There is no simpler and more humble preparation than that of bread. But when you mention the baguette, we are going to talk about a true luxury product. Crispy on the outside and soft and airy on the inside, this bread is the gastronomic symbol of Paris par excellence. Its ingredients are simple, but its preparation is a real art, something that the Paris City Hall recognized every year with a contest dedicated to finding the best baguette in the French capital.
On May 10, the “Grand Prix de la Baguette de Tradition Francaise de la Ville De Paris”, the 30th edition of a competition that brings together the best bakers in France to find the perfect baguette. This year, the creator of the best baguette in Paris is called Tharshan Selvarajahis 37 years old, originally from Sri Lanka and is in charge of the oven at the ‘Au levain des Pyrénées’ bakery, located near the Place de la Nation.
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In total, for this edition of the contest were selected 126 baguettes of the 175 that applied. All participants had to comply a series of criteria: measure between 50 and 55 cm, weigh between 250 and 270 grams and have a salt content of 18 grams per kilo of flour. The jury for this prestigious competition was made up of professionals from the sector such as chef Thierry Marx, in charge of the kitchen at the Palace Mandarin Paris hotel; Fabrice Desvignes, chef in the kitchens of the Élysée Palace, and Olivia Polski, deputy mayor of Paris, in addition to six randomly chosen Parisians. A total of fifteen judges who had the opportunity to taste and evaluate 62 baguettes each, assessing issues such as cooking, flavor, crumbthe alveolate and the appearance.
In addition to receiving the economic prize of 4,000 euros, and the recognition of the entire French bakery guild, Selvarajah has earned the honor of supply the kitchens of the Élysée Palace for one year, so the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macronand his wife, Brigitte Macron, will be able to try their baguettes at breakfasts and meals at home.
Tharshan Selvarajah started as a baker in 2009 and learned how to make baguettes from his boss before taking over the management of this bakery in 2016. The Sri Lankan sells his delicious loaves of bread in ‘Au levain des Pyrénées’a discreet bakery located in the 20th arrondissement of the French capital where you can also try other delicacies from the world of French pastry, such as he pain au chocolat or the classics Croissants.
The baguette, Intangible Cultural Heritage
The baguette is the most popular type of bread in France. So much so that, last November, the Unesco agreed to include the manufacturing process and culture associated with this loaf of bread in its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The making of the baguette is what makes it so special. Its process includes several stages: dosage and weighing of the ingredients, kneading, fermentation, division, rest, manual molding, finishing, scarification (the baker’s signature) and cooking.
Anyone who has tasted a real Parisian baguette knows that has no comparison with other loaves. This bread with a crispy crust and silky crumb is different from all the rest, and it is thanks to its preparation and also to its ingredients. And it is that this bar of French origin is made up of only four elements: flour, water, salt, yeast and/or sourdough. With them, each baker obtains a unique product that requires special skills and techniques. The baguettes are baked throughout the day in small batches and the result varies depending on the temperature and humidity.
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