Le problème du pain

by on March 20, 2006 at 7:14 am in Economics, Food and Drink, Law, Travels | Permalink

Bread is one of the great pleasures of Paris.  The croissants melt in your mouth, the tarts have a crust that is to die for and when you break a baguette the bloom crackles perfectly and yet the inside is moist and chewy.  Moreover, I’m not talking about the best bread in Paris (which is likely the best in the world), I’m talking about the bread that you can find in any of thousands of neighborhood boulangeries and patisseries.  Why is the bread in Paris better than any that I can find in Washington?

Two answers come quickly to mind.  First, competition is intense.  Every neighborhood has at least half a dozen shops to buy bread.  Second, the French are used to high quality and will reject anything of low quality so tourists benefit from the informed local demanders.

I find both of these explanations wanting.  We do have artisanal bread in the United States and take a look at your local supermarket, competition on bread quality is intense.  At my local supermarket, there are dozens of different breads all of which compete with an on-premise bakery.

Furthermore, isn’t bread making about knowledge? – i.e. the paradigmatic example of a public good and one that is supposed to diffuse easily around the globe.  How difficult can it be to follow the recipe?  (I know, that is my point.) 

Comments are open if you have some ideas about why bread isn’t nearly as good in the United States as in Paris.  But you might also have guessed that I have a larger point in mind.

Le problème du pain is this – if it’s difficult to spread the art of bread making from Paris to Washington then how can we ever hope to spread democracy from Washington to Baghdad?

dyoung March 20, 2006 at 7:29 am

i’ve been living in France for the last 17 years. interesting anecdote on bread in France. when Marks & Spencers was here (they moved out of France a few years ago), their best selling food item was American-style sliced bread. It was alot softer than the sliced bread you find in the French supermarkets, and housewives loved it. It lasted for days, and it was popular with kids. Buying baguettes is fun when you’re a tourist, but when you live here every day it can be a bit of a grind. Also, the baguettes get stale very, very quickly. A baguette you buy early in the morning will be stale by lunch. So wonder bread style products don’t seem so bad.

as to competition among the bakeries: there may seem to be alot of them, but French people will tell you that there are alot fewer than there used to be. In fact, the number of boulangeries has declined over the last 40 years by an amazing amount (over 80% I think). Much of that is thanks to depopulation of rural areas and small villages. But also, bread consumption in France has plummeted (confirming that bread, even if it’s really excellent, may actually be an inferior good). An additional factor is the growing role of supermarkets in food distribution. So in fact, while boulangeries do face competition, the competition they fear most (and the competition they seek legislative protection from) is not each other, but the big supermarket chains.

Tyler Cowen March 20, 2006 at 7:38 am

I am hardly the baker, but how about: a) less use of frozen dough, b) higher quality grains in the flour, in part stemming from shorter supply chains, c) better salts in the bread, and d) better fats and butters in French bread. Add in a greater general attachment to bread (for a mix of economic and cultural reasons, most of all greater ease of walking to bread shops, but also fewer cheap processed alternatives, an area where America excels, and less reliance on national advertising for bread brands), and the bread makers know they can sell all or nearly all their fresh bread in a matter of hours. American bread has gotten much better very quickly and we have not stopped climbing the curve.

Slocum March 20, 2006 at 8:09 am

I have mixed feelings about bread in France–there seems to be an inverse relationship between variety and quality (you may be able to get the best croissants and baguettes in the morning, but there’s not much else). But if croissants and baguettes were a much smaller niche (as they are in the U.S.), they wouldn’t be as good. On one trip, I thought my wife was going to scream if she had to eat another plain croissant or pain chocolat for breakfast. And during that same trip (this was some years ago), the papers had a story about French bakers demanding the government DO SOMETHING because the French were eating more and more breakfast cereal in the morning and this was hurting bread sales.

Personally, I’m happy to trade a little bit of quality to get a lot more variety.

Don March 20, 2006 at 8:34 am

My understanding is that croissants, at least, are all about the butter. That’s how they get the delicious flaky layers and melt-in-your-mouth flavor. And I think there are USDA regulations that require butter to be pasteurized, unlike Europe — and I think that many share the opinion that some of the little bacterial critters give European butter a superior flavor. Don’t know about baguettes, but I’ll note that there seem to be all sorts of US regional specialties that aren’t easily reproduced elsewhere — San Francisco sourdough and New York bagels come to mind. So it’s not entirely a French thing.

Tim G. March 20, 2006 at 8:51 am

I suspect that what we’re really ruing here is a the lack of good (or maybe great) baguettes in the U.S., not breads generally. I grew up in the South and am thus partial to the “quick breads” of the region like biscuits and corn bread. What amazes me isn’t their scarcity but their ubiquity and variety; try jalapeno cheese biscuits or blueberry cornbread for a treat. Even some of the fast-food chains can manage credible versions. And that points to a possible explanation–the French excel at making baguettes because baguettes matter there in a way that the don’t here, and the same is true with our “heritage” breads here. If more folks craved good baguettes in the way that Alex does, more places would sell decent ones.

Conny March 20, 2006 at 9:08 am

Bread in France is quite good but I think that Germany has the best bakeries. French bakeries lack variety as one of the other commenters mentioned. In Germany (particularly in the southwestern part) you’ll get fresh and delicious
baguettes, croissants and tarts but a you also get an incredible variety of different black breads, corn breads, roles, cakes, … Besides a typical inner city street features at least 1 bakery per block.

See here for a typical range of bread and roles of a German bakery http://www.baeckerei-neff.de/brot.html
and here for the cake section http://www.baeckerei-neff.de/kuchen.html.

Tyler Cowen March 20, 2006 at 9:14 am

Alex’s response is, as you would expect, right on the mark. But most of the differences in ingredients *can* be traced to underlying economic causes. For reasons of rents, commuting distances, and city design, the French are better situated to consume fresh breads right after consuming them. Cheaper bread alternatives, in the U.S., also stem from economics, although this is a long and complicated story. The best salts come from France, for complex but largely economic and geographic reasons. Non-pasteurization makes French butters better, plus French farm subsidies keep many more small farmers in business. This raises price but also improves quality and shortens supply chains. Freezing foods, including dough, is much cheaper in the United States, again for economic reasons. We have a more disperse population and longer supply lines, both of which favor freezing, plus we have much cheaper transport.

Again, I would stress that American bread is getting better and French bread is probably getting worse. We are seeing convergence, though I would not expect this to ever be exact.

R March 20, 2006 at 9:35 am

I too have a french friend thinking about opening up a bakery over here. He’s a boulanger, not a patissier, but even so, he thinks he would have to import the butter to make anything close to his croissants. Second, in addition to the supply problems above, french white flour is considerably different, more bran-y, than american white flour. A few american bakers try to mill their own, but it’s still not any good. And I don’t think we should entirely discount savoir faire. To some extent, there are plenty of things that differ in quality based purely on geographical spread. Take carpets, for example. A wool rug made in a Iranian village is better than an imitation iranian rug made of wool in the same way in an Indian village. So if we’re not able to attract the french bakers, then maybe that’s why we don’t have good french bread.

By the way, it’s all personal taste, but I’d trade all our muffins and scones and doughnuts and fry breads and everything else for good baguettes and croissants. Oh well.

Dan K March 20, 2006 at 9:44 am

Perhaps output control is more important than input control. French consumers are choosy, while American consumers expect and get less. Competition does the rest.

Bernard Guerrero March 20, 2006 at 10:02 am

It appears to me that Tom and Cannon are on the right track. This is a demand-side issue. I don’t know if a better educated consumer would solve the problem, though, or if it really is a problem at all. As was noted, good French croissants and baguettes are delicious, but have other qualities besides taste that, depending on your lifestyle, might make them a second choice even if they were widely available in the U.S.

David March 20, 2006 at 10:15 am

I am perpetually skeptical of arguments that some local
feature–the water, the wheat–is the reason for differences
in quality. Flavor, yes, but objective quality? Baking is an
art but it is also very much a science, and I don’t think
there is much about the chemistry and physics of breadmaking
that isn’t well understood.

Well-informed consumers is probably the key but I don’t see how
information asymmetry (“lemons problem”) enters the picture.
Ask for a free sample! I see it more as overlapping distributions.
In France, informed demand has pushed their curve to the right, so
that the probability of finding bread better than the “expected”
quality of U.S. bread approaches 1.

I haven’t yet had the pleasure of visiting France so I’ll throw this
question out: Are all types of bread uniformly superior, or just the
classically French types? Will I be as floored by the pumpernickel
and the pita as I will the baguette and the pastry?

Robert Schwartz March 20, 2006 at 10:30 am

Good bread, high unemployment, riots. Poor bread, low unemployment, domestic tranquility.

Which to choose.

you can’t enjoy the bread if the rioters have cut off the path to the bakery.

odograph March 20, 2006 at 10:48 am

I’m an occasional home baker. I’ve gotten moderately into it now and then, and know there is a serious bread subculture here in America. Read Peter Reinhart’s “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” for more info. Also I’m sure there must be economics articles on the rise of artisanal bakers … and there are artisanal choices at my local (orange county california) supermarkets (and trader joe’s).

mobile March 20, 2006 at 11:29 am

The experience of eating bread in Paris cannot be replicated
in Virginia, even if the bread can be. Why do hot dogs
always taste so much better at the ballpark?

jn March 20, 2006 at 11:32 am

There are issues at the margin and on average. On average French bread is better than American and that is related to demand and competition as well as regulation. But at the margin there have been many complaints of declining quality and the return to artisanal breads is a 90s thing. Read about Steve Kaplan http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/23/AR2005082300291_pf.html

I have found that the rise of first rate artisanal bread has been accompanied by declining standard baguette quality over a decade or two.

Also there is the issue of comparing apples and oranges. As someone pointed out, soft, sliced white bread can be quite popular. And in takeout joints, sandwiches with soft sliced bread usually cost MORE than those great sandwiches from baguettes, yet seem no better than standard American sandwiches.

L March 20, 2006 at 12:08 pm

Those bakers complaining about ingredients are simply incompetent. I use the cheapest flour I can get at the supermarket and brita-filtered tap water and make better bread than I’ve had at just about every restaurant I’ve eaten at in America (though not every American bakery).

joshg March 20, 2006 at 12:22 pm

It has to be the informed consumers. The same reason you can’t get NY style pizza or a decent bagel in DC.

y March 20, 2006 at 12:58 pm

As with many foods, I think the biggest issue is that Americans put a higher value on things other than flavor. French bread is terrific in the morning, a bit stale in the afternoon, and French toast the next day. Likewise, those terrific vegetables you see in the European markets go bad in three days. In order to consume these things, you have to be prepared to shop every day. How many Americans would be prepared to put up with that? More to the point, how many American women would be prepared to put up with that? Fewer and fewer French women are. These things may seem simple, but they are bound up in a certain organization of society, and that is something that is much harder to export.

nick March 20, 2006 at 1:35 pm

A big difference is that the competition in retail Paris bakeries is directly for consumers. In the United States bakers typically compete for corporate purchasers and only indirectly for consumers. Corporate purchasers value things they can measure, like long shelf life. Their knowledge about their consumer’s preferences about one kind of item out of the thousands of kinds they stock, while better than the rest of ours’, is far inferior to the largely tacit knowledge of the consumers themselves about their own tastes. Dynamically, there is far more interaction between the baker and the eater in small Parisian shops, so that bakers can quickly learn responses to small changes in recipe, whereas there are several people standing between the baker and eater in corporate America.

Also, the superiority of French bread may be exagerated because part of the joy for the tourist is novelty. If you lived around French breads all your life they would become more mundane. It may be quite reasonable to prefer supermarket bread that can be picked up when shopping for the rest of the groceries, is cheap, and has a long shelf life, especially when living in most places that haven’t developed a high-quality direct baker-to-eater bread culture. dyoung’s observations suggest that France itself is moving in this direction as supermarkets spread.

Anna March 20, 2006 at 2:03 pm

It’s a well known fact in the manufacturing industry that quality is built into a product. I’d bet on better quality, fresher raw materials, and perhaps a workforce intrinsically motivated by a desire to produce the best bread in the world.

spencer March 20, 2006 at 2:23 pm

About half way through the comments I started thinking we could get a series
of almost identical comments if we were discussing German beer vs US beer.

So what does that imply for the discussion?

Mike March 20, 2006 at 3:04 pm

The same is true about yogurts. In US and UK they are far worse than in France

Foobarista March 20, 2006 at 3:22 pm

To flip it around, it is an article of faith among Chinese that the food is better in China, particularly at the lower-end of the spectrum. And this doesn’t just include Chinese food but also Western fast food like KFC! Having spent extended time in China (living in a non-five-star environment), this seems to be confirmed.

Some differences:

o Some but not as much industrial farming and livestock raising in China as the US. Much food is what we’d call “organic”.

o Demanding customers. Chinese can tell un-fresh food a mile away and will not go to a restaurant that isn’t selling fresh food unless it’s extremely cheap and they’re poor.

o Lots of “farmers’ markets”. Most Chinese cities have a greenbelt surrounding the city, and farmers come in to sell their produce every morning. Many people have older relatives at home who go and buy fresh stuff every morning for the day’s cooking.

Given that China is a highly disorganized place as far as food production and government inspections and such are concerned, this would argue against things having to do with government involvement.

Half Sigma March 20, 2006 at 4:09 pm

nick: “A big difference is that the competition in retail Paris bakeries is directly for consumers. In the United States bakers typically compete for corporate purchasers and only indirectly for consumers.”

This explains why stand-alone bakeries have better bread and pastry than the stuff sold in supermarkets. And NYC has these stand-alone bakeries.

The mystery is why they aren’t found in other parts of the country. Even DC didn’t have any bakeries.

Ragout March 20, 2006 at 4:20 pm

I agree with those who say it’s better inputs that make the difference. My guess is that the US lacks French-quality inputs because of economies of scale.

There may be a lot of bakeries, but I don’t think there really are than many millers. The US may just not have a large enough market for high-quality baked goods to support the production of high-end butter and flour. At least not on the mass scale and low prices that I presume prevail in France. An interesting comment above says “a few american bakers try to mill their own” flour, which suggests that good flour really isn’t available in the US.

Also, besides the water, I’d guess that another input to bread which may not be replicable is the bacteria in the air.

Charles Stewart March 20, 2006 at 4:57 pm

Agree with Seringen. A little piece of unverified information I heard is that most French boulangeries don’t make their own bread, but instead just bake factory-made loaves, and ironically most of these factories are located in Germany…

Han Meng March 20, 2006 at 5:43 pm

It’s a matter of informed consumers. The majority of American consumers want something cheap and convenient, which means a long shelf life. Also, most Americans don’t care as much about taste as the French.

Nor is it just about expectations. As long as it’s fresh, mediocre French baguettes are far superior than mediocre American “French” bread, which is a bad joke.

As for poor quality after WW II, that may be true, but when I was an American kid living in France in the 60′s with my parents, I found the crust of French bread too hard for my soft mouth, and American-style sliced bread was not available where we lived, in a suburb of Paris.

Swimmy March 20, 2006 at 5:58 pm

How odd that “Who Will Help Me Bake This Bread” by Propagandhi came on as I was reading this post.

Bob Montgomery March 20, 2006 at 7:10 pm

@ Half Sigma: There are plenty of bakeries in Seattle. You do have to know where to look; they aren’t as easy to find as 10 acres of Costco.

bbartlog March 20, 2006 at 8:57 pm

As regards butter, there is no question that there are more factors influencing the quality than simply the pasteurization or lack thereof. In the US, most milk is produced by breeds of cows that are selected purely for their large output (mostly Holsteins I believe), and this milk is thinner and arguably inferior to that produced by Jersey, Guernsey and Brown Swiss cows, which are more widely used in Europe. In addition, the feed given to the cows has an influence on the flavor of the milk and cream, and it is likely that the feeds used in Europe and the US are different. Finally, as already pointed out, different salt is available in Europe (though this seems to be a very portable factor).

For those who would argue that the differences in flavor are a matter of expectation, I recommend buying some European butter (Whole Foods stocks Icelandic, Irish and French butter at the very least, all very good) and doing a blind taste comparison with Land of Lakes or some similar good American butter. They are quite different, and a croissant made with one instead of the other will taste different as well. So far in any case I haven’t heard that argument advanced by anyone who claims to have actually *been* to Europe and eaten the food.

sedela March 20, 2006 at 9:59 pm

it’s the flour composition that differs. different amounts of protein, etc. in the actual flour that makes one of the greatest differences. butter will play a role if we’re talking croissants, etc as well. in the u.s. many really good bakers end up using some european flour or king arthur’s. Jeffrey Steingarten goes into this issue in one of his books – i forget which one (either The Man Who Ate Everything or It Must’ve Been Something I Ate).

Ze Uropean March 20, 2006 at 10:16 pm

America is mostly redneck and cheap, with a Walmart mentality. France, and many other european countries, are more sophisticated. There’s also tradition. America has no true tradition, as do the Europeans. They build the best weapons tho ;)

Cardhaus March 20, 2006 at 10:34 pm

I just wanted to say that the mention of Steingarten’s chapter on french bread is spot on — he’s extremely thorough in his investigation, turning it into a science. From what I recall, he pronounces Acme Bread (San Francisco/Berkeley) to be up to the task.

Russell Nelson March 21, 2006 at 1:21 am

Um, didn’t ANYBODY notice that this posting WAS NOT ABOUT BREAD?

Scott Partee March 21, 2006 at 2:23 am

First, it is a flat-out false assertion that Americans don’t know or get bread that is as good as in Europe. There are a handful of places that can do every bit as well as a bakery in France. But, as I mentioned, it is a handfull. Overall, however, the fact is that American bread sucks.

My take is that there are numerous differences. I learned a lot by reading the website and devouring the baked goods at Ken’s Artisan Bakery in Portland, Oregon (http://www.kensartisan.com/). Ken studied bread making in France and Italy (as well as the U.S.). Ken is able to reproduce the European breads, but he also applies the time-tested techniques to new creations. Here is my list of what’s required:

1) Supply chain — Portland has a micro-economy in many regards. Due to the urban growth barrier, the surrounding area is mostly agricultural and, therefore, products reach the city very quickly and are produced on a smaller scale with more craft and on an artisan scale — just as they did traditionally in Europe. Also, I live in Europe, and I can tell you this: you can buy just as much crappy food here (highly processed, imported from the cheapest materials, etc.) as you can in the U.S. And I also disagree that Europeans inherently “know” better — there is about as high a percentage of “rednecks” here as there are in America. Ken uses locally-produced products, organic flours, etc.

2) Technique — bread making requires careful study and an understanding of biological, chemical and creative processes. As I have seen — during my time in Portland — a good supply chain does not equal good food automatically. There are plenty of restaurants in Portland that produce “local, seasonal, artisan” food and still manage to suck. Read some of Ken’s essays on how he creates his bread and how he arrived there. His croissants take THREE DAYS to make. This is a traditional method that probably still survives widely in France, but was never a tradition in America. What I learned from Ken is that he undertsands that baking is not so much a “baking” process as it is “fermentation” craft. Ken does not use commercial rising agents such as pre-packaged yeast but instead uses a natural leavening process.

3) Market — I moved to Europe a while ago, and when I was having coffee w/ one of my Czech counterparts, he said “I believe that in America you don’t have coffee such as this!” We were drinking espresso from over-extracted,stale beans and, quite frankly, it sucked. Having just moved from Portland, Oregon, I had been in single origin, fair trade, freshly-roasted, carefully-crafted coffee land — a land that far exceeds Europe in quality and craft. Yet, the general perception is that this does not happen in Europe and Americans don’t know better. The problem is: it’s mostly true. Americans in “the middle” — away from the coasts — which is how I grew up, didn’t get anything good unless it was homemade (which my mom did, but not all the time). I simply did not know good bread until I traveled Europe in high school. I think that is changing a bit and maybe we’ll see more demand for good stuff and, in turn, more good stuff. Ken’s bakery does a great business in Portland, as do several other artisan and high quality bakeries. In fact, it’s hard to get *bad* bread in Portland now — much like France.

BC March 21, 2006 at 4:18 am

THE BEST BREAD IS IN ESTONIA!
http://www.eestipagar.ee/

and if you still don’t know where Estonia is, see that:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estonia

Benjamin Ryzman March 21, 2006 at 8:15 am

I just don’t get it.

Non-french people drooling over French baguette quality and denying French bread variety. If you call variety the number of different brands then you may have a point. Today I have a choice of hundreds of different breads from hundreds of different boulangeries. In just one of them, I can choose from any of 5 different baguette types, 3 “plain” croissants, at least 2 large pains de campagne, and a dozen of different cereal pains de campagne. And I only touched traditional french boulangerie, though we also enjoy even more variety from french regional recipes and foreign ones too! Ah the joy of living in Paris, France.

vanni March 21, 2006 at 10:50 am

yes indeed! Bread. So basic, so simple, so good…when done right. In NA it is very difficult to find good bread. In Europe (france, italy – pugliese bread-, and even germany) one excepts it. Good, well crafted bread is the heart and soul of Europe. While NAs are cursed with a fast buck and fast food. Read Henry Miller’s essay on “bread”…he said it best back in the twenties and it still applies to the situation today.

Paul March 21, 2006 at 1:11 pm

Isn’t humidity and altitude a major factor in bread? I am by now means a bread expert, but yeast and environment are large factors in the quality of the bread’s texture and flavor. Someone ask a pastry chef!

deb March 21, 2006 at 5:24 pm

I was in Paris this past weekend (sigh) and while I have always argued that baked goods are better over there due to their lower required temperatures of pasteurization of eggs, milk, and butter, and the range of readily available high quality ingredients, just watching the people walk around made me rethink this is a bit.

Over half the people at any time are carrying one to two fresh baguettes. Everyone buys fresh baguettes, all the time, and their baguettes are superior there. When people fuss over the quality of something it improves – like bagels in NYC and sourdough in SF as one commenter mentioned. Perhaps our bread interests are too disparate, from pitas to white and multigrain loaves to rye to bagels to have ended up with any cross-country specialties.

capturedshadow March 22, 2006 at 2:37 am

I think it takes a critical mass of consumers and suppliers to make a more refined product selected on quality rather than just value. Not just for bread, but for lots of regional foods. As mentioned earlier, bagels in New York are almost uniformly great, as are burritos in San Francisco. Bagels in San Francisco are spotty, and burritos in New York – well some are OK some are not. When local demand is high, the prices on those treats goes up. When demand and supply are both high, then quality goes up while price stays reasonable. Hence good cheap bread in France, bagels in New York, and burritos in San Fran.

billswift March 22, 2006 at 6:34 am

I gave up on reading the comments about halfway down; so no one is probably going to make it this far, but here goes. The poster who pointed out the prevalence and difficulty in reproducing regional breads had a good point – I make great baking powder biscuits, hotcakes, and cornbread, but only mediocre sourdough and other yeast breads – I learned in the South.

In every commercial bakery I have seen there is a **wide** variety of breads made, if someone concentrated on croissants rather than their just being another bread along with pumpernickels, rye breads, bagels, donuts, Italian bread, focaccias, et cetera, then I have no doubt croissants in the U.S. would be as good as in France – it is a matter of **specialization** – and I cannot understand why supposedly professional economists didn’t see the returns from specialization almost immediately.

Democracy requires not just prerequisites, such as the rule of law, lacking in the Mideast, but worse, an ongoing commitment to working things out, which from my reading I see no reasonable likelihood of developing in the region.

MJ Memphis March 22, 2006 at 8:21 pm

I think it’s more a combination of cultural expectations and the skill of the baker than any mystical “terroir”. Growing up in south Louisiana, where there is still a very strong French cultural milieu, my family could find excellent French bread in the stores. Here in Memphis, the grocery store French bread sucks; however, we do have a small local chain (La Baguette) with French bread to die for.

I also had some excellent Cajun food in, of all places, Bangkok (at a restuarant run by an expat from New Orleans), which is better than I can say for any American city I’ve visited outside of Louisiana.

YLlama March 23, 2006 at 2:25 pm

Elizabeth hit the nail on the head. It’s all about water. Read a story a few months ago about a guy who moved from the East Coast to L.A. & started making pizzas. He eventually had to ship his water in from Massechusetts; couldn’t recreate with West Coast water.

I suppose what I’m suggesting is that baguettes are from France, so they taste different when made elsewhere. The recipes are also designed with French water (and other ingredients) in mind; so when you follow the same recipe elsewhere, it doesn’t work (both in the sense that it doesn’t taste as good, and that it doesn’t rise/bake/crust the same). Washington is best suited to making certain sorts of bread. And that list does not include French-style breads.

Randall Parker March 25, 2006 at 9:55 pm

We can’t hope to spread democracy from Washington DC to Baghdad. We should not even bother to hope we can. That way lies frustration and folly.

By contrast, I agree with Tyler that we can quite reasonably hope for and even expect improvements in food quality.

Industrial processes are a lot easier to improve than humans. Though eventually humans will become a lot more tractable due to advances in biotechnology. Not sure that the results will be good though.

dearieme April 5, 2006 at 6:24 pm

There’s a nation where adults (adults!)drink coke with their meals, and anyone wonders why they don’t have any interest in buying decent bread?

Sanna May 22, 2006 at 4:49 pm

I have a headache and cannot read all of what is written, but I agree wholeheartedly on what is said. I was born in Sweden and had access to quality bread and dairies. However, the weather and the people are more than chilly… When I moved to the States I encountered a friendliness unlike any other society and grew to love it. However the food took a turn for the worse. The bread is too soft and lacks any real taste. I have struggled in vain to find fresh, live yeast to bake my own bread–whereas live yeast was easily bought in sweden at a local kiosk. All in all, I appreciate good food and will go back to Europe during a summer break when i get the money.

Richie July 19, 2006 at 12:18 pm

Its simple really. Bake the bread freshly, three times a day. Use soft/weak flours with a low protein content. Dont use fresh yeast, but a starter from the previous batch, that you or your predecessors have been nurturing for the last 100 years. You might like to add a little malt flour. The part-cooked frozen breads/ rolls from French, German or Swiss factories produce a reasonable substitute, but theyre not as delicious as a freshly baked ficelle from your local boulangerie.

gytuk September 14, 2006 at 1:38 am
linda October 9, 2006 at 6:27 am

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