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Baguette and butter tasting

I joined the Vancouver Slow Food Convivium for a 'baguette and butter' tasting. Here are the results as published in their recent newsletter. For information about the Slow Food Movement in general, go to www.slowfood.com For information on the Vancouver chapter of Slow Food, email president Heidi Noble at heidinoble@telus.net.

"Bread & Butter: An evaluation of baguettes from Vancouver-area artisanal bakeries and organic butter"

The baguette was analyzed in terms of crust and crumb, aromas, texture and taste Good baguettes need high quality flour and high quality ovens - it was evident which ones had these components. We determined that there is not one "right" style of baguette, but different uses for the different styles of breads. Some baguettes were determined to be more "classic" than others:

Choices Organic Country French Baguette $2.49
It had a thick, rustic crust with semolina flecks and a dense, moist crumb. A slightly sour aroma made for a hearty baguette. Good used as toasts for soup, bruschetta etc

Patisserie Bordeaux Baguette $1.99
Soft, thin crust with a not so rustic appearance. It had a slightly moist, doughy crumb with aromas of caramelized nuts and a mild taste. Good contrast for hard cheeses.

Ecco il Pane Baguette $2.59
Moderately thick, rustic crust, which was blistered and lightly dusted with flour. It had a nutty, yeasty aroma. The crumb was semi-dense and moist. Flavourful with a sweetness to it. Good with Torta Rustica.

Patisserie Le Beau Baguette $1.75
Artisanal, rustic looking thick and crunchy crust with a golden sheen to it. Light, slightly moist crumb. This was a crowd favourite for style and value.

Terre French Baguette
Artisanal-looking, blistered thick crust. The crumb was irregular (high quality flour), moist and held a sour and smoky taste to it. Hearty baguette. Good for sandwiches, soups etc

La Petite France Baguette
Artisanal-looking, but with a glossy finish. Possibly from a milk wash. Moderately thick crust with a moderately moist crumb and displayed subtle nutty, smoky characteristics.

Capers Parisian Baguette $2.39
Artisanal and rustic looking with a thick crust with semolina flecks. Fairly dry crumb with characteristics of cornmeal and a subtle sourness. The flecks found within the crumb are a sign of quality flour. Strong texture. Hearty baguette for toasts, canopies and soups. This was probably the second most popular behind Patisserie LeBeau.

Safeway "Artisanal" Baguette $1.39
Uniform, non-artisanal appearance. Thin crust with a lightly damp crumb. Mild, nondescript flavours. For an artisanal bread it sure had a lot of ingredients and what's with all the unpronounceable chemical stuff? Not really artisanal. Good for garlic bread for the Super Bowl (don't they make that too?). Ick!

Organic Butters:

We sampled:
Mu - from Norval, Ontario, cultured butter
Organic Meadow - from Guelph, Ontario
Bio Organic - from Quebec
President's Choice Organic - product of Canada
Avalon Dairy - Vancouver
Mauri Burro - from Italy. Not organic, but non-GMO

The organic butter tasting was more informal and no official notes were made. It seemed the Mu was popular and the burro from Italy was intriguing. It brings up the individual preference of Cultured vs. Not Cultured. Overall, the group felt like organic butter was a totally different animal than conventional butter and worth the extra money. The intensity of flavour and richness was obvious. Therefore, when cooking or baking less organic butter is required to achieve the same qualities that regular butter would lend. Your pound of organic butter would definitely go much farther, flavour-wise, thereby bring the cost down by not having to use as much.

(Don's note: Avalon Dairy organic butter was one of my personal favorites, along with the Mu. Avalon, from a Vancouver dairy, is probably one of the more readily available organic butters across the province, and even goes on sale sometimes! You can expect to pay anywhere from 7 to 9 dollars for a pound of organic butter. Urban Fare also sells Jerseyland hand-churned organic butter from Grand Forks, BC in their cheese case, but the price works out to around $16 a pound!)

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