Road Trip: Versailles II

A couple of weeks ago, when we had the big snow, after sipping chocolat chaud at a little patisserie and salon de tea in Versailles, Xavier and I saw this boulangerie that everyone in town seemed to know about. The lines were out the door, and there was a special booth set up outside, too, to handle the overflow of the crowds.

Seemed like a good sign to me. So I shoved my way inside (which is what you do here, or you’ll never get anything), and got in line for a baguette, bien cuit (well-cooked), like I like them.

I ordered my baguette easily enough, and the woman behind the counter asked me if I wanted anything else.

Pain de campagne? I asked her. I wanted something brown, or something grainy. Or both.

She shook her head no. It was 11 a.m., after all. They’d already sold out.

Then I saw a round loaf of bread behind her with what appeared to be a thick, nearly burned crust. It was the size of a truck tire.

I asked her what it was.

Pain de noisette, she said.

Hazelnut bread?! Oh my lord. I had to have some of that.

So she sliced off a slab, and I left.

When I got home, and Xavier and I tasted the bread, neither of us could believe it — Xavier said that it reminded him of the bread that he used to have when he was a boy. I, naturally, had nothing more than Wonder Bread as a childhood marker, so this was a first for me.

Cooked in a wood-burning oven, this bread had a crunchy and caramelly crust, and a dark brown, nearly burned color. The inside was light, moist, and nutty, and had the tiniest bits of hazelnuts throughout. I’d never had anything like it.

For breakfast the next day, I toasted a piece of the bread (OK, two), and the hazelnut flavor really popped. With a little salty butter and strawberry-apricot jam, it was perfect.

So the next weekend, naturally, we went back again. But we didn’t arrive until noon, and they were sold out.

Last Sunday, Xavier and I set our alarm and got up early, so we could walk Rose at the Parc St. Cloud, and then drive ten minutes more and go to Versailles for bread.

Lucky for us, the bread was available. This time, I also tried their fougasse, a typically Provencal bread that’s the French version of foccacia, and often shaped like wheat. This one was packed with lardons (Frenchy for bacon); Xavier and I also shared one with Roquefort.

I remember when I first arrived, I’d get so frustrated that I couldn’t go to the grocery store because they’re closed on Sundays. Silly me. Why worry about going to the grocery store when there is bread to discovered?

Maison Guinon
60 Rue de la Paroisse