After my breakfast with Guy Savoy, I made my way to the 14th arrondissement to meet Didier Lavry at Le Petit Mitron, a baker who had just been awarded the second prize in le Meilleur Croissant au Beurre d’Isigny AOP. That would be the best croissant competition in France, Paris section, then. Don’t you just love France for that?
We have spoken about croissants before. The importance of craft, technique and detail. Real butter (and the best of that), time, and freshness. A straight croissant not a curved one, curved croissants are made with margarine and are not the real deal. Dare I say they are joyless and a waste of calories. Save yourself for the better ones. Croissants are a joy, especially when warm, that first bite, gentle collapse and release of warm buttery air. And then you devour it.
I love to watch people at the top of their game. I love to watch the chefs make delicate tiny xiao long bao in the window of Beijing Dumpling in London. I love watching the chefs at Lanzhou Noodle Bar craft their long lamian noodle, teasing and pulling the shiny dough until it relaxes and gives in. When in Asia, I watch the chefs crafting delicate roti from thin slippery pastry, folded gently into a beautiful thing and fried until crisp and flaky. In Istanbul, I watched girls make filo from scratch, like delicate fabric, waved in the air like silk as they prepare it.
At Le Petit Mitron, Didier is also one of the few bakers in Paris allowed to make La Parisse. Named for its creator Gaëtan Paris, and not actually the city of Paris it is a levain baguette fermented over a 24 hour period (as opposed to the 4 for the traditional baguette). Natural yeasts pulled from the air and the flour and wherever else they might be idling in the kitchen. This slower fermentation enhances the flavour producing a rich intense bread which Didier likens to the breads of his childhood.
In order to make the Parisse, Didier has to have a licence and he has to follow specific rules, even with regard to how he scars the bread before he bakes it. Didier does have permission to make a little twist at the end of each loaf, so that you can pull it off and sample it on your way home. I love that, who can resist indulging in the joy of a sneaky piece of warm perfect bread.
We spent the morning in the hot basement kitchen. Didier showed us how he makes the Parisse and the traditional French bread, lots of fun ways to cut it. So many geeky facts. Lots of jokes. Then on to the prize winning croissants and pain au chocolate. What a joy to watch him at work and learn from him, and fun too. Didier doesn’t speak English but there is an excellent translator on hand if your French is shaky like mine. The morning finished with a baguette and croissant goodie bag to take away at the end, for me for the Eurostar home.
To book a session at Le Petit Mitron, head over to Meeting the French. Prices start at € 23.00 per person for a maximum of 10 people. I travelled to Paris with Voyages-sncf.com, who also sponsored my trip. I stayed at the Hotel Novotel Paris Vaugirard Montparnasse where rooms are from £126 per room, per night. Fares from London to Paris start from £58 standard class return per person. To book go to Voyages-sncf.com or call 0844 848 5 848 (please note calls to 0844 numbers cost from 7p per minute plus the phone company’s access charge).