When you are in the motherland of perfect baguettes and buttered croissants, it’s impossible not to fall in love a little with bread. In my case, the love story with artisanal bread, kneaded by my own hands, has been going on for several years. And as Paris is said to be the capital of love of all kinds, after the fascinating adventure called Hautes Etudes du Gout at Le Cordon Bleu in October 2017, I decided to take my love story with bread to the next level and went back to school for a short course in traditional bread baking with Olivier Boudot, Chef-instructor Le Cordon Bleu and European champion in the art of making bread.
In mid-December, when everyone’s thoughts revolve around Christmas, preparations and gifts, the hustle and bustle intensifies in Paris like never before. The influx of tourists increases, the crowds are inevitable. After all, as Hemingway said, Paris is movable feast. However, in mid-December, my thoughts were focused on all the things I was going to discover and my celebration was baking. And, beyond the hustle and bustle of the city, my enthusiasm was rewarded with two days full of the magic of traditional French bread and many delicious memories, with crispy crusts and open crumb.
From explaining some basic notions such as the base temperature and the stages of the baking process, going through kneading, leavening, shaping, proofing, baking and of course tasting, Chef Olivier Boudot showed and guided us to make rustic bread, simple baguettes, traditional baguettes, spinach bread, wholemeal bread, baguette Viennoise, Provencal fougasse, brioche and butter croissants by ourselves, with our own two hands. The results overjoyed me – especially the croissants and the traditional baguette, for which I have a special affinity and which I plan to practice repeatedly at home, even if the resources and conditions will be different from those of a bakery.
Among all the types of bread prepared and baked during the workshop – and I went home every night with 2-3 bags of bread! – I had a few free moments when I managed to talk to Chef Olivier Boudot, whose enthusiasm and passion for baking remain intact even after more than 20 years of high-level experience. As with most valuable people I have met over time, an important place in his personal philosophy is held by the idea of sharing, of passing on his knowledge, of teaching his students what he knows, just as he learned from the masters that taught him. I realised, once again, that the art of making bread is, in addition to technique and savoir-faire, closely related to generosity, love of people and passion for what you do.
I left the class with these things in mind and my production of bread crammed into thermal insulated bags, honoured that I was able to take baking lessons from a European champion. Following what I learned from the Chef, I also shared the bread I had made with the people around me, feeling like an early Santa. And the joy did not take long to show.