It’s official: France’s best traditional baguette for 2022 is made in the Marne department, the latest ranking has revealed, beating the competition’s other finalists to the prized accolade.
The best baguette is made by Patrick Baillet, at his bakery in Aÿ-Champagne (Marne, Grand Est). Each baguette sells for €1.10.
The competition winners were announced on May 18, after the shortlisted bakers were tasked with creating their bakes in front of the public in Paris.
Mr Baillet said he was relieved to have won. He told France 3 Champagne-Ardenne: “I felt a certain satisfaction, an immense pleasure, but also a relief.
“It had been two or three years of preparation since the beginning of the competition, a national competition that ended in front of Notre-Dame de Paris. It took a lot of training and hard work. As much for me as for the team.”
In a message on Facebook, he thanked “everyone who has supported me”, especially his team and his wife, Delphine.
The baker, who is also a keen runner, said he “had to run 11km” around Paris from 05:30 on the day of the contest to calm his nerves.
His wife said that she was not surprised that he won, saying that she had never doubted his skills.
The competition requires bakers to produce their signature baguette according to a set of strict rules. French law is clear on its ingredients, which cannot be altered or added to.
The jury was looking for the size and weight of the bread, as well as its salt content, and the crispiness of its crust. The crust must still be crisp even after two or three hours.
Mr Baillet said: “You need a plump, honeycombed crumb, a good smell, a milky taste, a crispiness, a nice sheen and beautiful caramelisation.”
To provide fresh bread from morning till afternoon, bakers at Mr Baillet’s shop begin at 03:30, and continue throughout the day, so warm and fresh baguettes are still available at lunchtime.
Mr Baillet said: “The tradition of the baguette means we have to let time pass [for the bread to rise].”
The bakery, which is also a teashop, has been a family business since 1949, when it was opened by Mr Baillet’s grandfather. Mr Baillet’s father took it over in 1965, and Mr Baillet took the reins in 2001.
A satisfied customer told France 3: “He makes very good bread. We are really happy to have a baker like him in Aÿ.”
Mr Baillet can now say that his baguettes are the “best in the French tradition” for 2022.
It comes as French baguettes have been the subject of controversy in recent months, after supermarkets sparked outrage from traditional bakers by freezing prices at just 29 centimes per piece.
Industry figures called the move a “slap in the face” that risked killing off the artisanal bakery industry, but the CEO of giant E. Leclerc said that making the “key product so accessible” was a symbolic move, and a “sign of confidence” for consumers.
Baguettes have a key presence in French culture; last year the product was submitted as a candidate for Unesco’s 2022 List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.