I had some friends over last weekend we started talking about what has happened to all the baker’s it’s become a little hard to find bakers in France that do everything from scratch around here they are not many left, I think their is one that has a wood fired one understand why the all moved to electric. but then there are not many left that actually makes the bread themselves, allot have switched to buying in the dough then just putting it in the ovens like the supermarkets do. Some still do the bread themselves but buy in the rest frozen like croissants and the other cakes and what else they have. I think it’s a little sad development
Around here all the ones I know except one bake their bread. The one who buys in frozen has just gone out of business…
It’s very hard work for not a huge profit. Getting up at 4am every day isn’t good for family life either. And with prices controlled it’s also difficult to compete with supermarkets.
(Edit: OH has just told me that prices are no longer fixed…so even worse as supermarkets can now undercut small bakers and with the economy being what it is although people may wish to vote with their feet at local bakery they can be forced to vote with their purse instead and buy the cheapest. )
All the boulangeries I usually go to (in my village and elsewhere) make everything from scratch. I have a few former pupils who chose to be bakers and they do the whole up at 3 or 4 am to make their bread thing - obviously if you live somewhere with an industrial baker and no alternative people will go there, but I think generally we prefer the real thing, and vote with our feet.
There is also the issue of flour allergy. Apparently quite a big thing for bakers. The last (very tiny) village we lived in had an amazing organic bakery run by a young baker and his wife, I think he’d only had it about 5 years when he developed a severe allergy. The bread was amazing and sold in all the local markets, such a sad loss in a very rural area of the Aude!
We must be lucky them to have a wood fired basket in the next village. Quicker than going to town too.
That must be one hell of a tough basket to cope with being wood fired
Blogy reductive test!
Its a very hard life as a baker. We had a business 50 years in England and my father wouldn’t let me take it over. It had coke ovens and only 2 weeka a year did we close and let the ovens go cold. Holidays were 10 days to allow the ovens to get hot enough to bake.
The hours were monday to Sat pm. Wed was a none bake day as Sunday shopping was not available. Those days we ordered flour ,sugar ,fondant etc. You had to be fully stocked.
Hours were 7.30am to 7,30 pm with 30 mins for lunch. Hot work, a clean and dirty side. My dad was the baker my uncle did the ovens. My aunt managed the front shop,another did the accounts.
I was 17 and accepted for nursing but still begged to take it on.
Saturday and sunday nights were banking up the coke and checking stock and prepping items for laundry.
At 62 the wheel came off. My aunt who did sugar work and ghe accounts died. At 74 my other aunt was struggling with shop management. My uncles asthma was worstening and my fathers heart was failing.
They called it a day and my precious sweet father died when k was 20.
This is what running a bakery means.
I cant see a French boulanger being any different. Its hard graft and its a 7 day a week job.
I was cross my father refused to leg me carry on. But he said it had ruled our lives and it wasn’t going to rule mine.
I suspect that this is the answer.
Happy to report that there’s plenty of artisanal boulangers down here in the Aveyron / Lot and the movement seems to be growing. Virtually everyone does pain au levain and most have wood-fired ovens. Most of the really artisanal ones are quite young (aka ‘les neo-Aveyronais/es’) and innovative, with wild yeasts, spelt and other ancient grains becoming increasingly common.
By contrast to Fiona’s hard life above, our nearest artisan, who’s also the wise guru du pain for the young bakers, only opens his shop on Tues and Thurs between 4pm and 6.30pm, and again on Saturday mornings! He doesn’t make croissants, baguettes, nor flans, tarts etc. Just pain au levain, but with half a dozen different flours and loaves.
Isn’t it law in France to have to provide bread in France, since the bread strike of the French Revolution? I wouldn’t have thought that would include frozen or any other for that matter…just querying? Are we slipping?
Sorry, the world has moved on!
The law says that to call yourself a boulangerie you must make and cook the bread in the correct way, and there are rules governing composition and weight of loaves. So things called “le fournil traditionnel” avoid this requirement and can use bought in industrial frozen dough. (However a boulangerie can buy in frozen stuff for pastries)
It was tongue in cheek but well as long as they’re still there to provide it…within a few kilometres etc, no grumbles there!
No shortage of real bakers here in Caen. We live in the “village suburb” of Venoix and there are four within 5–10min walk.
All do real baking, not bought in frozen, and one of those also has a huge range of patisserie and viennoiserie. If you go on Sunday morning, expect to queue [masked and distanced, of course!].
Two others have more limited “extras” but still good quality, while the fourth is a mega-patisserie / chocolaterie rather than somewhere to pop in for a baguette.
In case that’s not enough, we’re also 50metres from a big Biocoop supermarket – Fréquence Bio – which has daily deliveries from a couple of other bakeries in the area, although the products and pricing are pretty much at the premium end. Of course they also sell flour and all the other necessities for home baking – and I’m not talking 1kg bags!
There’s also no shortage of boulangeries in the city centre, altho’ probably half are in the “cook from frozen” trade. One of the busiest real bakers is opposite the Abbaye St Etienne – a popular diversion for many worshippers en route home after Sunday Mass.
I used to go to Venoix quite often when the footy stadium was in the area. I lived in Place St Saveur in Caen then Evrecy.They did us all a favour by building a nice new stadium at Carpiquet.
Our local boulanger are still there as they were 10-15 years ago. One now provides a “wholesale” service for local shops the other provides bread, croissants, pastries, cakes…
Mass produced bread-makers in the in-store bakeries at LeClerc etc… have grown but they have had little impact on the local artisan boulanger.
The situation was very grim in Marseille. I was quite disappointed when we moved there last year as I had hoped to be eating quality bread. Talking to friends it seemed the problem was two fold, cmpeting with supermarkets and the fact that (in Marseille at least) people had got used to those bleached white flimsy fluffy sticks that passes for a Carrefour baguette and that’s what the bakeries were therefore making. There were more artisanal bakeries in Cambridge than in Marseille. Such was my obsession that I used to cycle 40 mins across town to St Honoré on Avenue de Prado (which is amazing btw).
Luckily, we moved house to outside Grenoble and landed next to a true boulangerie. The situation is also grim in Grenoble, but as someone has already mentioned, there is a resurgence with organic bakeries popping up here, often only opening in the afternoon. My take on that is that the higher price of the ‘produits bio’ in bobo quartiers increases the profit margin to allow the baker to thrive.
My baker delivers to my door three times a week. It costs a bit more but it is fabulous bread and if I am out when he comes he leaves it in my porch and I pay him the next time he visits. Also, it freezes well so I always keep one in the freezer for emergencies.
My neighbour who is a baker has been getting up at 12.30 each morning and not getting back to the house until after 1.30.
Two of the bakers have been on holiday and they are baking more to keep up with demand.
He normally leaves the house at 2.30.
He made us a wonderful gateau to say thank you for the eggs and veg which we have given him.
How does one tell if the baker is ‘importing’ dough etc or is doing it all on the premises?