Crumbs of Wisdom

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Joined Mar 13, 2001
In Montreal's top French bakeries, you'll see terms like levain, boulot, poolish and 36-hour baguette on some of the crisp-crusted loaves—and maybe buy them without knowing exactly what you're getting. What exactly does «levain» mean? Could poolish mean Polish and 36-hour mean stale? The bread scene has its mysteries.

Here are some crumbs of wisdom from "The Taste of Bread"

Levain is a mild sourdough bread, tangier than the usual French bread because it's made with a homemade starter. This is a dense bread, usually made in a round or oblong shape.

Boulot is a shape of loaf, elongated like a football, with one or two slashes across the unbaked loaf to allow it to expand while it cooks. Medium and large boulots are sold.

Poolish comes from Polish, a method of bread-making using a "sponge" starter that was developed in Poland during the 1830s, when commercial baker's yeast first appeared. Viennese bakers adopted the method and introduced in Paris, where it was called Vienna bread. It calls for a moist fermented yeast culture, to which the remaining ingredients are added.

The 36-hour baguette is made with a longer rising time than the usual baguette. The loaf is shaped and put in the refrigerator where it rises very slowly over 36 hours, hence the name. The result is bread with more flavour and a crisper crust with bubbles in it.

"Years ago, says James MacGuire, when I met Calvel in Montreal, it was the heyday of whole-wheat and multigrain bread." At the time, MacGuire—a Calvel disciple—was almost alone in making top-quality French bread here at his Le Passe-Partout bakery-restaurant. Calvel and MacGuire would have none of the whole-wheat fashion. Use hard red spring wheat flour, unbleached and untreated, they advised. (Hard red winter wheat is preferable, but there is not enough of it in Canada.)

Bread made from white flour, they admit, contains less minerals and vitamins. But they don't like bread made from "authentic" whole-wheat flour. "It has a high moisture content, rises badly, has a crumb that is too tightly structured, and has a strongly pronounced bitter bran taste. In short, the quality is inferior."

Excerpted from The Montreal Guazette.

For more information about their book, The Taste of Bread, I have posted the pertinent information in the Book Shelf forum, under topic "Another bread book".
Click here for info
 
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Joined Jun 12, 2001
K,

Thanks for the information. Having never been to Montreal, I was wondering if there are many european type idependent bakeries, or have the chain supermarkets run them out of business. Do you find sweet breads in these bakeries too?

Which of types of breads you described do you prefer (with an educated and discriminating palate!)?

H.
 
2,550
13
Joined Mar 13, 2001
H.,

The best bread I can afford is the one I bake myself. In a pinch, I'm pretty happy with a "pain au levain", a 36-hour baguette, or a "Viennoise".

Sweet breads are not hard to find either. Some of the best will be found in Jewish bakeries, along with our famous Montreal bagels.

Thanks for asking.

:D
 

isa

3,236
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Joined Apr 4, 2000
I'm not kidding, there is such a thing as a double croute baguette.
 

isa

3,236
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Joined Apr 4, 2000
Thanks Kimmie, maybe I'll give it a try when I get my kitchen back. The painter is here to finish the paint job that wasn't done well in June. And to say I was planning to make my fruit cakes today.
 
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