"What is a "BOULANGERIE" in France?" Paris Favorite Tip by thinking

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Favorite thing: the French government recently introduced legislation designed to prevent any bakery from calling itself a "boulangerie" if it does not make, knead and cook entirely from scratch on the premises.

Contrast this to the signs "baked on premises" you see in Manhattan, which only mean the industrial frozen dough has
been delivered to the premises, and they put it into the microwave to finish "baking" it here.

However, French health authorities recently asked the bakers to reduce the salt content in their products by 20per cent over the next five years.Despite the revival of rustic recipes for darker breads and the multitude of newly invented varieties, the basic baguette still represents seventy percent of French bakery sales - or ten billion baguettes consumed every year.

As for a precise description of the ingredients, you have to ask the baker most of the time what each bread with a fancy name in reality contains.

Only three categories of French breads are defined by law : those that carry the mentions maison, tradition and levain.

A baker may only call his bread "maison" when the entire operation, from the kneading to the baking to the sales, takes place in one and same location.

To earn the label "tradition", the bread may not be frozen at any point during the baking process and it must not contain any ingredients beyond the basic ones : wheat flour, water, salt and yeast (or leaven).

"Pain au levain" must be made from wheat and/or rye flour, water and salt and the dough should be put to ferment in order to obtain a more or less acid taste.

Fondest memory: Different Pains de Campagnes in Different Regions Outside of these three well-defined categories, you're on your own in the djungle of fancy breads sold under more or less imaginative names.

A recent investigation by the French consumer magazine 60 Millions de Consommateurs found huge discrepancies not only in weight and price per kilo of sampled breads but also widely different ingredients and baking procedures in the case of some common breads.

A pain de campagne, for instance, looks and tastes differently in Bretagne, say, from one baked in Montpelllier.
The taste depends on how it was made traditionally in a specific region and on what pleases the local tastebuds.

A pain complet should in principle be baked with whole-wheat, and a pain au son should contain whole-wheat plus bran - but no stipulations exist concerning the proportions.

The same goes for pain de seigle and - just to make things even more confusing - for pain au seigle (best translated as "rye bread" and "bread with rye").

Neither of them is baked with rye flour alone. The first is usually expected to consist of no more than 35 percent of wheat, the second should contain a minimum of 10 percent rye flour. Again, no laws regulate these appelations.

And when a pain labeled "multicereales" is on display, the only thing to do is ask the baker what percentage and kind of cereals it contains.

Tough Competition Between Independent and Industrial Bakeries

The boulangerie scene is further complicated by the fact that in order to survive in competition with supermarkets and industrial bakeries, half of France's approximately 34000 independent boulangers now work in partnership with other bakers or with millers organizations.

Sometimes, their products are simply named after the group of bakers or millers they represent. A Banette, for example is a tasty, short and thick "baguette" sold in bakeries of the Banette group of millers.

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  • Updated Aug 13, 2006
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