oven for a few minutes, come out with a crispy, floured exterior, and soft fluffy interior. Six in a bag, about $3.

                                                                                  1. re: blynk

                                                                                    Love CM baguettes!! I often go after work, they have just made the batch for evening rush hour, and they smell heavenly. I get some great butter from France or Vermont and enjoy with wine.

                                                                              2. The best baguette I've found is from Ace Bakery, hands down! They're Canadian, but Food Emporium carries a wide range of their baked goods. I was shocked when I first tried their baguette—great texture and flavor.

                                                                                For a point of reference, I find Whole Food's baguettes mediocre, at best. We still buy them from time to time, but blah.

                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                1. re: graphisbeb

                                                                                  I had bread from Ace bakery but didn't think it was that great.
                                                                                  and yes, baguettes from Whole food are just slightly better than those nameless stuff they sell at any supermarket.

                                                                                  1. re: Monica

                                                                                    I think it also depends on the baker. There's one Kroger in town that turns out a half-way decent baguette. I'd actually eat it by choice (and do when I can get over there to pick one up)

                                                                                    Nobody else in town - including the much touted but I don't understand why Panera - makes anything even close.

                                                                                    1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                                      in the Southeastern US, Publix carries a bread that's not too bad. It's not a French baguette, but it'll at least beat the cravings into submission for a while.

                                                                                      Do NOT buy the French baguette. It's just long, slender white bread.

                                                                                      Go for the Crusty White Loaf. I swear, that's really the name, as lousy as it sounds.

                                                                                      For best results, get a couple of them frozen -- if you ask, they'll get them out of the walk-in for you and bag them up. Take them home, pop 'em in a hot oven until they're the brown you like the best, and let cool (okay, at least a little...don't wanna burn your tongue)

                                                                                      It's the best widely-available version of French baguettes I found.

                                                                                2. Btw, even in France, it's not like you walk into any bakery and find that perfect french baguette. Most are far better than most US versions but there are ones that really stand out..like the one i had in this little inn or at the restaurant in Nice.
                                                                                  I was amazed at the quality of bread sold at some large supermarkets in France.

                                                                                  1. Btw, even in France, it's not like you walk into any bakery and find that perfect french baguette. Most are far better than most US versions but there are ones that really stand out..like the one i had in this little inn or at the restaurant in Nice.
                                                                                    I was amazed at the quality of bread sold at some large supermarkets in France. They are just bad.

                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Monica

                                                                                      Monica is exactly correct, not all French boulangeries provide exceptional breads, particularly baguettes. Also, the baguette is a very regional product and even in Paris it varies widely between boulangeries - some are well cooked, others soft, and others perfect. That said, even in more remote parts of France you can usually get a decent rendition - e.g. a Baguette Village which can be quite good. Also, its really only in Paris where people are obsessed with baguettes. Also agree that supermarket breads in France are generally horrid.

                                                                                      I don't believe it is impossible to get comparable baguettes in the US as I've had some exceptional ones at various restaurants and at a few bakeries in the US - Jean Pierre in Durango, CO and La Baguette in Madison, WI. These bakers also have French certifications.

                                                                                      At home, my workaround to poor quality baguettes is to buy the frozen Whole Foods baguettes and bake them in my convection oven at 475 degrees. This creates a very passable baguette that works well for a cheese course and one that you won't be ashamed to serve to your guests. Its shelf life is only about 6-8 hours though.

                                                                                      I think the key thing to remember is that true Parisian baguettes are designed for a very short shelf life and that influences the final product greatly.

                                                                                      1. re: Highland Park

                                                                                        "the baguette is a very regional product."

                                                                                        Baguettes are everywhere in France I've been, which is quite a few places!

                                                                                        1. re: Steve

                                                                                          The baguette is closely tied with Paris. Yes, you can get them in other locales around France, but they are often not the same. In other parts of France, there are many other tubular style breads like the Batard and Flutes (which most closely resemble the Parisian baguette, but with different dimensions, textures, and weight). At any rate, France is only the size of TX and good baguettes outside France are difficult to come by, so yes I would say that not only are baguettes regional in France, but they are regional at many levels.

                                                                                          1. re: Highland Park

                                                                                            I have found very good baguettes everywhere in France from la Thierache to le pays Catalan and points in between.

                                                                                            In fact, I would have to think long and hard to remember if I have ever stepped foot in a boulangerie in France that does not bake baguettes, unless mayby one of the Jewish places along r. des Rosiers in Paris advertising pain cumin.

                                                                                            1. re: Highland Park

                                                                                              Don't forget New Olreans has outstanding baguettes.

                                                                                      2. Maybe if you have a Vietnamese bakery/place that sells bahn mi near you, you'll find a better baguette there?

                                                                                        I'm fairly easy to please when it comes to baguettes. Just needs to be crispy on the outside and light and airy on the inside. NOT the loaf I got from Whole Foods last time (though to be fair, I probably shouldn't have chosen the country whole wheat and just stuck to the white flour).

                                                                                        The only thing I really remember about the supposed superiority of baguettes in France were that 1.) you could buy a great one even in the biggest, mass market supermarket and 2.) they were all the super thin/narrow kind, not the really thick ones you mostly find in the States. I think they're so thick because most people would use them for a sandwich of some kind, and well...a lot of Americans don't want a small, thin sandwich. Heh heh.

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: yfunk3

                                                                                          i installed an oven in grocery store, it was steam injected.
                                                                                          why can't san francisco sourdough be duplicated elsewhere?

                                                                                          1. re: divadmas

                                                                                            I get better sourdough in Truckee which is almost 200 miles away. Go figure.

                                                                                        2. In France Boulangeries are closing down left right and centre.
                                                                                          Each summer I cycle through small villages and towns to see these shops with the shutters up.

                                                                                          When visiting E.Lecerc or any other big supermarket you cannot move for French shoppers filling their chariots with baguettes, and i am talking about a dozen each time.
                                                                                          The quality of this bread is mediocre , but if one cares to stop off at a traditional shop you will always be delighted.

                                                                                          I go for a sign outside the shop 'Bannette' which guarantees tradition.

                                                                                          http://www.banette.fr/

                                                                                          1. The short answer is that bread in the US is terrible in general because people just don't know any better and don't demand better (or boycott the awful stuff on offer in most stores.)

                                                                                            When I was a kid, we lived in Ghana, a former British colony. Bread there was just awful. We lived near the eastern border and if you drove just a few miles to Togo, formerly a French colony, you could get good bread. Both products were presumably made from the same flour, it was the culture and the expectations that were different.

                                                                                            1. Why are steaks in Europe so bad?

                                                                                              28 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                  I've found steak of the quality that I can easily find in America harder to come by in Europe. I've eaten steak in Tuscany, Madrid, London, Paris . . . at places both highly regarded and typical and have been regularly disappointed.
                                                                                                  My greater point is that it's cultural maybe? Our expectation for steak is different. The quality of the meat is different.

                                                                                                    1. re: Naguere

                                                                                                      Seriously, who needs a 32 oz. steak?

                                                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                        This could be a whole topic. I've never understood this. Who needs even a 16 oz. steak? Of course, this site and its concerns aren't really about "need" but the gigantic U.S. steak standard is embarassing.

                                                                                                    2. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                      Might be the feed. Admittedly, I prefer South American beef over American, but German beef... meh. I'd rather have American than German. I find German beef to be tougher, generally. Perhaps the cattle gets more exercise than the poor creatures in the massive feedlots?

                                                                                                      There's some good Irish beef to be had for sure, but it needs to be dry-aged. I like grass-fed better than corn-fed, but I know most Americans don't (ooops, generalizing here).

                                                                                                      And Tuscan steak aka bistecca fiorentina is pretty damn awesome.

                                                                                                      1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                        I've been told by several people that it is illegal to hang beef to age it for as long as American butcher do. It hangs, but it's next to nothing.

                                                                                                        Unaged beef is tough.

                                                                                                        It tastes good, if you have the temporal fortitude to chew it.

                                                                                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                          European beef (and in most of the world) is grass-fed beef. American beef is corn fed beef. I find the latter to be jucier and more enjoyable whereas the former is tougher and a bit gamier.

                                                                                                          1. re: Roland Parker

                                                                                                            Are we actually saying that Europe is inferior to America in regard to an area of cuisine? ;)

                                                                                                            1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                              No, Roland is saying he prefers American beef.

                                                                                                                1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                  I love kobe :) mmm...

                                                                                                                  To be fair, I've had excellent steaks in the states (where I was raised), and I've had excellent steaks in Sweden from a local butcher. I can't say I prefer either meat, but if we were talking about beef patties, I would swing towards Sweden's Max burgers, rather than the crumbly dry fastfood beef we get in the states; but that would be comparing the quality of fastfood.

                                                                                                            2. re: Roland Parker

                                                                                                              When I first tasted Kobe beef in Kobe, Japan....wow, what a life changing experience. A piece of beef literally melted in my mouth...so much flavor...so butterly...I don't know what they are doing to their cows or what they are feeding those cows but wow...that's all I can say...

                                                                                                              1. re: Monica

                                                                                                                The question I'm wondering is how Kobe is different from other Wagyu?
                                                                                                                I had American Kobe burger, and wasn't very impressed...tasted like fatty regular beef, and had a crumbly texture.

                                                                                                                1. re: observor

                                                                                                                  The Wagyu/Kobe burger concept is simply a way of selling hamburger meat. The benefits of Kobe beef are seen in marbling, which is destroyed when the meat is ground.

                                                                                                                  1. re: tommy

                                                                                                                    That is absolutely not true. Kobe beef has an intensely "beefy" flavor that comes through in the ground meat as much as in steaks. The family can tell at first bite if I've made "Joe's Special" from Wagyu or garden-variety beef.

                                                                                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                      We disagree. Although, our perspectives are probably quite different, since I would never serve my family "garden-variety beef."

                                                                                                                  2. re: observor

                                                                                                                    My understanding is that Kobe is Kobe beef...cows grown in Kobe, Japan.
                                                                                                                    Wagyu beef is from cows that were bred with black angus cows and Japanese Kobe cows in America so I guess they are kind of different.
                                                                                                                    Anyway, the marbling of kobe beef I had was just AMAZING...and very expensive too..=( but was worth every penny.

                                                                                                                      1. re: observor

                                                                                                                        I think we spent somewhere around $200-$300 for 2 and that's without other extra side stuff or any alcoholic drinks. (i think we had one of the more affordable options too). it was about 5 years ago..and we kinda left hungry but it was one of the best meals I've ever had.

                                                                                                                      2. re: Monica

                                                                                                                        I can get pure Kobe or Kobe/Angus from a local producer. They do the cross because Angus are much heartier and easier keepers. (My guy tries to keep the mix 75% Kobe/25% Angus.) For steaks, I prefer the pure Kobe. I've got a Kobe rib roast on order for Christmas. This will require a second mortgage, but I'm sure it will knock the socks off our guests.

                                                                                                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                          You probably should be precise and say "American Kobe"

                                                                                                                          1. re: observor

                                                                                                                            i don;t think thats accurate. for example i had beef in japan, from the same type of cow, raised in the same manner. but it wasn't raised in kobe but kyoto. they didn't call it kobe beef.

                                                                                                                  3. re: Roland Parker

                                                                                                                    Roland, it sounds like you're trying to cook both grass-fed and corn-fed beef the same way. If you do that, the grass fed beef will be tougher. The fat of grass fed beef is different than that or corn fed, the beef over all is less fatty, and the grass fed beef fat melts/renders at a lower temperature than the fat of corn fed beef. If the grass fed beef has been raised grazing in pastures exclusively, it will have all kinds of good things that corn fed does not, such as omega3 fatty acids and other good things. Grass fed beef is as heart healthy as wild caught salmon. But you can't cook it the same as corn fed if you don't want to be greatly disappointed in the result..

                                                                                                                      1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                        Here is the best information on cooking grass fed been on the web, in my opinion:
                                                                                                                        http://www.alderspring.com/cooking/ht...
                                                                                                                        It's written by Caryl Elzinga (she very occasionally posts on these boards), and she and her husband own Alderspring Ranch, an excellent source for grass fed beef on the web. I used to buy from them until one of my local farmers markets began carrying organic grass fed beef, and being able to pick up just what I need for this week is a no brainer. But ALL of the information Caryl offers is right on the money, which is not the case with all grass fed beef cooking instructions on line. I've read some that curled my toes. Don't miss the hints in the lower right hand corner. I did a three pound organic grass fed chuck roast last week by searing well, piling a large sliced onion on top of it, then adding about three or four tablespoons of water, covering the pan tightly and braising in the oven for a couple of hours. Generally for grass fed roasting it only takes about two thirds of the time that corn fed beef requires, and as she mentions in the article, searing a roast to seal in juices prior to braising or roasting *IS* important and DOES work with grass fed beef. It is not that important with grain or corn fed beef. The differences between grass fed beef and corn/grain fed/finished beef are like two entirely different animals. Other than using a heat source to cook, that's about where the similarities end. And DO NOT salt grass fed beef prior to cooking. Promise! Salt after cooking and you'll get much better flavored and textured beef.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                          I almost always agree with your posts, but I think this one in off on a couple of fronts. Searing adds a layer of flavor, but it does not "seal in juices" in either grass- or grain- fed meats. I've been cooking exclusively grass-fed meats for about five years, and I always salt before cooking, same as with grain-fed (except Wagyu beef). I DO agree with you about reduced cooking time for grass-fed.

                                                                                                            3. Totally baffling. I've been to Tahiti - it's humid; it's poor - the baguettes are GREAT. There's simply no excuse - you can import flour and the best ovens in the world are available. There was a bakery on National and Motor that used to make real baguettes (and real croissants). They are closed and have at least been replaced by something cool - Simpang Asia's cafe. I believed that they suppled Angelique downtown back when it was a real restaurant.

                                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: estnyboer

                                                                                                                Good bread baking is all about pride, passion, technique, the right ingredients and ovens and uncompromising dedication to tradition. As soon as you make compromises to speed up production, lower costs or mass produce, quality suffers. Period. I recently watched an episode of No Reservations where Bourdain was in shop in Brittany that specializes in caramels. The master confectioner was descended from more than one generation and was using exactly the same techniques and implements as his grandfather did before him. The results are consistently delicious and people come from near and far for these treats. Bourdain asked why he didn't modernize in order to increase output and the confectioner scoffed at the notion. It would compromise quality. He makes the same number of sweets every day and when they sell out, that's it. Customers come earlier the next time to make sure they get their treats. This man has job satisfaction, modest success and a very nice life. I think this is where North Americans get lost. Our supermarkets and bakeries are programmed to create the cheapest product in bulk quantities, disregarding quality for quantity and ultimately, more money in the owners' pockets. The same is true with bakeries. To make great loaves a baker has to be devoted to creating a top quality product with every single batch. It's difficult to get rich financially when you have uncompromising standards, but it is possible to have great success, in terms of job satisfaction when you know your product is the best it can be and people are eager to enjoy it. Until and unless North Americans appreciate this business model, bakeries will continue to churn out mass-produced, lower quality breads.

                                                                                                                  1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                                                                    Yep.

                                                                                                                    The good news is that America is slow on the draw...but they "got it" with beer (while there's still far too much crap beer out there, it's no longer all that hard to find something that's anything from drinkable to pretty darned good)...they're beginning to "get it" with cheese (Cowgirl Creamery and their ilk). It's hard to slow the momentum on such an enormous economic machine...but progress is progress.

                                                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                      america has had fantastic cheeses for years and years and years.

                                                                                                                    2. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                                                                      Most people can't afford to appreciate that business model. (Consumers, I mean.)

                                                                                                                  2. Hey, ZenSojourner -- pop over here -- there's a couple of likely suspects under the bread category:

                                                                                                                    http://www.ricanrecipes.com/recipes/d...

                                                                                                                    and one of them has shortening in the recipe. (hmmmm.)

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                                                                                                                    1. For what it's worth, someone on a highly-regarded cooking bulletin board recommends par-baked baguettes at Costco from Kirkland.

                                                                                                                      1. I have used Bob's Red Mill unbleached white pastry flour with more success than hard flours. Gold Medal all-purpose unbleached white works as a good second choice. If you're using American bread flour for European style breads, try the ones with less protein. King Arthur flours are very hard (I've found) and (for me) their bread flours are really just suited for bagles or pretzles.

                                                                                                                        1. I lived in Mexico City in the late 80's and bought some of the best baguettes I had since working in Paris ten years earlier.

                                                                                                                          1. "Why are baguettes in the US so bad? "

                                                                                                                            Because everything tastes better under the Tour d Eiffel?
                                                                                                                            Actually that's a myth to us anyway. We didn't enjoy a meal in Paris except for one Italian restaurant we found there. Why all the hoopla about French food we wondered?

                                                                                                                            The baguettes in France are truly delicious though, I do agree.
                                                                                                                            Mine are flat in taste, can't get the tang taste that are present there and the holes, those holes and chewiness, missing too.

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                                                                                                                            1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                                              Keeping in mind that I have yet to succeed with a baguette, this is what I'm told:

                                                                                                                              tang - slow cold rise in fridge is supposed to take care of this
                                                                                                                              holes - overproofing at the last step or "skinning" - where the outside of the baguette dries out excessively so it can't rise in the oven - causes lack of holes.
                                                                                                                              Chewiness - I haven't got that far yet. Maybe when my baguettes stop coming out as either collapsed flat things or something hard enough to use in major league baseball, I can get to that stage, LOL!

                                                                                                                            2. Don't know where you're located, but if in Westchester, NY, try going to the market near Tuckahoe train station on Sundays. I know the baker's daughter and I have eaten his baguettes many a time.....absolutely out of the this world.

                                                                                                                              1. I honestly have no idea. It's not like the everyday grocery stores couldn't get good flour, or good starter/yeast, or that our grocery stores can't get a decent oven.

                                                                                                                                Of course it's not that hard to find decent bread - it just seems like all decent bread is labeled "artisan" something or other. It's almost like good bread is a specialty product and boring sandwich-bread like italian/french loaves are the norm.

                                                                                                                                When I lived near a trader joes I'd get their artisan loaves, fairly priced and yummy.

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                                                                                                                                1. re: DukeOfSuffolk

                                                                                                                                  Yep, it all comes down to demand. If we as a group demanded it, it would be provided. When I first moved to Houston from Canada, my labmates made fun of me that I complained about the lack of good bakeries in Houston. It wasn't until one of them went to France and returned that she said, "I finally understand."

                                                                                                                                2. My husband bakes in a local pasta and bread shop, and he turns out dozens of truly fantastic baguettes every day. (The first time we went into that shop - years ago, and long before he started working there, what drew us was the sign in the window - "REAL BREAD.")

                                                                                                                                  Anyway, he frequently brings a bag of baguette dough home at the end of the day (they use the same basic dough for baguettes, ciabatta, and focaccia - they just treat it differently) and we always end up, in our home oven, with above-mediocre loaves. (I think the smallest recipe he has makes either 24 or 48 baguettes and I haven't had a chance to try to cut it down.)

                                                                                                                                  When it ends up getting chucked into the fridge overnight, the flavor is slightly more tangy - that long, slow rise, I guess.

                                                                                                                                  To bake it, FIRST the dough comes out of the fridge to come up to room temperature, then we heat up the oven (and stone) (I want to say about to 450, but I'm not positive - fairly hot, though). Once the oven is hot and the dough is less cold, he shapes it into baguette-shapes, usually on a piece of parchment, and he lets that rise for maybe half an hour or so - just until it's puffy.

                                                                                                                                  At that point, he'll cut it - lately, he's been amusing himself by doing a "dragon tails" (http://www.wildyeastblog.com/2010/09/...), then, using the peel, slide the parchment and all into the hot oven for maybe 10-15 minutes. Though steam would improve the crust, we usually don't bother because, well, it's a bother.

                                                                                                                                  1. In his book "It Must Have Been Something I Ate" Jeffrey Steingarten gives a quite good description of why the French baguette is something special, and even participates as a judge in a baguette competition in Paris.

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                                                                                                                                      1. re: observor

                                                                                                                                        The participants yearly is baguette bakers from different bakeries all over Paris, and they deliver their baguette with the names held secret for the jury. In the Steingarten article when the jury had agreed on the winner and opened the envelope, the name field was blank, as it says that the baker cares more for his customers that winning the competition. Not too bad when the price was 20.000 Francs. Antoine Teixeira from Aux Delices Du Palais was then voted as the winner.

                                                                                                                                        Steingarten recommends to ask for a 'baguette de tradition' or 'a l'ancienne' at the good boulangeries. He list these Boulangeries as his favorites places for authentic baguettes:

                                                                                                                                        Aux Delices Du Palaix
                                                                                                                                        Gosselin
                                                                                                                                        Le Grenier A Pain
                                                                                                                                        Julien
                                                                                                                                        Raoul Maeder
                                                                                                                                        Rollet Pradier
                                                                                                                                        Saint-Ouen

                                                                                                                                        He also recommends Artisan Bakers in Sonoma, California as some which makes a great US version.