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La Boulangerie par Véronique Mauclerc

From: Meet the Parisians at Work

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ABOVE: Véronique Mauclerc poses next to her  historic oven, which is one of only two wood-fired bakery ovens in Paris. INSET BELOW: Cast-iron logo on the oven, pans of rising dough, and baskets for shaped loaves prior to baking. See more photos.

photoWomen who run bakeries are a rare breed in France, and the number of bakers of either sex who use wood-burning ovens is even smaller. According to maître artisan boulanger Véronique Mauclerc, there are only four such ovens in France. Two  of those ovens are in Paris, one at her bakery: La Boulangerie par Véronique Mauclerc, an historically listed property in the 19th arrondissement near the Parc des Buttes-Charmont.

The wood-fired oven is a massive early 20th Century construction of brick and cast iron with two major parts: the firebox (at knee level in the photo above) and the oven's interior, which requires two hours to heat. During the warmup period, Mlle. Mauclerc or her assistant needs to add wood very 15 minutes and periodically rotate a circular spout that sends hot air toward the back and sides of the oven until the baking stones are heated evenly.

Finally, when the oven has reached its peak temperature of 340° C (644° F), Mlle. Mauclerc can start loading bread dough into the interior with long wooden peels. Loading 100 loaves takes about 10 minutes, and the bread is baked after 20 minutes at an average temperature of 265° C (509° F). The oven holds its heat well: Even after baking and removal of the loaves, its temperature is normally at 210° C or 410° F.

photoAlthough the wood-fired oven is the centerpiece of La Boulangerie par Véronique Mauclerc, it's not the only thing that makes the bakery special. Mlle. Mauclerc prides herself on using only organic ingredients, including wild airborne yeasts that take three weeks to ferment into a natural levain or starter. This approach requires more time than normal bread preparation does, with dough being prepared the evening before baking. Mlle. Mauclerc starts work around 2 a.m., and the first loaves go into the oven at 7 a.m., an hour before the boulangerie opens for the morning rush.

The wood oven is used mostly for larger loaves that benefit from the intense heat; baguettes, small breads, and pastries are baked in conventional ovens (although they, too, use organic flours and other natural ingredients). The pastries, by the way, are outstanding: We had a first-rate apple tart that was tasted like a country-style baked apple in a pastry shell, plus a brownie that had an ususual dry, crumbly texture with a powerful jolt of chocolate flavor.

photoWe toured La Boulangerie par Véronique Mauclerc through a Meet the Parisians at Work program that's offered by by Meetingthefrench.com and the Paris Convention & Visitors Bureau. The bilingual visit to the bakery included samples of freshly made breads--among them, a tasty nut bread and a delicate brioche with saffron that was invented by Mlle. Mauclerc. The tour cost per person was a very reasonable nine euros.

Tips:

  • La Boulangerie par Véronique Mauclerc is at 83 rue de Crimée in the 19th arrondissement, between the Laumière Métro stop (Line 5 toward Bobigny) and the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. (See map.) Its telephone number is 01 42 40 64 55, but don't try to book a tour with the bakery--use the Meet the Parisians at Work tour calendar and reservation form at Meetingthefrench.com.

  • We'd suggest buying bread and pastries after the tour and eating them in the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, which is one of the loveliest and most dog-friendly parks in Paris.

  • Be sure to see our captioned photos on the next page and the related articles and Web links below.

Next page: More photos




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