I just had the most remarkable experience. I had a appointment today with a boulanger on the outskirts of Paris in a little suburb called Sceaux, a charming little town with small shops and gardens. The boulanger was Frank Dubois and I can say without hesitation his was the most fantastic bread I think I’ve ever tasted. I got a little lost trying to find the place, but when I was close I knew – there was a line of customers outside his shop and it stayed as busy until the moment I left.
Frank is a true master – calm and unassuming – he exudes a a charm and knowledge that speaks volumes about his business. His english is not great, but he was able to communicate his philosophies and methodologies. He let me try a number of his breads, and every single one was a revelation. His rye baguette – made from a farine T-130 was incredible as was his buche de sceaux – a rye with hints of buckwheat.
His grande sourdough boule has a fermentation of close to 20 hours. It is made from farine T-80, and was a perfect balance of sour. His breads are never too acidic nor sweet. And the aroma had a richness and complexity that was very powerful.
The baguette uses a natural poolish of flour, water, salt and yeast. After the dough is mixed, it autolyses for 10 minutes, then proofs for an hour. He then practices a deferred fermentation of 3-7 hours in a proofing chamber. When the dough is ready, the baker divides the dough in a machine that completely forms it. With very little handling, the dough is placed in a couche for 10 minutes. It then goes in the oven is ready for the client in 20 minutes.
It was a perfect baguette – creamy with a crackling crust and perfect interior.
The brioche was second to none. He uses a natural levain of yeast, flour and milk, and lets that proof for four hours. He then mixes flour, salt and eggs, and finishes mixing with butter and cream. Not sweet, perfect hydration, creamy and soft – it was simply fabulous. Everything about his brioche was perfectly balanced. Equilibrium was a term he kept using to describe his bread.
I tried a Pain Chataigne, which was a bread filled with chestnuts. He uses combination of 30% chataigne flour – one that I am not famiiar with and want to learn more about. Dense and chewy it was also suberb.
The last bread I tried was an olive oil bread with roasted tomatoes and chevre. I can not get over how good this was. The dough requires 1 day of fermentation, and when divided he slabs huge chunks of chevre on the top and bakes for 20 minutes. He gave me a huge roll (as well as three bags with more bread), and after I left I ran over to the park and ravaged this in one sitting.
Frank stressed to me over and over how important it was to him to provide a singular experience for his clients. He believes in an open fournil (oven room) so that his clients can see and smell the baking process – and feel connected to it. He wants his bakers and clients to interact and get to know each other. His business goals are not that of expansion, but rather providing the best quality and service in a small location.
In addition to his fantastic bread, he also has a beautiful display of pastries made by an MOF patisserier. An MOF is a very prestigious award bestowed on people who have mastery over their profession – it can be a chef, baker or patissier. Here is some of his work: (check out flickr for more photos of the pastry kitchen)
I can’t thank him enough for letting me spend time with him and his bakers. His business and everyone involved had such a great energy. He is really a superstar. And thanks to Steven Kaplan for setting me up with him. It’s interesting that on my first day another shopkeeper (a chocolatier) also recommended that I stop there – she said his bread was phenomenal.
Its probably time to pack my bags and head back because I think this is it – the end of the line. Who can possibly top this?