It seems simple right? Flour, water, salt and yeast; 4 ingredients that bakers spend much time trying to master, the art of the perfect French bread. You can mix them together and put them long and narrow in the shape of a baguette and get the simple version or there are different ways to pre-ferment the dough, either a few hours, 1-3 days or combining a combination of pre fermented and not pre fermented together, to create different textures of the same product.
My beautiful Canadian friend, Dominique, originally from the province of Quebec, mentioned to me, her search for the perfect baguette. White Rock, where we lived, offers many varieties at local bakeries and the bigger grocery chains, like Safeway or IGA. You’d never be the wiser of the inferiority of the product until sampling the original French baguette.
Dominique tried to explain her dilemma. It is sponge in the middle and crusty on the outside. The texture is unique, she’d say, and joked how one day she would open a store, selling nothing but true French baguettes.
Her insight has now prompted me to search our little community of Capestang for the perfect French baguette. Very much like Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert, looking for the perfect Italian pizza, I laugh at myself for mimicking, we hunt each bakery to find the perfect baguette! ‘Eat’ is where we would be at; our order would be Love, Pray and Eat! Hungarian version?
The grocery chains in Capestang, offer a simple version, and cook them throughout the day. We only buy these baguettes if the local bakeries are closed, as a last resort. They taste exactly like the ones we get back home, nothing fancy, just fills the need for bread, and usually comes to the baker pre formed and frozen, they proof and bake off. They are inexpensive, 1/2 the price of the bakeries, but you get what you pay for.
I have had a hard time figuring out when Bakeries are open and closed in Capestang, a code I must decipher. Until then it is hit or miss.
You can find baguettes in corner stores too; from where they come is a mystery. My guess is they probably come from one of these 3 bakeries, delivering for an easy grab.
Alfonz and Daniel after school ran up to the square to use the Internet from one of the two café’s and bought a fresh, warm bread stick from the Boulangerie Patisserie in the square. It was half eaten by the time they walked the 5 minutes home, and sure enough it was devoured before dinner.
Au Palais des Saveurs is located in the square where the church is and offers all the daily favorites, from chocolate croissants, to pastries full of yummy creams and donuts. For 1 euro you can get a beautiful French baguette. It is so cheap, that one custom we have already adopted is fresh daily bread. Old bread can be fed to the ducks that don’t migrate to Africa in the canal, or the bread can be dried for breadcrumbs. They have a different baguette, which is bigger called the Capestanese, as well as other versions for sandwiches or toast.
The Baguette itself on the outside was done to the perfect golden brown, and the crust was thicker and crunchy, with a fluffy spongy pull apart inside. The larger proofed holes, was the perfect mixture of light and crusty. Perfect for dipping into French style split pea soup with bacon on top, which was for dinner.
My favorite bread from here so far is the walnut bread, but their hazelnut apricot bread is a close second. We like to have a slice, covered in jam at our afternoon coffee or tea and it lasts more than one day. They have an Olive bread which is hearty and filling, great with a soup or stew. Alfonz loves their Chorizo Sausage bread stick. He doesn’t share. Embarrassing when 5 minutes later we go back for another, after I steal some of his.
Often we make more than one stop at the bakery, and the ladies that man the store, are very nice and always helpful. Especially P who tries to help us figure stuff out and even speaks a little English.
#2 Patrice Biondi Bakery
Across the street from our village house, is another bakery. Harder to get too, in between the Mural and the Fountain, but still a precious find.
Their charming young delivery driver, probably their son, also works the counter, smiles up and practices his English each time we meet. I have seen him bouncing around town, shaking each person’s hand as he passes and if their business was solely based on his personality, it is a huge success.
Many delivery trucks crowd our street, delivering to neighboring towns and villages, they are so nice, when they see us trying to park, they come out and move a truck for us. We have sampled each of their products, and the kids love the hotdog in the croissant, grabbed on the way home from school. I can smell their bread from the street as we walk by, but not sure if the bakery itself is on premises. The kids also like the phyllo pastry pizza! That is a double whammy on the waistline, but so delicious, I bet it would give Elizabeth’s #1 pizza a run for the money!
Daniel is often sent on an errand with a Euro in hand to grab a baguette from here. It is close we can see it from our window. Daniel feels so big, walking home with the baguette under his arm.
Their best product, in my opinion, is their rare grain baguette. They only make a few each day, and the other bakeries don’t make them at all or are out by the time we get there. So good, and less guilt, the healthier version full of grains, gives a great chew, crusty outside, inside the dough pulls apart in strings coiled around with a hollow spongy middle. Covered in butter, or spread with pâté eaten with fresh tomatoes or Brie, is very yummy! We are frequently at this location, if not for their good baguette, then this is our pastry stop.
Their croquette, similar to the baguette is very good. It reminds my of an English muffin, but denser. I sometimes crave these over the others, if I want something in between a light baguette and a hearty loaf.
#3 Bakery Along the main Drag
A third bakery is along the main drag in Capestang. They asked us not to take pictures, and were very straightforward about this.
You enter a beautiful store with grand displays of items, suggesting a good turn over. We try their baguette, as well as a few pastries. Very tasty items, their bread was similar to the others but not exceptionally better, as the price would suggest.
However, if you need a cake, their display is full of beautiful fresh creations, and they have seating, to enjoy your lunch. Size and location is what this one has the others do not. With fresh sandwiches offered to the truck drivers along the road, they have an edge as a truck stop. Easy access as you drive through Capestang, if you want a quick bite, this is your place.
Conclusion: Capestang has three different bakeries. One we get our baguettes and croissants from in the square, the other our pastries and occasionally their grain baguette, and the third is for cakes and a sit down to eat a sandwich. Not a bad mix for a small village!
Note: It takes a lifetime to gain a customer and only a moment to loose them. Our findings are, the happier your staff and the owners alike the more frequent we stop by!
It’s funny, I ask people where they get their bread from, and it mostly has to do with location, where the closest one is, and they all swear their bakery is the best; I guess it really is a matter of taste.