Breaking bread abroad

Laura Aiken
April 18, 2012
Written by
Europain is worth every second spent in airport lineups, eating overpriced airport food and enduring the transatlantic flight.
Europain is worth every second spent in airport lineups, eating overpriced airport food and enduring the transatlantic flight. It is literally worth the trip, and certainly more. It is in Paris. Need I say more? I’m a writer, so the answer is probably “yes.”

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Japan hoists their first-place trophy after winning the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie.
 

I landed in Paris on March 3, a brisk Saturday morning filled with the promise of seven pounds gained (one for each day of gluttony). I attribute at least one pound to a large bowl of Burrata cheese, pillow soft and drenched in mellow olive oil, basil and tomatoes that was eaten long past the point of satiation.

Once you’ve eaten a bowl of cheese, and you’re faced with a trade show full of food in a dining capital of the world, you might as well go gangbusters and fill the rest of your stomach with macaroons. I paid a visit to the famed Ladurée pastry shop. A two-row lineup snaked through the feminine and distinctly French shop soaked in pistachio green and pastel pink.

I discovered a new favourite flavour in a large macaroon filled with whole raspberries encasing a rose-flavoured cream centre. There were more than macaroons at Ladurée, of course – there were brioches, petit fours, tarts, éclairs – but no cupcakes. I saw only one cupcake shop in my travels around the city (and I reached the far quarters, ask my feet).

After I mentioned our visit to Ladurée to a local, I was told I also needed to go to Pierre Hermé, a brand known for its macaroons and high-fashion clientele. There are locations worldwide. The boutique was modern and slick: very upscale chic. A cake that serves four to six people sold for 56 euros, but customers can buy personal size versions of most items on display that are perfectly replicated miniatures. I indulged in a number of macaroons: milk chocolate/passion fruit, salted caramel, crème brûlée, black current, hazelnut, olive oil/mandarin orange and mushroom. The macaroon flavours in Paris reflect the trends here: classic staples and new twists.

I landed at Poilâne in search of a traditional French bakery, which has multiple locations in Paris. I went to the original spot in the Saint-Germain des Près district, which opened in 1932. The front window is dressed with croissants and turnovers, and the bakery is lined with various breads. Poilâne expanded its products to include its own branded flour, salt and books. A bustling spot, it was evident people took advantage of the ability to buy sliced bread by weight, each in line mixing and matching his or her own customized purchase.

There were plenty of bakeries at Europain sampling the famous chewy crust and tender crumb French bread is known for.

While I saw the traditional side of French baking at Europain, I also found plenty of innovations in flavours and products.

The ice cream/gelato at the Louise booth were definitely buzz worthy: balsamic vinegar, black olive, Parmesan, red Thai curry, wasabi, strawberry basil, tomato basil and foie gras were just some of the inspirational savoury flavours offered by the treat maker. Louise is an ice cream concept by La Compagnie des Desserts that offers 90 flavours presented in everything from a cone to a brioche to a macaroon.

I saw a lot of one-serving salads layered in glasses ranging from an ordinary juice glass to a stemless wine glass, then finished with a garnish such as tomato or berry. The message seemed very easy elegance.

From Alex & Alex, a chocolate and champagne boutique in Brussels, I found a mix of classic flavours and innovative blends for the adventurous such as raspberry-clove, bergamot, cassis-cardomon and black tea.

Equipment
There was plenty of cool equipment on the show floor. Here’s a selection of standouts.

Panibois: This company makes containers made of 100 per cent poplar trees for catering and take-away. Sizes accommodate everything from a cake to ready-made lasagna. Each mould comes with silicone baking paper that is double sided and waterproof. They can be put in the freezer, oven or microwave, from a temperature of -40 C to 240 C.
Quadro RelaxS: WP Kemper’s new dough-dividing machine can manage up to 12,000 rustic rolls per hour with an 80 per cent absorption rate depending on the flour. It’s a flexible machine for small and medium-sized bakeries featuring INUS control via touch screen that incorporates features for process security.

Crustinette: This new piece of equipment by Rondo is designed to simplify the use of prefermented dough for the purpose of making rustic breads. A baker can make a variety of shapes ranging in weight from 10 to 500 grams, by using different-length cutters and cutting blades. The Crustinette, which can make about 1,200 baguettes per hour, made its debut at the show.

Bloc Combi: Visitors couldn’t miss the massive setup by The Mecatherm Group, a mini-industrial bakery that sprawled across the show floor. The company was in part showcasing its new Bloc Combi dough-dividing and -moulding machine for baguettes, rolls and tin bread. The Bloc Combi won a Europain innovation award for process.

AlveoPizz: This colour-coded rack tray system for dough by Scaritech earned a Europain innovation award for small equipment. The trays are made of hygienic polypropylene reinforced with fibreglass, and each allows for fermentation and storage of 11 pizza dough balls. The tri-colour system helps bakers easily see which is oldest.

The Eco-Divibac, by Abry Nicolas Sarl, earned an award for ergonomics with its range of economic dividers that allow people to quickly divide down into pieces in one round pan for dividing and baking 30 buns at a time. Sasa’s Fiberbac Carpet won an award for working comfort and health by eliminating the need to dust with flour and decreasing the exposure to flour particles. Lesaffre took two awards for yeast products. The Kastalia Mini was created for consumption of 10 to 30 kilograms of yeast a week and Soft’N Fresh formula extends the softness and freshness of prepacked rye bread.

Adventures in ice cream
I had the pleasure of talking with Gérard Taurin, who was granted the title Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 2000 for his specialization in frozen desserts. Taurin went on to win first place in ice cream at the World Championships in Turin in 2003. In 2010, Taurin and a group of passionate peers founded GTAI (Gastronomical Tour of the Anthropology of Ice Association). That same year, he packed up his car and took a small team from France to Morocco and high into the Atlas Mountains in search of the roots of sorbet. His car, watched by television viewers across France, was on display at Europain, as he is gearing up for his next voyage, which he calls The Ice Cream Road. Taurin will travel to China in 2013, which is believed to be the birthplace of ice cream thousands of years ago. He will lead a nine-stage expedition that follows in the footsteps of Marco Polo. You can find out more about the adventure in ice cream at www.gerard-taurin.com (site is in French).

Competition
The energy at the show really hummed as you got closer to the competition areas. France was denied a spot on the podium in its home country at the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie: Japan won, the U.S. took second and Taiwan placed third.

The International Confectionary Art Competition was unique because it insists on equal numbers of men and women on the teams. Teams from 16 countries created at least 13 dishes, including a pastillage showpiece, a confectionery showpiece, a chocolate showpiece and a dessert showpiece. First prize was awarded to Japan, followed by Switzerland and France.

There were 82,690 professionals and 770 exhibitors from 143 countries at Europain. Be among them in 2014 and make it the greatest excuse on earth to visit what is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

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