Every good and romantic experience happens in Paris when it’s raining. Of course, the sunny days are good, too; but, there’s just something about Paris in the rain. Somehow, it’s just breathtakingly beautiful. The day I visited a bakery, tired but excited to learn how to make croissants and baguettes, was no different. The rain was falling down in gentle droplets, making the atmosphere feel soft and sentimental rather than ominous and annoying were this any other city.
We arrived at Le Petit Mitron to meet up with the guide and the cheeky bakery owner (who is lactose and gluten intolerant!). Greetings were had, introductions made and into the bakery we went. We (the 9 of us tourists including the tour guide) jammed ourselves into the tiny kitchen and down a tight set of stairs to where the baguettes were being prepared. Scenes from Beauty and the Beast ran through my mind — Marie! The Baguettes! — and I instantly felt at ease in the tiny basement. The large oven was cozy, and judging from the warmth on this chilly morning, suffocating on hot summer days.
The bakers were jolly and joked with one another as they slid out freshly browned baguettes and readied the fresh doughy ones. I couldn’t help but think of them waking up early every morning, kissing their beautiful wives goodbye, sipping on their black coffees while they walked to work. They laughed with one another, running the fresh baguettes upstairs for eager customers already waiting for their morning breakfast.
We, of course, didn’t learn the recipe of the baguettes, but were shown the work that goes into readying the dough for a baguette; the types of baguettes that could be found around France and why each one is so different; and that the secret really lies in the yeast fermentation and flour. We were instantly made to feel welcomed and like we were part of the bakery. After I embarrassed my design skills at slicing a fleshy baguette for baking, we concluded the baguette portion of the morning and single-filed it up those tiny stairs.
In a slightly cooler, but just as small kitchen, we gathered round to learn how to wrap dough around chocolate sticks, making pain au chocolat; something that is a lot harder than it actually looks.
And, that we should always run if a croissant is greasy in our hands — a sure-fire way to tell that it has not been made properly with the love and care of a boulangerie et patisserie owner.
A proper hand-made croissant should never be greasy; always flaky and melt-in-your-mouth buttery, following the same logic of M&M’s.
Each group got to take home their pain au chocolat that we rolled and the baguette we ‘made’, making our mouths water and yearn for a quiet café and bottomless café au laits. We bid adieu to the baker, filling up our bags with goodies from the shop, and went on our way. We may not have made the baguettes and croissants from scratch, but rolling the dough in a real French kitchen makes you feel as if you’re floating on air, in a city that really is magic.