The Best Baguette in Paris

Best Baguette in Paris

The official Meilleure Baguette de Paris competition was held last Thursday, and the 2017 winner of the Best Baguette in Paris award is (drumroll please) Sami Bouattour from Boulangerie Brun, a bakery that’s at 193 rue de Tolbiac in the 13th arrondissement (métro Tolbiac).

The competition is held every year, and it is organized by the Mairie de Paris, the mayor’s office, to spread the word about Paris as a city of fabulous bread — which it no doubt is — and to foster a healthy sense of competition between the boulangers, who strive to improve their craft in the hopes of winning that coveted distinction.

Best Baguette in Paris

How is the Best Baguette in Paris prize awarded?

The competition is held over a single day. The bakers bring in their baguettes in the morning, and the jury spends the day grading them (anonymously) for appearance, quality of the baking, smell, and flavor. About 200 bakers enter the competition every year.

The 14-person jury is made up of other bakers, chefs, journalists, and also individuals who can put their name in and hope to be selected to participate. (It sounds like fun but it is a lot of bread to taste! Your senses and your brain get fatigued quickly when it’s not your profession. But a once-in-a-lifetime experience for sure.)

At the end of the day, the names of the top baguette makers are announced.

10 Romantic Things to do in Paris

What’s in it for the baker?

For the lucky winner, the prize is threefold:

  • First and foremost, it is excellent publicity. The bakery puts a big sign in the window, it is talked about and featured in all the local papers, and bread lovers from around the city (and the world) come in to taste the new Best Baguette in Paris. Once that effect has subsided, locals continue to think of that bakery as the best in the neighborhood, and will favor it over the competition.
  • The winner receives a cash prize of 4000€. Not enough to retire (otherwise the city has just lost its best baker) but enough to buy a new piece of equipment, paint the store front, or maybe take the entire staff to a fancy dinner. (That’s what I’d do myself; excellent for karma, excellent for PR.)
  • Finally, the winning bakery becomes the official provider of baguettes for the Palais de l’Élysée, the French White House, where the lives and works. This means that the Président de la République eats that baguette daily, but more important, it is the bread served for all the official meals with ambassadors and foreign dignitaries. It is not a very large number of baguettes (about 25 a day I am told) but bread is such a central component of the French food culture that it is a very big deal to be THE baker who makes THE baguette served to some of the most illustrious people in the world.

Best Baguette in Paris - Held

What’s a Baguette de tradition française ?

French bakeries offer several types of baguettes.

The Baguette ordinaire, costing less than one euro, is made with quick-rising yeast and low-cost white flour. It is fine for sandwiches, but doesn’t offer much in the way of flavor complexity, and goes stale within a few hours.

The Baguette de tradition française, on the other hand, is made according to rules established by an official decree voted in the early nineties. These baguettes must be prepared with just flour, salt, and water — excluding any kind of additive or preservative — and leavened with a mix of yeast and natural starter. They can never be frozen, and are typically the result of a slow fermentation that allows the development of many more flavor compounds.

To buy one of those, simply order “Une tradition, s’il vous plaît !”

Best Baguette in Paris - Close up

Beyond the ordinaire and the tradition, individual bakeries will create their own specialty baguettes: garnished with seeds, dusted with cornmeal, spiked with rye flour, or even colored black with squid ink.

What are the markers of a superior traditional French baguette?

I judge a good Baguette de tradition française by several elements.

The crust should be nicely browned: in baking, color is flavor, and if you underbake bread you miss out on the flavors that develop when the flour caramelizes in those last few minutes of baking.

The crust (la croûte) should be crisp, and it should “chirp” when you press it close to your ear.

The ridges on the top, called grignes, should be sharply defined and clearly raised.

Best Baguette in Paris - Grignes

The underside of the baguette should be flat and greyish, which indicates it was baked directly on the stone floor of an oven. This is the marker of an artisanal baguette, because it takes a trained artisan to do it this way. A dotted or honeycomb pattern indicates it was baked in a mold or on a conveyer belt, which are signs of a semi-industrial or industrial operation.

Best Baguette in Paris - Underside

When you tear off the tip of the baguette (called le quignon or le coude, the elbow), the crumb (la mie) inside should be ivory white, open, with uneven air pockets and an irresistibly fresh smell, milky and floral, that makes your mouth water.

Best Baguette in Paris - Crumb

A good baguette has a nice chew to it, and offers a great contrast of texture between the robust crust and the smooth, elastic crumb.

Best Baguette in Paris - Tearing off a piece

A good baguette will keep well until the next day, wrapped in a kitchen towel, and its flavor will evolve over time, greeting you with a fresh nutty whoosh when you unwrap and toast it in the morning.

PS: We cover all of this and much, much more during my private walking tours. If you’re planning a trip to Paris, please get in touch!

PPS: While you wait for your next trip, make your own baguette using my sourdough baguette recipe.

PPPS: Maybe some cheese with that baguette?

Top 10 Best Baguettes in Paris for 2017

  1. Sami Bouattour, Boulangerie Brun: 193, rue de Tolbiac, Paris 13ème.
  2. Khemoussi Mansour, Aux Délices de Glacière: 90, boulevard Auguste Blanqui, Paris 13ème.
  3. Tanguy Lahaye, Boulangerie du Pain: 20, Boulevard des Filles du Calvaire, Paris 11ème.
  4. Gontran Cherrier, Boulangerie Gontran Cherrier: 22, rue de Caulaincourt, Paris 18ème.
  5. Abdallah Lakoum, Boulangerie Bichon: 2, rue Cail, Paris 10ème.
  6. Gilles Levaslot, Les Gourmandises d’Eiffel: 187, rue de Grenelle, Paris 7ème.
  7. Mahmoud M’Seddi, Boulangerie 2M: 215, boulevard Raspail, Paris 14ème.
  8. Ismaël Sylla, Le Grenier à Pain: 52, avenue d’Italie, Paris 13ème.
  9. Swan Casenove, Boulangerie Tembely: 33, rue Myrha, Paris 18ème.
  10. Hubert Beatrix, Maison Hubert Trévise: 6, rue de Trévise, Paris 9ème.*

To help you find a prized baguette of your own, I’ve created this handy map:

* To my knowledge, we have yet to see a woman baker win the competition; it remains a very male-dominated occupation. Only a matter of time before we have that to celebrate!

Best Baguette in Paris - Piece

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  • The “mie” such a delicious word to describe the fluffy cloud inside the baguette! What is with the English language forgetting to give it a name! Nobody eats their crust, and the part that is consumed has no name!

  • Non food related question: If you call a woman “ma mie” is it pronounced the same way as grandma? I suppose you just have to really place a nice pause between the two words? Because I think “ma mie” sounds just adorable!

  • ‘Crumb’ it is, and a pretty crumby word it is too – I think henceforth, I shall refer to it as ‘la mie’ – a much better word!

    In the UK, we just don’t take our traditional foods as seriously as this – which is a great shame!

  • Coquette – “Mamie” and “ma mie” do sound the same and you could confuse the two, but I guess the difference would be in the rhythm of pronunciation: “Mamie” is said all in one breath, whereas you would take your time saying “ma mie”, putting a stress on each syllable. (This is probably clear as mud — thank heavens I don’t teach French.) The bottom line is: context! :)

    Oh, and come to think of it, calling someone “my crumb” is kinda sweet, too!

  • I tell everyone I know, once you have a truly delicious baguette it is hard to go back. And I’ve had my fair share of delicious baguettes.
    But now you’ve given me a new baguette goal: check out both Cohier and Coquelicot and do a taste test of my very own. Maybe I’ll get some brioches as well!

  • Ça me donnerait presque la nostalgie, tiens!

  • I find the best baguette in Paris is a warm one! I’ll wait outside the bakery for the next batch to come out of the oven if I have too. Just walking down the streets with it in your arms is satisfying. I’m also fascinated how you can specify whether you want a soft baguette, or a well cooked baguette in most bakeries. I’m a soft ma mie myself.

  • kelli Ferrigan

    zut- j’aurais dû les lire avant de faire un commentaire. (*blush*) i just don’t have the time to do all that reading nowadays! cheers, (that’s twice my two cents’)

  • Truffaut

    We are fortunate to have BOTH the 2003 (Boulangerie Laurent Connan) and 2004 (Pierre Thilloux at La Fournée d’Augustine) winners within two blocks of our apartment. When in Paris, it’s a daily struggle to decide to turn left or right at the corner! Curiously, the baguettes from both boucheries are quite different from one another.

  • I’m currently based in Boston but when I go back to Paris, where I live in the 6th arrondissement at St Michel, I usually like to trek to Eric Kayser’s boulangerie near Place Maubert, on rue Monge. Their baguettes are delicious and were deemed some of the very best in Paris by a major French magazine whose name I now cannot recall.

  • See, this is why I don’t make my own bread. There are just too many places selling fabulous tasting bread. My French husband can take one bite of some bread and know instantly that is was made in a mass market sort of way. It looked the same to me as the baquette at our corner boulangerie but I do-now-see and taste the difference. It is wonderful to get a baguette still warm from the oven and I often see people carrying a baguette home who can’t resist breaking off the end to munch on as they go home. I am among them, of course, if it is warm. I only like a baguette on the day it is made while my husband can eat it, hard and crusty, the next day as well.

  • cpr

    I’m pretty sure it’s terribly unfashionable, but I love the Retrodor baguette. Do the bakers still make those? They were making a splash in around ’98 or so. Crunchy outside, chewy inside. Yum!

  • Krista

    Hi Clotilde – I propose a section with in the blog called ‘vexing linguistic dillemas’. Like others have said before the ‘mie’ in English is reffered to as the ‘crumb’, although spelled the same as a small piece of something left on the table, in this sense it means the texture of the inside of a yeasted product, usually a bread with a long rising time, i.e, the slower the rise the better the mie. As a bilingual Canadian who trained as a pastry chef I feel particularily qualified to comment on this one.

  • Clotilde,
    Thanks for a wonderful post. I always feel like we’re stomping around the same areas of Paris, so your comments feel quite personal to me. I was dumbfounded when getting a recipe from a friend and it was something like, “tu prends la mie…” I was amazed at how that short sentence was an instruction to “scoop out the soft middle part of the baguette…” As usual, quite eloquent in French and not so in English!

  • Rebecca

    Merci, Clothilde, for yet another articulate “bite” of Parisian life. I always have to explain to my American friends who come to visit me here that there is indeed a difference among the delicious baguettes ubiquitous in this lovely city and that la tradition is the only way to go! I am currently obsessed with Eric Kayser’s version, partly out of convenience (I live right around the corner from his rue de l’Ancienne Comédie location) but also because, like you, I have done extensive research in the baguette de tradition field of science and find Monsieur Kayser’s très bien! My question: Who is on the committee that chooses the best baguette? (I’m picturing about ten old French men wearing berets, smoking cigarettes and taking bites of baguettes being handed to them and passing them down the line, then jotting down their notes in a quill pen.)

  • Milk

    A big Hello from the Netherlands,I wish we had some good Baguette here( been here for 10 years ) still looking and dreaming .

  • Hi Clotilde!
    I have been reading your blog for a while not but never commented..I absolutely love your writing style and admire your love for food!!
    I just started my own blog because of you :)

    I would be so happy if you had the time to check it out and give me some feedback!

    Thanks!!

  • I was just in the bakery today and bought a baguette. I felt quite sophisicated knowing all about the “la mie”! I bet the other people there only knew about ‘the crust”–such a boring word… Thanks for the lesson!

  • marie

    hello from LA!
    I also love love love cooking and baking. Congratulations on your fabulous blog. So inspiring and really well done: pics, recipes, design – by the way, did you start your foodblog on one of those free blog sites? if so which one would you recommend? – and stories. Before reading your blog I thought I was one crazy foodie in the world but now I know I’m not alone! I can’t wait to buy your book.
    Best wishes
    Marie

  • Hi Clotilde,

    Thank you for your maginficent recipes and inspiring posts of your gastronomical creations and the works of others.

    I have had the pleasure of tasting the delights from Le Coquelicot, in Montmartre. But I had no idea, that I would some day read about them on your blog! (I guess I missed the ones in your old post). It’s been almost two years since I tasted one of their fresh baguettes with un Bol de Cafe…not to mention the pan au chocolat…hot damn!

    For the person who asked for the address, I believe this is it 24 rue des Abbesses 75018 PARIS.

  • I’ll never forget in early 2003 living right down the street from the bakery that had won second prize for the “Meilleure Baguette de Paris, 2002”. There was a line out the door every morning but it was well worth waiting in it! I also loved the fact that no matter how well your bakery ranked, you couldn’t sell your baguettes for more than 80 euro cents each! After all, it’s basic.

  • Jonathan

    Having spent a summer in Paris taking classes, I must say even “la baguette ordinaire” still beats out any baguette you could find in America. I’ve never had the more expensive baguettes, and not that I wouldn’t appreciate them, but being a francophile-American, I am content with a plain baguette that’s fresh out of the oven.

  • Clotilde,

    First time posting but have enjoyed your blog over the past few weeks. You make me want to run out and get some baguettes! Though I’m lucky enough to live in NYC, it’s so sad to see the baguettes that they have in some of the stores here, and how I long for the ones in Paris!

    Since you are on a baked goods theme, I searched for one of my favorite things on your blog and could not find anything. Gougères! I miss those so much and it’s hard to find them here! I was in Paris a few months ago and brought a dozen back, put them in the freezer, and have been reheating them one by one and savoring each one. I love how in Paris, they have these BIG gougères… I can’t figure out how to post a pic, but click on my name to see what I’m talking about…

    Love your blog!

  • Diana

    Hi everyone!
    Clotilde, thanks for your effort to share your food experiences with us.
    I live in Toronto, not Paris, so if I want a good baguette, I have to make my own. I would just like to recommend a book that is great for understanding bread, but also contains some fabulous (my personal opinion) recipes for all sorts of bread. The Pain à l’Ancienne recipe is just divine. The author: Peter Reinhart, the book “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Mastering the art of extraordinary bread.” It is the same book that came to mind when I read your Petites Brioches recipe. Can’t wait to try that one.
    Cheers!

  • Odile

    Kayser, YES!
    Their store in the 15th is our Everyday Bakery, and boy, do I feel spoiled. Moving back to the US will be painful…

  • Surely a hard decision to make: the best baguette in town.

    Is there a competition in France? Maybe you should initiate one. L’ordre de baguette, or something.

  • Hello. Speaking of “la meilleure baguette de Paris,” does anyone know of the concours website listing all the winners over the last century (I’d settle for the last five years). . . ?

    Thanks!

  • Judith Scott

    I’m not surprised..when I lived in Paris, in the 13th, La Butte Aux Caille neighborhood, this was my go to boulangerie! I always thought their products were wonderful, but to be voted best in Paris?!!!
    What an honor.
    Now if someone would only create a true French baguette in the San Francisco Bay Area :-(

    • You must feel very validated for having known that bakery all along. :)

  • Floriane

    OMG! I must be mad to have read this post in its entirety, as I am now in agony!! I have now been living for a year and a half in Australia and I have become desperate to find bread (not bread as the Australians mean it -_-) but REAL bread with crispy crust :'( Of course I have heard of a couple of good French bakery here but htey are far and the baguettes they sell is a luxury that me and my doctoral boyfriend cannot afford for the moment (oh underpaid studies!!).
    Another regret: I didn’t take the opportunity to eat good bread when I worked in Paris, so I promised myself to rectify this as soon as possible :P

    • Ah, sorry Floriane, I do understand your pain. Maybe have some avocado toast to feel better? :)

  • Vicky

    So delighted to see so many names ‘issues de l’immigration’ on the list of the Top 10 Baguettes. Who would have thought that baking, like football, would be a vehicle of social integration? But then…food does bring societies together. (I am always interested by the fact that ‘le casting’ of British Bake-Off features so many visible minorities – and am delighted by the fact that so many winners and finalists are British muslims preparing often very traditional British recipes. Le Meilleur Pâtissier also makes a great contribution in this regard.)

  • My mouth is watering just reading about this. Love this tradition, and all that it represents. Hope there is a lady baker to celebrate as best sometime soon. Oh, and the baguettes look scrumptious — I can practically smell them.

    • Yes! Lady baker soon, I hope! But they are few and far between in French bakeries still.

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