One morning over lattes (a burgeoning theme on this blog…honestly, unintended), David, Amanda and I decided that we wanted to find out, once and for all, who baked the finest baguettes in the city. A baguette-off was called and the tasting, crunching, ripping and buttering all happened last night. I share with you the process and the results.
- The Crust (crispiness, firmness, not roof-of-mouth-cutting)
- The Crumb/innards (moistness)
- Stickiness (whether there is a satisfying stick to the roof of the mouth)
- Taste (balanced, not too flavourful, but not too bland)
- Aesthetics/Visual Appeal
- Colour (golden brown was the goal, too yellow not good, too brown/burnt not good)
There was no category for organic ingredients, locality, or cost, but in retrospect, these would have been really good as well. We’ll make sure to include them for the next battle (maybe croissants?).
After testing each contender against each criterion, the results were tallied. Each baguette was scrutinized with a highly sophisticated rating system. Smiley face for good, neutral face for average, sad face for not good, or a skull and cross-bones for just plain bad.
After all of the testing, the results were interpreted on a scale of -10 to +10. One point was given for a smiley face, no points were awarded for a neutral face, and one point was subtracted for each sad face. A skull and cross bones, of which there was only one for the Airiness factor of the Rahier baguette, was a reduction of two points.
- Rahier -7
- Bonjour Brioche +1
- Pain Perdu -2
- Chabichou +1
- St. John’s Bakery +9
And the winner is…drum roll please (who needs the Oscars, anyway?)… St. John’s Bakery, which incidentally uses organic red fife wheat flour sourced as locally as possible. But St. John’s was also a sourdough. So, we hummed and ha’d about whether it was even eligible for the Battle of the Baguettes, and kept it in the running because it was just so effing good. That being said, if the sourdough number from St. John’s was ineligible, Bonjour Brioche would have made it out on top. Rahier took a beating, but it was agreed that they do sweets, pastries and fancy little cakes very well and we won’t write them off completely. Chabichou was a serious disappointment as it was limp, lifeless, and bland, but David swore to us that it was uncharacteristic of baguettes he had procured there at other times. Pain Perdu was decent, but nothing to write home about (although their croissant would give most bakeries a run for their money any day, so it won’t be written off either).
The discussion that followed the contest culminated in the
realization that there isn’t a VERY GOOD baguette the city (based on the handful that we got our hands on), and that bread-making in Toronto has a way to go in order to compete on a global scale. Memories of perfect, crusty, chewy, bubbly, can’t-wait-to-break-the-end-off, long, slender loaves from Montreal, New York and Paris surfaced for each of us causing serious cravings for travel and finely baked goods.
In the end, we had a great time, focusing all of our collective energy on getting to the bottom of the matter. Adding freshly churned butter from Cheese Boutique, and two lovely raw sheep’s milk cheeses, Bonnechere from Back Forty (Lanarck, ON), and Allegreto from Quebec, both available at About Cheese on Church just south of Wellesley, made each baguette even better. We finished by feasting on the rehearsal dinner (see Blue Egg post) and paired our breaking of the breads with a 2008 Gamay from Malivoire, and a 2007 Triomphe Syrah from Southbrook Vineyards; both certified organic and from the Niagara Region.
Please offer your two cents in the comments section on baguettes you have found to be of superior quality, or bakeries to avoid at all costs.