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Posts tagged ‘French bread’

Distributeur Automatique de Baguette

baguette_dispenser_automatique_distributeur_de_pain_paris_1.jpgThe French are know for some pretty innovative breakthroughs: hot air balloon and hairdryers, pasteurization and pencil, mayonnaise and the metric system, and bicycles, Braille and bras. The Gauls gave us the guillotine and are also accountable for the Etch-a-Sketch. But the jury is still out on the recent brainchild of French baker, inventor and entrepreneur, Jean-Louis Hecht, the 2014 winner of the Concours Lépine—the French invention challenge held each spring at the Foire de Paris.

His invention? Le Distributeur Automatique de Baguette (DAB) or what I like to call the Baguette ATM.

When this contraption popped up in my Facebook newsfeed a few weeks ago, I was stunned. Zut alors! A baguette vending machine in the land of artisanal bakers? Sacrilege! I knew I had to see this with my own eyes to believe it.

A quick Google search yielded two addresses: one in the 19eme arrondissement and one in the 15eme. The automatic boulangerie in the 15eme turned out to be a short walk from my Pilates studio, so I grabbed my good friend Rachel and we made the trek.

When we arrived at La Panamette, 32 rue Paul Barruel, we found two dispensers filled with partially baked baguettes—one ready and willing to dispense. We drop our €1 coin, and after 10 seconds, it dropped our baton. I was expecting something more dramatic, and certainly more aromatic, unfortunately it was rather anticlimactic. The machines, swathed in bright pictures of a beret-clad lad wielding his wand among the wheat, were not much different than the chip and candy dispensers from home.

While online reviews promise “crisp and steaming” or “warm and crusty” bread, ours was warm(ish) and chewy, on the verge of being crisp, a super marché quality baguette.


That said, I understand the concept. It addresses a real need. While I wasn’t won over by the taste and texture of this bread, these round-the-clock boulangeries do allow people who work evenings or early mornings to enjoy fresh, warm bread when their friendly bakers lock up shop. In fact, his closed bakery doors are what inspired Hecht, a baker of 57 years, to design the DAB in the first place. Living over his boulangerie, in Hombourg-Haut, he was often disturbed by desperate customers knocking on his door after hours demanding bread. Wanting to spend uninterrupted time with his family and not wanting to worry about closing up for vacation, the idea was born. In addition to more sleep and quality family time, Hecht also hopes that his machines will shorten the queues for buying bread and reclaim the towns of France where the baker has disappeared.

I personally love the anticipation of lining up at my local boulangerie and inspecting the visual and scented edible art, but maybe that’s just an expat experience. To me the DAB is purely a novelty in this land that does bread so well. I’ll wait in line and stick to the real deal.

…lining up for a baguette...

…lining up for a baguette…

Meanwhile, I’m keeping my eyes peeled for the machines dispensing Dom Pérignon in juice boxes.

No. 138: Brioche: Let them Eat Cake

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” or the most common English translation: “Let them eat cake,” was supposedly uttered by Marie Antoinette, wife to King Louis XVI, the last, and possibly most extravagant queen of France. The story goes that upon hearing that her people were enduring difficult times and ongoing bread shortages, she proclaimed, “Then let them eat brioche.”

qu'ils mangent de la brioche...let them eat brioche…

qu’ils mangent de la brioche…let them eat brioche…

As brioche is made from sweeter dough enhanced with butter, eggs, and sugar (limited and luxurious ingredients at the time), brioche was even more out of the reach of the peasants than bread. This declaration was said to reflect the Queen’s obliviousness to the shocking condition of her people, and in the end contributed to her losing her head by guillotine.

source: Kirsten Dunst in “Marie Antoinette,” directed by Sofia Coppola, NYT

source: Kirsten Dunst in “Marie Antoinette,” directed by Sofia Coppola, NYT

Well it turns out there is no evidence that the Queen ever uttered these words et en fait this anecdote was never cited by opponents of the monarchy at the time of the French Revolution. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, political philosopher and composer, more likely wrote it when Marie Antoinette was a young child living in Austria. But even before Rousseau’s writings, it was attributed to Queen Marie-Thérèse the wife of Louis XIV, a hundred years earlier. And way before that, Chinese scholars claim that the phrase originated with an ancient Chinese emperor who, altogether unsympathetic to the fact that his subjects had no rice to eat, said, “Why don’t they eat meat?

Regardless of who did or didn’t say this, or who, unfortunately, lost their head and who didn’t, I have recently been introduced to this slightly sweet, funny-shaped, golden, eggy morning staple, and I can confirm that when I have a choice, I would rather eat brioche than bread, at least for breakfast. And these days, une petite brioche et un petit pain à Paris are each 1€ apiece, so on rare occasions, I let myself eat both.

petite brioche et petit pain

petite brioche et petit pain

Click here for a yummy airy brioche recipe from Fine Cooking. Best served with strawberry jam, lemon curd, or caramel à la fleur de sel.



caramel à la fleur de sel: salted caramel

et en fait : and in fact

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche. Let them eat brioche.

une petite brioche et un petit pain à Paris… a small brioche or small roll in Paris…