The Best Baguette in Paris

La Meilleure Baguette de Paris

[The Best Baguette in Paris]

…and it’s not even me saying it, but the good members of the jury in the 2006 edition of the yearly Grand Prix de la Baguette Parisienne. The winner is Jean-Pierre Cohier, whose bakery is just off the Place des Ternes: this was his fourth time competing, and he received the distinction for his baguette called Tradition. He’s been making that baguette for twenty years, with flour from the French Beauce region, and it is a baguette that is hand-shaped and requires 24 hours of fermentation. The lucky guy will receive a prize of 4,000 euros, and the exclusive right to fill the daily baguette needs of L’Elysée, where the President de la République lives and works. (This all sounds very grand, but apparently it is just 25 baguettes a day.)

So what’s a Tradition baguette you ask? French bakeries usually offer several types of baguettes these days: a baguette ordinaire, which costs less than one euro, and one or more fancier (and pricier) baguettes, using a different quality of flour and a more elaborate production process — such as Cohier’s “Tradition” baguette. The latter category is usually more to my taste: ordinary baguettes tend to have a tougher and browner bottom crust (and I seem to have issues with that), a thinner interior texture (when I prefer the inside of my baguettes to be Rubens-fleshy), and they also go stale much faster. Great if you’re looking to make croutons for a fondue, not so great if you wish to enjoy it over a couple of days.

[As a side note, I would like to draw your attention to a frustrating void in the English language: correct me if I’m wrong, but there is no single-word way to say “the soft interior of bread”. There is in French: the word is la mie (pronounced “mee”), and it is pretty convenient for writers who want to describe bread using short sentences — not that short sentences are actually my forte or my ambition, but you get my meaning. As a side note to my side note (who says those can’t be nested?), and although there is no etymological connection between the two, ma mie is also a deliciously quaint expression which means “my darling” when said to a woman. It is more often found in literature than in real life, but we could certainly start a trend. Update: “la mie” apparently translates to “the crumb”. Although I don’t think it conveys quite the same idea or, more importantly, feeling — “crumb” sounds a little dry and sad, when “mie” evokes a more noble notion, a certain tenderness or softness, and not just of texture — I stand corrected and happy to have learned this usage.]

Anyway. Back to Cohier’s baguette: taking the opportunity of my being in the neighborhood, I paid a little visit to his bakery earlier this week: I was half-expecting throngs of eager people waiting in line to snatch a baguette, and I had braced myself for the possibility of a “sold-out” sign, but apart from a newspaper clip in the window announcing the news, it was all pretty normal — an old lady dropping her change, me stopping its rolling flight with my shoe, a teenager ordering a baba au rhum when he really meant a salambo because the little tags had gotten mixed up, business as usual.

When it was my turn I ordered the winning baguette, and congratulated the baker’s wife, who looked pleased, if a little uncomfortable. I rode the bus home with my warm baguette, and we tasted it that night with a friend — the question “Would you like to try the best baguette in Paris?” rarely receives a negative answer I’m sure. Verdict? It was really very good: the crust was thin, but offered just the right amounts of elasticity and crunch, and the interior (the mie if you will) was light and supple. The smell was particularly remarkable, with a distinct difference between the crust, which smelled of wood and woodfire, and the inside, which gave off a delicate flowery/grassy scent, so fresh and moist I feel compelled to liken it to morning dew.

A fine baguette, yes, but I probably wouldn’t have elected it myself: although I haven’t tasted all the baguettes in Paris obviously, my own personal winner remains the Piccola, from the oft-mentioned Coquelicot bakery: its upper crust does not have those hard darker ridges, and its interior is fluffy like a freshly plumped pillow. However, if you happen to know the person who picks the jury members for the competition, do let him/her know I’d be happy to put my judgment to the test!

Jean-Pierre Cohier
270 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, in the 8th

Coquelicot
24 rue des Abbesses, in the 18th

Tagged: ,
  • http://willows95988.typepad.com/ Tongue in Cheek

    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!

  • Socks

    The inner bit of a loaf of bread is the crumb.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Ah yes, “crumb” indeed. But see, I find that word misleading because it also means “a small fragment especially of something baked”, and if you crumble the crust, you get crumbs too!

  • http://terreadelie.no-distance.net/etplus/carnet/ Adélie

    I agree with you, the Piccola is really one of my favorite, too (especially with salted butter and oeuf à la coque). You’ve probably seen it already, but the bakery near L’Homme tranquille (at the cross between rue d’Orsel and rue des Martyrs) has been selling a baguette Tradition for a few months now, and it’s a very good one too (just as their baguette des prés, of course).

    By the way, we finally paid a visit to Paninoteca, and the pizzas are indeed excellent… but my favorites remain those from Sale e Pepe rue Ramey ;-).

  • http://www.lacoquette.blogs.com Coquette

    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!

  • http://www.superfood.blog-city.com Richard Leader

    ‘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!

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    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!

  • http://anthonyskitchen.blogspot.com Tony of the bachelor cooking

    Soft interior of bread is not a very Yummy either. la mie sounds almost erotic… soft interior..

  • http://www.paristriptips.com paristriptips

    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!

  • Your papounet

    It”s a fact that « crumb » can designate the soft inner portion of bread, but as pointed out already, its common meaning of “small piece of something”, bread, cookie, whatever, tends to eclipse that specific meaning. Funny thing is that “crumb” is, in French, “une miette”, and here we find our old friend “la mie” again, since “miette” is no other than the diminutive of “mie”. Oh my… And talking about friends, “ma mie” comes from “mon amie” (my friend, in the feminine form, how else…), which was often pronounced in the shorter form “m”amie”, et voilà! “ma mie”!

    To conclude, “mie” comes from the latin “mica” a small portion, a small piece. Indeed, it used to mean crumb, particularly when used in the plural. As is so often the case, its meaning evolved by assimilation, and its diminutive took the role it played earlier. Ah, language…

  • Franco Phile

    Just a nitpick. It’s *la* meiulleure bageuette. The noun is feminine. You got the adjective right, though. And if you were following French capitalization, only the first word of the title would be uppercase.

  • sarah

    very interesting etymology on ma mie, personally i think it belongs in the same category as “mommy.” very similar pronounciation after all. just my two cents.

  • CB

    Uh, “Franco”, you know Clotilde is French, yes? Although she writes in English here. So perhaps the “le” is a typo, like your “meiulleure”.

  • sarah

    this is totally unrelated, but i happened to look at the time stamp on my post, and why does DST go into effect earlier in Europe? we jump ahead on 2 April (east coast USA).

  • Michelle

    In the bread world of english language it is the crust (outer layer) and the crumb (inner soft part). If you were talking to people who bake or who are “foodies” they would know what you mean when you’re talking about the crumb of the bread.(-:

  • Rose’s Lime

    Language is a tool for meaning making. The range of our vocabulary indicates what’s meaningful to us. Here on this side of the Atlantic (let alone the channel), we don’t taste food, we just shovel it down. Hence I’ve never seen the word “crumb” used to indicate the interior of a baked good outside of a book about baking.

    Thanks for “La Mie”. The more we use it, the richer our vocabulary becomes and the more meaningful our culture. I’ve noticed lately seeing and hearing the word “pate” (pronounced, “pot”) used to describe the interior of cheese which is otherwise un-named in english.

  • Your papounet

    For Franco Phile
    Not sure if you were serious, but I have to point out (apart from the mangling of the adjective “meilleure”, which can probably be ascribed to a simple confusion of keys) that you were seriously mistaken when writing : “And if you were following French capitalization, only the first word of the title would be uppercase.”

    Not so at all, and the title “La Meilleure Baguette de Paris” is perfectly correct in its use of caps. Here’s the rule that applies here :

    When a title begins with the definite article (Le, la, les), the first substantive is set to upper-case. (So, we would have had “La Baguette parisienne”, or “La Baguette de Paris”, or “La Baguette magique”…)

    Moreover, the upper-case is also used for any adjective or adverb preceding that first substantive.

    Ergo, “La Meilleure Baguette de Paris”, “La Superbe Baguette de Paris”, “La Très Belle Baguette de Paris”, etc…

    I suggest you pore over some book about typographical rules, such as “Les Règles typographiques en usage à l’Imprimerie nationale”, a fascinating book to read in bed…

  • http://tascadaelvira.blogspot.com/ Elvira

    Ça me donnerait presque la nostalgie, tiens!

  • http://threelayercake.com Three Layer Cake

    crumb also refers to the “cake” part of cake… I guess it’s the “non crust” part of baked goods, huh? In Italian MOLLICA. Is that close to MICA, Papounet?

    Daylight savings has been weird and whacky in Europe for the past ten years, moving forward gradually at first there was a one month gap then less then no gap…but next year, the u.s. moves to mid-March and November…

  • http://littlesnoring.blogspot.com Edwina

    I don’t care if you have your nouns wrong. That baguette looks delicious, I wish I was eating it with my morning coffee instead of marmalade on toast!

  • http://gillyoung.blogspot.com gillian

    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.

  • Your papounet

    Three Layer Cake : I suspect the italian “mollica” probably stems from the adjective “molle” = “mou” in French, i.e. “soft”, “tender”.

    Notice how those “m” words in indo-european languages relate to tender things ? maman, mother, mamma, mie, mollica, mou… ? ;°) Even in mandarin chinese, mother is “ma”, but this may be linked to a very deeply ingrained feature of the human race, although I’m sure “mother” is bound to begin with other consonants in many other languages (after all, there’s about 3,000 of them, although that’s impossible to count, really).

  • http://la-sherazade.livejournal.com/ Jessica

    I find it rather amusing that the person who corrected your grammar went on to misspell both baguette and meilleure! Oh well. For those of us who are new(ish) to your blog, could you possibly supply the address of Coquelicot? I’ll be back in Paris for a month in August and would love to check out both bakeries. Thanks! And thanks for the wonderful writing!

  • kelli Ferrigan

    hello, am not sure if another commenter has already mentioned this, but i was delighted to discover this week that “mie” in English is “crumb”. i’m reading & using Ch. van over’s book “the best bread ever” right now; for a couple of days i thought he was rhapsodizing about the quality of his bread crumbs (the ones left on the plate!)

  • 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.

  • http://thescentedsalamander.blogspot.com/ Mimi Froufrou

    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.

  • http://www.lindamathieu.com Linda Mathieu

    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.

  • always ace

    Hey Clotilde,

    I just wanted to thank you again for a wonderful post and such articulate writing… I am constantly amazed and impressed by your English skills, not to mention of course your writing, creative and — most notably! — cooking skills! You are so gifted, and I can’t wait to buy your cookbook when it comes out! (I think I’ve said that before, but no harm in saying it again!)

    I’ve been browsing around the blog world for the past few months, totally new to the domain, and I must say that your posts are always entertaining as well as informative… I still wish I had made it over to Smith’s to pick up a copy of that British magazine which featured your restaurant recommendations — still kicking myself for that one! But in the meantime, I have taken advantage of several of your recommendations and been very happy — namely Les Papilles, where I took my boyfriend for his birthday the first week of March… We were thrilled with our meal, especially la soupe de chataignes… It was all-around a wonderful evening!

    And if I can manage to get back to the subject at hand here — sorry about that — I stopped into M. Cohier’s bakery just last night, after reading your post, because it is right down the street from where I work! I had already bought a sandwich there a few months ago, but given that this is such a pricey neighborhood, I tend to try to bring my own lunch to work on a regular basis… But I had to try their Tradition! I enjoyed part of it with dinner last night, freshly baked, but I even enjoyed it lightly toasted with butter again this morning… I’ve become really picky about my baguettes over the years, too, and knowing that there are so many good bakeries out there, it’s such a shame to fall on disappointing bread, particularly in France!

    In any case, I have to reiterate the temptation to break off a piece of fresh bread on the way home — I almost always do so, it’s so hard to resist! Do you ever find yourself succumbing to that particular temptation, Clotilde?

    And on a final note, I was really surprised at how inconspicuous this little bakery was, how small and out of the way — I think that’s why I hardly noticed it before! Ah, the hidden surprises of Paris…!

    Thanks again for a great post…

    ~ Ace

  • http://www.chezmegane.blogspot.com ChezMegane

    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!

  • Bob

    Clothilde

    Je vous conseille un excellent dictionnaire en ligne, celui de l’office québécois de la langue française, disponible ici:
    http://www.granddictionnaire.com/btml/fra/r_MotClef/index1024_1.asp

    Saisissez votre mot (ou définition), en l’occurence “mie de pain” et le miracle se produit … :)

  • http://wystel.livejournal.com dddg

    (oh, my — i think i’ve accidentally fallen in love with Clotilde’s papa…)

  • http://givingitatri.blogspot.com Paulie

    I have always thought that bread lovers could be divided into two groups. Those that love the crust and those that love the crumb. I’m a crust lover, myself. I think the word “crumb” when used to refer to the interior of the bread is actually easily understood because of the different use of the article. One may refer to “a crumb” or “the crumbs” when refering to bits and pieces, but possibly never “the crumb” because that would be pointing out a single specific bit, and who does that? Moreover, the interior of bread would only be refered to as “a crumb” if talking about crumb theoretically, and “the crumbs” wouldn’t be used because that type of crumb is not a count noun. Thus when one hears “the crumb” one knows it is refering to the interior of bread and “a crumb” or “the crumbs” refers to bits and pieces. Just look at the usage in the prior comments and you will see that this is true.

  • 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 .

  • Georgia Butters Cain

    Hi Clotilde,
    Yes, I love bread too.
    With regard to one word for ‘soft in…etc’
    I would say dough- that’s what i call it. There’s dough and crust.
    What do you think?

  • http://www.confituredulait.blogspot.com karina

    I never thought by reading your blog I’d learn a new English word! I always loved the fact that you could say la mie in French and that there was no English translation. I stand corrected though and will start saying the “crumb” although I’m sure no one will understand me. :) I love reading your blog! Thanks!

  • Your papounet

    Let’s face it: “crumb” sounds crummy, “mie” sounds yummy… Unlike children, who should be seen but not heard (or so it went in the old days, I’m told), words should not only be seen, but heard too !

    dddq : ahem… what can I say… I just hope you’re insured against this sort of accident ! Flattering all the same, I had my BOD (Blush of the Day) reading your post!

    Bob: kudos to you, and my everlasting gratitude. This dictionary you mention is going to come quite handy to me, I can assure you. A wonderful approach to vocabulary, quite exceptional.

  • http://chefspiration.blogspot.com Alexandra

    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!!

  • http://thepearlonion.blogspot.com/ The Pearl Onion

    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

  • http://www.mizutamago.typepad.com mizutamago

    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.

  • http://porcinichronicles.blogspot.com Susan in Italy

    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.

  • http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v314/jessesgirlny/gougere.jpg Tina

    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!

  • http://www.carolgillot.com carolg

    There’s a nice picture of Cohier’s “la mie” & others of the facade & the baker at:
    http://www.linternaute.com/villes/paris/diaporama/06/meilleure-boulangerie/jean-pierre-cohier.shtml
    Thanks Clotilde for this terrific story :)

  • http://cathweber.blogspot.com catherine

    There is a U.S. sandwich chain that refers to said inner part of the bread as the “guts.” When they pull out the “guts” to make room for your sandwich fillings, they place it back on top of the bread before the sandwich gets wrapped. Yum!

  • 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…

  • http://www.go-provence.com roger

    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.

  • Sylvie R

    Dear Clothilde:

    I have been lurking on your wonderful site for several months now. What a treat (sometimes nostalgic!) for this French-born person who has been living in the Eastern United States for 18 years. I HAVE to comment on the Mie and Crumb controversy after reading the first update that you posted on your March 30 “best baguette” item where you corrected yourself, having been advised that “crumb” is “mie”.

    My first reaction was to categorically disagree with that advice. Like you, I also don’t (well didn”t) believe there is a word in English that exactly translate “mie de pain” and all the gustatory feelings that it evokes. Yet, crumbs is related to bread but I had never seen “crumb” used as the word “mie” is used in French. Most Americans I know think of bread as :bread and crust” not as “la mie” and “la croute”. If they have to describe “mie” they will talk of “the inside” or “the interior”. In a unscientific study, I established that some individuals actually will look puzzled when you asked them “what”s the inside of the bread called?”; they”ll say, “well, that”s the bread, isn”t it?”.

    Then, I pulled a couple of bread books I have on the shelf, and wouldn”t you know one of them is called “Crust & Crumb: Master Formulas for Serious Baker” by Peter Rheinhart. So, I had NEVER seen “crumb” used like “mie”, yet I own a book with Crumb in the title… mmm… makes one think doesn”t it? Published in 1998, the book refers to the crumb a few times (almost each time explaining that it means the inside), but much more often calls it the inside or the interior of the bread. Fast forward to “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread” by Peter Reinhart and Ron Manville published in 2001. In that book, the word crumb is defined as the size and structure of the holes. In both those books, crumb was listed in the index. It was not, however, listed in the index of “Artisan Baking Across America” by Maggie Glezer. I could not find any use of the word crumb (I did a quick reading mind you, not word for word!) until page 210 (out of 236) in “Analysis of a Baguette” which rates “the look of the crumb – its color, holes and overall texture – as being as critical as the bread outer appearance”.

    So that”s what a few bread books are saying. How about dictionaries (arguably repository of the language in use)?

    On-line http://www.Dictionary.com has the following 4 definitions, with the reference to inside of the bread in third place:
    1. A very small piece broken from a baked item, such as a cookie, cake, or bread.
    2. A small fragment, scrap, or portion: eraser crumbs; not a crumb of kindness for you.
    3. The soft inner portion of bread.
    4. Slang. A contemptible, untrustworthy, or loathsome person.

    The Merriam-Webster on line (/www.m-w.com) is similar to Dictionary. Com in that regards, with their 4 definitions:
    1. a small fragment especially of something baked (as bread) b : a porous aggregate of soil particles
    2. BIT
    3. the soft part of bread
    4. slang : a worthless person

    The http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org has no reference to the interior of the bread and only provides two definitions:
    1. A person who is deemed to be despicable or contemptible;
    2. Small piece of e.g. bread or cake.
    It notes that “crumb” was first used in popular English literature sometime before 1258, and also provides two specialty definitions (1 – Computing: Two binary digits; a quad. Larger than a bit, smaller than a nybble. Considered silly. Syn. tayste. 2 – Food & Agriculture: A rounded porous aggregate of soil, up to 10 mm in diameter).)

    From Wordnet (www.wordnet.princeton.edu), again, no reference to the inside of the bread:
    1. a very small quantity of something
    2. a person who is deemed to be despicable or contemptible
    3. a small piece of e.g. bread or cake

    I also looked in a 1936 dictionary I have and the 2nd meaning of the word then was the “inner soft portion of the bread”.

    Conclusion: I have to admit that the word crumb means “mie”. My not-so-educated guess is that when home making bread was common practice, people used the word crumb to commonly designate the inside of the bread. When home cooking from scratch fell in desuetude (and good bread, I have to assume), the word stopped to have the “mie” meaning for the everyday person (although it may have kept that meaning for bakers). With the resurgence of fresh wholesome food, the slow food movement, artisan bread etc, that meaning of “crumb” seems to be coming in use again, although it has not yet become part of the common lexicon.

    Another proof (no pun intended), if any was needed, that languages are living entities…. Ouf! Now my mind can rest easy… Happy crumbing!

  • http://www.erzsideak.com Erzsi Deak

    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!

  • Jerry

    I believe in English, people call” the soft interior of bread” crumb. People might say “the crumb is open and bouncy.” Like your posts by the way.

Get the newsletter

Receive a free monthly email with a digest of recent entries, plus exclusive inspiration and special announcements. You can also choose to be notified of every new post.