Last weekend I got a work opportunity to go represent my company in Paris. I was so happy for the opportunity and excited to go do a good job. When I told Elke she was excited to! And she even wanted to try and organize so we could all go. Sadly that was not possible at the end but she had another great idea. She told me that I should stay an extra day and dive into the French/Parisian Bread scene. Wow! What a great idea. At first I resisted it and then I remembered that I am trying to integrate myself and decided to go for it. Also, she found an Airbnb Experience to actually go do a workshop. The weekend was planned!
On a side note I almost cancelled my trip because the day before traveling the vet found a tumor in Lupe's (my dog's) neck. It was a really sad day with a lot of teachings. But then she started getting better really fast (very surprisingly) and Elke told me that I should go for it and that she could hold the fort. This story is for another post.
I arrived in Paris at 10:38am Gare du Nord from Amsterdam and I had to be at the offices at 1pm. To add to the integration I took my skate because the day was going to be beautiful and to be able to have (slow) mobility in Paris. It was only going to take me 40 min to skate to the offices so I Googled mapped the location and set off on my skate through the busy Parisian streets. The day was beautiful and I was feeling great, excited about the work opportunity and happy to be able to travel the city in my skate and get to see many of the details of this busy city.
I arrived to a little park close to where my meeting was, sat under a weeping willow tree, ate my packed lunch, changed my shirt and my shoes and did a little meditation. I gave thanks for the work opportunity and the ability to be fully myself and I set an intention to be of value for the people I was going to talk to and to be the best representative for my company.
The meeting went great and I enjoyed meeting the people. I really enjoy connecting with people even though I am an introvert.
After the meeting I called Elke and she told me that the day had gone great and that she was happy and Paco was happy and Lupe was better and happy as well and she encouraged me to stay the night and the next day to tap into the bread scene in Paris. So I changed my shoes, hoped on my skate and started wondering (my favorite state and way to get to know a place) in Paris. I ended up in the Eiffel tower for a bread and fruit dinner I had bought.
Then I went to sleep at the Generator hostel that Elke found for me and the next day I woke up to an itinerary of bread places I could visit, that Elke had researched for me as well!. She is awesome! I read the info Elke sent me and joyfully and nervously hoped on my skate and headed to my first location
My first stop was 10 Belles, a bakery created by 3 successful woman of English, Irish and French culture. They are Alice Quillet, Anna Trattles and Anselme Blayney. To my surprise I did not see any sourdough on display so I made the line and in my turn I asked the cashier if they had any sourdough bread. I told her that my wife had told me that 10 Belles was famous for their sourdough bread. She told me that they did not have any in this location (10th Arrete or Cite Rouge) but that the main location in the Bastille had all the bread. So I asked for directions, got on my skate and continued my mission.
I love traveling by skate because I have to have all my senses on and I experience the city at ground level and I go a little bit quicker than walking.
After 10 minutes bordering the Saint Martin Canal I arrived to the 10 Belles Bread. I arrived and saw the dark brown breads on display. Happy feelings. I walked to the counter and told the cashier my story, that I am in love with the sourdough process and that I am trying to learn and connect as much as possible. She told me that she could call one of the bakers and I excitedly and nervously agreed. I was not per say ready to talk to a baker. What was I going to ask? 2 minutes later Wing Mon came out. She was very friendly. I told her my story again and told her that I did not have any specific questions but that maybe she could tell me about the breads they were selling. At the moment they had 3 sourdough breads for sale. The classical 90% white wheat and 10% whole wheat, a buckwheat and oats bread and an Ancien (ancient) bread. I immediately got intrigued by the Ancien one since I am attracted to many of the old ways when things were done at a slower pace without all the distractions of modern life. I asked her what grains were in the Ancien, and the magical answer came. She told me that she did not know. The Ancien is basically made out of a mix of grains that are grown all together in the field. Wow! Biodiversity in grain growing! I have never heard of this concept and it started resonating deep down. I asked her, how do these farmers do? Do they have a market to sell mixed grains? She said, yes, it is a movement that is going on called the paysan boulanger, where the farmer plants the grains and they also do the milling, the dough and the baking, and now bakeries like the 10 Belles are supporting them by buying the mixed grain and making the Ancien bread. I was very excited to have discovered this since I believe biodiversity is really important for thriving and resilient ecosystems and communities.
My next step in my bread journey is to research this paysan boulanger movement. Where is this bread movement taking me? I am grateful to Elkita for pushing me. Sometimes I need to get shoved to get moving hehe.
The next stop that Elke recommended was closed and then I just continued on my own instinct.
The second stop, that came out of no where, was Levain Le Vin. A little bakery that’s main speciality is pairing simple wheat and whole wheat sourdough bread with wines, cheeses and charcuterie (dried/fermented meats) and in some times of the year home fermented vegetables. The owner/baker Christof was very friendly, telling me all about his processes, specially how he uses all his starter to make his dough. Basically, he does not have a starter. He stores the dough that he does not use and then remakes more dough the next day with the remainder of the day before. This way, he does not make the bread to sour, because he does not want to overwhelm the wine, meat or cheese tastes. The bread is the base.
He has his mixing and rising station right at the entrance of the store so it is really homey and roots. Simple and honest.
I tried the bread with meat and cheese and wine :). It was delicious.
Then is was time for my last stop. The Airbnb experience at Antony's bakery Sain Boulangerie.
Anthony specializes on a traditional sourdough bread called Saint Martin. Besides learning and making the final stage of the Saint Martin we were to learn how to make, croissants and pain au chocolat.
Kate met me at Pont du Amelie over the Canal Saint-Martin. We then walked to a coffee shop to get a coffee boost and quickly walked to the Sain Boulangerie to meet Anthony a baker that had learnt the art of fermentation and sourdough bread baking from his uncle Martin.
Anthony immediately started talking about the sourdough process and how he does a slow ferment in a fridge for 24 hours after he does a series of 6 to 8 folds.
He also explained that he uses heirloom grains and how these differ from modern grains. He said that modern grains have been crossed over and over and were genetically modified to contain more gluten which is hard to digest but does not require as much fermentation to rise. He explained that the longer fermentation develops the gluten in the heirloom grains (so the bread can rise), in a way that is easier for the body to digest.
There were three facts that I found to be very interesting.
First, that rather than water he uses a tea that he makes with hay and apple peels. This gives the distinct taste to the Saint Martin sourdough, plus it gives it a darker color.
Second, is that he uses 90% hydration. I found this very high since I normally work with 65%. He explained that the many folds makes the dough keep its shape but then I realized that there is another trick to it, which brings me to the 3rd interesting fact.
Third, is that he used wheat semolina (hard wheat, which is different to the soft wheat used to make bread) to shape the dough. He does a couple of folds (he says, don't touch the dough to much) while sprinkling semolina to avoid sticking, then he lets it rest for 15 minutes, and then does another series of folds, always sprinkling semolina, and then places the dough in the basket. Then the dough proofs for another hour.
It was a great experience. He also showed us how to make dough for croissants and how to shape the croissants. The croissants are tricky because they are labor intensive to do by hand due to all the rolling of the dough that is required. What I was most excited to learn is that the croissants also used sourdough but the started is made out of flour and milk.
I will soon get my hands on the dough again and try making the croissants.
After the workshop I quickly headed towards the train station trying to avoid all the manifestations. Paris is a high energy city, it vibrates and kept my senses awake.
It was a great weekend of integration. I missed my loved ones but I got to dive into the Parisian bread scene.
Big hug to everyone and till next time.