French bakers vie for prestigious title of Best Baguette

PARIS (REUTERS) - The prize for France's Best Traditional Baguette went to a baker from La Reunion Island, who bested five other finalists in a bread festival in Paris on Tuesday (May 15).

The title is a boost to the victor, who usually advertises it in his boulangerie to attract clientele.

As part of the Fete du Pain (Festival of Bread), which sees bakers try out new recipes and organise events such as outdoor bakeries and public tastings, a prestigious competition is held to discover the best baguette baked in the French tradition.

The traditional baguette is made of flour, salt and water.

Laurent Encatassamy, the winner, said his secret was to leave his dough to ferment overnight, and bake it only the next morning.

A group of 21 competitors was narrowed down to six finalists, who were given six hours to produce a total of 40 traditional French baguettes in accordance to strict regulations.

Composed of six professionals, the jury grades the baguettes on six criteria: appearance, crust (colour, crunchiness), smell, crumb (colour, air holes), chewiness, and of course the taste.

Encatassamy, who took a vocational course in baking and joined the competition last year but did not make it to the final six, said he hoped the title will help him grow his bakery business.

The competition is organised annually by Paris' town hall and has run since 1994.

Held in the square fronting the Notre-Dame cathedral, the festival takes place in a 1200sq m tent, inside which are eight ovens, around a hundred bakers, and no less than 3,000 baguettes on offer over several days.

On May 16th, the festival will also celebrate the feast of Saint Honore, the patron saint of bakers.