Bread, etc.

Many of us who grew up in what might be labeled “the Wonder Bread generation” have undoubtedly asked ourselves why bread—that bland,
spongy, tasteless concoction—was ever heralded as the staff of life. Anyone who has traveled to other parts of the world has probably noticed the difference between other cultures’ bread-making skills and our own. From my first trips to Europe, I enjoyed delicious soda bread in Ireland, hearty Bauernbrot in Germany, and, of course, crusty baguettes in France. Yet, like everything else in the fast-food world of today, deplorable loaves can be found abroad as well. Some of the plastic-wrapped poor imitations found in French supermarkets these days are barely edible.

Still, somewhere in the French psyche there exists a Proustian “remembrance of things past” where bread is
concerned. In fact, I was delighted to learn recently about the yearly contest in the French capital to determine la meilleure baguette de Paris. Although I would not like to serve on the jury having to taste 100+ different loaves to
determine the winner, I’m definitely up for visiting the top boulangeries and drawing my own conclusions about their breads. In both 2010 and 2011 the winning Parisian bakers were from the 18th arrondissement in Montmartre. Even more surprisingly, their bakeries are both on the same street, la rue des Abbesses: Au Levain d’Antan at number 6 and Le Grenier à Pain Abbesses at 38. Just one look at those golden loaves brings back the memory (à la Proust and his madeleines) of joyously crunching into that crispy, tasty bread.

Ah, well, so much for reminiscing. The question remains: where can we find the best breads in the Capital District? For one, The Placid Baker on Broadway in downtown Troy. This bakery offers up delicious baguettes and other types of breads, as well as flaky croissants (both almond and plain), and good desserts; it’s definitely worth the trip. A bit farther afield, also on Broadway but in Saratoga, we have Mrs. London’s. This combination café and bakery is probably the best all-around in our area. It’s a little far to go, but they usually have a stand at the Troy Farmers’ Market on Saturdays. Gotta get there early, though, before they’re sold out.

Respectable breads are also available in certain area supermarkets. Hannaford, for example, carries a line of products from Rock Hill Bakehouse. This bakery, out of Glens Falls, was
originated by Michael London from Saratoga. My husband is especially fond of their nutty, multi-grain bread. For me, the best baguette close to home is from The Fresh Market. I made the mistake early on of thinking that the French bread wrapped in paper would be the tastiest; but no, it happens to be an unassuming loaf covered by a plastic bag. It puts the artisan bread from Price Chopper to shame in terms of taste and texture. So light and crusty—mmm. Might just have to make a trip there today!

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